Sustainable Fashion

Microfiber vs Cotton: Ultimate Material Comparison Guide

Learn about the differences between microfiber and cotton

Fabric Comparison Featured

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

Other Names
Made FromMicrofiber is a very fine synthetic yarn made from either polyester or a polyester and nylon blend.Fibers from cotton plant seeds
AdvantagesSoft, 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
DisadvantagesSignificant environmental concern. Must be washed seperately from cotton.Higher production costs than many other fabrics, particularly for organic cotton.
UsesApparel, 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 SyntheticSyntheticNatural
Woven or KnittedEitherWoven
Thread Count200-1,800100-1000+
WashingTypically 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)
DryingIdeally 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.
IroningWill rarely need ironing. Use a cool iron.Iron while damp (use a spray) on high heat
Wrinkle ResistanceDoesn’t tend to wrinkleWrinkles easily
Heat RetentionMediumMedium
Moisture WickingGoodGood
BreathabilityGoodVery Good
Flammability (untreated)Medium (tend to melt rather than burn)Very High
Water-Resistance (untreated)MediumPoor
StrengthVery GoodGood, especially when wet (cotton gets stronger when wet)
Environmental Impact Score (A is best, E is worst)Conventional Microfiber = E, Made from Recycled Polyester & Nylon = BConventional Cotton = E, Organic Cotton = B, Recycled Cotton = A
Sustainability IssuesMicrofiber 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.