Microfiber vs Cotton Sheets

microfiber vs cotton sheets guide Those of you who have spent at least some time to study bedding options are probably wondering about the advantages and disadvantages of microfiber vs cotton sheets. Surely, there are many other types of products, such as polyester, linen, silk and luxe bamboo sheets, but we are not including them in our review because they are less popular. What is the best material for bed sheets? What kind of sheets are the softest? We are going to answer these and some other questions in our review.

To get started let’s study the table that compares the basic features of cotton and microfiber sheets.

Microfiber vs Cotton Sheets – Pros and Cons


CharacteristicsCotton SheetsMicrofiber Sheets
Average Thread Count200-4001000-1500
Moisture AbsorptionAbsorb moistureWick moistureWick moisture
SoftnessVaries from product to productVery soft
MaintenanceTend to wrinkle; ironing is requiredIroning is not necessary
BreathabilityMostly breathableNot breathable
Clearly, cotton and microfiber sheets have different characteristics. Moreover, even different products made of cotton have different properties, which we are going to discuss further in this article. Meanwhile, let’s find the answers to the most interesting questions regarding the choice of bed sheets.

What to Look for When Buying Bed Sheets?

The main thing you should keep in mind when shopping bed sheets you is your needs and preferences. Then you should look for characteristics that would best suit them. For instance, if you need the best sheets for summer, the main characteristics to consider would be breathing ability and hygroscopic properties. Percale weave and medium denseness (200 – 300 thread count) make cotton sheets delicate and breathable. They will do a great job keeping you comfortable and dry during hot summer nights.

Top Quality Sheets

The quality of the fiber is not less important than the type of fabric. Obviously, you would want the sheets to serve their purpose for decades while maintaining their initial look and properties. When we speak about quality sheets we usually mean the quality of cotton fiber and the quality of weave.

The most sought-after types of cotton are Egyptian cotton and Pima cotton. Sheets produced out of premium-quality Egyptian cotton are exceptionally soft, luxurious-looking and breathable, but very durable at the same time.

However, genuine Egyptian cotton is rather hard to find because the market is overwhelmed with fake products sold under this name. The second best choice is Pima cotton. It is slightly cheaper than Egyptian cotton, but the quality of yarn is just as great. It is cultivated exclusively on the territory of the USA and marketed under the Supima trademark. This is an officially registered trademark that guarantees the authenticity of products that carry this name.

Thread Count

Thanks to the efforts of marketers we have come to believe that high thread count is a synonym of premium quality. Indeed, it is true to some extent, but not entirely. What is the highest thread count for sheets? Some labels feature numbers as high as 1500. That is a lot! While this number is fine for microfiber fabric, finding it on a label of a set of cotton sheets does not guarantee that you are holding an exceptional product. The truth is, enormously high thread count indicates that the item is woven with very thin threads. As such, 1500 thread count sheets might look smooth and expensive, but will not last. So what are the numbers we should look for? Let’s figure that out.

What is the Best Thread Count for Sheets?

Apparently, thread count is a rather controversial characteristic, often misused by unscrupulous manufacturers. While many consumers are obsessed with big numbers, thread counts between 200 and 400 are sufficient. Thread counts under 200 are acceptable, but the fabric of this kind is rather rough and not particularly durable. The numbers between 400 and 500 are typical of sateen sheets.  So what is a good thread count for bed sheets? The correct answer lies somewhere between 200 and 600. Most experts agree that cotton sheets labeled with thread count numbers larger than 600 are either low quality or simply feature deceiving numbers.

If your question is ‘what thread count is the softest?’, the answer will be different. Low thread count results either in a rough, countryside-style fabric or a delicate, almost see-through fabric in case thinner threads are used. Alternatively, the fabric woven with a large number of threads per square inch is rather dense and the sensation it gives is far from soft.

Optimal Thread Count for Sheets

As always, the best choice is somewhere in the middle.

The thread count of approximately 400 in combination with premium-quality long-strand cotton can provide the desirable softness. If you need the softest cotton sheet, thread count is not the only thing to consider. Quality and origin of fiber, the pattern of weave and pretreatment are the factors that affect softness considerably.

What is a good thread count for Egyptian cotton sheets?

Genuine Egyptian cotton features extra long yarns. Therefore, it makes no sense to boost the thread count artificially to create an impression of an exceptional quality product. In Egyptian cotton sheets, the highest thread count you should be looking for is somewhere around 400.

Cotton Sheets Pros and Cons

When speaking about the advantages and disadvantages of cotton products, we should specify exactly what kind we mean. Cotton sheets share some common qualities, such as natural look and feel, hypoallergenic properties and long lifespan. Nevertheless, there are features that distinguish one kind from another. We have already discussed the properties of various kinds of cotton yarn. Now, let’s review the classification based on the kind of weave.

Types of cotton sheets

  • Percale sheets. What is the difference between percale and cotton sheets? Percale is a special type of weave, while cotton is fabric. In percale weave, horizontal and vertical threads interweave with each other at a straight angle one over the other. The best percale sheets are usually strong, long-lasting and breathable. If you need exceptional quality, you can choose combed cotton percale sheets. Combed cotton is free from contaminants and short, easily breakable fibers. It is stronger than traditional percale cotton and has a deluxe feel to it.
  • Sateen sheets. In sateen fabric threads interweave in a different way and form a dense diagonal pattern that endows a fabric with a slight sheen. High thread count sateen sheets feel almost like real satin. At the same time, they are completely non-breathable – definitely not a great choice for hot sleepers. Besides, sateen weave is less durable than percale.
  • Jersey sheets might remind you of a cozy T-shirt. Unlike other sheets, they can stretch and provide a perfect fit even on deep mattresses. Jersey sheets are soft, comforting to sleep on and affordable. This is a favorite choice of students and young people who are just moving out of their parents’ homes to live independently. It is noteworthy that high-quality jersey knit sheets are rather long-lasting and can serve their purpose for quite a long time.
  • Flannel sheets are velvety to the touch and exceptionally warm. A flannel sheet is a real pleasure to sleep on during cold winter nights.
  • Oxford sheets. They are less popular, but many families love them for their high quality and softness. Oxford sheets are heavier than percale sheets because they contain twice as many warp (lengthwise) threads.

Possible disadvantages

It might seem that cotton sheets have no flaws, but that is not true. There are some disadvantages, which consumers should be aware of.

  1. One of them is a generally higher price tag. Indeed, high-end cotton sheets, such as Supima or Egyptian, are rather expensive. Not all families can afford to have several sets of such sheets. On the other hand, the quality of cheap cotton sheets can be rather disappointing. There are so many factors that affect the quality of fabric that it gets really hard to find an optimal value for the money.
  2. Another downside is that cotton sheets are prone to wrinkling. While this might not be a problem for some, other people might get discouraged by the perspective of ironing out heavy wrinkles on a regular basis. Unlike natural linen, cotton bedding does not look beautiful with wrinkles.

Microfiber Sheets Pros and Cons

What are the softest sheets in the world? Many people would unanimously say, ‘microfiber’. Often times people prefer microfiber sheets over any other kind only thanks to their softness. To explore other advantages of microfiber, we should learn a little bit more about this material.

What is a good thread count for microfiber sheets?

Microfiber sheets always feature really large thread count numbers. One can spot numbers as large as 1,500 on some products. Does that imply that the numbers are deceiving too? In fact, no. Microfiber fabric has very thin yarns (that is how the fabric got its name – “micro” meaning very small). If you examine a microfiber sheet closely enough, you will realize that the threads are so fine, they are almost indiscernible. So it is quite natural that one would need a lot of them to build a decent sheet. Not all manufacturers indicate thread count on the labels of their microfiber sheets, but most often you can read numbers around 1,000 and 1,500.

Microfiber sheets usually have lower prices than decent cotton sheets. Affordability is one of the strong points of microfiber sheets. Of course, microfiber cannot provide that refreshing and crisp feel of natural cotton, however, it is fabulous in other respects.

What are the softest sheets you can buy?

The main advantage of microfiber is exceptional softness. Brushed microfiber has this one-of-a-kind plush feel many of us would not trade for anything else. Moreover, microfiber is very undemanding in terms of care. Microfiber threads are so thin and so tightly woven that they form a barrier that prevents spills and dirt from penetrating deep inside the fabric. As the results, stains come off pretty easily.

Moreover, microfiber does not wrinkle easily. This is another great thing about this fabric. Ironing sheets can be rather tiring and stressful. Pure cotton sheets get rather heavily-wrinkled after drying in a machine. Fortunately, sheets made of microfiber do not have this problem. You may skip ironing and they will still be just as good as new.

Is microfiber breathable?

Microfiber has many excellent properties, but unfortunately, breathability is not one of them. Therefore, even the thinnest microfiber sheets will not provide a crisp, chilling sensation.

The main plus of microfiber sheets:

Instead, this material has the ability to wick moisture away. Unlike cotton, bamboo or viscose that absorb moisture and get wet rather quickly if you perspire, microfiber works in the opposite way. It attracts sweat and wicks it away from your body. Tiny droplets of moisture travel alongside the fibers until they reach the surface they can evaporate from. Therefore, your body dries faster and you will not wake up from your sleep soaking wet. It is not surprising that the best sheets for night sweats are made of this particular material.

Cons of microfiber sheets:

  1. not breathable,
  2. might cause allergic reactions.
  3. do not feel natural.

Microfiber vs polyester comforters and sheets

Although microfiber is often produced out of polyester fibers, there is a significant distinction between these two materials. As we have already mentioned, microfiber is made of extremely fine fibers. This is where all its wonderful properties originate from. 100% microfiber polyester sheets are cozy, moisture wicking, easy to wash and fade-resistant.

Polyester fabric is build with regular-sized threads. It is not nearly as soft and pleasant to the touch as microfiber, but it is rather cheap. Polyester is often used as a surface material in comforters. 100% polyester sheets are not exceptionally comfortable to sleep on. Although they might look and even feel similar to viscose, polyester sheets are not breathable and can accumulate static electricity.

Video about the pros and cons of common fabrics

Conclusion

So, cotton or microfiber? The choice between the two is always a question of taste, budget and individual preferences. There are great products in each category. If you search carefully enough, you will definitely find something to suit your needs. Whether you are searching for the best sateen sheets or the softest microfiber sheets, you will easily find an option that would satisfy your needs. The bottom line is to choose between softness, easy maintenance and moisture wicking properties on one side and breathability, natural feel and hypoallergenic properties on the other. Once you have figured out your preferences, the decision will come quickly.

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