Who would have thought that buying new bed sheets could be a complicated process? But with all of the materials available and the varieties of each, it can be a tough decision to make. Gone are the days of a simple sole choice of white cotton sheets. In today’s market, there is everything from cotton to bamboo and ranging from synthetic to organic. Which option is the best for you? Are organic fabrics and thus organic sheets really better than others? More durable? Healthier? It’s a lot to take in! But fear not, we are here to guide you. Let’s start by taking a look at the fabric options that sheets may typically be made from and finish with a discussion of the numerous benefits organic sheets.
To start, let’s take a look at the variety of fabrics that sheets are made of. Keep in mind that many sheets are available as blends of multiple fabrics meaning your sheets may contain more than one of the materials listed below. This will provide a better foundation for understanding the benefits of organic sheet sets over more conventional options.
Easily the most popular fabric for sheets, cotton is a durable, breathable, soft, easy to care for, and generally quite affordable. However, even within this category of fabric, you’ll find several different types of cotton.
The most luxurious variety, purchasing Egyptian cotton sheets will leave you with super-soft, high-quality bed sheets. The cotton used to produce these sheets is grown in the warm, dry climates of North Africa and has extra-long fibers which create an ultra-soft and smooth fabric.
Pima cotton is created with medium to extra long fibers produced by cotton typically grown in the southwest region of the United States. The fabric is best known for its softness and natural sheen. Supima® is a trademarked name for fibers and materials woven from 100% American Pima cotton.
This cotton is originally native to the Americas but is now the most commonly grown cotton in the world. Since the fibers of upland cotton are not as long as Egyptian or Pima, the sheets it produces are not quite as soft. However, the majority of cotton sheets are created using this fabric unless otherwise stated, especially in the case of bargain prices.
This is another trademarked brand of cotton specifically referring to an extremely fine cotton thread developed in India. The fabric is made from long-staple cotton fibers which make it durable, very soft and absorbent.
Linen is a durable natural fiber derived from the flax plant which is heavier than cotton and approximately 30% stronger. The finest linen typically comes from Europe, specifically Belgium, due to an optimal climate and rich soil that allows for strong, beautiful flax. As linen fibers are thicker than cotton fibers, a lower thread count is needed to guarantee a high quality, enduring linen fabric.
Recognizable as a warm fabric, flannel is simply cotton that’s been combed to fluff up the fibers. This results in a super soft fabric with a nap that can trap body heat, thus giving flannel its well-known warming quality. Unlike other types of bedding materials, flannel’s quality is measured in ounces per square yard, rather than thread count.
Specifically a brand name for fabric made out of eucalyptus tree wood pulp, Tencel is soft, durable, and naturally antimicrobial meaning it can kill or inhibit the growth of microorganisms like bacteria. Tencel is generally considered an environmentally friendly fabric given that it requires less water, energy, and chemicals than cotton does. However, Tencel is not quite as breathable as cotton and can leave some individuals feeling a little clammy.
A well-known luxury fabric, silk is a soft fiber produced by silkworms. Real silk sheets will provide a cool and smooth feeling while also offering a naturally hypoallergenic option. The downside, however, is that silk comes with a high price tag and is high maintenance when it comes to care given the delicacy of the fibers.
Produced from the same polymers used to make plastic drinking bottles, polyester is a manmade fiber. Sheets made using this fabric are often stiff and scratchy if polyester is the sole thread. So you will most often find it mixed with another fabric like cotton in inexpensive sheet sets. Sometimes very finely woven polyester will be sold as microfiber which can be very soft but will not offer the same breathability as cotton. However, they are durable and resistant to stains.
Most often what you will find labeled as “bamboo” sheets are in reality made of rayon which is what is produced when the bamboo pulp is put through a chemical process. This process dissolves the pulp, then re-solidifies it before spinning it into a thread. The process utilizes harmful chemicals and can be difficult on the environment making bamboo sheets less environmentally friendly than manufacturers tend to claim. However, it does produce a very soft, durable and silky fabric which is just as breathable as cotton. And while bamboo can be made into fabric without a chemical process, the resulting sheets are usually rather stiff and rough.
When purchasing sheets, it is important to note that the type of weave can also have an effect on the feel of the sheets regardless of the fabric used. It can also have an influence on the longevity of the sheets and the cost. For example, a basic plain weave is woven from an equal number of vertical and horizontal yarns and are the least expensive option while percale is an upscale plain weave with a thread count of 180 or higher known for its longevity and crisp feel. Sateen weaves, on the other hand, have more vertical than horizontal yarns which result in an extremely soft fabric but one that is less durable and more apt to pill or tear.
Organic sheet sets have become increasingly popular over recent years. They are more environmentally safe and healthier than more conventional bedding options like non-organic or synthetic sheets. Organic cotton sheets and organic linen sheetsprovide a number of benefits to both the consumer and the environment. They are pesticide free, pigment-free and hypoallergenic. Organic cotton is extremely comfortable due to its ability to wick moisture away from the body and offer superb durability and convenience. If you are curious but not sold on the perks of organic sheets yet, let’s take a deeper look at each of these benefits.
Organic sheets are safer for the consumer because the cotton, or another plant, is grown without the use of pesticides. A pesticide is any substance used to destroy insects or other organisms harmful to cultivated plants. If used while growing the cotton plant, these chemicals may leave traces on the fibers used to ultimately produce bed sheets. (If chemicals in sheets freak you out, don’t even get us started with the chemicals in mattresses.)
Since organic sheets are pesticide free, pigment-free, and bleach free, it is not surprising that they are also hypoallergenic. The lack of chemicals during the manufacturing process means the sheets are less likely to cause a reaction in those individuals with sensitivities to certain chemicals. Organic sheets also do not contain any metals, typically found in the dyes used to add color to bedding, which is a known allergen to many consumers. As compared to conventional cotton, organic cotton has also been shown to be beneficial for asthmatics.
Unlike synthetic materials, organic fibers allow for ventilation and air circulation which helps remove body moisture by absorption. Specifically, cotton fibers can absorb up to 20% of their weight before feeling damp to the touch. Thus, these fibers are able to absorb body moisture which then evaporates into the surrounding air which helps your body to stay cool and dry throughout the night.
According to the Organic Trade Association, organic production systems are able to replenish and maintain soil fertility. These systems utilize natural fertilizers, as opposed to toxic and persistent pesticides or fertilizers, while also contributing to the building of a biologically diverse agriculture. As a result, organic growing methods not only maintain soil health but also utilize fewer natural resources and less land to yield the same amount of product.
Organic sheets are biodegradable meaning they can be broken down by living organisms should you decide to get rid of them. Most biodegradable sheets can break down and return to nature in as little as two weeks! This means less waste in landfills and that is better for the environment overall.
Don’t let their biodegradability fool you! Organic sheets are still exceptionally durable, especially organic cotton or linen sheets. This means they can withstand lots of use without showing signs of wear and tear. A good element for sheets which may be used often.
Organic bedding is completely safe to wash and dry in a regular washing machine and dryer making them very easy to care for. No special trips to the dry cleaner needed!
As you can see the benefits of organic sheets to both the environment and consumer are hard to ignore. Typically, you can find organic bedding in a variety of fabrics, especially with its increasing popularity, but organic cotton sheets, or linen, are produce with regularity. When you are ready to purchase organic sheets, try to find some that have the following characteristics:
- Ensure that the sheets are manufactured to the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) standard. The GOTS was developed with the aim of defining requirements that are recognized around the world and that ensure the organic status of textiles from the time the raw materials are harvested, through environmentally and socially responsible manufacturing, to the end of the process of labeling the product in order to provide a guarantee to the consumer.
- Purchase certified organic cotton home textiles. This is not to be confused with pure finish sheets which simply indicates that no chemicals were used during manufacturing or that all traces of chemicals used during manufacturing have been removed.
- Finally, look for products that are not wrinkle free or easy care to be sure they weren’t processed with formaldehyde.