Natural Bed Sheet Fabrics Explained

August 08, 2016
Natural Bed Sheet Fabrics Explained

Your refuge at the end of the day, your soft place to fall…your bed. We all know how much time we spend there, so it is surely worth spending a bit of time learning a bit more about the myriad of bedding choices out there. It is a given that we want our bed to look beautiful and feel divine, but how about what is actually GOOD for us and maybe even good for the planet as well?

The best bedding choices for both our health and the environment are the natural ones, so let’s skip over the polyester and microfibers and dive right in to the ones good old mother earth provides: cotton, linen, bamboo, wool and corn fibre. Understanding the pros and cons of each will help you decide what to buy depending on what is most important to you.

Cotton Bed Sheets

Cotton bedding represents the vast majority of choices out there…easy to find, affordable and practical. Cotton can be washed at high temps and is a study fabric that should last for years if not decades. The quality of the cotton, thread count and the finish determines how good it feels. Egyptian cotton and sateen finishes will feel the smoothest EVEN at lower thread counts. Really high thread count sheets can actually feel a bit heavy and hot in warm humid climates. A well made 300 thread count sheet can feel just as amazing as 1000, and be cooler in summer. As for the environment, cotton requires a lot of water and pesticides to be grown, so it so not the most sustainable, but still superior to a polyester product.

Linen Bed Sheets

Linen sheets are a luxurious choice, but they are not for everyone. The upside…they look beautiful and have a wonderful texture to them. They also breathe even better than cotton, so are perfect in summer and magically warmer in winter due to the hollow fibre construction. The downside for many, including a high price tag, is that they do not become soft until after several washes, and some won’t like the way they never get “smooth”, they simply do not feel slippery or cool to the touch the way cotton sheets do. Linen is made using the whole flax plant so there is no waste. Flax grows naturally and requires less water and fewer pesticides than most crops and is also recyclable and biodegradable.

Bamboo Bed Sheets

Bamboo bedding is the ultimate if you love that silky smooth texture. Not everyone likes their sheets quite that satiny, as bamboo is very cool to the touch, not crisp and dry at all. Hypoallergenic and free from harmful chemicals and allergens, bamboo is gentle on sensitive skin. It is also naturally antimicrobial and moisture-wicking, meaning it wicks away night sweat and leaves your skin feeling cool in summer and warm in winter. The bamboo industry is a lot more sustainable than cotton, as it is a fast growing resource that has higher yields and requires less than 1/10 of the water cotton does. Having owned a set of bamboo sheets myself, I found them quite fragile, so intensive washing in hot water and dryer is a NO go. Be prepared to line dry and then put your fitted sheet on carefully.

Natural Quilts and Pillows

Quilts (or inserts into duvet covers) and pillows are usually polyester or microfiber, but there are natural alternatives. The one most people think of is down (feather) and it is hands down the best option if you want lightweight and fluffy, the downside being they can be very hot and do harbour a bit of dust, as well as needing to be “fluffed up” when they go flat. Wool and cotton are another readily available mix. Again, these are often too hot for warm climates and they can be a bit heavy, without much loft. One of my favourites is corn fibre. A new player on the block, corn is a readily available and sustainable resource, and the derivative fibres have high loft, without being too heavy or hot! Corn is also approved by the National Asthma Council Australia as being suitable for asthma and allergy sufferers.

People who have allergies to dust mites should indeed take measures to protect themselves. But everyone can skip the expensive trips to the store to buy all new bedding every 6 months. Mites multiply quickly in high humidity and can overtake bedding in just a few days. This is why natural bedding fabrics are so superior to polyester in that they breathe, allowing heat and moisture to escape throughout the night, keeping bacteria growth to a minimum. If you are very sensitive, wash your bedding (including comforters and duvet covers) weekly in hot water and use a hot dryer. There are several pillow and mattress protectors on the market that create a barrier which keeps them dust mite free.

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Invest in Natural Bedding

Remember the days when your mom used to put a set of sheets on the bed that had been around for about 20 years, and they felt SO soft and inviting. It is because that generation bought once and bought well! An investment in high quality natural bedding will not only keep your sheets out of a landfill, they will keep you comfortable and healthy for half the day. Sleep tight.

Pure Heaven...

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Cris Bucknall is an interior designer and founder of Eco Chic - an online store for eco friendly furniture and homewares.

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