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Flax Linen vs Cotton - Which One Makes For Better Bedding?

May 21, 2021 10 min read

Flax Linen Vs Cotton - Which One Makes For Better Bedding?

This article was updated on 05/21/2021

Simply put, cotton is preferable for clothes but linen fabric bed sheets are the best when it comes to bedding. Linen has high durability and feels like its hugging your body, but it will also keep you cool and comfortable on the hottest of nights. It is also moisture absorbent which means that you won't wake up due to uncomfortable sweats.

Linen vs Cotton - Which one makes for better bedding?

Flax Linen vs Cotton Sheets - Which ones lead to a more relaxing & healthy sleep? The older we get, the more we become creatures of comfort. You know you are really ‘adulting’ when you care more about the sheets you wake in on a Saturday Morning over the club you ended up in the night before. The decisions we make about our bedding have a major impact on sleep comfort and therefore the quality of our days. One of the most important questions we can ask ourselves is what are the best natural fabric to sleep on?

Even though both of these fabrics stand out as the most natural fabrics and have their own strengths and weaknesses, there are some small differences that make one of the fabrics better than the other. This article explores those differences.

Linum, Flax or Linen Botanical Illustration | Linen vs Cotton | FlaxLinen Blog


Linen has a je ne sais quoi finesse about it that conjures textured fantasies traditionalists, romantics, and royal buffs. Flax Linen bedding has rightfully earned their place on beds in the finest boutique hotels & ski chalets, and daybeds in cottages of the French countryside. Linen has even made its place as the fabric of choice on the beds of the Queen of England.


However, we cannot ignore the utility of Cotton, be it the cozy feeling of natural jersey flannel, to cool and crisp with percale, and silky and smooth finishes with Pima cotton. Depending on the season, sheets made from certain types of cotton material may prove inadequate against the cold winter chill and scorching summers.




Flax harvesting & Linen fabric making in Egypt - Linen vs Cotton | FlaxLinen Blog

Ancient Egypt

Linen is a part of some of the oldest textiles in the world. In fact, archeologists discovered something particularly curious about the famous Egyptian mummy King ‘Tut’: they found linen woven with inscriptions in his tomb. Egyptians also used linen as currency, and the use of flax plants to make this currency dates back to 8000 BC. The earliest evidence of flax-into-textile conversion comes from Dzudzuana Cave, the modern-day Republic of Georgia, over thirty thousand years ago. 

UK & Ireland

During the 1790s John Marshall and Matthew Murray made an effective careless turning machine that delivered great quality yarn. Marshall constructed two plants in Leeds, introduced Boulton and Watt steam-motors, somewhere in the range of 1803 and 1815 both Temple Mill (£238,000) and Castle Foregate (£82,000) made solid benefits. By 1820 Marshall was worth over £400,000.

Material was likewise utilized as the twist string in the creation of fustian fabric. The innovation of the water-outline made it conceivable to make cotton material with cotton twist and cloth was then never again required for this. Material was as yet utilized for sails, sacking and outfitting.

The Americas

Linen became popular in the US after the industrial revolution upon the establishment of cottage industries. In the American settlements, material creation was basic in ranch families. A' family would have their own plot of flax, which they would reap, procedure, turn, and weave every year. Homemade material would be joined with business fabric in the family to make attire and cloths. Independence was a wellspring of extraordinary pride for the American pilgrims and material creation was one method for demonstrating it.

Paving the way to the Revolutionary War, the blacklist of British products was going all out. Ladies, for example, the Daughters of Liberty, routinely held turning honey bees around squares to flaunt their independence and turning greatness. This was a particularly unforgiving smack in the face to the British material industry, which ruled all of Europe at that point.

Natively constructed material creation proceeded through the mid 1800s however wound down as material creation turned out to be progressively industrialized. The creation of the cotton gin in 1793 made cotton creation more conservative than cloth creation. Cotton creation in the United States multiplied every decade from 1800 in light of the fact that the cotton gin implied that less slaves were expected to process cotton therefore they could be sent to the fields to plant and gather it. Automation in the turning and weaving of cotton additionally powered the cotton business with the goal that it immediately overwhelmed material as a modest, ordinary working texture. For instance, turning factories for cotton in Lowell, MA were in activity in the late 1790s though motorization of material turning didn't come to fruition until the 1830s. Indeed, even with the motorization of flax preparing, turning, and weaving at last beginning during the 1830s and 1840s, flax could never get up to speed to cotton creation.

By the mid-1800s, most little ranches in the United States never again developed or handled their own flax and there was a lot of industrially accessible material. Home material creation saw a little restoration during the American Civil War however faded away again when the material plants returned to delivering non military personnel products and supply courses were revived toward the South. Material was as yet utilized for explicit use textures, for example, buckram, sheet material, and canvas just as work attire and underclothes.

Linen became the best choice for fine materials for tablecloths, drapery, and napkins as observed with the well known Irish cloth. Linen was likewise utilized for better dress as it was ideal for pressed regalia and fresh sleeves or decent summer garments. Towards the late nineteenth century, one of the trademarks of men in the high societies was a warm-climate suit made of light shaded linen cloth. Ladies additionally had summer or warm climate cloth suits, dresses, and riding propensities, particularly in the Southern United States and hotter atmospheres, for example, the Caribbean and Mediterranean.

To this day many people in the US still consider Linen to be a summer fabric although users of the material are aware this is a year round fabric, depending on the grams per square meter weight.


Ancient Central America

Cotton was discovered while searching the Caves in Mexico researchers found balls of cotton and some small bits of cotton cloth that proved to be at least 7000 years old. It turns out that Mayans had grown cotton just like how it was grown at the inception of the US.

Vintage photo of Cotton Market in Bombay - Linen vs Cotton | FlaxLinen Blog

Asia and Africa

The Indus River Valley which was once India and now Pakistan has long had a cotton trade spun and woven into cloth 3000 BC until modern industrial times. Even the acclaimed humanitarian Gandhi was known to spin his own cotton fabric. Also approximately 3000 BC, Egypt’s Nile valley was making and wearing cotton clothing. These regions and Turkey continue to be mass producers of garments and bedding made from cotton. Arab merchants brought cotton cloth to Europe about 800 A.D.

Cotton Fields in Turkey - Linen vs Cotton | FlaxLinen Blog

United States of America

When Columbus discovered America in 1492, he found cotton growing in the Bahama Islands. By 1500, cotton was known generally throughout the world. Cottonseed is believed to have been planted in Florida in 1556 and in Virginia in 1607. By 1616, colonists were growing cotton along the James River in Virginia.

History of Cotton Fields Slavery & Child Labor in Georgia, USA- FlaxLinen Blog

Linen & Cotton Cellulose Fibers Under The Microscope

Flax Fiber vs Cotton Fiber under the microscope - Linen vs Cotton | FlaxLinen Blog

Both Cotton & Linen come from naturally occurring cellulose fibers, extracted from two different plants – Flax in case of linen and Cotton Plant in case of cotton.


  • Under the microscope, it resembles а collapsed twisted tube with а rough surface.
  • The thin cell wall of the fiber has from 200 to 400 convolutions per inch.


  • Under the microscope, the hair like flax fiber shows several sided cylindrical filaments with finely pointed end.
  • The fiber somewhat resembles а straight, smooth. 

Let's Get To The Bottom Of The Linen Vs Cotton Debate: Here is a criteria to help you judge which one is better for you.

  1. Durability
  2. Texture
  3. Wrinkling
  4. Moisture Absorption
  5. Impact of Health
  6. Environmental Sustainability
  7. Insulation Qualities
  8. Hypoallergenic Properties
  9. Cost

1. Durability

Linen is infamously one of the world’s strongest fibers. Cotton is fluffier than Linen when it blooms. Linen fibers are longer than Cotton, more intricately wrapped and therefore less susceptible to damage. Cotton piles on after multiple washes. This is because of the cotton yarn being weaker than linen fiber especially when it gets wet.

Long Flax Fibers - Linen vs Cotton | Flax Linen Blog
To find the best bang for your buck, we must consider short-term gratification vs longevity of use. Manufacturers strengthen cotton by adding yarn to the fabric leading to higher thread counts. However, when cotton is marketed with a higher thread count, manufacturers use thinner yarn thus making the fabric less durability and unable to sustain itself for extended periods of use. As we entered the age of holes with industrial-sized washing and drying machines in our homes, we find that cotton is more likely to form holes quicker vs Linen Sheets.

2. Texture

We often presume linen to be coarser than Cotton because of the structured flax fibers. The coarseness depends on the flax used in the making of the linen fibers. Most linen used for bed sheets undergoes a process called stone washing. Belgian style linens are pre-washed, whereas Irish linens are not and are therefore tending to be coarser to the touch and not a great choice for bedding. Here at Flax Linens, we focus on pre-washed Belgian Linen & Chambray Yarn Dyed Linen, both fabrics are perfect for sleepers transitioning from cotton to linen because of their softer textures.

Alternatively, Cotton is smoother to touch, less textured than linen. Though cotton is softer than the average Linen, stonewashed and high-quality linen used in the making of bed sheets is much softer than the average cotton and softens even more.

Cotton comes out of the package softer and smoother but roughens up over time with plying effect whereas Linen softens considerably with passaging time.

Quick Tip: Take out your bedding from the dryer slightly damp and they will last much longer

3. Wrinkles

Both of them, Linen and Cotton, wrinkle easily. Because of the naturally occurring lignin in the linen fibers, which causes its relative rigidity and stiffness, they crease more easily than cotton. The wrinkles become less likely as the fabric becomes softer with time. 

4. Moisture Absorption

Linen sheets have a high rate of water absorption, gaining up to 20 percent water before it gets wet. Cotton is around 13 percent. In fact, linen is nature’s wicking fiber. Hence, it gains strength when it absorbs the moisture whereas, Cotton becomes weaker after you expose it to moisture.

The higher rate of absorption also gives linen the ability to prevent bacterial growth, which is what makes it the perfect fabric for kitchen and bathroom towels.

Quick Tip: use a spray bottle to moisten up your linen sheets and you can get wrinkles out by hand

Linen Wrinkles - Flax Linen Blog

5. Impact on Health

Did you know that ancient Egyptians used Linen for its bacteria-repelling and anti-allergen properties? Historically linen aided the sleep routine of skin-sensitive people. Linen also reduces the symptoms of conditions as serious as arthritis and dermatitis because of how soft and flexible it is. It is often linked with easing the symptoms of menopause for women and thermos-regulating night sweat and hot flashes. Not only that, a good night’s sleep provides a chance for the brain and body to heal, increases metabolism, boosts memory, and sharpens attention.

6. Environmental Sustainability

Compared to Cotton, Linen cultivation and fabric production are less resource-intensive. For the same amount, linen fabric extraction from the flax plant uses much less water and pesticides as compared to the cotton production method. Linen takes up less surface area and leaves behind minimal wastage because of its biodegradability. Cotton leaves a lot of wastage and harmful by-products behind affecting the water table of the local area.

Flax fields in Normandy France - Linen vs Cotton | FlaxLinen Blog

7. Insulation Properties

Because Linen fibers are spaced apart and hollow, they naturally allow for a better flow of hair and moisture. This means that linen is a naturally occurring insulating fiber. Hence, linen traps the cold when it’s summer and keeps the warmth when it’s chilly.

Cotton provides better comfort, in terms of insulation, as compared to synthetic materials. They have just the right amount of weight to nest you comfortably. Both qualities of the linen and cotton are naturally occurring properties of the fiber itself.

8. Hypo-Allergenic Properties

Cotton and linen are both naturally occurring fibers, so they are both great for people who suffer from allergies of dust or hay fever. Linen has an edge over cotton because of its extra loose fibers, which are less prone to capture dust and allergy-intensive substances.

9. Industry Size & Cost of Goods

So we have reached the bottom line on some important facts but if it comes down to the numbers, cotton is definitely the cheaper of the two. This is due to the size of the the manufacturing global industries.  The global cotton market size is close to 60 Billion USD / year. On the other hand, the global linen market is 1/20th of the size of the cotton industry. To to put it all into perspective the global textile industry is around 960 Billion USD / year. So the majority of the market is actually made up of synthetic fabrics. We are here to only compare natural fabrics.

The linen bedding business and value chain is for the most part made up of small producers or considered hand crafted due to the value chain being less industrialized. Adding to this, Long Fiber Flax, the stuff used to make clothing and bedding, only grows in a particular type of coastal micro-climate. This all leads to Flax being more expensive and more exclusive vs its cotton counterpart. 

While Stonewashed & Chambray Linen Sheets are more expensive than percale cotton, linen tends last much much longer if cared for correctly. Cotton is best when it is straight out of the package and loses its luster as time goes by whereas they say a set of Linen Sheets or Duvet Cover only get better with time.


Cotton may be preferable for clothes, linen bed sheets have to be hands down the winners in the sleeping comfortably department. Not only does linen have high durability and make you feel like its hugging your body, but it will keep you cool and comfy on the hottest of all nights. Add to that the fact that its moisture-absorbent which means no waking up in uncomfortable sweats.

Linen is smoother, softens over time, eco-friendly and durable with its crop being very sustainable with an ancient history. As bed sheets, linen will last for generations to come and people often pass linen sheets down generations. In fact, in Europe, they consider linen to be the best quality fabric to sleep in.

Alas, cotton and linen live in harmony in one place which touches our daily lives. Most people do not even realize, the US currency is printed with 75% cotton and 25% linen which gives it a distinct look and texture from other currencies. 

3 Piece Simple Organic Belgian Linen Duvet Cover Set in 12 Colors - FlaxLinen.com

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