Getting into a bed with cold sheets on a winter's night can be a pretty miserable experience. Flannel sheets have solved that problem for years, but something new is available. Recently developed fleece sheets are giving flannel quite a bit of competition. Some call fleece "the new flannel," but there are significant differences between the two.
Natural vs. Synthetic Fibers
Flannel is made from natural cotton fiber, woven with a thickness that gives it extra warmth. Fleece sheets are made from polyester. The fleece gives them a fluffy appearance. The sheets can have the soft, brushed fleecing on both sides or only on one side with flat polyester on the other.
Flannel is a thick cotton cloth that can last for many years and through many washings. Fleece can also be durable, but some fleece sheets are very thin. The thin sheets are not as durable as thicker ones. Flannel also comes in varying quality, with the higher quality flannels being thicker, softer and more durable.
Shrinkage and Pilling
Flannel is made from cotton, which means it can shrink. Fleece is polyester and will not shrink. Although flannel can shrink, the sheets can be pulled to fit mattresses, so the shrinkage has not been a problem for most consumers. Most manufacturers of fleece sheets recommend that they be washed in cold water on gentle cycle so they will not pill (form small balls of fuzz). Flannel sheets can be washed in warm or hot water. Some flannel will pill, but higher quality flannel will not.
Flannel sheets are quite warm to sleep on. Most people consider them uncomfortable in hot weather. Fleece sheets are mainly for late fall to early spring use, although many people claim that they remain comfortable except in the very hottest days of the year.
Both types of sheets are found among inexpensive to moderately priced bedding and are readily available in many stores. Generally, fleece is somewhat less expensive than flannel.
J.M. Pence has written magazine articles and essays for a variety of publications, including “Sunset,” “Mystery Scene,” “Cat Fancy,” and “Idaho Magazine,” plus 15 novels, a novella, and several short stories. Published since 1987, Pence holds a master's degree in journalism and a B.A. in history with a minor in political science from U.C. Berkeley.