Microfiber Sheets vs Cotton: Which Is Better? [2022]

We have all heard of cotton sheets, but microfiber sheets?  What is Microfiber and how does it relate to sheets?  Chances are you have heard of Microfiber when athletic clothing is discussed, or cleaning cloths!  Most people know it best for general cleaning, car cloth, and eyeglass cloth that doesn’t streak.

I am going to break it down for you in easy-to-understand terms, and include everything you need to know about microfiber vs. cotton sheets. I am a non-conformist when it comes to sheets, I don’t stick with a certain kind just because it’s that kind, I love to sample all the gorgeous fabrics, patterns, colors, and feel when it comes to my sleeping time.  It’s a conundrum of too many sheets, too little time!

I rate my sheets based on durability, quality, softness, fit, breathability, cost, and beauty.  I have included some of my favorite sheets here so you can get an idea of what’s out there for you! I hope you can benefit from my research, years of experience, and first-hand knowledge so that you can make an informed decision that will add to the quality of your sleep!

Main Differences between Microfiber and Cotton Sheets

  • Microfiber is (man-made), usually 100% polyester, but may have some nylon as well; whereas, cotton is a natural fiber, from a plant
  • Microfiber goes through a manufacturing process, whereas cotton needs to be grown, harvested, picked clean, and then separated into fibers before being spun into thread
  • Microfiber is very durable but not as long-lasting as high-quality cotton, you should expect 3-4 years of longevity; whereas 100% Pima cotton sheets are going to be just as durable as microfiber and they are going to last years longer
  • Microfiber can be made anywhere in the world; whereas Cotton has specific regions of the world where it can and can’t grow- sometimes it has to be shipped to a different region
  • With microfiber, you should get excellent breathability and moisture-wicking properties, whereas cotton is known to absorb moisture more than 
  • With microfiber harsher chemicals are used with synthetic as they will not damage the fabric as much; whereas harsh chemicals will damage natural cotton and so more gentle chemicals are used, especially with Supima Cotton
  • With microfiber, Colors will be brighter and remain vivid longer due to the synthetic nature of the fabric and the chemicals used; whereas, colors will fade more over time with Cotton
  • Microfiber is much less expensive than cotton due to the synthetic material and cheaper manufacturing process, and there is no harvesting! For good quality 100 GSM, you will be paying about $30 to $50; whereas 100% Supima Cotton in a 200-400 thread count (very high quality) you will be paying about $50 to $200 and upwards
  • Microfiber is more flammable due to the synthetic materials and chemicals used; whereas cotton is much less-flammable
  • Microfiber density is measured in GSM (grams per square meter): Look for a count of 100 or more for high-quality sheets.  GSM is more indicative of the sheet quality for microfiber sheets because usually, both sheet sets are all polyester with the same simple weave. Whereas, Thread Count is used to representing the density of Cotton fabric (180 Thread Count and upward). This can be highly misleading. You must have everything else the same (both 100% Pima cotton and with the same weave – such as both percale or both sateen, etc.) to compare thread counts meaningfully.
  • Microfiber is very smooth and slippery, whereas cotton is very soft and gets softer with every washing

Microfiber Sheets

deep purple sheets on bed in clean room

You may well be hearing more and more about microfiber sheets these days, especially with the economic challenges the pandemic has brought.  More people are thinking twice about the quality and quantity of what they buy – and looking for the best price point.  I know I have been examining, scrutinizing, and constantly comparing items – weighing whether or not the benefits are so important that I need to pay twice the amount for a set of sheets!

Enter Microfiber.  A synthetic fabric made of polyester and perhaps some nylon, that is extraordinarily durable and long-lasting, made for breathability and moisture-wicking, wrinkle-free, vibrantly colored with fade-free properties, inexpensive to make, and smooth against your skin.  What could be better?  And, you can throw it in the washing machine and dryer (on low heat).

Several qualities will differentiate microfiber and are important to be aware of when selecting sheets.

  • The Weave: Microfiber will have either a Percale or Sateen weave and both are tightly woven to improve durability and reduce wrinkling.
  • The Feel: Microfiber will be mostly smooth and silky unless you opt for the “brushed” version which feels softer and more velvety. Start with 100 GSM and work your way up to increase their weight, warmth, and durability.
  • The Fit: More important with Microfiber sheets due to their slippery nature.  Pay attention to the bottom sheet and make sure it is fully elasticized and that it can fit the height of your mattress.
  • The Ingredients: Microfiber is usually made of 100% polyester, but can also be made with nylon.  Pure polyester is moisture-wicking, resistant to stains, and fast-drying.  Nylon is extremely light.

Microfiber Recommendation #1

Stylish Bohemian Microfiber Deep Pocket Sheet Set

Bohemian Microfiber Sheet Set wake in bohemian multicolored print

These eclectic sheets are whimsically elegant and fun to jump into!

Show off your personality and blend all the colors of the rainbow into your bedroom with the pizazz of these microfiber sheets.

  • Deep pockets fit up to 16-inch mattresses
  • Has all-around elastic on the bottom sheet
  • Won’t fade or wrinkle
  • Machine Washable
  • Enjoy Free Shipping

Find these bohemian microfiber beauties at Wake in Cloud!

Pros and Cons of Microfiber Sheets

Pros

  • They don’t wrinkle and are created to resist pilling
  • They are extremely durable
  • Microfiber is designed to be hypoallergenic
  • Easy to wash and dry
  • Made to regulate temperature so you don’t sweat
  • Thousands of colors and patterns to choose from to complement any decor (hardly any fading over time)
  • Extremely budget-friendly
  • People who sleep “cold” should opt for the “double brushing” feature which makes the sheets softer and cozier, like flannel

Cons

  • Microfiber can have a slippery feel which is not for everyone
  • Can trap more heat than everyone wants, especially people who sleep “hot”
  • Synthetic, made with waste products of petroleum and fabricated with harsher chemicals than natural materials
  • Easier for the bottom sheet corners to slide up on the mattress
  • Not crisp or airy like cotton percale sheets
  • Microfiber sheets will not keep you as warm as flannel
  • Likely to generate static electricity – can be flammable

Microfiber Recommendation #2

Microfiber Florence Pattern Sheet Set from Sweet Home Collection

blue and white damask floral print sheets on bed

Blues and Greens greet the eye as they blend into a woodsy pattern that will woo you to sleep.  Over 20 different bright patterns are available to choose from in this microfiber collection.

I love the fact that it rates a 4.9-star out of 5-stars with over 250 reviewers!

The pockets of the bottom sheet fit up to a 14-inch mattress, which is a bit short

There is no mention of full elastic on the bottom sheet

For this inexpensive sale price, I think I would try out this brand just for its beauty alone

This elegant forest pattern microfiber sheet set can be found at Sweet Home Collection!

Microfiber Sheets

close up of stitching on lilac microfiber sheets

When manufacturers make sheets out of microfiber, more detail and different processes are used to make the sheets softer and maximize their moisture-wicking ability. Just like athletic clothing that is made from microfiber, the fabric will be woven for breathability to regulate body temperature.

Microfiber that will be used against the skin will be soft, dry, and comfortable.  Its properties keep it dust and bacteria-resistant.  The sheets are almost slippery to the touch, like silk, and are exceptionally smooth.

Microfiber sheets use GSM when reporting on strength of fibers. This is grams per square inch and measures the density of fibers for a given area. Microfiber sheets come in 55 GSM and up.

The GSM of a polyester microfiber sheet set will be more representative of the quality than will thread count on cotton sheets. This is because we know that polyester is the main, if not only, the material used – so the sheets are playing on a level field.

Therefore, the higher the GSM, the softer, heavier, and more durable the sheets will be.  It is important to look at the GSM when buying microfiber sheets as this will allow you to choose how long-lasting the sheets will be according to your budget. Opt for a GSM of 100 or above for a good quality microfiber sheet set.

Because microfiber is a man-made fabric, the price of a sheet set will be much less than that of a natural material.  One of the great things about microfiber sheets is the incredible patterns and colors and sizes available to you.  The lower price enables you to get a beautifully styled set that is high-quality for a surprisingly inexpensive investment.

Microfiber Recommendation #3

Elite Home Products Grand Collection Seaside Brushed Microfiber Sheet Set

beach illlustration print sheet set folded

This bright bold pattern is only one of ten that you can choose from at Kohl’s, and it is fade resistant so you can make a seaside statement long after your purchase!

  • They have a fully elasticized bottom sheet that fits up to a 14-inch mattress
  • They are brushed microfiber which means they are softer and feel a bit like flannel
  • 100% polyester which is better than a mix of materials for durability
  • Machine wash and dry
  • Very low price point!
  • More than 200 reviews rate this sheet set at over 4/5-stars

These under-the-sea sweeties can be found at Kohls!

Cotton Sheets

person holding book in bed with dark grey sheets

Are our cotton sheets better than alternatives?  Better than microfiber, with all the increasing popularity of that being spotlighted? You may be trying to figure out which type of sheet set to buy from the plethora of information available, each source touting seemingly conflicting information.  I know my head would spin when trying to choose the best sheets, never mind the best cotton sheets! It’s overwhelming for the brain!

Here, I will break it into manageable pieces, and give you everything you need to know about cotton sheets.  You can confidently make a decision knowing that I have scoured every imaginable source for you and personally slept on more than a hundred different sheets (did I say how much I love sheets?) in all fabrics and weaves so that you don\’t have to!  

Cotton Recommendation #1

Charter Club 100% Supima Cotton 550 Thread Count Sateen Damask Stripe Sheet Set in Pale Lilac

Supima Cotton 550 Thread Count Sateen Damask Stripe Sheet Set in Pale Lilac

These sheets are certified grown in the USA of extra-long-staple cotton and subject to strict regulations. I love the feel and style of these sheets, and I own two sets of them in different colors.

  • I own two sets of these and they are lustrous and smooth, fitting well on my plush mattress. King set has flat, fitted, and two king pillowcases
  • Fits mattresses up to 18″ Deep, Extra deep pocket available
  • MADE IN GREEN by OEKO-TEX®
  • Machine washable. Any presence of fabric softener can cause erosion of sheet fibers.
  • Choose from 18 different colors at Macy’s!

They are heavenly against my skin and extremely stylish on my bed.  They haven’t shrunk, and haven’t faded.

Tip – with my lilac color sheets I put 2 drops of Avena Botanical Lavender oil in 2 cups of cool water in a spray mist bottle, and spray a few times (twice is good enough – the idea is less is more – the last thing you want is to make your sheets damp) on the bottom sheet as I make my bed.

Cotton Recommendation #2

Northern Nights 525TC 100% Supima Cotton Damask Stripe 6 Piece Sheet Set in Dusty Peach

Supima Cotton Damask Stripe 6 Piece Sheet Set in Dusty Peach

Just look how inviting this bed is!

And having 4 pillowcases for most sizes is a true luxury.

This heavier damask pattern is silky soft and feels like you are stepping into a cotton ball.

  • Breathable while still maintaining its heavenly drape, at a thread count of 525 you can rest assured you are enveloped in quality, natural moisture-wicking, and warmth retaining sheets.
  • Expect these sheets to be durable, non-pilling, and last for years and years.
  • These sheets will get softer overtime, and have a deeper pocket depth of 18-inches!
  • These have an incredibly low price point for the quality

Find this sumptuous striped Supima sheet set at QVC!

Cotton Sheets

pink sheets on bed with pom pom detail

Pima Cotton

If you are opting for cotton sheets, it is best to buy 100% Pima Cotton for its softness, durability, and long-lasting qualities. This is known to be the finest cotton in the world.  Only 5% of all cotton grown is Pima Cotton. Pima Cotton grows in Peru, Australia, and the American Southwest. 

As with anything, if you look hard enough, you will find the positives along with the negatives.  I looked long and hard into Pima cotton and trust me, it is very hard to find anything detrimental about it!  Here is what there is!

Pros of Pima Cotton

  • Color dyes last longer in Pima Cotton due to the purity of the fibers
  • More breathable than other types of cotton 
  • Naturally pure and clean, environmentally friendly
  • Temperature regulation is excellent 
  • Very strong fiber, resistant to snags and pills, long-lasting with less wear and tear
  • Can be used in the washer and dryer
  • There is no electricity conducted with cotton, therefore there is no static-cling!

Cons of Pima Cotton

Price, price, price. Experts and consumers agree that the only negative factor about Pima Cotton is the price that you will pay for a premium product. 

However, some experts don’t even consider price to be a deterring factor. (The amount of use and the long-lasting appearance of sheets and clothing with Pima Cotton makes it well worth your money).  

Think of how many times you have bought sheets in the past five years, and average out the cost per year.  Chances are you are getting your money back and then some!

Cotton Recommendation #3

Charter Club Damask Designs 550-Thread Count Supima Cotton Outline Floral Sheet Set

white floral print sheets

This sheet set is patterned in whimsical watercolor blooms printed on Supima Cotton Damask.

This is one of the best sheet sets for both its heavier drape (that has an unparalleled softness) and the thicker weave for cooler temperatures.

It has natural wicking properties, so you won’t get overheated, and the 550 thread count is an extra plus for strength and durability through the years!

It’s unique because of the garden blooms and different colors and etchings in the pattern, making this a very uncommon sheet set.

  • 18-inch deep pockets
  • Machine Washable
  • 100% Supima Cotton – the very best in the world
  • Lower price point than other Supima sheet sets

You can find these modern floral Supima sheets at Macy’s!

Supima Cotton

close up of white and grey modern neatly made bed

Supima Cotton is still Pima cotton (the highest quality), it just hasn’t passed the extra-incredible standards needed to be branded “Supima”. Pima is still the world’s best cotton.  Supima standards just take Pima cotton one step further.

Supima is a brand name of Pima cotton.  It is not a separate type of cotton, but rather it verifies that Pima Cotton growers and manufacturers in the United States (in Texas, California, Arizona, and New Mexico) have adhered to more strict regulations regarding production and types of certifications for their cotton.

Supima bears the name of ASA, which stands for the American Supima Association. These regulations are different than those used for regular Pima cotton.

  • So, you could say that Supima cotton is Pima cotton that has been extra carefully produced and finished, using more skilled craftsmen and women and more time-consuming methods. 
  • All Supima cotton starts as Pima Cotton.  Then it goes through many processes that are the highest level standard there is.  Then it gets to be branded Supima.  Make sense?
  • Much more of the Supima cotton production process is done by hand compared to the widespread automation of most cotton.  This makes processing the cotton minimal and it has less of an impact on the environment.

The great benefit of having a Supima verified fabric is that the pilling is almost non-existent! 

Supima cotton has the greatest longevity of any type of cotton and experts have noted that it goes decades without any felting or pilling – and no signs of wear and tear!  That’s enough to sell me on it!!

Due to the popularity of Pima cotton, some unethical manufacturers have started labeling their products as Pima.  They cannot do this with “Supima” however, as this certification is easy to trace, and is tracked from plant to retailer.  

Cotton Recommendation #4

Supima Cotton No Iron Sateen Scallop Sheets – 400 Thread Count

white cotton sheet set with red scalloped edges

 Delicate and curvy embroidering adorns the edges of this Supima cotton sateen sheet set and gives it a whimsical elegance and it is oh-so-pretty!

  • I have this sheet set in two colors and it has become my go-to comfort (like “comfort food”)!
  • Two years it has stood the test of tugging and stretching and washing and drying, and still comes out of the dryer looking un-wrinkled.  Amazing.
  • It has a 400 thread count and keeps me toasty warm in the winter.  My room tends to be colder in the winter and hotter in the summer – (perfect conditions to test sheets)!
  • The fabric drapes around me like silk and still manages to feel “fresh”.  All seams and stitching are as they were when I bought them, and they fit my bed perfectly.
  • All-around elastic keeps the edges from popping off during the night – which I love.

I highly recommend this sheet set for lasting style and performance.

Find these scalloped, embroidered Supima sheets at Land’s End!

Egyptian Cotton

light blue folded sheet set

Ah, Egyptian Cotton.  So much has been said about this kind of cotton that many people believe it is the most highly sought-after cotton there is for its other-worldly features.  I found that this is not so.  So much in fact, that I began to question all the marketing that has been done to promote this type of fabric. 

Unless you see specifically that your sheets are made with “100% Giza 45 cotton” do not buy them.  There is nothing to verify the quality of that cotton.  Most cotton is short-staple and short-lived.

Upland Cotton

This type of cotton makes up 90% of all the cotton produced in the world.  It comes from a different species of plant than Pima Cotton. The fibers are short and prone to breakage, have more loose ends, and are easier to fray.  Upland cotton is native to Central America and is also grown in Mexico, the Caribbean, and Florida.  

Cotton Sheet Thread Count

woman sleeping peacefully in bed with white bedding

Ahhhh, thread count. Thread count is used heavily in marketing to espouse the benefits of buying a certain sheet set.  It would appear to the shopper that the only thing that mattered in finding a good quality sheet set, was the thread count!  Not so, as I discuss.

All things being equal, and starting with 100% verified Pima cotton (like PimaCott branding), we can talk about thread count!

  • Thread count is measured by the number of threads in one square inch.  Something important to remember is that it doesn’t matter how high your thread count is if the quality of the fibers and finishing process is poor.
  • If long-staple cotton is not used, the fibers will be shorter, probably mismatched due to lesser quality, and even if the thread count is 1800, the weave is subject to fiber breakage, unraveling, and holes.  It also won’t be as soft.
  • If you have excellent quality fibers (100% Supima Cotton), and a higher thread count, then that is a safe bet your sheets will be durable and soft.

Beware of Super-High Thread Counts

So, we’ve talked about how a higher thread count in sheets does not necessarily equate to a higher quality sheet. 

  • Many times, the reason that sheets have an extra high thread count of 900 or 1200, is because of a tactic where low-quality fibers are used for weaving, allowing the manufacturer to twist 2 or 3 of them together to make one thread.
  • So, instead of labeling them as having a 200 thread count, they get labeled as 600 or 800 thread count, and the price goes up. 
  • Nobody mentions why they need to twist several fibers together to make one (because one is such low quality and short that it cannot be used to make a thread)!

Cotton Recommendation #5

100% Supima Cotton No Iron Sateen Sheets – 400 Thread Count in Deep Sea Navy

white folded sheet set

This Is My Ultimate Choice and Favorite Sheet Pick!

Land’s End is a veritable treasure chest for Supima cotton sheets at an affordable price. 

You must check them out and purchase a set today! 

I have five sets and they have lasted years, and continue to help me sleep well. 

Get these today at Land’s End!

  • I love this deep, murky blue color that reminds me of a moonlit night in the middle of a lake – or of diving down into dark blue waters encased in a silken submarine.  It comes in many gorgeous colors, and all have an elegant hemstitch in a coordinating color.
  • Certified 100% Supima Cotton – you know it is Pima first!
  • A must-have elastic band all around the bottom sheet.
  • This is a Sateen weave that is fiber-treated to resist wrinkling.  400 thread count makes it sumptuous!!
  • Deep pockets fit 18-inch mattresses

In Conclusion

Both cotton and microfiber sheets offer the user very different things.  I realize that price is of paramount importance these days, and your best bet for a $25 sheet set will be microfiber, simply because you won’t sweat in them, and they will last several years.  Especially good for children and teens, the patterns and colors they come in are unrivaled and seemingly endless.

My bet lies on quality for the money, so for me, Supima cotton is the better choice.  I won’t want to change up bright patterns with my decor frequently, which is something you could feasibly do with microfiber sheets.  I want sheets that last ten or twenty years, get softer with age, and are crisp, dry, and very strong.

I am willing to pay $100 or more for a naturally strong, naturally breathable fabric that has beautiful hand-craftsmanship and details like embroidered hems.  I have slept in microfiber sheets, and I don’t care for the slippery, smooth feeling of them or their thin drape.

I hope this article has helped you to determine what the most important qualities are for your sheets.  There are no wrong answers, only choices based on your preferences!  Happy Shopping!

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