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Linen vs Cotton Fabrics: Guide & Comparison Table

Linen and Cotton fabrics are both made from natural fibers. They’re both breathable, wick moisture well, and strong. Of the two, linen is most durable, but has a rougher texture. Cotton is softer to the touch, more stretchable, and retains heat better. Both are hypo-allergenic, although linen fabric more so than cotton fabric.

Check out the comparison table below, then read on for further details:

Rayon vs Cotton Comparison Table

Property Linen Cotton
Other names - -
Made from Linen is made from the fibers of the flax plant. Fibers from cotton plant seeds
Uses Clothing and furnishings, including tableclothes, napkins, curtains. Cotton is widely used in clothing, including to produce popular woven fabrics such as denim, flannel, and canvas. Also used for bedsheets, towels, and upholstery.
Natural or Synthetic Natural Natural
Woven or Knitted Woven Woven
Thread Count 200-2,000 100-1000+
Washing Typically fine in the washing machine with cold water, but some garments may be dry-clean only (always check the label first) Typically fine in washing machine (always check the label first)
Drying Some linen is tumble dry safe (check the label). When air drying, lay linen out flat rather than hanging to avoid losing the shape. Often fine in tumble dryer, although shrinkage can occur especially if 100% cotton (check the label first). If unsure, air dry.
Ironing Turn inside out and iron on a hot setting using the steam setting Iron while damp (use a spray) on high heat
Wrinkle Resistance Wrinkles extremely easily Wrinkles easily
Heat Retention Poor Medium
Moisture Wicking Good Good
Breathability Very Good Very Good
Stretchability Low Medium
Flammability (untreated) Very High Very High
Water-Resistance (untreated) Low Poor
Color-Fastness Poor Good
Strength Good Good, especially when wet (cotton gets stronger when wet)
Durability Excellent Good
Drape Stiff Medium
Softness Medium (but become softer over time) Good
Advantages Relatively environmentally friendly, breathable, with excellent durability. Cotton fiber has superior wet strength and is a natural insulator. Cotton also has natural anti-microbial properties
Disadvantages Wrinkles very easily. Costs more than comparable products made of cotton. Higher production costs than many other fabrics, particularly for organic cotton.
Environmental Impact Score (A is best, E is worst) Conventional Linen = C, Organic Linen = A Conventional Cotton = E, Organic Cotton = B, Recycled Cotton = A
Sustainability Issues No chemicals are required to turn create linen from flax, and the flax plant does not require pesticides or fertilizers. Compared to most other fabrics, linen production is highly sustainable. Cotton growing can be pesticide and water intensive, leading to pollution. Less impact when grown organically.
Vegan Yes Yes

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