Microfiber vs. Cotton Sheets for Your Bed
7 min read
Is there a better feeling than cozying up in cool, crisp, and clean bed sheets after a long day?
Here at Miracle, we don’t think that there is. That’s why we are dedicated to providing only the most comfortable sheets out there to ensure the best quality sleep possible.
We’re nerds when it comes to all things related to sleep. If that sounds a bit ridiculous, consider that one-third of your life is or should be spent sleeping so that your brain and body can rest and rejuvenate.
Picking the right bed sheets is a crucial component of having a good night’s sleep. In our society, more than 30% of people sleep less than the recommended seven hours a day, and sleep disorders are as common as the common cold.
Because of this, it’s worth doing everything in your power to ensure the most comfortable environment for some quality shut-eye. Sheets are so important because they affect the way your skin feels, your body temperature, and ultimately how well you sleep at night.
Our point is that choosing the right sheets is no simple task. But we’re here to make it easier for you. A big decision to make when it comes to purchasing bed linens is the choice between microfiber and cotton sheets. There are different reasons to purchase either, and it ultimately comes down to personal preference.
If you want to make the most informed choice on the best sheets for bedtime, read on.
A Brief History of Sheets
The first known use of the term ‘bed sheet’ was in the 15th century; however, the bedsheet spans back to ancient times.
Linen, a fabric derived from the flax plant, is considered the first bedsheet. Historically, it was so important that it has been found in the tombs of many ancient Egyptians, washed, folded, and ready for the afterlife.
While today bed sheets are a staple rather than a luxury, they are no less important now than they were thousands of years ago.
Today, the most popular fabrics for bed sheets are cotton and microfiber. While they might look identical at first glance, they are certainly not cut from the same cloth – pardon the pun.
The term cotton is derived from the Arabic ‘quton,’ and its first documented use was in the fifth millennium B.C. Cotton is a plant that has a fraught history that, on an industrial scale, has been around as long as the modern United States. The fabric is derived from the fluffy fibers of the cotton plant, which are spun into a yarn.
By contrast, microfiber was invented in the 20th century at a time of rapid modernization that included the invention of nylon, revolutionizing both the fashion and the textile industry. Unlike naturally derived cotton, microfibers are minutely small fibers of polyester, a synthetic material derived from petroleum.
Producing synthetic materials such as microfibers on an industrial scale helped make clothing and bedding more accessible to all.
So fast-forwarding to the modern day – the question of cotton or microfiber sheets still stands. Let’s go through the comparisons in features, quality, affordability, and environmental impact.
While cotton is desired for its softness and durability, not all cotton is created equal. The quality of cotton depends on the length of the fiber (also known as the staple), the weave, and sometimes the thread count.
American Upland cotton has shorter-length staple fibers than Pima and Egyptian Cotton. This makes it more affordable but also gives a rougher texture, which isn’t ideal when it comes to bedding.
Pima cotton is in the middle of the cotton spectrum; the fibers aren’t as long as Egyptian cotton, but it still produces super soft bedding that lasts long. However, its cousin - Supima cotton – gives Egyptian cotton a run for its money in terms of staple length.
Type of Weave
Fiber-length isn’t the only thing to take into account when considering cotton sheets. The weave, aka how the fibers are knitted together, also makes a difference to their comfort level.
Plain Weave is the traditional method of weaving: one yarn over, one yarn under, and so forth. Percale cotton uses the plain weave technique but with higher quality cotton, producing a soft, smooth texture and providing maximum breathability.
Sateen is created using a weave of four threads over and one under. Using the same weaving process as silk satin, sateen from cotton is smooth and shiny. The heavy weave means sateen traps heat, unlike percale cotton, which keeps you cool. Sateen is less durable than percale, making it a less sustainable option for bed sheets.
Now for thread count: it is defined as the number of threads woven into a square inch of fabric. Thread count can help determine the quality of your cotton bedding, but it can also be misleading.
Because more threads in a square inch mean they’re finer, the theory goes that it makes for softer, more comfortable sheets. This is not untrue, but there’s a caveat.
High thread count tends to mean the fabric is more tightly woven and thus less breathable. This results in more trapped heat, which is not conducive to a good night’s sleep.
To avoid the scratchiness of low thread count sheets and to prevent overheating from a too high thread count, Miracle recommends a thread count between 300 to 700.
When it comes to microfibers, we’re talking about extra-fine strands that are one-third the diameter of cotton fibers, providing a lightweight feel. Typically made from polyester or nylon, the fabric for microfiber sheets is most often made through the process of melt spinning, in which melted polymer is solidified into incredibly thin fibers which are woven together.
A 20th-century invention, the faster industrial process of producing synthetic microfiber sheets has made them a generally more affordable alternative to cotton sheets. Although, you will certainly feel the difference between the two!
Comparing Microfiber and Cotton
While cotton is a very breathable fabric, microfiber tends to trap heat, making it a less desirable option for those who get hot or get night sweats during their sleep. A cool environment is preferable for a good night’s sleep as the body’s core temperature drops closer to bedtime.
What’s more, a cool sleeping environment is also important in the fight against bedroom bacteria. While incredibly hot temperatures can kill bacteria, these microbes thrive in temperate climates – meaning a warm, humid sleeping environment can encourage them to multiply.
In fact, one study showed that the pillowcase has more bacterial growth than a toilet seat! A high level of bacteria and fungi can create or exacerbate health issues such as allergies, eczema, and acne.
All this to say that when it comes to creating the most comfortable and clean sleeping environment, cotton is preferable to microfiber due to the former’s natural thermoregulating capabilities. This is especially true for percale weave cotton.
That being said, microfiber gives cotton a run for its money when it comes to presentation. If you like a bed that looks made-up with little effort, the wrinkle resistance quality of microfiber makes it a good fit – but there’s a catch. Microfiber sheets dry faster than most fabrics, so leaving them in the dryer for too long can damage the fibers – causing permanent wrinkles.
Microfiber sheets are generally more durable than most cotton equivalents due to the tightness of the weave, which also contributes to heat-trapping. This is great for someone who wants a long-lasting option that is also affordable.
However, high-quality cotton sheets are also known for their durability and are worth the investment when it comes to their other great qualities. When looking for top-of-the-line cotton, the best of the best is simply Supima cotton.
The Perfect Set: Enter Supima Cotton
If you’re looking to invest in a sheet set that can do it all, look no further than the Extra Luxe Miracle Sheet Set. Made with Supima cotton, these sheets are some of the highest quality out there.
Representing less than 1% of cotton grown worldwide, Supima cotton is grown here in the USA. Its extra-long staple fibers make it superior in terms of durability, softness, and color retention.
While producing cotton is a resource-intensive practice, Supima cotton is grown using technological advances that help conserve water and protect the soil.
For those who hope to reduce their environmental impact, Supima cotton sheets are far better than microfiber sheets, which shed fibers during a washing cycle. This is why microfibers are the most common type of microplastic found in the environment.
This is due to infused silver nanoparticles that naturally fight bacterial growth, so your sheets stay fresher for longer, saving water, electricity, and reducing your contribution to plastic pollution in the environment.