When it comes to luxurious bed linens, cotton is king—right?
Not necessarily. While cotton is definitely the most common material used for luxury sheets (in either sateen or percale weaves), there are other high-quality textiles that can be used for your bedding. One of the more popular (and more expensive) options is lyocell.
Lyocell (often known by the popular brand name Tencel in the same way that disposable facial tissues are often called Kleenex) is a man-made material—but it’s not a synthetic. Rather than being spun into yarn like cotton, this variety of rayon is made of cellulose (plant) pulp—often (but not always) obtained from sustainable crops like eucalyptus or bamboo. Through a series of steps, the pulp eventually becomes the fiber that is eventually woven into textiles. Lyocell can can be finished to feel like suede, silk, or in the case of bedding, high-quality cotton.
Though this process sounds more involved than the spinning and weaving of cotton, lyocell uses as little as ten percent of the water involved in growing and refining cotton, and its closed-loop manufacturing process means that excess or unused fibers and other materials are reused in subsequent manufacturing cycles.
So Lyocell might be more environmentally friendly, but at a higher price point than most cotton sheets, is it really worth it?
There’s no real right answer. Lyocell fibers are hydrophilic—meaning that they attract water—so if you’re a hot sleeper, lyocell might reduce the amount of sweat that collects between you and your sheets. That being said, lyocell tends to be thicker and heavier than cotton percale, so if you’re under the latter you might not have any sweat to worry about.
Lyocell’s hydrophilic quality also makes it more hygienic, so your sheets won’t get funky or require washing nearly as frequently, but unlike (white) cotton, lyocell can’t be bleached in the event they really need a proper sanitizing.
Both high-quality cotton and lyocell are generally durable and easy to care for, with little risk of shrinking after the first wash or becoming thin or misshapen over several washes. Lyocell is closer to cotton sateen in terms of wrinkles and will have a similar shiny appearance, but where sateen tends to sleep hot and could result in night sweats, lyocell—as mentioned above—will keep sleepers cool.
And as for the feel? Lyocell will feel great coming out of the package, whereas even the highest-quality cotton may require a few washes to truly soften up. But at the end of the day, as long as you’re willing to make a small investment in high quality sheets, you won’t go wrong with either lyocell or cotton—it’s just a matter of preference.
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