Linen and cotton are both natural fabrics, which makes it easy to think they are both eco-friendly fabrics. But is this true? How do they score on strength, moisture and production in relation to each other?
Strength and durability
Linen is the most durable fabric in the world and is about 30% more durable than cotton. The linen fiber is thicker and often longer than the cotton fiber, which is why it is so strong and durable. Linen is also more loosely woven than cotton. This gives linen a certain elasticity, which adds to the durability of the fabric. Cotton bed sheets will last around three to five years, while linen bed sheets will only become softer with every wash and will last you a lifetime.
Cotton and linen are both prone to creasing. Linen does get less creased with every wash.
Cotton and linen both absorb around 20% of its weight in water. Linen has the natural ability to prevent bacterial growth. This makes linen very suitable for bed sheets and things like towels and shower curtains.
The production of linen is a lot more sustainable than the production of cotton. To grow cotton you need a lot more water than to grow flax: it requires a shocking 7000 liters of water to produce one pair of jeans.
No pesticides are used in the production of linen. The production of cotton, on the other hand, does require the use of pesticides. Organic cotton does not use pesticides, but here the problem is that sustainable cotton production needs a lot more land to grow than regular cotton. This land is running out because cotton is produced on such a large scale. Linen can grow on poor soil and is therefore much less harmful to the environment.