Written by AJ Durtschi

Choosing Your Sheets: Cotton vs. Microfiber

Choosing Your Sheets: Cotton vs. Microfiber

Sheets are a necessity for every bed, and if you're looking to impress, they come in many different varieties and qualities. Here are a few differences between two typical types of sheets: microfiber and cotton linens.

At A Glance

All linens are sold with a specific "thread count", which is the number of threads woven together per square inch of fabric. Both the lengthwise and widthwise threads are counted. For example, 100 lengthwise threads woven with 100 widthwise threads produce a thread count of 200.­

Typically a thread count of 300 or higher indicates a good quality sheet, which in turn will be more comfortable and soft to the touch.


cotton sheets

Cotton is the most commonly used material to make sheets. Low thread count cotton is coarse and scratchy and more likely to pill (create small cotton balls on the surface). Higher thread count sheets are made with finer threads, resulting in softer sheets. Fine cotton, such as Egyptian or Supima cotton, is considered amongst the finest quality cotton sheets available because they are made of the highest quality cotton, called long-staple cotton. The longer the fiber, the better because it creates stronger and finer yarns. Cotton sheets will become more comfortable and soft with each washing.


Microfiber sheets

Microfiber is composed of very finely woven fibers, defined by their thickness, or denier, which is the measurement of a fiber's thickness. A high denier points to a material of higher thickness; a low denier is one of a lower depth.

For a material to be considered a microfiber, it must be less than 1 denier in diameter. For comparison, consider that fine silk measures at 1.25 deniers; thus, microfibers are made in the lab instead of forming naturally in nature. They can be made from wood pulp, or polyester and nylon polymers.

Microfiber sheets are very thin but are durable and exceptionally smooth and comfortable.


Though pilling is typically associated with lower quality thread counts, while usually rare, this can happen in high quality and high threat count sheets as well and is thus a misconception. Pilling can occur with both Cotton and Microfiber sheets, depending on the finishing process.

The measures used to prevent pilling during the finishing process of manufacturing are known as singeing, which burns off the tiny fuzz, and mercerizing, a treatment that improves the strength and luster of the sheets. Typically, the manufacturer of a lower thread count sheet will not perform these preventative measures, thus resulting in pilling on the sheets.


Both microfiber and cotton sheets can be washed and dried with ordinary washers and dryers. Cotton sheets will take longer to dry because of their thicker fabric, and may shrink with the first washing, but they can be sold as "pre-shrunk" by the manufacturer. Microfiber sheets can be made from synthetic or natural fibers, such as cellulose or wood pulp, and may also shrink with the first washing. Both microfiber and cotton linens will hold dyes well, but bright colors will fade after repeated washing. Both types are subject to wrinkling as well but can be pressed with a warm iron.

When you buy a quality set, both microfiber and cotton will generally have the same care requirements.



The cotton sheet with a high thread count will be much more durable than one with a low thread count. Low-quality cotton linens tend to pill and will grow less comfortable over time. The benefit of investing in quality cotton sheets, though, is their ability to become more supple and comfortable as time goes by, as well as the durability and ease of care.


Individual microfiber threads are weak on their own. However, microfiber sheets are a tightly woven and thin fabric, therefore giving this tightly woven material a durable quality. Lower quality microfibers do risk being ripped after a few months of use, but going with high-quality microfiber increases the strength and quality of these linens, even with daily washing.

Feel and Comfort

Feel, from a user's point of view, is perhaps the most crucial quality of the linen that you choose for your bedding. The feel is significant, with many seeking a silky-smooth feel against their skin, for both cotton and microfiber sheets, the higher the thread count or, the smaller the denier, the higher the quality.

Sheets are an investment that will be used for many years, and you want sheets that are easy to care for, attractive, and, most of all, soft and comfortable.


  1. How can you know you are buying better quality microfiber linens? We bought a set of linens for our new memory foam mattress. I didn’t think I liked the linens at all at first but alternating with the cotton linens, (400 count), I have decided I Love the microfiber feel…..but they only lasted a few months before starting to tear. Please send me an email suggestions for a better quality microfiber linen brand. The texture was wonderfully soft, slight stretch and really complements the memory foam mattress but I’m not about to buy another set if they only last a few months.

    • Clara Clark micro fiber sheets are excellent. Get the 1500 style or higher for super soft comfy sheets. They are very durable and don’t get “pill balls”. Wash in cool and tumble dry.

    • Cotton wins every time especially for the people with sensitive skin, and the quality much better.
      That is why cotton sheets cost 4 times what microfibre sheet cost

    • Need to buy 1500 count micrrow fiber sheets
      Cotton collects dusts mites iand other allergens and must be washed every day.

    • ienjoyhome.com sells great quality microfiber bedding – good quality products. They have great reviews on a lot of websites. Their price point is high on their website (they actually have a 60% off deal running site wide right now) but they sell for pretty good prices on other a lot of the discount sites like wayfair.com and overstock.com. I personally own a set of their sheets and a comforter – really nice stuff. Their brand is Becky Cameron bedding collection.

      here’s a link to their wayfair sheets listing: http://www.wayfair.com/iEnjoy-Bedding-Becky-Cameron-1800-Series-1800-Thread-Count-Sheet-Set-1800-IENJ1000.html

      • No they do not lol i have two sets , there horrid lint all over the place have washed 9 times to dat in the week and half i have had and still lint all over the place . When think its done throw on bed . Wake up next morn. And just the movement asleep alone there is lint balls all over the place and clothes in morn and
        Hair . Horrid horrid ienjoyhome.com do not buy

  2. We recently bought microfiber sheets. I couldn’t find the count on the package, assumed they were cotton, and the feel was great, so I wasn’t worried about the count. However, when we used them this summer, we discovered that they don’t breathe like cotton. It was too hot, and our resulting perspiration didn’t wick out or evaporate. It was as if we were sleeping between very pretty, luxurious plastic sheets. After trying for 2 weeks to get used to them, I repaired the tear in our old cotton sheets, and will be shopping for 100% cotton sheets. Will try the microfiber this winter to see if they will keep us as warm as cotton flannel sheets. If not, we’ll donate them to charity or sew them into kitchen curtains.

    • We recently purchased microfiber sheets and I completely agree with you about the microfiber material Gail. I slept in them last night and even though our home dropped down to 68 degrees, I found myself sweating and feeling overheated on several occasions. It made for a restless night. We are also going back to cotton and will try them again in the winter. I like your idea of curtains… that may be where we head as well.


        • Unfortunately, the manufacturer is not required to list what chemicals they use to make the sheets. Why does it matter? Numerous chemicals are used to conventionally process the yarn and finish the fabric, many of which are raising serious concerns from scientists, doctors and the public about toxicity and the adverse effects on our health. For non-toxic bedding, make sure you know how your sheets are processed.

    • I agree with you on the plastic sheet topic. They make me very hot and do not wick away moisture. Very long, uncomfortable night. They are very soft and smooth but they do stick to clammy skin. They also slide off of my memory foam mattress. I am up several times a night pulling the corners back on. They will be curtains soon. Looking for something that will stay in place and is cool to the skin because we are both hot sleepers. Any suggestions anyone?

      • 100% cotton with a thread count of over 400. I too perspire badly in anything acrylic but never have in cotton sheets. Once again, the higher the thread count the better , very smooth and comfortable

    • Thank you for your post. I googled it and your comment came up. U had talked to several friends about sheets I just bought for my daughter. She keeps waking up drenched in sweat. One night I slept in her bed and I couldn’t get cold down in the middle of winter. So I will try and find her cotton sheets the problem is all the kids sets I see is a cotton mix. :/

  3. Years ago, I purchased good quality sheets but they stick to the skin, legs get stuck, etc. so I have not used them. But I found they are perfect for sofa covers as they do not slip and slide like other smooth materials. I would like to buy more fabric of this kind or if not, sheets to use as slip covers. Would you know what kind of fabric it is?

  4. Put our first pair of micro sheets on our bed today. After being in bed less than an hour, we got up and changed the bedding to good old cotton. It was equivalent to sleeping in a plastic bag.
    Thank goodness Costco has a money back guarantee. As the are going back tomorrow.

  5. Just purchased some microfiber sheets. They washed and dried very quickly. They are wonderfully soft. But my husband and I don’t like them. They don’t seem to breathe. They’re hot. Also, you don’t get that wonderful coolness when you first get into bed like you do with good cotton sheets.

  6. In my opinion, the very best sheets are Bamboo LINEN…not bamboo cotton or bamboo ‘like’ or as soft as Bamboo. Online shopping for Bamboo sheets are deceiving. Advertising Microfiber as Bamboo. microfiber in small letters. I have been stung 3 times.

  7. Everybody in these conversations are comparing cotton sheetsAnd saying thatThe higher the thread count the better quality sheet. These are being compared to microfiber sheets. My question is, is the cotton sheets being compared to microfiber or the brushed Microfiber that Clara Clark offers.. I am probably the pick iust person on Earth about bed sheets . I do not like anything that is a Satin or silk. I Have a duvet cover From Clara Clark, the 1800 Premier collection in it is brushed my grow fiber and is a Very Breathable material… I have been looking for a month To find the perfect sheet set. I like to climb into bed with that cool feeling but do not like to wake up in the middle of the night soaken wet, in the sheets all bunched up. Any suggestions would be quite helpful!!

  8. I purchased microfiber sheets because they were advertised as soft and wrinkle-free. Most of the cotton sheets I have come out of the dryer with lots of wrinkles, even the 450 count ones. But the microfiber is too hot in summer. I wish I could find the percale sheets that I had many years ago. They were perfect.

  9. BRING BACK 100% COTTON! There is nothing like cotton! Microfiber is LAB made & wonder WHY CANCER is EVERYWHERE? Want to sleep on chemicals?


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