Linen vs Cotton: Differences and Comparison (With Table)

Linen and cotton are two popular fabrics in the clothing industry, especially when it comes to cool and comfortable in summer. Linen and cotton have similar features and uses, such as both of them are the nice choice for beddings, curtains, sheets, T-shirts, and so on. But linen and cotton fabrics also have many differences.

The key differences between linen and cotton fabric lie in their appearance and material composition. Linen fabric is thicker and has a more rough feel than cotton. Cotton fabric is smoother and warmer compared with linen.

linen vs cotton

No matter whether you’re buying ready-made clothes made of linen or cotton, or want to buy linen and cotton fabric to make daily necessities like beddings or curtains by yourself, knowing the differences between linen and cotton and making a wise decision is important. This article will explore the properties of linen and cotton, as well as their differences.

Linen vs Cotton: Comparison Chart

The following chart shows the basic properties and uses of linen and cotton fabrics.

Basis for ComparisonLinenCotton
Fiber TypeNatural fiber from flax plantsNatural fiber from cotton plants
AppearanceSlightly rough and thickerSmoother than linen
ManufactureFlax plants are retting and degumming, then dry in the open. Remove the xylem and impurities. Natural quality linen fibers are extracted from the plant, spun into yarn, then woven into linen fabric.Cotton is collected from the cotton plant bolls, then processed and combed into yarn, and weaved together to form the cotton fabric.
PropertiesLinen fabric is breathable, cool, comfortable, soft, luxurious, as well as sustainable.Cotton fabric is soft, durable, lightweight, breathable, and absorbent.
Environment ImpactLinen is biodegradable and recyclable. It is environmentally friendly.Cotton is biodegradable and recyclable. But the cotton planting and fabric production need chemicals that have side impacts on the environment.
UsesClothes such as shirts, casual trousers, knitted T-shirts and underwear. Beddings like linen pillow seats, bedspreads, curtains, and tablecloths.Shirts, T-shirts, beddings, curtains, carpets, etc.

What Is Linen Fabric

Linen is a type of natural fiber extracted from flax plants. It’s an old fabric that has been used for thousands of years. Linen fabric is very popular in the apparel and fashion industry today due to the increasing awareness of environmental protection.

Due to its natural and sustainable features, linen fabric is lightweight, breathable, cool, and has a slightly rough feel. And it has great moisture absorption, which makes it an ideal clothing fabric in summer to keep you cool and comfortable. Today, not only the linen clothes gaining popularity among people, the linen towels, bedding sheets, tablecloths, and napkins are also very prevalent.

What Is Cotton

Cotton fabric is made of a natural staple fiber derived from the cotton plants. It is the most universal and widely used fabric around the world due to its large production and relatively cheap cost.

Similar to linen fabric, cotton fabric is breathable, lightweight, absorbent, and strong. Combined with different types of fibers, cotton fibers can be made into a variety of fabrics for a wide range of clothes, for example, fine velvets for eveningwear and sturdy workwear have different levels of cotton fiber content.

Linen vs Cotton: 10 Key Differences

When it comes to linen vs cotton fabric, there are numbers of key differences between them that you can’t ignore. Below are the 12 key differences between linen and cotton fabrics.

1. Softness

Softness is an important factor when we buy clothes or beddings. Generally speaking, cotton is softer than linen fabric, because cotton fiber is fluffier than linen and the cotton fibers are woven tightly together, making it soft and comfortable. Besides, linen fiber is rougher than cotton fiber.

2. Breathability

Both linen and cotton fabric are known for good breathability since they are from natural plants. But when comparing their breathability of them, linen fabric is more breathable than cotton. Linen fibers, also called flax fibers, are more hollow to allow air to circulate freely, which is a vital factor for the fabric to keep breathable.

On the other hand, the breathability of cotton depends on how its fibers are woven. Some cotton weaves, like canvas, are thicker and less breathable because they are woven tightly. If the cotton fibers are woven loosely, the fabric will be more breathable.

3. Durability

Actually, both cotton and linen fabric can be used for a long time if they are taken care of properly. When it comes to durability, linen is better than cotton. Because the raw material of linen is much more rigid than cotton fibers, the cellulose fibers in linen yarn are slightly longer and wrapped tighter than that of cotton, which improves the durability of linen fabric greatly.

4. Moisture Absorbency

Both linen and cotton fabric have good moisture absorbency, but cotton performs better than linen at this point, as the cotton fabric can absorb up to 25% of its weight in water, while linen can hold up to 20% only.

Thanks to their good absorbency, you can keep dry quickly no matter how much you sweat as long as you choose clothes made of linen and cotton fabric. And linen clothing can reduce the human body sweat 1.5 times less than wearing cotton clothing.

5. Wrinkle Resistance

Both linen and cotton fabric have poor wrinkle resistance because they are natural fibers from plants, and plants are close to water is a natural instinct, which makes them wrinkle easily. Manufacturers have created linen blends and cotton blends to improve their wrinkle resistance, which is also a good choice if you get tired of wrinkled clothes.

6. Shrink Resistance

Linen and cotton will shrink when they are washed. And usually, the cotton fabric will shrink a lot more than linen because cotton fiber has strong water absorption than linen, and when it absorbs water, the cotton fiber swells, making the cotton yarn shorten and deform easily. The average shrinkage of linen fabric is about 4%, so now many companies are selling pre-washed linen clothes to avoid such problems and keep their shape and size as possible.

7. Hypoallergenic

Both linen and cotton fabrics are hypoallergenic. And the linen is slightly better for people with allergies than cotton. Since flax plants can emit a faint scent that experts believe can inhibit the growth of bacteria and mites, reducing the chance to get allergenic. Anyway, linen and cotton fabrics are beneficial and harmless to the human body even if worn for a long time.

8. Warmth

Cotton has a better ability to keep warm than linen. Since cotton fiber is a poor conductor of heat and electricity, it has the advantages of porosity and high elasticity, which allows it to accumulate air to keep heat not going quickly, thus wearing cotton clothes is warm and comfortable. But linen fibers are hollow, which makes it cool in summer, but in winter it won’t keep you warm better.

9. Alkali Resistance

Linen and cotton have good resistance to alkali, but not acid. And cotton gets higher remarks than linen at this point. Cotton fiber and linen fiber are not easily damaged in alkali solutions. This performance is beneficial to washing of pollution, disinfection, and removal of impurities after taking it. At the same time, it can also dye, print, and remove cotton and linen textiles.

10. Price

Linen fabric is more expensive than cotton. Because linen fabric has a costly producing process and is hard to weave due to the easily broken features of flax fibers. On the other hand, the production of cotton around is far more than linen fibers, which causes the relatively lower cost of cotton.

Linen vs Cotton Sheets, Which Is Better?

The key difference between linen and cotton sheets is that linen sheets are more durable and can keep you cool in hot weather. Though cotton is also suitable in summer, sometimes it may make feel too warm. But if you want to get soft sheets, cotton will be a good choice because linen fabric is stronger, and a little heavier than cotton. Anyway, linen and cotton sheets are popular in summer. And linen sheets and pillows are the first choices for many hotels because of their durability and hypoallergenic qualities.

Linen vs Cotton Shirt, Which Is Better?

As mentioned above, cotton and linen clothing are very breathable and absorbency, which makes them a great choice for closets during the summer months and all year round. And cotton shirts and linen shirts are quite common in hot summer.

When it comes to linen shirts vs cotton shirts, the key difference between them depends on where you would love to wear them. If you need a beach outfit, linen shirts will be great for you, since linen clothing can help you sweat 1.5 times less than cotton ones, and keep you dry for a long time. If you just want to take a rest in lounge sessions, both linen and cotton shirts will allow you to enjoy the high level comfortable as you need.


Linen and cotton are natural fibers derived from different plants, and both of them are bearable, durable, warm, and moisture-wicking at different levels. Knowing their differences will help you choose the satisfying clothes and sheets quickly.

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