From cotton to silk: Which material makes the best bed sheets?

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Buying bed sheets isn’t as simple as it used to be. Even just a few years ago, cotton was king; the unrivalled best material for bed sheets. Today, you’ll find so many other options on the shelves alongside good old cotton – including linen, silk, bamboo and TENCEL – that it can be difficult to know which one is really worth the investment. 

Everyone has their own way of making the bed (are you for or against using a top sheet?), but there is one rule you should always stick to when selecting a brand new set of sheets. Always choose sheets made from naturally derived fibres. Poly-cotton, polyester blends and microfibre sheets may be affordable, durable and wrinkle less, but they’re also less breathable, prone to static cling and are hard on the planet. 

But which material is best for you? The answer to this question really comes down to a number of factors including whether you tend to run hot or cold, the climate you live in and whether you prefer bedding to feel crisp or silky, heavy and cocoon-like or light and airy. 

Here we compare five of the most popular bed sheet materials so you can decide which one is best for you.


Derived from the cotton plant, cotton sheets are easy to care for and relatively inexpensive. It is processed into many forms, including flannel, corduroy and jersey. Choose long-staple cotton for a higher-quality finish that is less prone to pilling, fading and wrinkling. 

Where to buy cotton bed sheets:

Contemporary bedroom with boucle furniture
A contemporary main bedroom featuring bed sheets from Adairs. (Credit: Photography: Louise Roche | Styling: Kylie Jackes)


A soft fibre produced by the silkworm that is synonymous with luxury, silk is a smooth, delicate fabric. It is high-maintenance, but if you suffer from hair frizziness, sleeping on a silk pillowcase will also magically tame those tangles. 

A great vegan and eco-friendly alternative to pure silk is bamboo silk or sateen, which is produced by companies including Ettitude and Silvi.

Where to buy silk bed sheets


Woven from flax fibres, linen sheets are breathable and highly absorbent, which allows it to regulate your temperature as you sleep. It has an organic, stylishly crumpled look that softens with age.

Where to buy linen bed sheets:

Coastal style main bedroom with VJ panelling and linen striped bed sheets
In this coastal home, Cultiver linen keeps the look textural and serene. (Credit: Photography: Louise Roche | Styling: Kylie Jackes)


Made from fast-growing bamboo plants, bamboo sheets can be as soft as silk, with excellent cooling and antimicrobial properties. It’s a great choice for the eco-conscious hot sleeper with sensitive skin.

Where to buy bamboo bed sheets:


Although classed as a semi-synthetic material, Tencell Lyocell is made from sustainably sourced natural materials (such as eucalyptus wood pulp) which is processed and turned into strong, silky smooth threads that are hypoallergenic, soft on the skin, breathable and biodegradable. 

Where to buy Tencel bed sheets

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