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We break down the pros and cons of each to ensure you get a perfect night's sleep every time you hit the sack.

| By Bed Threads | Journal

Cotton, Linen, Silk, or Percale: Which Fabric Is Best for Sleeping in Summer?

We break down the pros and cons of each to ensure you get a perfect night's sleep every time you hit the sack.

Look, it might sound dramatic, but the right bedding can change your life. When you think about the fact that you spend such a huge proportion of your time in bed, it makes sense that finding the perfect bed sheets is crucial – because we all deserve to snooze well and live our best lives. And while it might be easy to get all snuggled up in the winter and fall asleep peacefully, summer can prove to be a difficult time to snooze because the heat is so disruptive – no one wants to wake up in a pool of their own sweat, right?

When it comes to selecting bedding, the most important question you should be asking is: what fabric should I choose? The right fabric will help you stay warm in winter and cool in summer, while the wrong fabric can do the opposite.

Not sure where to start? We’ve broken down the pros and cons of the three most popular fibres – cotton, linen, silk, and percale – and have weighed up which is the superior choice for summer. It's time to say goodbye to those uncomfortably warm nights repeatedly flipping your pillow over to the "cool" side.

What's the difference between cotton, linen, and silk bed sheets?


Cotton is the most common bedding textile as it's affordable, soft, and easy to source. Although the use of linen predates the discovery of cotton, the latter has since surpassed it in popularity due to the ease and high volume of cultivation. Importantly, the quality of cotton varies significantly — a factor that is born out of the different lengths of the material’s fibres that come in either short-staple or long-staple, with long-staple resulting in a more luxurious product.

On the highest end of the spectrum, long-staple cotton such as Pima and Egyptian round out the strongest and most expensive kinds of cotton, with the least chance of pulling or lint accumulation. In every case, however, cotton fabrics are relatively durable and chemically stable, meaning they can withstand the chemicals in human sweat, soaps and detergents. This is owed to the moisture-absorbent nature of cotton, which will wick away any trace of moisture from your skin.

The significant downside to cotton is that its non-organic variety can be extremely draining on our environment – from the pesticides and insecticides to the compounds used during the production and dying process. These chemicals inevitably find themselves in our water, soil and air if not disposed of safely.

Moreover, cotton also requires huge amounts of water for production – it can take over 20,000 litres of water to produce a single kilogram of cotton – from which one t-shirt and a single pair of jeans may be made. Should you choose to snooze in cotton, be sure it is an organic variety that's also ethically made and keep these considerations in mind.


Even though it has been available for centuries, silk remains one of the most coveted textiles for bedding due to its supremely soft feeling and high price tag.

A lot of work goes into the production of silk – it's born from a delicate string-like substance that's derived from a small and rare insect called the silkworm. The harvesting process is laborious and expensive; the insects must be killed and their silk is wound up tightly enough in order to withstand the weaving process that follows. The resulting material is comfortable, breathable and antimicrobial. Yet unlike its cotton competitor, silk does not absorb natural moisture from your face and hair.

Other notable cons of silk come down to cost and care. Silk bedding demands handwashing – at least for the first few times of use – and must then be washed on cool, delicate cycles and only with gentle detergent. If you're one to throw your sheets into the washing machine or dryer, you'll probably find your expensive silk purchases discolour, develop holes, and wear poorly over time.


Percale can be made of cotton, polyester or other materials, and refers to the type of weave used for the bedding; a plain or basket weave.

The most common material used for this type of bedding is cotton. Cotton farming often involves the use of pesticides and synthetic fertilisers, making it a less environmentally friendly option.

Percale is however smooth, breathable, and stays cool to the touch. Because bedding labelled 'percale' tells you more about the type of weave rather than the raw material used, it's important to do further digging into what you're buying.

Is cotton, linen, silk, or percale better for sleeping in summer?

Cotton is a lightweight and breathable fabric that allows air to circulate around your body, which can help to reduce sweat and heat buildup. Cotton also absorbs moisture well, which means that it can wick sweat away from your skin and help it evaporate more quickly. This can help you feel cooler and drier in hot and humid conditions.

Silk isn't ideal for summer because it doesn't absorb moisture well and can be less breathable. While silk can be lightweight and luxurious, it may not be the most comfortable choice for hot and humid weather.

Percale is a good choice for summer as it's breathable. However, it's not as durable or soft as linen, and if you want a naturally luxurious sleeping experience, you won't get quite the same effect as you would with linen.

Linen is comfortable all year round, keeping you cool and summer and warm in winter, so you don't have to swap your sheets as the seasons change. It’s all down to the fibres, which are longer than cotton and therefore create a looser weave within the fabric. Linen's moisture-wicking abilities play a part, too (linen can also absorb up to 20% of its own weight in moisture), wicking away perspiration and effectively regulating your body temperature – great news for anyone who gets really hot or cold at night.

Bottom line

Each fabric is breathable, but linen contains a higher moisture absorbency than cotton and silk combined. If you're wanting to stay as cool as possible in summer, linen is the best choice. Linen also demands fewer resources in its production, making it a comparatively eco-friendlier and more sustainable fabric than its competitors.

Unlike cotton, with its excessive demands for water, or silk harvesting, which kills millions of rare silk worms, flax plants are the most environmentally friendly and ethically conscious of the three.

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