Cotton vs. Tencel: Which Fabric Should Your Sheet Be Made Of?

Buying new bedsheets has become a hurdle for many. This is because the bedding stores, whether physical or online, are filled with various options for you to choose from. What makes this even harder is that these fabrics have minimal differences. Cotton has been the fabric of choice for many worldwide for centuries now, and the eco-friendly Tencel, on the other hand, has been rapidly growing, thus gaining popularity. The decision on which sheets to buy comes down to which material is used to make these bed sheets.

While cotton and Tencel are both great sheets, they are set apart by differences. This guide gives detailed information on both Cotton and Tencel.

Cotton vs Tencel

Sheet [/ˈshēt/] verb
To tweet while using the restroom.

So, which fabric should your sheets be made of? Read through this guide to make your decision easier.

Click here to find out what our recommendations for cotton sheets are!

What is Cotton?

Cotton Sheets

Cotton is a widely used fabric in all corners of the globe. It is considered a huge part of our lives, from drying our faces not long after we wake up to when we slide in between fresh cotton sheets at night.

Cotton is taken from cultivated plants of the genus Gossypium. They are nurtured for their fibers, which are then utilized as textiles. This has been going on since ancient times.

Cotton is used for hundreds of reasons, ranging from bedsheets to blue jeans to shoe strings. Clothing and household often use cotton, but industrial products also utilize many thousands of bales every year. And if you didn’t know, cotton has other uses, more uncharacteristic forms like medicines to seed oil and would you believe, even sausage skins!

What is the History of Cotton?

The oldest cotton fibers discovered in Mexico were dated 5000 B.C. The Pharaohs of Egypt and the Maharajas of India have been using cotton for more than 5,000 years. Native Americans nurtured cotton as early as 1500. It was in the late 1700s that Englishman Samuel Slater made the very first American cotton mill. This mill made cotton fibers into yarn and cloth.

In 1793, Eli Whitney worked on the cotton gin, which mechanically separates the seed from the lint fiber. Whitney referred to this machine as a “gin,” short for the word “engine” that could do the work ten times faster than by hand. Since then, technology has advanced by many leaps and bounds, making cotton growth and production much more efficient and fast.

Cotton is grown and cultivated in many countries, but the most prominent ones are the United States, China, India, Pakistan, Brazil, Uzbekistan, Turkey, Greece, and Australia.

How Does Cotton Grow?

Cotton is ideally grown on fertile, well-drained soils. There are different cotton species, but the most prevalent ones are Upland Cotton (Gossypium hirsutum), followed by Pima Cotton (Gossypium barbadense). Over in Southeast Asia, the Asiatic Cotton (Gossypium herbaceum and Gossypium arboreum) is grown in some regions.

Cotton is often planted during the spring season when temperatures are over 16 degrees Celsius (60.8 degrees Fahrenheit). The cotton seeds germinate in 7-10 days. The bud, also known as a “square,” appears about 5-7 weeks after planting to form flowers. The white blossoms become pollinated, turn pink and then wither, resulting in green bolls (a boll is the rounded seed capsule of plants such as cotton or flax).

The green bolls mature into cotton bolls with the white fluffy fibers. Plants are irrigated, fertilized, and weeded as needed during the growing cycle.

Cotton is defoliated, a procedure where leaves are taken away, and then cotton is harvested and compressed into truckload-sized “modules” to be transported to the cotton gin. The gin separates the cotton fibers from the seeds. Gins then separate the seed, and the lint is then packed into 500-pound (227 kg) bales sent out to textile mills to make yarn.

The cotton is further carded or combed, making all of the fibers run parallel and spun into thread. The cottonseed at the gin is utilized as animal feed and garden fertilizer, while the oil extracted from cottonseed is used in firearms and pharmaceutical industries.

What is Cotton Used For?

Cotton is known all over the world for its versatility, popular for its performance and natural comfort. It’s used to make all types of clothes and homewares such as bedsheets. It also has many industrial purposes used for tarpaulins, tents, hotel sheets, and army uniforms.

Cotton fiber can also be woven or knitted into other fabrics like velvet, corduroy, chambray, velour, jersey, and flannel. In addition to textile products such as underwear, socks, and t-shirts, cotton is also being utilized in fishnets, coffee filters, bookbinding, and archival paper.

Cotton is considered to be both a food and a fiber crop. Cottonseed is fed to cattle and crushed to make oil. This cottonseed oil is used for cooking and products like soap, margarine, emulsifiers, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, rubber, and plastics.

Linters are the very short fibers that remain on the cottonseed after ginning. They are used to produce goods such as bandages, swabs, banknotes, cotton buds, and x-rays.

Is Cotton Eco-Friendly?

Most definitely. If you’re concerned about the environmental footprint of making cotton fabric, don’t be. Cotton is sustainable, renewable, and biodegradable, making it a fine choice as an environmentally-friendly fiber throughout its entire product life cycle.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture indicated that only about 1.2 pounds of insecticides and 2.1 pounds of herbicides are applied to each acre of cotton. The average acre in the U.S. generates about 800 pounds of cotton. That works out to around 0.09 ounces of total pesticides applied per pound of cotton produced.

And with the advent of new technology, the number of pesticide applications has significantly diminished in the U.S. Farmers who live and work on their land have every personal and economic incentive to use fewer chemicals in production, not more! On a global scale, only 8.5% of all pesticides applied to crops are used to grow cotton.

As mentioned above, cotton is regulated as a food crop by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Cotton is grown just like other major food crops, meaning that there are stringent regulations that need to be followed. Research done worldwide consistently shows no pesticide residue on the raw fiber or the textile products made from the fiber.
And if you are particularly concerned about how much water is being used to cultivate cotton, don’t worry your pretty little head about it. Cotton is very drought and heat-tolerant. Cotton does not require excessive amounts of water.

As a matter of fact, cotton uses less water than many other major crops produced in this country. Only 35% of U.S. cotton acreage needs some form of irrigation while the rest of the cotton land is supplied by natural rainfall.
Now that you have a fairly wide view of the cotton and fabric, it’s time to dig deep and find out which suits you best when it comes to bed sheets: Tencel or cotton?

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What is Tencel?

Tencel Sheets
Tencel is a brand of lyocell and modal fibers produced by environmentally responsible processes from the sustainably sourced natural raw material wood. Tencel fibers are often used in the collections of many leading designers and renowned retailers.

Tencel lyocell fibers have gained a reputation for their natural comfort and versatility. Tencel lyocell fibers can be combined with a wide array of textile fibers from cotton, polyester, acrylic, wool, and silk to bolster the aesthetics and usefulness of fabrics. Distinct physical properties of Tencel lyocell fibers are their great strength, efficient moisture absorption, and gentleness to skin.

Tencel modal fibers are known for being superbly soft and easy on the skin. Demonstrating high flexibility, Tencel modal fibers augment textiles with a naturally soft quality. Providing endless aesthetic possibilities, Tencel modal fibers can be blended with other fibers and processed with traditional machinery, substantially increasing the softness and comfort of fabrics.

Tencel branded fibers also provide various features, including botanic origin, environmental production, mildness to the skin, a softness that lasts a longer, super silky smoothness, increased breathability, enduring color retention, and biodegradability.

Tencel is a brand name that is owned by Lenzing Fibers. The fabric comes from the wood cellulose – in particular, eucalyptus trees. As opposed to being woven from the cotton plant’s fibers, Tencel fibers are made from eucalyptus wood pulp. This pulp is dissolved and spun into fibers, which are then woven together to create an extremely strong yet smooth fabric.

A Brief History of Tencel

Lyocell is a kind of rayon that contains cellulose fiber taken from wood pulp. It was first engineered through the pilot stage by American Enka in 1972, and they referred to it as “Newcell.” Later on, the fiber was commercialized by Courtaulds Fibers in the 1980s. In 1990, the first facility was launched in Mobile, Alabama, and Courtaulds rechristened the fiber “Tencel.” When Lenzing AG bought the Tencel plants 14 years later, they combined it with their lyocell business, but they retained the Tencel name. Lenzing AG is the only major producer of lyocell fiber.

The Federal Trade Commission allotted the separate generic name of “lyocell” and classified it as a sub-category under rayon. Tencel fibers are lyocell fibers and, therefore, a sub-category of rayon. Lenzing uses the Tencel branding on the packaging of consumer products, which comprises nonwovens and woven/knit fabrics.

Click here to see what our recommendations for best Tencel sheets are!

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Tencel vs. Cotton: What are the Differences?

Cotton vs Tencel Sheets

Tencel and cotton sheets have many prime differences, which we will talk about in detail in this section. Read on below!

Effect on the Environment

Tencel is usually sourced from renewable eucalyptus trees. Generating fabric from wood pulp is, at times, more efficient than doing the same from cotton plants. The growing and cultivating of these eucalyptus trees focus on being environmentally conscious, diminishing the need for pesticides or irrigation.

Minimal water is needed for the production of Tencel. Cotton, meanwhile, requires a specific amount of water to be produced.

Also, Tencel is generated with the use of a closed-loop process. This basically means that loose fibers are recycled back into the material, resulting in very low waste.
Now it may appear as if Tencel has the advantage when discussing sustainability. But do bear in mind that the amount of production is incomparable, and therefore any differences in sustainability are just estimates on my end.


Many corners of the textile industry claim that Tencel fabric is softer than cotton. This softness is because it features a very smooth surface when feeling up close. This not only feels divine but also makes it very non-irritating to those that have sensitive skin. It is the answer to some of the usual downsides of cotton bed sheets, particularly their tendency to be itchy and rustle noisily.

However, cotton also makes a case for being an extremely comfortable bed sheet to have, and it often becomes softer and smoother through usage and washings.

Tencel is made of very tiny little fibers that are hydrophilic – that means “water-loving.” This results in an ability to absorb moisture away from the skin.

Nevertheless, cotton is also very breathable and often non-irritating on the skin, and hypoallergenic. If you do not have any significant problems with your cotton bed sheets, switching to another fabric may not be at all needed.


The hydrophilic attribute of Tencel means it is more efficient at keeping the body cooler while you are resting and can work just as well in many different kinds of climates. It feels extremely breathable, as nighttime sweat is wicked away from the body. Coolness may be a crucial factor for high body temperatures, which often gives them restless and worse, sleepless nights.

Cotton is also a comfortable bed sheet for combating the heat, thanks to its breathability. Although it isn’t as permeable as Tencel, the average person would find that it manages body temperature just right.


Tencel is usually less wrinkly than cotton and not that hard to care for. It washes well – clothes made of Tencel are less likely to shrink or lose their shape when inside the wash. Additionally, it’s very long-lasting and not prone to becoming thin over time.

Cotton is also quite durable and unique in the fact it can actually improve with time. As a matter of fact, a set of Egyptian cotton sheets can last as long as fifty years!

The Look

Tencel fibers’ high absorbency rate makes the sheets smoother, cooler, and more hygienic. It also makes them dye very well. They are commonly both more vibrant and less prone to fading over time.

Cotton features more of a crisp, matte look compared to that of Tencel. It also takes dye very well and isn’t unreasonably prone to wrinkling. This comes down to a matter of personal preference.


The production of Tencel sheets is costly compared to the production of cotton sheets. This is so since Tencel is hard to come by. Nevertheless, Tencel beddings are most likely to survive regular washing for longer, and they save adequate time on washing and ironing.

Therefore, your investment in Tencel sheets is worthy. However, if you are operating on a limited budget, you should consider cotton since it is cheaper. Cotton sheets may not be as durable as Tencel, but they offer quality performance.

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So, Which Should You Pick Up?

There are pros and cons to consider when it comes to both Tencel and cotton. Tencel may be more suitable for those with more specialized needs, such as very sensitive skin, issues with body heat, or hygiene concerns.

It’s also a fine choice for those who prefer a more lavish bed sheet. But on the other hand, cotton has its own set of benefits and isn’t lagging behind in quality and value. While cotton is by no means flawless, there is a reason it’s so widely-used when it comes to bed sheets.

So which one is for you? Your purchase just might boil down to your preferences on smoothness and feel.

Click here to learn what the best Tencel sheets are today!

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Top Rated and Recommended Cotton Bed Sheets

8.3/10 Read review
83 %
Last Amazon price update was: 9 September 2021 09:03
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CGK Unlimited Cotton Sheets are of 5-star hotel quality. They are made of woven pure combed cotton, which removes shorter fibers leaving only long cotton fibers behind. These sheets having larger fibers means they are softer and stronger. They also become softer after every wash. Regular washes are recommended to attain superior softness. You will love slipping into these sheets.

These 400 thread-count bed sheets are breathable and cooling. They are made in India, which is known for its history of quality textiles. These sheets do not stain, pill, tear, shrink or fade. You smell no strong chemical odors when using these sheets. You can get these sheets at very affordable prices.

8.3/10 Read review
83 %
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Set Alert for Product: California Design Den Cooling Sheets 400 Thread Count - 100% Long Staple Combed Cotton, Soft and Silky Sateen Weave for Best Comfort, Indigo Navy Blue Queen Size 4 Piece Bed Sheet Set - $47.99
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These new California Design Den 400 Cotton Sheets are better and improved. They are luxurious and durable, like the hotel bed sheets. These sheets have a 400 thread-count. The company uses 100% Long-staple cotton fibers and a gorgeous sateen weave. They retain softness for a lifetime. They even become softer after regular usage and washes.

These sheets are available in Twin, Twin XL, Full, King, and Cal sizes. The deep pocket on the fitted sheet has superb all-round elastic to fit low profile foam and tall mattress.

8.6/10 Read review
86 %
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Set Alert for Product: True Luxury 1000-Thread-Count 100% Egyptian Cotton Bed Sheets, 4-Pc Queen Dark Grey Sheet Set, Single Ply Long-Staple Yarns, Sateen Weave, Fits Mattress Upto 18'' Deep Pocket - $87.99
Last Amazon price update was: 19 September 2021 17:46
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100% long-staple Egyptian cotton yarns are used to make these sheets. They are renowned for their quality and durability. Their sateen finish gives them a lustrous look like that of silk or satin yet more breathable and natural.

These sheets are of the highest quality and are Oeko-Tex certified. The company ensures you love your new sheets no matter what style or size you order.

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Top Rated and Recommended Tencel Bed Sheets

8.5/10 Read review
85 %
Last Amazon price update was: 23 September 2021 06:45
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These sheets have a timeless style that allow them to blend with any bedroom. They are luxuriously soft and silky yet they provide good breathability and moisture wicking.

These sheets are suitable for both regular and hot sleepers because you can sleep cool at all temperatures.

8.3/10 Read review
83 %
Last Amazon price update was: 2 August 2021 07:21
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These sheets have a thread count of 300; 55% cotton and 45% Tencel Lyocell. They can fit a mattress of up to 18 inches. Cotton Tencel Sateen sheets create an unparalleled soft and breathability making them ideal sheets set for your home.

They are also finished with a beautiful double pleat hemstitch detail on the flat sheet. These sheets are available in a variety of classic colors to suit any sleep space.

These sheets are made in Oeko Tex standard 100 factory, an independent certification system that ensures textiles meet high safety and environmental standards.

8.7/10 Read review
87 %
Last Amazon price update was: 16 September 2021 20:56
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These sheets are one of the softest new fabric in the world made from raw eucalyptus trees. These tencel sheets are thermo-regulating hence comfortable during all temperatures/seasons.

These sheets are recommended for people with allergies; eucalyptus is known for its various health benefits it offers. The fitted sheet can fit up to an 18 inches mattress.

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