What Is Cotton and What Is Linen? Cotton vs. Linen Fabrics

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Linen and cotton are both natural fibre materials that are long-lasting, breathable, and soft. So, how do they differ?

When comparing linen and cotton, each material thrives on various characteristics, such as breathability or absorbency. Cotton and linen are both eco-friendly materials since they are manufactured from natural fibres, but there are numerous subtle nuances that distinguish cotton and linen textiles.


What Is Cotton?

Cotton is a staple fibre made from the cotton plant, which belongs to the Gossypium genus and the Malvaceae family.

Cotton is a staple fibre, meaning it is made up of different lengths of material. Cotton fabric is manufactured from cotton plants' natural fibres. The component of the cotton plant that develops in the boll, the encasing for the fluffy cotton fibres, creates the cloth. Cotton is a fluffy, soft fibre that is spun and woven into a strong cloth.


What Is Linen?

Linen is a strong, lightweight fabric derived from the flax plant, which belongs to the genus Linum and the family Linaceae. "Linen" is derived from the Latin term for flax, "linum usitatissimum."

Linen, like cotton, is a natural fibre, but it takes longer to collect and manufacture into fabric because flax strands can be tough to weave. The fibres are removed from the plant and kept for extended periods of time in order to soften them. Towels, tablecloths, napkins, and bedsheets are all made from linen. The name "linens" is still used to describe these household products, even though they are not necessarily composed of linen cloth.


9 Differences Between Cotton and Linen: Cotton vs. Linen

Cotton and linen differ significantly in several ways. They are as follows:

Durability - Cotton has more elasticity and flexibility than linen but is less durable. Egyptian cotton, for example, is created from long-staple cotton fibres, making it softer and more durable than normal cotton, but not as durable as linen. Linen is stiffer yet lasts far longer than cotton yarn because the cellulose fibres in linen yarn are somewhat longer and coiled tighter than those in cotton yarn, increasing its strength and lifespan.

Softness - Because flax fibres are harsher than cotton fibres, cotton is gentler to the touch than linen. Cotton sheets, for example, are extremely soft immediately out of the box and may last up to five years, but linen sheets become extremely soft after numerous washes and can last up to 30 years.

Texture - Cotton is a smoother fabric, but linen has a rougher, textured pattern due to its looser weave.

Appearance - Cotton peels more than linen due to the weaker fibres. Cotton and linen both wrinkle quickly due to their natural fibre content, while linen wrinkles significantly more due to their rigidity.

Hypoallergenic - Cotton and linen are both hypoallergenic; however, linen is somewhat better for allergy sufferers due to the lower thread count and loose weave, which are less prone to retain dust and allergens.

Absorbency - Cotton and linen are both incredibly absorbent, and water helps to strengthen both linen and cotton fibres. Cotton is somewhat more absorbent than linen, since it can hold more than 25% of its weight in water, whilst linen can store up to 20% of its weight in water.

Water wicking - Linen is also naturally water-wicking, meaning it pulls moisture (or sweat) away from the skin and dries rapidly. Cotton wicks moisture effectively as well, although it lacks the inherent wicking capacity of linen.

Breathability - Cotton and linen fabrics are both breathable, albeit the permeability of cotton is determined more by the weave than by the fibres themselves. Denim and canvas weaves are heavier and less breathable than other cotton weaves. The flax linen fibres, on the other hand, are hollow, allowing air and water to flow freely.

Warmth - Cotton does not carry heat and has insulating characteristics similar to fibreglass, a common house insulation material. The hollow flax strands of linen make it quite cool in the summer, but it should be layered in the winter.

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