Understandably there is some confusion when it comes to discussing “linen” as it relates to bedding. For some, “linen” is a description of a weave and a look and for others “linen” is a description of a fabric.
For our purposes, “linen” is a fabric and a raw material. Again, because there is some confusion, let’s be clear: linen (or flax) is a plant grown in different regions of the world and has no relation whatsoever to cotton. It might help to think of linen as a cousin of bamboo (they have a similar cross section).
Why make bedding out of linen? Fair question. We love bedding made from cotton because it is very smooth and soft and because it is cool, especially when compared to poly/cotton blends. Linen is not as smooth or as soft as cotton, but it is much cooler.
Let’s talk technical for a second. When analyzing a fabric, the terms hydrophobic and hydrophilic describe how a fabric hates or loves water. The more a fabric loves water, the cooler that fabric will feel. For example, polyester is a hydrophobic fabric and does not absorb water (which is why stains in polyester are very hard to get out). Cotton is a hydrophilic fabric that absorbs and releases water easily and as a result is very cool (think evaporative cooling). Linen is about twice as hydrophilic as cotton, which is why it is such a wonderful fabric, especially on a hot day.
Linen bedding, in comparison to cotton bedding, will be:
Not as soft or as smooth
Will wrinkle more and require ironing to look its best
Will last longer
Is significantly more cool
And the wrinkle more and the not as smooth will lessen over time and multiple washings as the linen yarns “relax.”
The fine hotels in Europe discovered many years ago about the virtues of providing their guests with linen bedding. Adding a tiny bit of starch to the ironing process will give linen sheets an amazingly crisp feel that cotton sheets cannot achieve. If you’ve ever visited a fine hotel in Europe, you know what we mean. The sleeping experience is memorable.