How to Choose Bamboo Sheets
When I was younger, choosing sheets used to strictly be about choosing my favorite pattern or superhero-themed character to adorn my bedroom. But now that I've gotten older, choosing sheets is more about quality, what the fibers are made out of, and sustainability.
As someone who tends to get hot as I sleep, I'm always looking for something that has a cooling effect but that will also hold up over time—which is exactly how I discovered the magic of bamboo sheets.
But this type of bedding is still fairly new to the market, despite gaining popularity recently. If you've been considering bamboo sheets or just want to know more about them, we're answering everything you need to know about the multi-faceted fabric.
What are bamboo sheets?
Bamboo sheets are made of fibers from the bamboo plant. If you've ever seen a bamboo plant in real life, you know they can grow super long and tall, which makes for ultra-thin and flexible fibers when they're woven into a material.
Unlike cotton sheets, bamboo sheets don't go after a high thread count to ensure their quality. Lower thread count bamboo sheets will actually feel incredibly soft and silky.
The process of extracting bamboo fibers to turn them into sheets is known as retting. This process involves immersing crushed bamboo in a liquid mixture so it can be easily woven into fibers.
Because bamboo is a type of grass, it's considered more sustainable to weave into a fabric—as soon as farmers cut it out, it begins to regrow in the same place. However, the New York Times reports that the retting process involves a chemical solution that is harmful for people to breathe and can cause environmental harm when released into the air.
The pros and cons of bamboo sheets
- Cooling: Bamboo sheets naturally wick away moisture as you sleep, which makes them a great option for those who sweat or get warmer at night. Bamboo fabric doesn't lock in heat but rather allows it to flow through the fabric, keeping you cooler.
- Durable: The retting process ensures that bamboo sheets will hold up over time. Most bamboo sheets last up to six years when cared for properly.
- Soft: Bamboo fiber is soft to the touch.
- Hypoallergenic: Because bamboo sheets reduce the amount of moisture trapped in your bed as you sleep, allergies may also be reduced, making bamboo sheets both sustainable and hypoallergenic.
- Expensive: High-quality bamboo sheets will generally last you a long time, which means they come with a high price tag. Expect to pay anywhere from $100-$300 for a set.
- Prone to wrinkling: Some bamboo fabrics will easily wrinkle—but if you remove them quickly from the dryer, you should be able to avoid this.
- Prone to shrinking: Make sure to follow wash care instructions for your bamboo sheets because they can shrink. Typically, they require a cold wash and low tumble dry.
- Retting process can be bad for the environment: The retting process of bamboo fabric can have negative effects on the environment due to the harmful chemicals used.
Bamboo vs. cotton sheets: How do they differ?
Cotton is the most common material used in the manufacturing of sheets for a few different reasons. First, cotton sheets are very soft and easy to care for and get softer after each wash, unlike bamboo sheets.
Cotton sheet sets can be more expensive depending on their thread counts and organic fabric type; they're also extremely breathable and moisture-wicking, making them perfect for hot sleepers.
Bamboo sheets will be soft upon first wash and generally feel the same over time. The color of the fabric is less likely to fade over time, compared to cotton sheets.
They're typically more expensive than conventional cotton sheets due to the retting process. Bamboo and cotton sheets are both moisture-wicking and breathable.
What to look for in bamboo sheets
Bamboo sheets will typically be labeled as rayon/viscose bamboo or Tencel (lyocell) bamboo. Rayon/viscose bamboo is a bamboo fabric that has been woven with other materials, whereas Tencel bamboo uses more environmentally-friendly chemicals during the creation process.
Fibers from the bamboo plant are woven into the material used to create the sheets. Bamboo sheets are typically available in twill and sateen varieties. A twill weave is a very tightened weave that will be durable and hold up over time. Sateen weaves are considered softer to the touch. Whichever type of weave you prefer is entirely up to you and your comfort level.
Bamboo sheets are typically machine washable; just make sure to read the care instructions on the sheets you purchase. In general, to upkeep bamboo sheets over time, you should wash them in cold water and tumble dry them on low in the dryer.
Bamboo sheets are typically not priced under $100 for a set. The price will increase depending on the type of weave, the type of fabrics used, and if those materials are organic or not.
Are bamboo sheets good?
Bamboo sheets are durable, can be found in organic options, and are moisture-wicking. They're a good choice, depending on your personal preferences and price range.
Are bamboo sheets cooling?
Bamboo sheets are naturally breathable and moisture-wicking, however, so is cotton. Some shoppers report that cotton sheets are even more cooling than bamboo sheets.
What's the downside of bamboo sheets?
Bamboo sheets are typically more expensive than cotton sheets, and according to some reports, might not be much more environmentally friendly than cotton, depending on the retting process and the materials sourced for the sheets.
Is cotton or bamboo better?
This depends entirely on your preferences. Cotton sheets may be more cooling to some and get softer upon each wash. Bamboo sheets will typically retain the same look and feel over time.
For more advice on finding the right sheets, check out our guide to the best luxury sheets on the market.