The choices of bed sheet materials have expanded way beyond cotton. While it's sure to remain a staple fabric in the sleep world, there are two alternatives making their way into the industry: Tencel and bamboo.
With benefits including better temperature regulation, cooling properties, and, most importantly, a smaller carbon footprint, both Tencel and bamboo are becoming top choices for those wanting to sleep better and shop more sustainably.
But what are the differences? With similarities in look and feel, it can be quite easy to mistake one for the other unless you've been informed otherwise. Both are marketed as having the environment at the forefront, are recommended for hot sleepers, and are super soft to the touch. Turns out, it's all in the manufacturing process, and one could actually be an eco-friendlier option than the other.
To decode marketing jargon and find out which bed sheet material is better for you, and the earth, we've spoken to bedding experts for their insight and knowledge on bed sheet making and materials. As H&G's sleep editor, I've also tested out both Tencel and bamboo bed sheets. Having compared my sleep experience, there is a clear best bed sheet winner in the Bamboo vs Tencel sheet debate. Tencel is far better at cooling and is a must-buy for hot sleepers.
Bamboo vs Tencel sheets
Before heading into which is the better bed sheet fabric, it's worth knowing 'What is Tencel?' and the benefits it can have on sleep. Tencel solely refers to the trademarked name for lyocell fibers. These fibers are eco-friendly and can be used to make cooling, soft, silky bedsheets.
What's the difference between bamboo and Tencel bedding?
The difference between bamboo vs Tencel sheets lies not only in how they feel, or even their sleep benefits, but in how they are made.
As Anni Stromfeld, co-founder of sustainable bedding brand SIJO, explains, 'Bamboo and Tencel are extremely similar because both originate from wood pulp. Both fibers lead to bedding with a cooling feeling, breathability, and hypoallergenic properties. Things differ, though, in the creation process of each fiber.
'Tencel is lyocell, which is made in a closed-loop process and has raw materials that are certified to be sustainable,' Anni continues. Lyocell is made from high-cellulose wood pulp. It's similar to vicose fibers like rayon, but it's made without carbon disulfide, which can be toxic. Tencel and lyocell are the same thing. Tencel is a brand name, in the same way that 'coke' and 'Coca Cola' are the same.
Bamboo fabrics, on the other hand, require a more complicated process and can be created differently. Amanda Turner, VP of Product & Innovation at eco bedding brand Ettitude states, 'Not all bamboo textiles are created equal. Bamboo fabrics can be rayon, modal, or lyocell (like Tencel), meaning some bamboo bedding could contain harmful toxins.'
Many brands might not disclose the type of bamboo fiber they use in their bed sheets, so it's important to shop with one that does.
'Ettitude uses 100% organically grown bamboo lyocell which is non-toxic,' she explains. 'Ettitude spent years of refining and testing its signature lyocell fabric to create the world’s first, proprietary CleanBamboo that is 100% pesticide free and made in a closed-loop manufacturing process.'
Co-founder Anni Stromfeld started SIJO alongside childhood friend Jacob Xi after reconnecting and bonding over their shared interest in entrepreneurship and a desire to build an ethical and sustainable business in the health/wellness area. Her vision was to transform how consumers think and feel about the home.
Anni, Jacob, and their team focus on creating sustainable, performance-driven products that boast healthy benefits and unparalleled quality and have a simple, modern aesthetic that suits any home.
Amanda Turner is the Vice President of product and innovation at eco-friendly bedding company ettitude. She has over 15 years of product innovation experience in performance products for both hard lines and soft lines with a specialty in sustainable material inputs. Amanda's passion lies in improving existing conventional products through enhanced performance features while pushing the boundaries of sustainable raw materials and manufacturing processes to reduce impact and provide a greener solution.
Which material is better for sleep?
Putting the manufacturing methods aside, which is better for sleep? Both claim to have cooling benefits, including temperature regulation, moisture-wicking, breathability, and feeling cold to the touch. Texture-wise, they're both soft with a silky finish.
If you are a hot sleeper, Tencel eucalyptus is the clear winner. I have to reach for my Tencel set during hot weather and heatwaves as I find it to be much, much cooler than bamboo. It's cold and crisp with a more lightweight feel that keeps you comfortable throughout the night.
Bamboo bed sheets have a slightly brushed feel, and they're a good substitute when my Tencel sheets are in the wash: they're breathable but I've also felt cozy on colder nights.
Bamboo vs Tencel: a comparison
I've tested both of these best cooling sheets. Very similar in style, look and feel, they can be difficult to differentiate. But they do have their differences. I've compared them both below, with specs and information to help you see both the similarities and how one may outweigh the other – aside from the manufacturing process.
Best Tencel bed sheets
Sizes: Twin, twin XL, full, queen, king, California king
Material: 100% TENCEL™ Lyocell
OEKO-TEK certified: Yes
If you're prone to overheating at night, Tencel bed sheets are a must. Eco-friendly and made from all-natural materials, they have sleep properties that actively work to release and dissipate heat as you need it. Moisture-wicking, naturally antimicrobial, and breathable, these vegan sheets are a life-changer for hot sleepers.
- Cold to the touch
- Ultra breathable
- Great price
- Soft and smooth
- Prone to wrinkling
Best bamboo bed sheets
Sizes: Twin, twin XL, full, queen, king, California king
OEKO-TEK certified: Yes
Sustainably made, naturally cooling and temperature regulating, Ettitude's sheet set made of CleanBamboo fabric is my favorite for summer. Smooth to the touch, and moisture-wicking they kept me (a sweaty sleeper) cool at night. They wash well and never need to be ironed. I love how luxurious the silky finish looks draped over the bed.
- Naturally breathable
- Stylish sateen finish
- Silky look isn't for everyone
- More expensive
Is Tencel more expensive than bamboo?
Just like there is little difference in the look and feel, bamboo and Tencel tend to be around a similar price. The variety in cost will therefore depend on the brand. Bigger bedding brands may be able to charge more than others because of quality and material processes.
That being said, Tencel should cost more than bamboo because the sourcing of materials and manufacturing uses more sustainable practices. This might be something to keep in mind when buying. It's possible to buy cheap bamboo or eucalyptus (Tencel) bedding sets from Amazon, Target, or other retailers, but you should check the specs to see whether they use the Tencel trademark and what chemical processes are involved.
Generally bamboo and Tencel are more expensive than cotton or polyester bedding. But it's always worth investing in better sleep, and a better environment.
Why is Tencel so popular?
Tencel by Lenzing is quickly becoming one of the most popular material choices in both bedding and clothing. Why? With a growing interest in shopping sustainably and investing in products that are made to last, Tencel is an eco-friendly option that's durable and sustainable. Made from eucalyptus wood, it has a smaller carbon footprint than cotton and uses no chemical dyes or processes in comparison to previous wood-derived fabrics like rayon or modal. Not to mention it has amazing cooling properties, is super soft to the touch, and has a luxuriously silky smooth finish.
While the difference between bamboo and Tencel isn't immediately clear, it pays to do your research. Not checking the material properties and specifications is a major bed sheet-buying mistake – especially if you're wanting to shop and sleep sustainably. Don't let marketing jargon and false advertisement lead you into buying a product that isn't as eco-friendly as it seems. It's a jungle out there.
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Louise is your eCommerce Editor and sleep specialist to help you wind down well. A connoisseur of the mattress world, Louise previously covered sleep and wellness (as well as the occasional organizational buy) at Real Homes, and has tried, tested, and reviewed some of the buys for your bedroom. With an MA in International Journalism and PR experience, Louise brings bags of bedding expertise and enjoys nothing more than helping readers find solutions and products that best suit their sleep needs.
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