The main differences between Tencel and cotton sheets can be broadly broken down into seven categories.
Tencel is typically sourced from renewable eucalyptus trees. Making fabric from wood pulp is sometimes more efficient than from cotton plants. The growing and cultivating of these eucalyptus trees staying environmentally conscious, reducing the need for pesticides or irrigation.
Very little water is needed for the production of Tencel. A main environmental criticism of cotton is the large amount of water it needs to be produced.
Furthermore, Tencel is made with a closed loop process. In this, loose fibers are recycled back into the material, meaning it’s a very low waste method of creating fabric.
As things stand, it may seem that Tencel has the edge on sustainability. But keep in mind the amount of production is incomparable, and therefore any claim on differences of sustainability is probably an estimation at best.
Tencel fabric tends to be softer than cotton. This softness is because it has a very smooth surface up close. This not only feels good, but also makes it very non-irritating even to sensitive skin. It counters some of the common drawbacks of cotton bedsheets, namely their tendency to be scratchy and rustle noisily.
However, cotton can also make for an extremely comfortable bed sheet, and it typically becomes softer and smoother over time.
Tencel is made of very tiny little fibres which are hydrophilic – literally “water loving.” This means it absorbs moisture away from skin.
Nonetheless, cotton is also very breathable and generally non-irritating on the skin, and hypoallergenic. If you aren’t having any significant problems with your cotton sheets, changing things may not be strictly necessary.
The hydrophilic quality of Tencel means it’s much more efficient at keeping the body cooler while sleeping, working well in a wide variety of climates. It feels extremely breathable, as all night time sweat is wicked away from the body. Coolness may be a deciding factor for those with high body temperatures who find that gives them trouble sleeping.
Cotton is also a comfortable bed sheet in terms of heat, thanks to its breathability. Although it isn’t as absorbent as Tencel, for the majority of us it managed body temperature perfectly.
Tencel is typically less wrinkly than cotton, and fairly easy to care for. It washes well – clothes made of Tencel less likely to shrink or misshape in the wash. Plus it’s very long lasting and not prone to becoming thin over time.
Cotton, too, is durable, and unique in the fact it can actually improve with time. A set of cotton sheets can last up to fifty years!
The high absorbency of Tencel fibers that makes the sheets smoother, cooler, and more hygienic also makes them dye very well. They are typically both more vibrant and less prone to fading over time.
Cotton has more of a crisp, matte look than Tencel. It also takes dye extremely well, and isn’t excessively prone to wrinkling. This really comes down to personal preference.
In comparison to good old cotton, Tencel can be rather expensive. Production of Tencel sheets tends to be a costlier process than for most cotton.
However, Tencel bed sheets could end up being longer lasting and save you time on washing and ironing, which makes the cost difference somewhat difficult to quantify.
Nonetheless, if you’re on a tight budget, cotton is well known to be good value for money. It lasts a long time and is suitable for the majority of bed sheet needs.
Which Is Better?
There are, of course, benefits and drawbacks when it comes to both Tencel and cotton. Tencel may be a better fit for those with slightly more specialized needs, such as very sensitive skin, issues with body heat, or concerns about hygiene. It’s also a great choice for those who value luxury. Nonetheless, cotton certainly has its own benefits and isn’t necessarily an inferior bedding choice. While cotton is by no means perfect, there is a reason it’s so ubiquitous when it comes to bedsheets. Often, the right purchase will come down to preferences on smoothness and feel.
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