When shopping for sheets, the term microfiber may leave you wondering just what that really means. Unlike cotton or silk sheets, microfiber isn't a material at all. It's a term used to describe incredibly narrow fibers. Microfiber sheets are also synthetic and tend to be thinner and less expensive than cotton sheets.

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What Are Microfiber Sheets

Microfiber, Defined

Microfiber refers to any textile fiber that is less than 1 denier in thickness, which is thinner than a strand of silk of 1.25 deniers, on average. A denier is simply a French term used to describe the thicknesses of fibers, based on a word used for an old coin of little value. Thinner individual fibers mean the finished fabric is also thin and lightweight. This fabric also tends to feel silky, so the initial impression is that it's cool and smooth against the skin.

Microfiber is typically polyester, nylon or a combination of synthetic materials. Since they're synthetic, they tend to shrink and wrinkle less than some cotton sheets. They also dry quickly, since they're not as thick or bulky as other types of sheets. Although they're thin, microfiber sheets can be very strong, depending upon the materials used and the manufacturing process. Like thread counts on cotton sheets, the higher the microfiber denier count, the better the sheet quality. But these sheets may pill after numerous runs through a washer and dryer, although that's true for many forms of sheets.

Cotton Sheets

People love cotton sheets because of their versatile features. Cotton breathes better than synthetic fibers and microfiber, which helps keep you comfortably cool in bed. It also wicks away moisture better than microfiber if you do get too hot or sweaty. High-end cotton sheets cost more than most synthetic sheets. Any cotton sheet may pill after numerous washings and dryings, depending upon treatments applied during manufacturing. They may also shrink if not pre-shrunk by the manufacturer. The higher the thread count, the better the quality of the sheets when comparing two different types of cotton. Look for Egyptian, Pima and Supima cotton for the highest quality sheet options. Since cotton is an absorbent fiber, it takes a bit longer to dry a cotton sheet than a synthetic sheet. These sheets also wrinkle easily, so folding them right after they dry can help keep them somewhat wrinkle-free without ironing.

Micro Fleece

As the name implies, micro fleece is a form of fleece, but designed to be less bulky than a typical fleece. This fabric feels soft and supple against the skin and is usually made of polyester, like other fleeces. While it does provide warmth, it's not as breathable as cotton or microfiber, so it may make you uncomfortable if you get too hot while trying to sleep. It's also less expensive that many types of cotton sheets. Micro fleece feels warm and thick compared to microfiber, which feels more like silk.