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Linen vs. Cotton: What's The Difference?

When discussing the more comfortable and fabulous fabrics, linen and cotton are the best choices. This is because they have similar features and are used for similar purposes. For example, both of these fabrics are popular everywhere for clothes such as blouses, dresses, and home textiles, including bed sheets and curtains. As they are made of plant fibers, cotton and linen are considered natural fabrics.

As they are made of plant fibers, cotton and linen are considered natural fabrics. Linen is moisture-wicked, breathable, and lightweight; however, cotton is soft, warm, and durable. Now, the question is that what's the real difference between the two fabrics: linen vs cotton. This article will discuss it, enabling you to determine which can be a better choice.

What Is Linen?

Linen is a fabric that comes among the most popular materials listed among the natural fabric. It is made up of plant fibers. Linen is specially made of a plant called flax. The amazing fact about linen is that it is one of the old fabrics that has been used in clothing for centuries. However, linen is not as widely used as cotton used throughout the world. Linen is worn explicitly in a warmer climate.

Linen is a staple fiber, having long-staple fibers usually longer than cotton. However, remember that linen is a woven fabric, so it is impossible to make other fabrics from linen, as seen in cotton. Compared to cotton, linen fabric comes with pretty standard fabrics. However, it usually does not come in many different widths and textures. So it comes to see that many linen fabrics are generally white.

There is an amazing fact behind making the linen fabric. First, it is harvested from the flax plants once it is matured. It is actually the stalks of the plants used to derive linen. The seeds and leaves are removed using a mechanical process. Then, the makers separate the inner fibers from the outer fibers by breaking the stalks. Outer fibers are discarded because they are rigid and unsuitable for making fibers. In the end, the inner fibers are combined with the thinner fibers and turned into the yarn. Once the fibers are turned into the yearns, they are dyed to offer the necessary colors. Last, the yarns are woven together to bring the final form of fabric.

What Is Cotton?

Cotton comes among the most popular and commonly used types of fabrics in the world. The fabric is a staple fabric. It means that it comes in a variety of lengths. We find different types of cotton growing across the globe. There are several species of cotton. However, all of these are not economically feasible. Experts revealed that only five are being grown commercially from across the world them. These types include Egyptian cotton, American Prima, Asiatic Upland, American Upland, and Sea island.

Today, by using these types of cotton, the manufacturing companies are yielding a variety of cotton fabrics. Cotton can be knitted or woven and turned into Cambric, Canvas, Cordoury, denim, Flannel, Gauze, and more. The process of yielding cotton is impressive. The fabric is first made by first harvesting the plant cotton. Then the seeds from the cotton bolls are separated, and dirt or impurities (if any) are removed. Then fibers are parted and turned into long cotton strands, turning into cotton yarn.  

Typically cotton comes in white color, but after you spin it into yarn, you can bleach them to dye them into any necessary color. Then depending on the type of cotton fabric, the yarn is either knitted or woven. You can easily determine the fabric characteristics—for example, breathability level, durability level, the amount of stretch, and all others. 

Differences Between Cotton and Linen

So, we have taken the whole idea of what cotton and linen are actually. Now, we will discuss the difference between linen vs cotton.

Appearance

As cotton fibers are weaker, it pills more than linen. Remember that the fabrics are wrinkled easily because they are derived from a natural source. However, due to the material's stiffness, linen wrinkles more slightly.

Durability

Whatever the material is, it will be more liked and chosen if it is durable. It has been seen that cotton is more flexible and stretched compared to linen. However, it is not more durable. Finer cotton, like Egyptian cotton, is made from fibers that are long-staple, making the cotton softer and more durable than the standard form. But remember that it is not as durable as linen. Linen is rigid but durable and long-lasting because the linen yarn comprises cellulose fibers that are wrapped tighter and slightly longer than cotton yarn.

Softness

When talking about softness, we find cotton much softer than linen. This is because the linen comprises flax fibers rougher than cotton fibers. It has been found that sheets designed from cotton are very soft and can last around five years.

Texture

Cotton is a smoother fabric, and on the other hand, linen is roughed texture pattern resulting from the looser waves.

Hypoallergenic

Remember that both fabrics, i.e., linen and cotton are hypoallergenic. However, linen is slightly better and suitable for people with allergies. This is because linen comes with the loose wave and ower thread count. So, there are fewer chances for dust and particles to be captured in linen fabric.

Absorbency

While discussing linen vs cotton, remember that both fabrics are good absorbency. However, compared to linen, cotton is slightly more absorbent as it can hold more than 25% of its weight in water. On the other hand, linen only contains 20% of its weight in water.

Moisture Wicking

It's been declared that both fabrics are used to wear in the warmer months, like in the summertime. So, they have the excellent ability of moisture-wicking when sweating and when there is rain. However, it is considered that cotton has not as much moisture-wicking ability as the linen has. This is because cotton absorbs water and becomes saturated quickly. So, when it becomes wet, it becomes an uncomfortable fabric to wear. Also, it is less moisture-wicking material, so it can take longer to dry. So, experts suggest not wearing cotton when it is too hot a climate around you. Or you should avoid wearing cotton when there are more chances of sweating and rain outside.

On the other hand, linen is more moisture-wicking due to hollow and porous fibers. These hollow and porous fibers allow water and air to circulate better. As it is breathable, wearing linen is the best choice to wear when there is a really hot environment.

Breathability

Breathability is another notable feature of these fabrics when worn during the warmer months. Otherwise, you may feel uncomfortable when wearing them during other seasons. Although these fabrics are made from plant fibers, both are breathable enough.

However, the breathability level can be determined based on how the fibers are woven or knitted. Therefore, the cotton fabric loosely woven is more breathable than the cotton knitted or woven more tightly.

Usually, linen fabrics are considered more breathable than cotton fabrics. One reason is that linen fibers are more loosely woven than cotton. As well as this, flax fibers are extra hollow than cotton ones, allowing more breathability.

Warmth

Neither linen nor cotton fabric is certainly warm. As well as this, linen is rarely used to wear in the winter or fall season. Although, depending on a particular type, we see cotton is, somehow, warmer compared to linen. Fannel is made of cotton and is often used to make shirts and pajamas used to wear in the winter season.

In addition, cotton fabric shows some other properties, such as fibers are not hollow, and the material is less breathable, making it feasible to wear in the winter season. As well as this, cotton fabric is also considered thicker and heavier material to provide more warmth.

Weight

Linen fabric is considered light weighted than cotton fabric, which is medium-weight. To explain why linen is lightweight, we will again mention that the fibers are hollow. As well as this, the loose waves give the fabric a lighter feel.

Some cotton stuff is also lightweight, and muslin is an example. However, other types of cotton fabrics are thicker and have tighter waves. 

Ease of Care

Both cotton and linen are fabrics that can easily be shrunk. For cotton material, it is advisable to wash it in cold water and spread it on low heat to dry. For linen, soak it in cold water and let it air dry. 

Cost

Cotton is considered less expensive compared to all other natural or synthetic fibers. On the other hand, linen is regarded as a costly material.

Uses

Both linen and cotton fabrics are used for a variety of purposes. For example, they are used to making shirts, pants, dresses, and blouses. As well as this, both can also be used for home textiles, such as bedsheets.

Pros and Cons of Cotton

The following are the potential pros and cons of cotton fabric found by experts:

Pros of cotton fabric:

    • Cotton is made of 100% natural source

    • Cotton fabric is soft and breathable, allowing to move through them

    • Cotton fabric is easy to clean and will enable users to machine wash them

    • Cotton fabric is good at absorbing moisture

    • Cotton shows versatility – you can find a variety of cotton fabrics

    • Suitable for children as well as people with allergies and sensitive skin

    • Cotton fabric is perfect for all seasons – breathable in summer and warm in winter

    • Cotton fabric does not release microplastics when washed it

    • Cotton fabric is incredibly durable and strong

    • Cotton fabric is 100% biodegradable and compostable

Cons of cotton fabric:

  • Cotton materials fade over time because the cotton fabric does not hold dye well

  • As it does not hold dye well, it can bleed when washing

  • Cotton fabric shows wrinkles

  • Cotton fabric shrinks when washed with hot water

  • Cotton fabric is not sustainable

  • Conventional cotton may contain pesticides

  • Cotton is a thirsty crop and can be grown unethically

  • Natural fibers wear down quickly

  • Cotton fabric is highly flammable and burns quickly

  • The Cotton fabric holds moisture for a long time

Pros and Cons of Linen

The following are the possible pros and cons found in linen fabric:

Pros of linen fabric:

  • Linen fabric is made of natural fibers

  • When untreated, linen fabric is 100% biodegradable

  • Linen fabric is solid and durable

  • Linen fabric is hygroscopic and breathable

  • Linen fabric, such as sheets, remain softer even after several washes and can last for 30 years

  • Linen fabric is anti-microbial

  • Linen fabric is moisture-wicking

  • Linen fabric is hypoallergic

  • Linen is a lightweight cloth

  • Linen fabric is comfortable enough

Cons of linen fabric:

  • Linen fabric gets wrinkles easily

  • There is no fabric variety of linen as cotton has

  • Linen fabric shrinks when washed with hot water

  • Linen fabric comes among the expensive fabrics

  • Linen fabric is not strain resistant

  • Linen fibers get weaker when exposed to sunlight

  • Initially, linen fabric feels rough and becomes softer after some time

  • Linen fabric is lightweight – not a good option for the winter season

  • When bleaching and dying, linen loses its biodegradable features

  • Linen fabric burns easily

Which Is The Better Choice?

We have explained several aspects when discussing linen vs cotton throughout our discussion. Almost all the features of the two fabrics are the same. However, at some points, we found apparent or explicit differences. For example, cotton is the best option when you look for a softer fabric. When it comes to durability, linen runs for a long time. As well as this, linen is considered the best fabric when counting absorbency, moisture-wicking, and hypoallergenic properties. Finally, cotton is warmer than linen; however, linen is more breathable. In short, we can say that the above comparison will make you able enough to choose the best fabric according to your needs.