Between the Sheets

Snug as a bug

Cozy and environmentally friendly bed sheets are the first step in sleeping soundly through the night; many are available that are made from natural fibers such as cotton, bamboo, modal, linen, hemp, and even silk.

Top Tips

    • Only buy what you need. If you’re happy with your current sheets, keep using them. Overzealous consumerism is behind many of the environmental crises we’re facing.
Organic Cotton Sheet
  • Shop for quality. If you buy good-quality sheets, they will last longer.
  • Conduct experiments.
    How fabric feels against the skin is very personal. Do your initial shopping in stores that have samples or, better yet, try lying on a friend’s silk, linen, or bamboo sheets. And if you are considering sheets made of bamboo or modal, which are new to the market, buy from a store that lets you return opened sheets if you don’t like them.
  • Insist on organic cotton. Organic cotton is a must to minimize environmental pollution from pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. If you really want to go chemical-free, purchase bed linens that are unbleached and undyed in the traditional cream color and also various natural shades of cotton.


  • Formaldehyde. Some sheets are labeled as formaldehyde-free, but most give no indication of whether they contain formaldehyde. Formaldehyde has been linked to cancer, asthma attacks, and other ailments. Keep in mind that by forfeiting formaldehyde, you may have to live with some wrinkles in the sheets. Here’s a quick guide to finding fabrics that are formaldehyde-free.
FormaldehydeNO formaldehyde
  • all polyester/cotton blends
  • any fabric labeled permanent-press,
    easy-care, or
  • any fabric labeled “no formaldehyde”
  • any cotton flannel fabric
  • any cotton jersey fabric

Other Considerations

  • As to comfort, many people prefer the feel of high-quality, organic cotton, but other linens have advantages for different reasons or situations.
  • Bamboo and modal bed linens are less durable than cotton, but more absorbent and usually cheaper than organic cotton. Made from flax, linen is highly breathable and becomes wonderfully soft over time. Its downside is that it costs more upfront, takes a few washings to soften, and wrinkles when laundered.
  • If you can afford to splurge, silk sheets can be found on the Web or at luxury linen stores. But washable silk is expensive and may not last as long as cotton unless treated with great care.


…to you and your health
Sheets made of natural materials are breathable and comfortable. Plus, they can help you sleep better.

…to the Earth
Natural fibers are renewable. If you buy those that are grown organically (without pesticides or synthetic fertilizers), you’ll spare the environment that toxic burden.

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