Microfiber vs Cotton Sheets: Which is Best for You? (2022)

various colors of bed sheets

Right out of the gate, we should point out that finding the right bed sheets can be tougher than you anticipate.  Especially when you are comparing materials.  While one group of people will no doubt assume they are all about the same, another will believe they are wholly different and need a ton of research. 

Yes, research is required, but we are here today in order to help you cut the clutter.  We’ll break down all you need to know by comparing microfiber and cotton, two of the more popular types of bedding out there.  Sheets are much larger part of your life than you think.  You spend 6-10 hours on them every night, so it’s a big deal.  Don’t make the mistake of not thinking about them!  So, let’s get started. 

Defining Cotton & Microfiber Sheets

First things first, we should take a look at what cotton and microfiber are. 

Cotton Sheets

Cotton, obviously, comes from the cotton plant.  That may sound simple enough, but in reality, there are various types of cotton that can be present.  We will touch on those later on.  By the same token, microfiber can also be made out of a range of materials. 

Microfiber Sheets

Microfiber is a synthetic substance that is made from man made materials.  This can add to the strength and durability of it in some cases, but it also has its downfalls.  We’ll make sure to list them all out for you here in a bid to help you make a good, solid decision about what to sleep on! 

Types of Cotton

It’s imperative that we break down the types of cotton, as they can vary wildly from one product to the next.  Whereas one type may be very soft, another could be super coarse.  We talked about how microfiber is synthetically made, and while this means it’s less ‘natural’ than cotton- much less so- it does not mean that cotton is always the best for you if you want an all natural product. 

Egyptian Cotton

The most luxurious type of cotton out there is, as you may already know, Egyptian cotton.  This type usually has a higher thread count and is going to come at a higher price as a result.  It is softer and more forgiving, kind of like silk, but it does carry that premium you have to pay. 

Pima Cotton

Then, you have Pima, or Supima, cotton.  This type is as close as you can get to Egyptian cotton, but it is made in the United States.  It’s also very strong and soft, but it will not be as soft as its Egyptian ‘cousin.’  It is, however, a little bit cheaper and easier to manage financially. 

Retail Grade Cotton

Next up is ‘regular’ cotton.  This can be just about any old type of cotton, and this type is usually a bit stronger than the average type but may not be nearly as soft.  There’s also a type called ‘organic cotton,’ meaning it does not use pesticides or chemicals in its production. 

Types of Microfiber

Microfiber might sound like it would be made from one material- microfiber- but in reality, it can be composed of a bevy of potential products. 

Usually, though, it is comprised of either polyester or maybe even nylon.  With microfiber sheets, you can find a lot of materials in them.  Sometimes this is done to make them better in one specific department. 

So, you could see cotton added to the mix in order to make them more breathable, for example.  There really isn’t as much to microfiber as cotton in this regard, so let’s move on and dive into comparing the two in various areas. 

Microfiber & Cotton Sheets Price Comparison

We’ll begin our comparison by looking at the price of the two relative to one another and the rest of the market.  The great news is that, on the whole, both of these products are very affordable to purchase.  In most cases, both of them can be found for very good prices that will save you money compared to more luxury focused sheet sets

With that being said, cotton does tend to fluctuate more than microfiber does.  Egyptian cotton- and a lot of the Pima offerings- do cost more to acquire.  The others, however, are cheaper than they are, making it easier for you to get your hands on and driving the average price down considerably. 

Microfiber is probably the best material in the world if you are solely looking at price, as you can buy several sets of sheets for the price of a mid-range price set of typical sheets.  Be wary, though, because they are not always going to yield you the best quality despite saving you a buck or two. 

Microfiber & Cotton Durability

Price and durability will forever be linked, but here is a place where we should talk about durability alone.  The thing that you need to realize is that there are ranging amounts of quality up and down the list within both subsets. 

You may indeed have ten microfiber choices, with some of them being super strong and durable and others not being so good.  You often find that it’s the company that makes or breaks the durability equation, not the product type itself. 

Therefore, on the whole we must admit that cotton is the more durable.  There are just so many ultra cheaply made microfiber sheets out there to come out and claim they are better in this regard.  While cotton may not always live up to the hype, and let’s face it and state that no product does, it usually does a better job at lasting than microfiber does. 

Microfiber & Cotton Breathability

It’s 3:30 in the morning and you are tossing and turning.  You are sweating like a stuffed pig, and you don’t know why.  You have the lightest blanket in the house on and you have the air on at 42 degrees.  OK, maybe that’s a little bit extreme, but you get the point.  Some of us just run ‘hotter’ than others when we sleep, and there seems to be no cure for this.  However, with the right bedding for hot weather you can take down this annoyance and finally actually get some sleep. 

When you compare cotton and microfiber, there is only one clear winner here, and it is cotton.  Cotton is a very breathable piece of material that allows air to flow smoothly all around.  No, there are no holes to be seen like in clothing, but it is present, trust us.  Some cotton sheets do a better job than others, but on the whole it does an excellent job.  Microfiber, however, does not usually do a good job.  One of the main knocks against synthetic products is that they lack breathability. 

This comes in the form of shoes, too, so it’s no shock to see this here.  While there are some out there that do a good job, this is not typically the case as when they do a good job at breathing, it is usually down to the fact that they are laced with other material types to effectively bolster it.  Even with the fact that microfiber sheets are very thin, they still trap air and don’t let it flow, hurting many people’s ability to sleep.  If this is your main cause for concern, you are best served looking elsewhere other than microfiber. 

Care and Maintenance

A very big portion of the durability of any item will naturally depend on how well you maintain it and take care of it.  With sheets, this is no different.  While some of us have a lot of time on our hands and enjoy cleaning and taking care of things, others of us hate this or just do not have the time nor desire. 

Luckily for you, both cotton and microfiber are pretty good at limiting the amount of time you take to wash, dry, and care for them.  For the most part, both of them can be placed into the washer and dryer, though for maximum durability, we definitely suggest air drying if at all possible.  Both types can shrink upon the first time they are washed and dried, too, so keep that in mind.  Just be thankful that neither of them are like silk or a more elegant type of material that takes more time to deal with! 

Colors and their Fastness

We don’t need to explain colors, that is easy, but what we do need to state for you is that with both microfiber and cotton, there are a lot of potential colors that you could be able to purchase.  Obviously, this is good news, as some other types of materials, like silk, can be tough to find anything but boring one tone colors. 

These are fine for some folks, but others like to mix and match.  That’s the bright side of cotton and microfiber, as both can come in a bevy of colors.  When compared head to head, it’s also nice to take a look at their ‘fastness.’  This refers to how well the color stays attached to them over time.  Cotton, again, is the winner here, especially in its long staple form, as it is able to better retain color than microfiber is. 

Microfiber can do a good job, especially for the money you are laying down for it, but it can and will fade over time.  How fast this does so depends on how you wash them and fry them and the natural characteristics of the product itself that you have bought. 

Differences in Thread Count

One area we have to, unfortunately, dive into with this is the thread count issue.  This issue is one of the most confusing ones out there, and it’s that way due to clever marketing.  Thread count is a great indicator, most of the time, with cotton, however, it is not the best at all for microfiber or other types of sheets. 

Thread count helps determine the quality of the sheets, but it does need mean that a higher number will produce you with a softer feel.  In fact, it is the opposite.  The more threads, the more potential you have for more durability and more coarse-ness, in truth.  We like to often overlook thread count as well, particularly when you see a very large number than makes no sense applied. 

Sometimes this can mean they have used lots of low quality’ threads’ to drive up the count.  This isn’t adding to the quality or durability, it’s just a trick.  That’s why we don’t even consider it for microfiber or other types and take it with a grain of salt with cotton. 

Wrinkling & Wrinkle-Free Options

The final thing that we will discuss today before bidding you adieu is going to be about the process of wrinkling.  No one wants to deal with this, for good reason, but it does occur, and we should not act like it doesn’t.  With cotton, this is an unfortunate downside, as many end up having to iron them. 

While this is not the worst thing in the world, it can be a chore and take up time you may not have.  Therefore, choose wisely.  With microfiber, you have a lot less chance of having to turn toward ironing your sheets.  With both of them, though, we do suggest getting them out of the ‘clump’ as soon as possible. 

Whenever you leave them in the washer or dryer for extended times, they will develop- or will be more likely to develop- wrinkles.  Be aware of this and circumvent it by not allowing them to rest for a long, long time! 

Conclusion & Final Recommendation

Finding the right type of sheets just for you can be tough to do.  It seems like an easy enough exercise, but in reality, it can be an arduous, thankless task full of pitfalls and errors.  That is, if you don’t know what to look for.  If you do, which you do now, you’ll be much more prepared to make a good decision. 

On the balance of it, cotton and microfiber are both great for the pure and unmistakable fact that they are relatively affordable materials.  Anyone on a budget will be able to find a good set of decent quality, showing you that whichever way you go, you do not have to break the bank to get good rest! 

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