It’s only been in the last couple years that getting quality sleep has gotten its moment in the spotlight. Blogs, podcasts, and an emerging direct-to-consumer mattress and pillow industry have made the case for the value of a restful night’s sleep.
However, what your bedding is made of, and how it makes you feel, is just as important as the pillow or mattress you lie on.
Just like a pillow or mattress, what your bedding is made of can make the difference between sweet dreams and sleep that’s just okay. Different materials work for different individuals — and in different climates.
We’re breaking down the unique properties and benefits of various sustainable materials used in bedding — including bamboo lyocell, organic cotton linen, and Tencel — so you can find the right sheets just for you.
Cotton is one of the most popular fibers used in the textile industry today, second only to polyester (which we certainly do not recommend for bedding). Cotton’s durability and breathability make it one of the most widely used fibers for bedding, but there are some serious environmental concerns that come with conventional non-organic cotton. Cotton is one of the top three genetically modified crops in the world and accounts for 16% of all pesticides, although it takes up just 2.5% of the world’s arable land. So conventional cotton is great to sleep in, but not so great for the planet.
Love cotton, but not the environmental baggage it brings to the bedroom? Allow us to introduce you to cotton’s far more sustainable cousin — organic cotton. Organic cotton is never genetically modified and is always grown without the use of synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, which means those nasty chemicals stay far away from you and your skin. Organic cotton sheets are better for the planet, healthier for the organic cotton farmers, and better for you, too! The organic cotton bedding we prefer comes with a Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certification that ensures that the organic cotton was processed and manufactured in a socially and environmentally responsible way. (Read more in our article all about organic cotton!)
Properties: Organic cotton is breathable and keeps you cool, even through the warmest summer days, and it’s easy care instructions make it a go-to fabric for many people.
Common types of organic cotton bedding:
- Jersey cotton fabric is knitted, rather than woven, which separates it from most other styles of cotton sheets. It feels like a cotton t-shirt!
- Flannel is the perfect bedding material for winter. Made with finely brushed cotton, flannel fabric feels soft, cozy, and a bit like fleece. A heavier-weight flannel is great for trapping in body heat to keep you warm.
- Percale is a crisp, closely woven, plain-weave cotton fabric.
- Sateen is a soft fabric made using a satin weave.
Who is organic cotton best for? Organic cotton is best for someone who wants a variety of options that can work year round in varying temperatures. Organic cotton tends to be among the least expensive and easiest to care for of the sustainable bedding fabrics, so it’s great for more budget-conscious consumers and folks who don’t want a long list of complicated care instructions to follow.
Brands we recommend with organic cotton sheets:
Coyuchi has been making exceptional organic cotton sheets for decades. Their premium organic cotton percale, linen, sateen, and jersey sheets are a great choice for those looking for a year-round organic cotton bedding option that’s easy to care for and maintain.
Linen is made from the flax plant, which is fast-growing and requires little to no pesticides or fertilizers. It also requires far less water than organic cotton. In fact, growing flax sometimes requires no irrigation at all and only needs seasonal rainfall. Once a thriving industry in the United States, the majority of flax is now grown in Belgium. Parts of the Pacific Northwest in the United States are beginning to grow flax again, but it will take several more years for the industry to return in full force.
Organic linen is one of the most sustainable fibers on the market today, earning an “A” rating in the Made-By Environmental Benchmark for Fibers.
Linen fabric is super breathable (even more so than cotton) and its temperature-regulating properties work well from hot summer days to cold winter nights. Compared to cotton, linen is a heavier-weight fabric and is more durable and resistant to sunlight. While not initially as soft as some other bedding materials, linen gets softer with each wash.
Linen is best for warm climates, or for those that want to be able to use just one type of bedding through seasonal temperature changes. Linen sheets are an investment, but their exceptional quality ensures they’ll last you decades.
Brands we recommend with linen sheets:
Made with 100% GOTS-certified organic linen and manufactured in OEKO-TEX certified and SMETA (Sedex Members Ethical Trade Audit) approved facilities in Europe, Area Home creates eco-friendly, ethically made sheets that immediately transform any bedroom into a sustainable sanctuary.
Bonus: Area Home also has organic cotton sheets!
Sijo is a woman-of-color-owned business with 100% French linen bedding made in France from dew-retted flax fiber. During the retting process, fibers are separated from the stem of the flax plant. Dew retting is a more sustainable form of retting than water retting or chemical retting.
Bonus: Sijo also has bamboo lyocell sheets!
Sustainability: Tencel is a cellulosic fiber made from responsibly-harvested, fast-growing, and highly renewable Eucalyptus trees in a closed-loop process that reuses almost 100% of all water and solvents.
Properties: Tencel has an ultra-silky texture and shiny finish. The luxurious looking (and feeling) fabric is gentle and smooth, but is also long-lasting and durable. Tencel is antibacterial, antimicrobial, and moisture-wicking.
Best for those with sensitive skin, Tencel also wicks away moisture, making it a great option for anyone who tends to sweat at night.
Brands with Tencel Sheets:
HOOT creates ultra-lightweight Tencel sheets made from recycled cotton and pulp from responsibly-harvested eucalyptus. (Read our spotlight on HOOT!)
With a premium 600 thread-count, Eucalypso’s Tencel sheets are unbelievably silky and luxurious. The brand’s products are produced in small batches in OEKO-TEX certified facilities in Austria and are free from harmful chemicals or dyes. Eucalypso is a women-of-color-owned business ensuring living wages and safe working conditions for all.
Sustainability: Bamboo Lyocell is another vegan, silky-feeling fabric. The bamboo plant is a rapidly-growing grass that produces 35% more oxygen than trees and is known to improve soil quality and prevent erosion as well. This bamboo is transformed into the Lyocell fabric using a closed-loop process that captures and reuses 99% of chemicals used.
Properties: Sleek, smooth, and buttery soft, Bamboo Lyocell is a luxurious material that feels like silk, but is completely vegan. The unique fabric is moisture-wicking, antimicrobial, and hypoallergenic, making it perfect for those with allergies or other sensitivities. Despite feeling like silk, Lyocell is strong and doesn’t wear and tear easily.
Best for those with sensitive skin, Lyocell also wicks away moisture, making it another option for those that may sweat at night.
Brand with Bamboo Lyocell Sheets:
Ettitude sources organic bamboo from FSC-certified forests for their 100% Bamboo Lyocell sheets. Beyond sourcing sustainably, Ettitude is also a member of 1% for the Planet and uses eco-friendly packaging made from fabric scraps from their production.