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Are bamboo sheets better than silk?

Both bamboo and silk sheets have a reputation for being soft, touchable, and luxurious. If you’re ready to invest in a set of silky smooth sheets but aren’t sure which fabric to choose, you’ve come to the right place.

First we’ll discuss the differences between these two fabrics. Then, we’ll compare and contrast them in all the most important categories.

What Are Silk Sheets?

Silk is an incredibly strong and smooth fiber, created by an insect called the silkworm. Silkworms spin a single silk thread to make their cocoons.  When they are finished, silkworm harvesters dissolve the cocoon, which is then processed and turned into commercial silk thread. 

The sheets woven from silk thread are the softest and most luxurious bedding product on the market. Real silk sheets will be soft and touchable, not slippery.

What Are Bamboo Sheets?

To make bamboo sheets, the stalks of the bamboo plant are harvested. A chemical process called viscose dissolves the bamboo stalks and allows cellulose to be extracted.  The cellulose is spun into fibers, which are then woven into fabric.

Bamboo vs Silk Sheets Pros & Cons

Here we rank bamboo sheets pros and cons against silk sheets to see which one is better for animal friendliness, eco- friendliness, breathability and durability .

Animal Friendliness

Winner: Bamboo

As we discussed above, silk comes from silkworms. Domesticated silkworms have been bred for silk production for thousands and thousands of years. 

Selective breeding has led to changes in this species that make them unable to survive in the wild.  If you have made the personal choice not to consume products that rely on animals for production, bamboo sheets are a better choice for you than silk.  No animals are involved in the production of bamboo fabric.

Eco-friendliness

Winner: Silk

Both silk and bamboo are natural fabrics that will biodegrade over time.

Bamboo is often touted as an eco-friendly raw material due to the astonishing growth rate of the rigid grass. 

Growing up to two feet in a single 24 hour period, it would be easy to succumb to the idea that bamboo sheets are environmentally neutral.  

Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. The chemical process used to turn bamboo stalks into weavable fiber creates byproducts that are released into the atmosphere and contaminate the environment. Silk is harvested using hot water or steam rather than harsh chemicals.

On the other hand, cultivating bamboo does not require the use of pesticides and antibiotics.  Sustaining silkworms requires providing them with a steady diet of mulberry leaves, and all those leaves have to come from somewhere. 

Mulberry trees require some pesticides and fertilizers, but not as many as a plant like cotton.

Breathability

Winner: Tied

The breathability of a given fabric product comes down more to the weave than the material.

Silk sheets are always constructed using a satin weave. Bamboo sheets are commonly available in percale or sateen weave.

Percale is a tight weave, meaning not much air gets through it, and yet percale bamboo sheets have a reputation for breathability. 

How can this be?  Because bamboo is a heat-wicking material, it helps regulate temperature and keep sleepers cool. The crispness of percale bamboo keeps these sheets from conforming closely to your body, leading to better air circulation during the night.

When bamboo fibers are woven into a particular pattern, that pattern is called ‘sateen’.  When silk fibers are woven into the exact same pattern, it is referred to instead as ‘satin’. 

So: same weave pattern, different material, different names.  Satin or sateen weave fabrics are much less tightly woven than percale. 

This allows more air to flow through the fabric, increasing the breathability, regardless of whether the sheets are made from silk or bamboo.

Silk sheets conform more closely to the contours of your body, which can reduce overall air flow. Additionally, should you perspire during the night, silk sheets are likely to show perspiration stains in the morning.  Bamboo sheets are much more resistant to sweat.

By considering all these factors, you’ll be able to decide whether you should opt for bamboo or silk sheets.