Linen vs. Cotton - What’s the difference?

Linen vs. Cotton

Linen and Cotton are both natural materials loved all over the world. Cotton is a highly popular material that is used to make a great variety of clothing, from women’s tops to children’s trousers and jumpers for men. Linen fabric, on the other hand, is a material that has been known since ancient times. For quite some time cotton has been far more popular than linen but nowadays linen is gaining more and more popularity every day. What are the main differences between these two fabrics?

What is linen?

Linen is a natural textile and its source is the flax plant, one of the oldest cultivated plants in our civilization.The flax plant is an annual crop that is highly cultivated in many cooler areas of the world. The linen fabric is made from the fibers that grow inside of the plant. Over the course of time, people have invented and used certain techniques for flax processing.

The fibers of the flax plant are naturally strong but nevertheless must be extracted with special care in order to avoid any possible damage and ensure the making of the high-quality linen fabric. If you would love to know more about linen, check out this post about what is linen made of.

What is cotton?

Cotton is a textile from nature. It is derived from a cotton plant and is very popular in many households. Cotton fabric is created from the cotton fibers that greatly variate in length. The material is very soft as the fibers of cotton are very fluffy. The term “cotton” comes from the part of the cotton plant that grows in the boll.

The material is being used to create a lot of products, from kitchen towels to summer dresses. When you are investigating your products, you will find that they are either from plain cotton, mixed cotton, or dyed cotton.

Linen vs. Cotton - differences between the textiles

Linen fabric vs. Cotton fabric

1. Visual characteristics

Usually cotton bobbles more than its counterpart linen, meaning that over time the material, especially if it is being highly used at all times, gets small ball-shaped threads on the surface. It happens as cotton fibers are generally weaker than linen’s. However, fear not, because you can always find and buy a gadget that is specifically designed to remove unwanted fluff and bobbles.

Moving on, linen is evidently more wrinkly than cotton. Both materials can wrinkle easy because they are made from natural fibers, but linen has more stiffness, therefore, is more prone to wrinkles.

2. Durability

Both linen and cotton are very durable and completely natural textiles. Nevertheless, cotton is a slightly more flexible material than linen and can stretch better. Although cotton has the before mentioned qualities, linen is more durable than cotton.

If you take proper care of your linen products, they will last you up to several decades. If you take good care of your cotton garments, they will also last you well. It all depends on the quality of the material and how well you take care of it. Cotton can last from 3-5 years to several decades.

If you decide to buy finer cotton, like Egyptian, know that it is made from long-staple fibers of cotton. These kinds of fibers make this cotton softer and better lasting than standard cotton. Anyhow, on the matter of durability, cotton loses to linen.

You can easily note that linen is way more rigid than cotton, but it also lasts longer because the yarn, from which the material is made, has tightly wrapped cellulose fibers. The fibers are also longer than the ones in the cotton yarn.

3. Drying

The quick-drying ability is seen in both materials. Linen is well known for being able to “magically” wick the moisture. When it is hot and the body starts to sweat, linen material draws the liquid out of your skin and proceeds to dry quickly. It works with all kinds of liquids. As mentioned before, cotton also sports this ability to draw out the water, but it is not as good and quick as the one noticed in linen fabric.

4. Absorbency

Cotton and linen fabrics have a fascinating power of absorbency. It is also known that water strengthens the fibers of both materials. Cotton is a little better absorbent than linen. Generally, cotton can hold approximately 25% of its weight in water, while linen holds up to 20%.

5. Breathability

Both natural materials are known to be very breathable, although there are some differences.

The breathability of cotton material depends entirely on how the fabric was made. It correlates directly with the weave of the fabric but not with the fibers of cotton themselves. Some materials of cotton, like denim or canvas are relatively less breathable, because they are thicker.

The breathability of linen depends on the flax linen fibers. The fibers are hollow, therefore, the linen material is highly breathable, meaning that air and water can circulate with ease.

6. Thermoregulation

You probably have heard about the cooling powers of linen material. That is the truth, linen is highly thermoregulatory material which has the ability to cool you down in hot environments and also can trap the heat when the environment is cold. However, it is advisable to layer linen, if the environment is very cold. Cotton, on the other hand, does not have these strong thermoregulatory qualities.

7. Hypoallergenic

Both materials are natural, meaning that they can most definitely be used by people suffering from allergies. Although cotton is great for sensitive skin and people with skin problems, linen is slightly more beneficial.

The material of linen is also great for sensitive skin, nonetheless, it is also just the perfect material for people that suffer from dust and allergies caused by small particles. The reason why linen is amazing in these kind of situations is because it has a lower thread count and is made from loose weave.

8. Softness

Is linen soft as cotton material? Maybe they are both known for this advantage?

The reality is, that normally cotton is softer to the touch, simply, because linen has rougher fibers than cotton.

However, linen material gets softer and softer with each and every wash, not mentioning that despite the washes, linen can easily last you for up to 30 years! Cotton material, although it is very soft from the start, normally lasts about 5 years.

9. Texture

It comes to no surprise that the texture of these two beautiful materials is different. The fabric of cotton is quite smooth, while linen material looks and feels quite rough compared and has a textured pattern, which is a result of the loose weave.

Conclusion: Pros and Cons of linen and cotton

MaterialLinenCotton
ProsHighly durable
Very breathable
Anti-static
Natural and ecological
Hypoallergenic
Softens & strengthens after every wash
Wide range of materials and weaves
Wide range of prices
Durable
Available worldwide
Softens after every wash
ConsThick and coarser texture and feeling
Wrinkles easily
Not a cheap option
Limited colour options
Wrinkles easily
Not as durable as synthetics
More expensive than synthetics
Prone to shrinkage

Wearing natural materials is becoming an essential thing for many people worldwide. You might be a fan of cotton, linen, or you could be interested in them both! We brought you some differences between these beautiful materials but which one to choose is up to you. LeMuse loves working with linen fabric because we adore how versatile and advantageous it is.