Have you heard about bamboo sheets yet? Apparently, they are sustainable, softer than cotton, naturally hypoallergenic and moisture absorbing. They are also purported to keep you cool in summer and warm in winter.
Bamboo is relatively new in the material world, so we decided to pit it against Egyptian cotton to help you decide whether to try it out or stick with what you’re used to.
Bamboo is one of the fastest-growing plants on the planet. Certain species of bamboo can grow 910mm (36in) within a 24-hour period, at a rate of almost 40mm (1 1⁄2in) an hour (a growth around 1mm every 90 seconds, or 1in every 40 minutes).
Four different types of bamboo sheets are available for purchase: viscose, lyocell, modal and linen. The first three are made from regenerated cellulosic fibres, or rayon. Bamboo linen is made very similar to common linen fabric.
Bamboo sheets feel soft and silky, and because they do not need a high thread count to achieve the softness, they are very breathable.
Egyptian cotton sheets
Egyptian cotton is known for being the highest quality and the most durable of cotton.
Egyptian cotton comes from the species Gossypium barbadense. The plants produce longer fibres than any other cotton, which are handpicked.
These long fibres are spun into extra-fine threads, which are then woven into a high-quality fabric. The thin yarn enables the manufacturers to create material with a high thread count that never sacrifices strength and softness. This is where the well-known rule-of-thumb comes in, where the higher the thread count, the better the quality of the sheets.
Bamboo vs Egyptian cotton
“Bamboo fibres are longer, smoother and rounder than cotton, which makes them softer on the skin,” explains MedicSpot GP Dr Farah Gilani. “Bamboo fibres are also organic and not chemically treated, so they’re less likely to irritate your skin.”
“Bamboo sheets are also breathable, and so are better at allowing air to circulate and regulating body temperature than cotton sheets. This means that they keep you warm in cold temperatures and cool in the heat, which can lead to better quality sleep.”
Egyptian cotton with a high thread count has a remarkably soft and luxurious feel to it, and the more you wash them, the softer they get.
Both bamboo and Egyptian cotton are known for their high quality and durability. The long fibres produced by both plants allow the sheets to be made from long, thin threads that stretch the whole length of the sheet, instead of small patches of fabric sewn together. This method produces sheets that are resistant to pilling and tearing – both of which shorten the life span.
Both types of bedding require some careful cleaning though. Gentle cycles on a lower temperature are a must.
So, they are both durable and could possibly last you up to 15 years. One difference is that cotton is more likely to discolour over time because it absorbs sweat while you sleep. But deep cleaning can get rid of those stains.
Bamboo sheets seem to be the answer if you have sensitive skin or get too hot during the night. Dr Gilani says: “Sleeping with thick sheets during hot and humid conditions can cause your body to sweat excessively. Losing too much water at night makes you dehydrated, causing you to feel fatigued and groggy during the day.”
“Bamboo sheets help to minimise this, both by keeping the body cool and by drawing moisture away from the skin and allowing it to evaporate quickly.”
In case you weren’t already sold, Dr Gilani adds: “This moisture-wicking quality also helps to keep the sheets clean, as a moist environment can breed bacteria. Bamboo also has innate antibacterial properties, some of which are retained when sheets are created from it.
“Furthermore, the breathable nature of bamboo repels house dust mites, a common allergen which can cause symptoms such as rash, sneezing or wheezing. Thus, bamboo sheets are considered hypoallergenic and are therefore better for individuals with allergies.”
While bamboo sheets can boast about these health benefits, cotton doesn’t really have any. Egyptian cotton is known to be gentle on the skin though, which also makes it suitable for those with sensitive skin.
Bamboo is not just sustainable, it’s considered environmentally friendly to produce, requiring no pesticides to grow and using less water than cotton production. Though bamboo does still have to undergo intensive processes to turn it from raw bamboo pulp into a textile.
Bamboo bedding should never claim to be ‘100 per cent bamboo’ as other fibres are needed to turn it into a textile. Instead, you’ll see bamboo viscose, bamboo lyocell, viscose from bamboo, or bamboo rayon bedding on the tag. If sustainability is a big draw for you, bamboo lyocell is the most environmentally friendly of the four different types of bamboo sheets available.
Cotton plants typically need a lot of pesticides and harmful chemicals sprayed on them to allow the cotton strands to grow as long as possible. Organic Egyptian cotton is available, just with a higher price tag.
It is not necessary to iron bamboo bed sheets, but you can do so if a crisp look is important to you, just ensure you do it on a low temperature.
The way you dry your sheets will definitely impact how wrinkled they look afterwards. Air drying is recommended if possible, and not just because there’s nothing better than the feel and smell of air-dried sheets. Hanging sheets on the line lets them hang smooth and flat and the weight of the water in them means gravity does much of the wrinkle removing work for you.
And, of course, it goes without saying, no matter which way you dry them, just make sure you do it as soon as the washing is finished. Nothing sets in wrinkles better than leaving your sheets to sit in a crumpled, wet heap.
Egyptian cotton sheets do tend to get wrinkles, especially when new. Hotels often use sheets made of cotton and polyester, which makes them less wrinkly, but they just don’t feel as soft and smooth. Egyptian cotton is easiest to iron when slightly damp.
Which is the winner? It comes down to personal preference really, but bamboo might be best if breathability is important, you want to lower your economic footprint, or you are looking for a hypoallergenic fabric.
Cotton might be the best way to go if you prefer a softer feel (especially over time) or you prefer to spend less on bedsheets.
What bedsheets do you use? Have you tried bamboo bedsheets? How different do you find them to cotton options?
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