Out of all the many decisions you need to make when shopping around for the best sheets for your bed (Is this the right size for my mattress? Which colors and patterns are going to make my room pop? Does thread count matter?), there is one choice that you have to make that’s quite literally the foundation: the type of fabric used to make it!
You’ll find a vast array of bed sheet materials available, from satin to bamboo to silk and everything in between, which can make shopping pretty overwhelming. But let’s narrow things down and make it a little simpler: cotton and cotton blends are two of the most popular types of fabric available for sheets, clothes, and all things comfy, and for good reason. Here’s what you need to know about cotton vs. polycotton, and how to choose between these two options when shopping around for your next set of sheets for your bed.
Cotton sheets are just that: 100% natural cotton fibers! These soft, fluffy fibers are harvested straight from the cotton plant, then processed and spun into threads. Then, those threads are dyed, further processed, and eventually woven into sheets and other textiles.
Cotton sheets can also be further divided into subcategories based on how the cotton fibers are treated and woven. For example, QuickZip’s Percale, Sateen, and Flannel Zip Sheets are all made with 100% long-staple cotton fibers, but each still has a different texture, breathability, and feel.
On the other hand, polycotton is made by blending cotton and polyester fibers together (hence its name!). This means that polycotton has both natural and synthetic materials since polyester is a manmade fabric created from plastic polymers. Those polymers are then pushed through small holes to form fibers.
On their own, polyester fabrics can feel pretty coarse and uncomfortable. But when woven in with natural cotton fibers, the resulting hybrid polycotton fabric is a decent “in-between”: they’re reasonably soft and comfortable against the skin, but often with a cheaper price tag than pure cotton. The exact ratio of cotton-to-polyester can vary, though a mix of 65% cotton and 35% polyester is generally one of the more popular blends available.
When it comes to comfort, 100% cotton reigns supreme since the fibers are so naturally soft to the touch. Cotton sheets are also remarkably breathable, making them suitable for a wide range of environments including hot, arid climates (and for people who tend to be hot sleepers). Different cotton weaves can also change the feel of your sheets, which means that there’s a good cotton weave available for every kind of sleeper out there. For example, if you’re looking for a soft, heavier sheet to keep you cozy, you can choose Sateen cotton sheets. On the other hand, if you find your sleep constantly interrupted from feeling too hot and stuffy, you can select crisp and cool Percale sheets. And if you’re looking for supremely warm and cozy sheets for colder environments, you can’t go wrong with a Flannel cotton sheet set!
Meanwhile, while it can be comfortable, polycotton does not provide the luxury fabric of 100% cotton. The synthetic polyester fibers mean that polycotton sheets tend to be a little “crisper” and a little less breathable than their pure-cotton counterparts, though this can also depend on the exact ratio of cotton-to-polyester fibers you’re working with. Ultimately, though, many people find that polycotton ends up sticking to their skin and isn’t a great choice if you’re a hot sleeper or if you live in a particularly humid environment.
In general, 100% cotton sheets are going to come at a higher price point than polycotton options since it’s a lot easier for manufacturers to create manmade polyester fibers versus harvesting pure cotton. However, you’re getting a lot more bang for your buck when you choose cotton sheets instead! Since polycotton is made with a significant amount of synthetic polyester fabrics, you’re sacrificing a lot of the supreme comfort and breathability that you would get from sheets that are purely woven with natural cotton fibers. Ultimately, you’ll probably find that those nights of blissful slumber are well worth the price tag on cotton sheets.
100% cotton sheets are generally very durable. While some cotton sheets can be slightly more delicate than polycotton blends due to the absence of synthetic plastic fibers, this generally should not be a problem if you’re shopping for high-quality sheets (like QuickZip’s Fitted Sheet -- no more wrestling around with your fitted sheets in the middle of the night!). Meanwhile, the synthetic fibers woven into cotton fibers in cheaper polycotton blends can eventually lead to annoying and uncomfortable pilling due to the differences in textile strength.
Both cotton and polycotton are relatively low-maintenance materials for when you need to throw them into the wash. Depending on your sheet manufacturer, you may need to wash your 100% cotton sheets in a colder water cycle to protect against wrinkling and shrinking. However, QuickZip’s high-quality and pre-shrunk cotton weaves allow it to stand up well to a warm wash cycle.
As an added bonus, cotton sheets tend to be much more forgiving than polycotton sheets when it comes to stain removal. The same water resistance that makes polycotton less breathable also means that it can absorb oil and grease more quickly and make it harder to get those stains out. For the best results, be sure to check with your sheet manufacturer to determine the best washing and cleaning methods for your sheets (see QuickZip’s cleaning instructions here).
Ultimately, the choice between cotton and polycotton depends on your goals. But in most cases, you just can’t go wrong with 100% cotton.
If you are looking purely at the price, polycotton sheets tend to be more affordable than their 100% cotton counterparts. However, if you’re shopping for low-maintenance sheets that come with ultimate comfort and breathability, and if you want that blissfully comfortable snooze every time you hit the hay, 100% cotton sheets are the best investment. The superior fabric makes 100% cotton the best value and the clear winner!