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The Difference Between Linen and Cotton

When looking for comfortable, versatile fabrics to fill your home with, there is no comparison quite like that of linen vs cotton. The two are similar in many ways and will be most commonly seen throughout bedding, cushions, and other soft-finished accessories in your house. Both cotton and linen cloth will provide a beautiful look and feel, holding up well against usage over years. That said, there are elements that remain unique to each, and it’s important that you understand them in order to select the fabric that is right for your space. Before we explore the unique items, we’ll first start by explaining what Linen and Cotton are.

Linen vs. Cotton

What is cotton? Cotton is made up of natural fibers from the cotton plant. Cotton fibers are fluffier than their linen counterparts, and are known for their versatility, softness, and comfort. Although a very breathable and absorbent material, cotton does not share the same moisture wicking properties of linen, and will often feel warmer and heavier.

What is linen? Linen cloth and fabric can be viewed somewhat as a luxury version of cotton, derived from high quality flax plant fibers. The construction allows for an incredibly breathable feel that is versatile, absorbent, and moisture wicking. Linen will also do a better job than cotton at retaining texture, creating a better visual fabric experience.

With that said, we can now move on to a few of the important material differences between the two.

Texture & Strength:

Both cotton and linen are strong, durable fabrics, but they certainly differ in texture and strength. Cotton is a far fluffier, softer material, and will be very comfortable and warm to touch. Linen on the other hand is more crisp and cool fabric that offers a lighter and airier experience. Because of the unique threading construction of linen, it is thought of as one of the strongest fibers in the world. You can expect your linen cloth pieces to last much longer than their cotton counterparts.

Health Benefits:

When comparing the health benefits of both linen and cotton fabrics, linen certainly brings more to the table. Linen is a hypoallergenic fiber that will work perfectly for individuals with sensitive skin and common allergies. Due to its lightweight material and airiness, linen does a wonderful job of wicking moisture, creating a breathable environment, and ensuring that bacteria doesn’t build up.

Cotton does provide comfort and warmth throughout colder months, but does not carry the same set of health benefits as linen. Because it struggles to wick moisture and prevent bacteria buildup, you’ll need to clean your cotton fabrics far more frequently in order to ensure that they don’t cause health issues.

Cooling:

 

In colder months, you’ll find great warming properties from both cotton and linen fabrics. The flax plant fiber that makes up linen cloth is long and hollow, allowing for air to circulate throughout the material without issue and prevent bacteria and moisture buildup. It is this circulation that will keep you cool through the warmest of temperatures and provide a comfortable sleep.

Unlike linen, cotton does not offer a breathable, moisture wicking experience. The thick, fluffy composition prevents cotton from providing adequate cooling, and its lack of breathability makes warmer months difficult. Although there are thin cotton blanket options available, there often remains a sense of stuffiness due to lack of adequate airflow.

Sustainability:

When comparing fabrics for your home, you may not think to consider the sustainability options available. The cotton plant requires a rather large amount of water and fertilizer to help it grow, and although durable and versatile, it is not incredibly eco-friendly. Linen, made from the hardy flax plant, requires minimal amounts of water and pesticides to grow, and the process of turning the natural resource into a finished product in your home is incredibly efficient and eco-friendly.

Deciding on the fabric that is right for your space comes down to personal preference. If you’re looking for a warmer, fluffier material to fill your home with, cotton will be the best option available. It is soft to touch, incredibly comfortable, and affordably priced. If, on the other hand, you’re looking for a higher quality, breathable fabric that is eco-friendly and provides superior health benefits, linen should be at the top of your list. Linen closet offers a carefully curated selection of linen products, get in touch with our team to learn more!


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