Microfiber Sheets vs Cotton – The Ultimate Guide for 2024

The decision between microfiber sheets vs cotton sheets can seem like a tough one. Luckily the reality is not that gloomy, as long as you keep a few key things in mind. Both have their strengths and their weaknesses. In this thorough guide we’ll explore both materials, so that you can make the right decision for you.

Jump to
What Is Cotton / What Is Microfiber /
Durability / Breathability / Feel / Care / Color / Pilling / Price

What Is Cotton

Image of Cotton Bolls - Microfiber Sheets vs Cotton

Cotton is the most common fabric for bed sheets. It’s also a highly used fabric in the textile world in general. I’m sure you own at least a few cotton T-shirts, cotton socks, tablecloths and towels. The important thing to remember is that not all cotton is the same quality. So if you’re looking for bed sheets – keeping in mind that you spend around one third of your life on top of these – it’s best to make sure you’re getting the best quality.

It’s easy to distinguish cotton from other plants. It grows in a particular manner, cotton bolls. The plant prefers warmer climates. The biggest producers of cotton are China, India, and the US.

Coming back to the quality of a cotton sheet, this depends on the type of cotton that is used for producing the sheet. The big names in the game are Egyptian cotton, Pima cotton (with its trademark name Supima cotton), and American upland cotton. The first three are higher quality. American upland cotton is often just labelled 100% cotton and is a lower quality product.

Staple aka fiber length

The thing that determines the sheet quality is the staple, or length of the fiber. The key rule is this: the longer the fiber, the better the quality.

Short and medium fiber cotton can mostly be dound in sheets made from American upland cotton. Egyptian cotton is mostly long staple (LS) or extra long staple (ELS). Pima and Supima cotton are extra long staple cotton types. As extra long staples have the biggest length, they are also of a superior quality.

The reason why the staple length plays such a big role, has to do with the number of fibers that are needed to be spun into a yard. Each fiber has two ends, and these ends will be sticking out of the yarn. They’re too small to be seen when you just glance at a sheet. But you definitely feel it. Since sheets made from short and medium staple fibers simply have more fiber ends sticking out of them, they feel more rough against the skin. Sheets made from short and medium fibers are also prone to tearing and pilling. On the contrarty, if you have a long or extra long staple cotton sheet, there will be fewer fiber ends pointing out and this results in a softer and smoother sheet.

Even though cotton can come in varying qualities, the plant still has underlying characteristics that are present in all cotton sheets. Just keep in mind that if you have the choice between different cotton types, it’s wise to go with either Egyptian, Pima or Supima cotton sheets that have long or extra long fibers. We’ll bring out the general qualities of cotton in the below sections, when comparing microfiber sheets vs cotton.

What Is Microfiber

Microfiber is not a natural fabric, like cotton. This means that it does not naturally grow in a large field of lilac microfiber. It’s a man-made fiber, aka a synthetic fiber. Microfiber bed sheets are mostly made from polyesters, polyamides, or wood pulp.

Image of Beige Microfiber Fabric - Microfiber Sheets vs Cotton

What makes a fiber microfiber is its thickness. In order to qualify as such, the fiber has to have a thickness of less than one denier. Denier is a measure that characterizes the fiber’s linear mass density. It is the mass in grams per 9000 meters of the fiber. To get a better grasp of how fine a microfiber sheet really is, compare it to the human hair which is 20 denier, or light summer stockings which are 8 denier, or even silk which is 1.25 denier.

Microfibers are used in a variety of ways – for making mats, upholstery, cleaning products, clothes, bedding, backpacks, wallets, shoes, thermal insulation, basketballs, whiteboard cleaners.

Polyester is one of the most common microfibers for making bed sheets. The name is made up from two parts: poly means “many” in Greek and ester is a basic organic compound. It is made from coal, petroleum, water, and air. As polyester is the most popular microfiber when it comes to bedding, we will focus on the qualities of polyester in the below sections about microfiber sheets vs cotton.

Microfiber Sheets vs Cotton – Durability

Good quality cotton sheets, such as Pima, Supima and most Egyptian cotton sheets are know for their durability. As are quality microfiber sheets. The funny thing about microfibers is that the individual fiber is really frail. But the fibers are woven together so tightly that the sheet is actually very strong. Of course it depends on the quality of the microfiber as well, so keep an eye on that. The best way to do that is by checking the price tag – if it seems too good to be true, it most probably is. Just keep away from really cheap stuff as they will fail you in a short while.

Microfiber sheets with low quality tend to fail at once, ripping or tearing. Whereas low quality cotton sheets tend to start pilling and wearing over time. So they can still be used, even if you see the first signs of failing. But we’d suggest to keep away from bad quality sheets in the first place.

Most durable cotton sheet

When talking about durability, there’s little that matches Pima cotton. One of our all time favorite is this sheet set by Peru Pima, which is made from extra-long staple (ELS) cotton fibers that come from Peru. ELS means that the quality is truly the highest and this shines through in the strength of the fiber.

Sizes: Twin, Twin XL, Full, Queen, King, Cal King

Colors: White, Ivory, Sky Blue, and more

From $110

Most durable microfiber sheet

The Empyrean microfiber sheets are made from an extra strong fabric. So you won’t have to worry about it tearing after the first wash or a rough night. What we love about these sheets is that in addition to the all around elastic on the fitted sheet, they also have corner straps. This gives you extra security on the sheet staying put during the night, even if you toss and turn.

Sizes: Twin, Twin XL, Full, Queen, King, Cal King

Colors: Black, White, Sage, and more

From $30

Microfiber Sheets vs Cotton – Breathability

There is quite a difference between microfiber sheets vs cotton sheets when it comes to how well they breathe. And for many people this is a deciding factor when buying sheets.

Cotton breathes well

As a natural fabric, cotton is known for its good airflow. This means that cotton sheets breathe well and you won’t have to worry about running hot during the night. The key factor that plays into this is thread count – the number of horizontal and vertical threads in one square inch of the fabric. The higher the thread count, the more threads there are in the square inch and the more tightly together they are. As a result, air does not have room to freely move between the threads and the fabric holds heat. What you want to go for is a good quality cotton sheet with a lower thread count. But not too low that it would reduce the durability of the sheet. Go for a thread count between 300 and 500.

Microfiber sheets retain heat

Microfiber sheets, on the other hand, tend to retain heat. If you’re looking for a breathable microfiber sheet, there may only be a handful of such sheets out there. Keep in mind that microfiber sheets are not characterized by thread count. You will often seem being described with a number like 1500 or 1800. But this is mostly just a series number. Or, the number describes the thread count of a cotton sheet that would the same feel as that particular microfiber sheet.

The thickness or weight of microfiber sheets is expressed in GSM, which means grams per square meter. But this is not a very well known term and is rarely used when describing a microfiber sheet. Probably because cotton is the most common fabric for bed sheets and thread count is simply just a widely spread term. When it comes to GSM, remember that the higher this number is, there more fibers there are in the sheet. As a result, the sheet is heavier. Usually the GSM of microfiber bed sheets falls between 55 and 120.

Top choices

Most breathable cotton sheet

For a truly breathable sheet set, go with these Pure Parima cotton sheets. They are made of 100% Egyptian cotton, with a 400 thread count. Not only is the fiber quality absolutely great, the thread count is just perfect for letting air move freely through the fibers. As a result, the sheets remain nice and cool during the night. This sheet set is perfect for people who tend to be sweaty sleepers or just run a little hotter while sleeping.  

Sizes: Twin, Twin XL, Full, Queen, King, Cal King

Colors: White, Grey, Ivory, Linen, and more

From $120

Most breathable microfiber sheet

One exceptional microfiber sheet set that does not run too hot is this one by the Elite Home Products. The set is lightweight and great during warmer summer nights, as well as colder winter nights. Talking about their other qualities, they have an absolutely beautiful lace on pillowcases and the flat sheet.  

Sizes: Twin, Full, Queen, King

Colors: White, Taupe, Gray, Spa Blue

From $25

Microfiber Sheets vs Cotton – Feel

Although slightly different to the touch, both microfiber and cotton sheets feel great against the skin. Cotton sheets are known to be soft and usually a bit crisp. The softness of a cotton sheet depends on the fiber staple, as we discussed above. But also on the weave. The most common weaves for cotton sheets are percale and sateen. Cotton sheets with a percale weave are fresh and crisp. On the other hand, sheets with a sateen weave are more silky and smooth. So for an extra soft feel, make sure you go with extra long staple (ELS) cotton sheets with a sateen weave. For a more crispy feel, percale weave is the way to go.

Another great thing about cotton sheets is that the more you wash cotton sheets, the softer they get. So even if you buy a cotton sheet set that seems a bit rough in the beginning, you’ll know that the future is much softer. All it takes is for you to regularly wash the sheet. What a great result – clean sheets that are also softer than before.

Microfiber sheets are especially known for their smoothness.There’s really not much match to them in this area. Some microfiber sheets are also brushed on one of both sides. This treatment leaves the sheet extremely soft as a result. Depending on the sheet, you may also get a more slippery feel. Some love the ability to move easily on the sheets while others dislike that their bed has turned into a slip and slide. Ultimately, it’s a personal preference.

Softening stiff sheets

There’s a super easy and low cost trick that will help you make stiff sheets super soft. All you need is baking soda and vinegar. You likely already have them in your cupboard but if not, they will cost you only $3. So if you ever get a set of stiff sheets that you want to liven up and make soft, follow these steps:

  1. Remove the sheets from their package and put them in the washing machine. Add 1 cup of baking soda and wash the sheets with warm water on a regular cycle. Don’t add any detergents, only the cup of baking soda.
  2. Now add a cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle. Set the temperature to cold.
  3. Once the cycle is finished, hang them up to dry naturally. This works best for new sheets, adding softness to them.
  4. When the sheets are dry, wash them once more. This time with detergent and regular temperature.
  5. When the cycle is over, dry them in the dryer.

Soft crispy cotton sheets

This Thomas Lee’s bedding set is pure luxury. The percale sheets are made from Pima cotton that is fully grown in the US and the sheets are manufactured in India. The 500 thread count and percale weave give them a nice crispiness. It’s this special type of crispiness that is hard to come by. The one that takes you back to your childhood. The sheets are generously over-sized in the old fashioned way, so they’re sure to fit your mattress. Even if it’s a thick one, like 18”. The whole sheet set is a truly good quality one.

Sizes: Full, Queen, King, Cal King

Colors: White, Ivory

From $256

Softest microfiber sheets

To get a taste of super soft microfiber sheets, try these Shreem Linen sheets. They are brushed on both sides, so no matter which way you touch them, they’re bound to feel nice and soft. The sheet set also has the classic smooth touch of a microfiber sheet. These sheets come in maybe the largest variety of sizes, so take your pick!

Sizes: Twin, Twin XL, Full, Full XL, Short Queen, Queen, Super Queen, King, Split King, Cal King, RV King

Colors: White, Ivory, Navy Blue and more

From $24

Microfiber Sheets vs Cotton – Care

It’s fairly easy to take care of both cotton and microfiber sheets. Neither need special equipment for washing, your regular washer and dryer will do the job just fine.

Both cotton and microfiber sheets tend to shrink with the first wash. So the original size they come in may not be the actual size you get. However, some sheet sets are already sold pre-washed. That’s a good way to avoid the hassle of alternating sizes, so keep an eye out for those.

Cotton fibers are thicker than microfiber and as a result, it takes longer for them to dry. Microfiber sheets are thin and don’t need that much drying time.

What about stains?

Due to the tightness of microfiber sheets, and their resistance to water, they are less likely to stain. That is, if you act quickly! In case you do spill something on the sheet, just be sure to wipe it off as fast as you can. If you give the stain time to really soak into the fabric, it’s practically impossible to get it out. The resistance to stains means that you can also wash the sheets less frequently.

A natural fabric like cotton is more prone to taking in stains, so it’s best to keep things like snacking in bed to a minimum. If you do get stains on the sheet, wash it according to the sheet instructions. And remember, Doctor Google is your good friend when it comes to stain removal!

Closet space

Another practical aspect to consider is the amount of room you need to store the sheet. Since microfiber is such a thin fabric, it doesn’t require much space in your closet. And you can easily fit it in tight spaces. Cotton sheets, on the other hand, tend to fluff up a bit more and will need slightly more room.


When it comes to wrinkles, as a general rule both fabrics tend to wrinkle to an extent. Cotton sheets a bit more than microfiber sheets. Some find it perfectly fine and don’t bother with ironing. But if you dislike wrinkles, you may need to whip out the iron every once in a while. There is more good news on the microfiber front. Many microfiber sheets have finishing touches that make them practically wrinkle free.

Top choices

Carefree cotton sheets

These Threadmill Supima cotton sheets have a thread count of 1000. They’re really easy to care for. Each one of Threadmill’s sheets is tested to ensure no pilling or loose fibers, and to make sure the sheet is fade-resistant. You can machine wash the sheets at room temperature and fold them right away. This way you’ll minimize wringles or shrinkage. What’s great about these sheets is that they get softer with every wash, so the more you care for them, the better they become.

Sizes: Twin, Queen, King, Cal King

Colors: White, Beige, Folkstone Blue, and more

From $155

Carefree microfiber sheets

For a truly carefree sheet set, go with this Mellani microfiber set. These sheets are the whole package – wrinkle free, don’t fade with washing, durable, stain resistant and super soft. It’s also easy to put them on the bed, they just slide onto the mattress. The sheets tend to be more on the warm side and are perfect if you want something cozy and warm to sleep in. The fitted sheets are also available with extra deep pockets, in case you have a thick mattress.

Sizes: Twin, Twin XL, Full, Short Queen, Queen, King, Split King, Cal King,

Colors: White, Sand, Aqua, Blush Pink, and more

From $30

Microfiber Sheets vs Cotton – Color

Great news – microfiber and cotton are both great in retaining color. Cotton sheets usually come in a smaller range of colors but they fade less than microfiber sheets. Microfiber, on the contrary, is know for its huge range of colors. So you can truly find whatever you desire. Just make sure that you get good quality microfiber sheets, as lower quality ones will fade quickly.

Top choices

Colorful cotton sheets

Although cotton holds dye well, there are not too many cotton sheet manufacturers who offer a wide range of colors. But luckily we have Chateau Home Collection. Their 800 thread count 100% Egyptian cotton sheets are high quality ones and not only do they come in so many different colors, in both solid and striped design. These sheets are luxurious and over time will be come super soft. Don’t let the beginning fool you. They might feel a bit more rough from the get go, but that’s just how cotton is. The more you wash these sheets, the softer they will become.

Sizes: Twin, Twin XL, Full, Queen, King, Split King, Cal King

Colors: White, French Blue, Sepia Rose, and more

From $85

Colorful microfiber sheets

Mellanni has one of the largest color selections when it comes to microfiber sheets. You can pick from beautiful and vibrant solid colors, as well as a few striped, dotted and paisley options. The sheets are colorfast, so you don’t have to worry about the color fading away with time or with washing. Overall the sheets have a soft and silky feel to them. Most sizes also come with extra deep pockets.

Sizes: Twin, Twin XL, Full, Short Queen, Queen, King, Split King, Cal King

Colors: White, Lavender, Brick Red, Emerald Green, and more

From $33

Microfiber Sheets vs Cotton – Pilling

Pilling is something that you probably don’t want to experience too much. In the most simple of terms, a pill is a small ball of fibers that forms on a piece of fabric. It’s also called a fuzzball, a lint, or a bobble. Pilling happens when loose fibers start pushing out from the surface of the fabric. Over time, as the fabric wears, these fibers develop into bundles that we call pills. They are stuck to the fabric, thanks to some protruding fibers that have not broken off.

Pilling happens with washing and wearing and a lot of fabrics tend to pill. Cotton and microfiber among them. But there are a few things that influence the amount of pilling, so it’s not a lost cause.

For cotton sheets, choose sheets that have a longer fiber length. Sheets with longer fibers are better because (1) they have fewer fiber ends that can start sticking out and (2) the longer fibers do not work themselves out of the fabric as easily as short ones do. So go with Pima, Supima, or Egyptian cotton sheets that are either long or extra long staple.

Microfiber can be a bit more prone to pilling than cotton. This is because the fibers are generally short. So it’s easier for them to start exiting the fabric, and there are more fiber ends that can start protruding.

Luckily there are a few processes that prevent sheets from pilling. One of them is singeing, which includes burning the loose fibers that are sticking out from the surface of the fabric. The second process is mercerizing, which improves the luster and strength of the sheets.

Top choices

Pill resistant cotton sheets

If you want to be absolutely sure that you’re getting real high quality sheets with extra long staple, go with this Peru Pima cotton sheet set. The 600 thread count sheets breathe extremely well. And what’s more, the sheet is made from extra-long staple (ELS) cotton. You won’t have to worry about pilling and can enjoy the supreme softness and comfort of the sheets.  

Sizes: Twin, Full, Queen, King, Cal King

Colors: White, Ivory, Slate, Latte

From $130

Pill resistant microfiber sheets

Hearth & Harbor’s microfiber sheet set includes double the pillowcases as your normal sheet set. The twin and twin XL sizes include 2 pillowcases, the rest have 4! These sheets have been double brushed for extra softness. Pluss they are treated so that they are resistant to pilling, fading, shrinking and wrinkling.

Sizes: Twin, Twin XL, Full, Queen, King, Split King, Cal King

Colors: White, Cherry Red, Steel Blue, and more

From $21

Microfiber Sheets vs Cotton – Price

For some price is the key element when it comes to deciding between microfiber sheets vs cotton. Microfiber sheets are mostly cheaper than cotton sheets. As with anything, beware of sheets that have a really low price. It may look tempting but there’s a reason why the cost is super low.

We suggest to stay away from microfiber sheets that cost below $15. There’s little chance that they have something good to offer you. You don’t want to spend $15 on bedding, only to have to replace it after a month. In the end you’ll buy the cheap sheet AND the slightly more expensive one after the first one fails you after a few nights or washes.

Quality cotton sheets come at a higher price and most of the time you’ll pay at least $80 for them. They’re a great investment though, thanks to their breathability, softness and durability, so it’s definitely worth it. But if you want a natural cotton sheet and don’t have that kind of cash at the moment, there are also decent cotton sheets that come at are more affordable price.

Affordable cotton sheets

This California Design Den sheet set is made from cotton, with a 400 thread count. Even though they’re not the highest quality cotton available, they still have all the other good characteristics of the cotton fiber. They breathe well, wash well, retain color, are comfortable and soft. If you’re on a budget, this is your best go-to sheet set.  

Sizes: Twin, Twin XL, Full, Queen, King, Split King, Cal King

Colors: White, Lavender Grey, Sky Blue, and more

From $40

Affordable microfiber sheets

These Elif brushed microfiber sheets come at a great price. It’s a really good offer, as the sheets are good quality, so soft and easy to take care of.

Sizes: Twin, Full, Queen, King, Split King, Cal King

Colors: White, Blue, Coral, and more

From $20