Bedding Buying Guide: All You Should Know about the Different Types of Cotton Fabric

Author: Manchester Collection  Date Posted:12 June 2024 

Cotton is one of the most popular textiles for many products, but that doesn't mean all types of cotton have the same properties. So let's discuss the characteristics of the unique types of cotton.

An image of layers of pre-processed cotton fabric.

Cotton is so commonplace that it might seem like all cotton sheets are the same. But this couldn’t be farther from the truth! While cotton is one of the most common bedding materials, and for good reasons, there are different types of cotton fabrics used for bed sheets and all of them have unique properties. Thus, when you are buying cotton bedding, you shouldn’t buy the first sheets you come across.

That’s what this article is meant to help with - we will discuss the different types of cotton plants and processing techniques and the resulting characteristics of the distinct cotton fabrics. By the end, you should be able to choose the type of cotton bed sheet that is ideal for your tastes. However, before we get to the types of cotton fabrics, let’s first cover the basics. 

What Is Cotton Fabric?

Cotton fabric is a natural textile made from the fibres of the cotton plant. It has a long history as a bedding fabric (the cultivation of cotton dates as far back as 3,000 B.C., in fact) and is often considered the best material for bed sheets due to its comfort and versatility. Its most prominent characteristics are softness, durability, and breathability. The fabric is created by spinning the fibres into yarn, which is then woven or knitted to produce various types of cloth.

Cotton’s natural properties make it hypoallergenic and absorbent, ideal for sheets and pillowcases. It also regulates temperature well, helping keep you cool in the summer and warm in the winter. However, these are just the general characteristics of cotton. When you are choosing cotton bed sheets, it is very important to know what types of fibres are used, what type of cotton, and even which processing techniques are used, as all of these give unique properties to your bedding. So let’s discuss the details.

Short-Staple vs. Long-Staple Fibre

The first important distinction is the fibre length. Cotton fibres come in different lengths, known as staples. Short-staple cotton fibres are typically between 6mm and 24mm in length. These fibres are more common but tend to produce a coarser fabric. Long-staple fibres, on the other hand, are longer than 24mm and thicker, generally resulting in a superior fabric. Cotton sheets made from long-staple fibres tend to be softer, more breathable, and more durable than those made from short-staple fibres.

The Most Common Types of Cotton Fabric for Bed Sheets

Now that we understand the importance of fibre length, we can talk in more practical terms - about the specific type of cotton fabrics that are used to make bed sheets. And we should start with:

Regular Cotton

Regular cotton is typically made from the upland cotton plant and is the most common type of cotton fabric used for bed sheets. It is usually made from short-staple fibres, ranging from 6mm to 24mm, resulting in a fabric that is durable but can feel coarser compared to long-staple cotton. Regular cotton can also be organic, meaning it is grown without synthetic pesticides or fertilisers, making it an eco-friendly option. While it may not be as soft or luxurious as other types of cotton fabric, regular cotton is a practical and widely available choice that offers good durability and comfort for everyday use.

Egyptian Cotton

Sheets made from one of the most expensive types of cotton fabric - Egyptian cotton.

If regular cotton is on one end of the cotton spectrum, Egyptian cotton is on the other. So what is Egyptian cotton? Egyptian cotton is derived from the gossypium barbadense plant, a special species of the cotton plant, that is only grown in Egypt and parts of Sudan and produces extra-long staple fibres. These fibres, typically longer than 24mm, result in a fabric that is incredibly soft, smooth, and durable. 

The extra-long staples also contribute to Egyptian cotton's superior breathability and absorbency, making it ideal for luxurious bed sheets. While Egyptian cotton is often associated with premium price tags, its unmatched comfort and longevity make it a worthwhile investment if you are seeking the ultimate sleeping experience.

Pima Cotton

Like Egyptian cotton, Pima cotton is also derived from gossypium barbadense. As such, Pima cotton shares many similarities with its Egyptian counterpart, including its extra-long staple fibres, typically longer than 24mm. This results in a type of cotton fabric that is exceptionally soft, smooth, and durable, making it highly desirable for bedding. 

This type of cotton is primarily grown in the southwestern United States, but also in other areas around the world, including Peru, Australia, and Israel. In Peru, Pima cotton is known for its exceptionally long staple length and is grown primarily in the coastal valleys. Australia also produces Pima cotton, mainly in Queensland and New South Wales, where the climate is suitable for cotton cultivation. 

Additionally, Israel has a small but notable Pima cotton industry, with cultivation mainly concentrated in the southern regions of the country. One notable variation of Pima cotton is Supima cotton, which is grown exclusively in the United States. Certified by the Supima Association, Supima cotton ensures genuine quality and meets strict standards. Supima cotton is renowned for its superior softness, durability, and colour retention, making it a premium choice for luxurious bed sheets.

Jersey Cotton

Until now, the different types of cotton fabrics for bed sheets were differentiated based on the type of cotton plant used, but, as we’ve mentioned, another important factor is the processing technique used. Which leads us to jersey cotton. So, what is jersey cotton? Jersey cotton is a type of cotton fabric that is made using a special knitting technique rather than the traditional weaving process. 

This technique results in a fabric that is soft and breathable, but what truly sets jersey cotton apart is elasticity, as this type of cotton fabric is usually stretchier than the other types. Jersey cotton bed sheets have a casual and comfortable feel, and many people compare them to their favourite t-shirts. If you're looking for bed sheets that offer both comfort and versatility, jersey cotton is an excellent choice.

Stonewashed Cotton

Like jersey cotton, the characteristics of stonewashed cotton are derived from the processing technique. This is a unique type of cotton fabric that undergoes a special finishing process to achieve a soft, worn-in appearance. As the name implies, the fabric is washed with abrasive stones or enzymes to break down the fibres and create a subtle faded look. This technique softens the fabric and gives it a relaxed, lived-in feel.

People love bed sheets made from stonewashed cotton due to their comfort and casual elegance. The stonewashing process gives the fabric a vintage-inspired aesthetic, making it perfect for creating a cosy and inviting bedroom atmosphere. Additionally, stonewashed cotton is known for its durability and easy maintenance, making it a practical choice for everyday use.

What About Flannel, Sateen, and Percale?

Stored rolls made from different types of cotton fabrics.

Above, we’ve listed the most common types of cotton fabrics that are used for bed sheets, but we should also mention other popular bed sheet fabrics that can use cotton as the base material; namely, flannel, sateen, and percale. Like jersey and stonewashed cotton, these fabrics are made with special processing techniques and may be made from cotton, but also from other materials. However, even when cotton is used as the basis, the characteristics of flannel, sateen, and percale are different enough that few would count them as a type of cotton fabric.

Flannel is created by a special brushing technique that makes fabric thicker and softer; besides cotton, flannel can also be made from wool or synthetic materials and is heavier, warmer, and much less breathable than pure cotton. Sateen is typically made from cotton but uses a satin weave and the end result is a fabric that feels more like silk than anything else. Besides cotton, percale can be made from various blends and is made by applying the percale weave; percale sheets are typically more breathable and crisp but less soft than cotton. 

In short, while these fabrics can technically be considered a type of cotton fabric, for most people, comparing flannel, sateen, or percale with cotton sheets is like comparing linen vs. cotton sheets - that is to say, you are comparing two materials with completely unique characteristics. And that is why we didn’t list them as a common type of cotton fabric for bed sheets. 

All Types of Cotton Bed Sheets in One Place

We hope this article has helped you understand what types of cotton fabrics exist for bed sheets and that you can use that knowledge to make an informed decision about the sheets you’d like to buy. If it has, we can provide a bit more assistance - help you buy high-quality bed sheets. At Manchester Collection, we have sheets made from different types of cotton fabric and in many dimensions. 

Our range of bed sheets includes everything you need, from Egyptian cotton bed sheets to stonewashed sheets to deep-fitted sheets. So take your time to find your ideal sheets and place your order online - we will deliver the sheets to your address. You can also visit a store near you if you wish to feel the quality for yourself before you make your purchase. And if you have questions, please contact us, our team will gladly answer any questions you have. 




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