Over the years, linen sheets have been deemed a high-end product, and with good reason. Linen can surpass cotton in terms of quality and durability, and it feels amazing.
Like any product, there are cons as well as pros to linen, but it's hard to deny the appeal of this lovely fabric when it comes to bedding.
Linen is breathable, which means air can circulate fairly easily through the fabric. This helps to keep you cool during warm summer nights. Unlike cotton sheets that get warm and stay warm, linen lets excess that warm air escape. The breathability also helps prevent the trapping of dust and other allergenic particles.
Linen fibers are thicker than cotton fibers, making them stronger. The thickness means they are more resistant to wear and tear over time. In addition, flax fiber does not break down and pill eventually, like cotton fibers.
The average lifespan of regular linen bedding is 5 to 7 years, but with proper care, you can extend the lifespan significantly. Some people still use the same linen sheets they bought a decade ago!
Linen is made from a naturally sourced material that is renewable, making it environmentally friendly. The strands get extracted from the flax stalks manually, unlike some other fabrics, which for which the fibers are extracted using toxic chemicals.
Because linen lasts for such a long time, you are lessening your carbon footprint by replacing your bedding less often. Additionally, linen fabric is biodegradable, unlike fabrics made with a mix of synthetic fibers.
Linen fabric is moisture-wicking, which means it can help keep you dry even when you sweat. This makes it a comfortable cover, especially during hot summer months. Linen is also germ-proof: this fast-drying quality means it doesn't retain moisture that can allow mildew to grow.
Because natural fibers make up linen fabric, the material is naturally hypoallergenic and therefore ideal for sensitive skin. In addition, linen is antimicrobial and antibacterial, for the reasons listed above. It's also resistant to dust mites and other critters drawn to many fabric types. Furthermore, it's anti-static.
The fabric also gets softer after several washes — one more pro for people with particularly picky skin.
Unlike some cotton production, linen production is labor-intensive and time-consuming, making it expensive. Additionally, flax doesn't grow as widely, increasing the cost of sourcing the raw materials.
Additionally, the flax stalk strands are more fragile, so it takes more care and skill to weave them into fabric. Expert handiwork adds to the production cost.
Linen fabric is made using the plain weave style. While this has many pros — the weave style determines the smoothness, strength, durability, and tear strength of the fabric — it does make it challenging to get different patterns.
As a result, most manufacturers stick to solid shades, and the focus on eco-friendly means strong dyes for bold color are uncommon. If you do happen to find boldly colored or patterned linen, expect to pay even more than the already high price tag.
Linen tends to shrink, especially when washed with hot water. It is especially likely to shrink during the first wash, so it's important to use cold water or buy a size larger than your bed.
Linen fabric is also prone to fading when you wash it, due to color shedding. That means you may not be able to use regular washing detergent, as most brands contain bleaching particles that will encourage this color loss.
Unfortunately, linen sheets tend to be rough during the initial use, they do get softer with each wash. When you buy linen, you should be prepared to either wash them once or twice before use, or put up with the stiffness for a few weeks until the fabric is seasoned.
Add some baking soda to your washing water to help soften the fabric — about half a cup for a regular cycle. A fabric softener can also do the trick, in addition to making your sheets smell lovely. Adding vinegar to the wash is a cheaper hack, but make sure to read the wash instructions for your specific sheet set.
Linen fabric is prone to creasing when washed as well as when used. While this doesn't hinder their usefulness, it can upset people who prefer crisp bedding. Linen needs low heat to be ironed and is difficult to get smooth except if steamed. Luckily, the "lived-in" look of linen is becoming an increasingly popular trend, which makes bed making that much simpler.
While there are certainly some cons to linen, if you can afford this natural fabric, most of the negatives are heavily outweighed by the positives!