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Microfiber vs Cotton Fabric: Guide & Comparison Table

Both cotton and microfiber are widely used in fashion and furnishings (particularly bed sheets). Cotton is a natural fabric, while microfiber is made from plastics such as polyester and nylon. They have similar softness, heat retention, and moisture wicking, but cotton has superior breathability. Microfiber is stronger and more durable.

Read on for comparison table and full guide, including the final say on whether cotton sheets or microfiber sheets are better:

Microfiber vs Cotton Fabric Comparison Table

Property Microfiber Cotton
Other names - -
Made from Microfiber is a very fine synthetic yarn made from either polyester or a polyester and nylon blend. Fibers from cotton plant seeds
Uses Apparel, particularly atheletic wear, furnishings and cleaning products - microfiber cloths. 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 Synthetic Natural
Woven or Knitted Either Woven
Thread Count 200-1,800 100-1000+
Washing Typically machine washable cold or warm water. Don't use fabric softeners and use a separate load from other fabrics (particularly cotton). Typically fine in washing machine (always check the label first)
Drying Ideally air dry. If you use a dryer, don't use heat, just spin. Often fine in tumble dryer, although shrinkage can occur especially if 100% cotton (check the label first). If unsure, air dry.
Ironing Will rarely need ironing. Use a cool iron. Iron while damp (use a spray) on high heat
Wrinkle Resistance Don't tend to wrinkle Wrinkles easily
Heat Retention Medium Medium
Moisture Wicking Good Good
Breathability Good Very Good
Stretchability Medium Medium
Flammability (untreated) Medium (tend to melt rather than burn) Very High
Water-Resistance (untreated) Medium Poor
Color-Fastness Medium-Good Good
Strength Very Good Good, especially when wet (cotton gets stronger when wet)
Durability Excellent Good
Drape Fluid Medium
Softness Good Good
Advantages Soft, durable and lightweight with good moisture wicking. Popular for athletic wear. Cotton fiber has superior wet strength and is a natural insulator. Cotton also has natural anti-microbial properties
Disadvantages Significant environmental concern. Must be washed seperately from cotton. Higher production costs than many other fabrics, particularly for organic cotton.
Environmental Impact Score (A is best, E is worst) Conventional Microfiber = E, Made from Recycled Polyester & Nylon = B Conventional Cotton = E, Organic Cotton = B, Recycled Cotton = A
Sustainability Issues Microfiber is made from plastics. It does not degrade and requires significant energy, chemicals, and waste to create. We recommend using microfiber products made from recycled plastics only. Cotton growing can be pesticide and water intensive, leading to pollution. Less impact when grown organically.
Vegan Yes Yes

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