What’s the Real Difference Between Viscose and Cotton?

The type of bedding fabric you choose can determine the quality of your sleep. 

Some fabrics are more convenient to use than others, although this will be heavily influenced by your needs. Some people prefer fabrics that are easier to wash, while others prefer cooler materials.

In this article, we’ll compare viscose vs. cotton, weighing their pros, cons, similarities and differences to see which one would suit your preference better.

What Is Viscose Fabric?

Viscose is a type of rayon that is neither natural nor synthetic. Essentially, it is made from a natural source but mixed with chemicals. 

This alternative to silk material is made from a mixture of chemicals and natural wood pulp. Viscose material is extremely similar to rayon. This type of material looks like silk but feels more like cotton. 

First produced in 1883, viscose is relatively inexpensive to produce. This semi-synthetic fiber material blends well with other fabrics like polyester or even stretch fabrics like spandex. Breathability and absorbent features make it a great source material for sportswear.

Rayon viscose is majorly sourced from wood pulp. However, this semi-synthetic fabric must use pulp from specific trees. 

Viscose generally uses pulp from several tree plants, such as bamboo, sugarcane, soy, pine and eucalyptus. However, the bamboo plant and eucalyptus tree plants have standout qualities that make them superior choices.

Bamboo and eucalyptus tree plants have certain qualities that make them a preferable source. They are fast-growing and renewable plants that are very sustainable while also containing natural breathable and absorbent qualities. 

Pros

  • Absorbent, lightweight and breathable 
  • Colorfast and slow fading
  • Soft to touch
  • Silky look

Cons

  • Less durable than cotton, especially when wet
  • Hard to clean and maintain
  • Semi-synthetic fiber mixed with chemicals

What Is Cotton Fabric?

Cotton is a 100% plant-based material that is sourced from cotton plants. Cotton fibers are taken from the flowers of the cotton plant and then processed without chemicals. 

On average, cotton fabrics are more expensive than viscose materials due to the cost of production. 

Cotton is an eco-friendly, natural fiber material that is lightweight and breathable. They generally have a cool feel, are lower maintenance and are more durable than viscose materials. 

Cotton fabric is perfect for situations that deal with moisture and absorption, as cotton tends to be more durable when wet. 

There are different types of cotton materials, with Pima and Egyptian cotton topping the list. These types of cotton are luxurious and high-end. They also have extra-long fibers and are generally more durable than shorter staple fabrics.

Pros

Cons

  • Takes longer to dry
  • Shrinkage
  • Pricey

Viscose vs. Cotton: Similarities and Differences

When it comes to choosing bedding materials, some factors need to be prioritized. Although the two fabrics have similarities, viscose and cotton fabrics are made through different processes and offer various qualities. 

Feel and Softness

When it comes to the feel of your bedding, some people prefer a Pima or Egyptian cotton sheet, while others exclusively use viscose. Both fabrics can give that luxury feel, and choosing between them depends on your personal preference.

However, when choosing a fabric based on softness, you will face additional choices. Cotton garments become softer and more durable with water, while viscose loses strength and has the tendency to pill with each wash session.

Thickness

Cotton fabrics have different weights ranging from ultra-thin to extremely thick materials. The thread count per inch differs for cotton fabrics, and generally, the higher the number, the thicker the fabric.

Viscose is a lightweight fabric that is not particularly associated with thickness. Most lightweight dresses are viscose-based. 

Temperature

Both cotton and viscose fabrics are absorbent, meaning they can absorb your body heat. Viscose is a suitable option for hot weather because of the fabric’s breathability and lightweight tendencies. 

Cotton’s coolness depends on the weave. Cotton fabric woven to be lightweight is as breathable as viscose fabric and can have similar cooling capabilities. Fabrics woven to be heavier are best suited for winter, as they are meant to keep you warm and cozy.

Shrinking

Both materials have shrinkage features. Cotton fabrics tend to shrink mostly after their first wash, which is why cotton-based materials mostly come pre-washed. 

Because of this, you can usually wash your cotton bedding materials with a washing machine, as you usually don’t have to worry about shrinkage.

Unlike cotton, which usually doesn’t shrink after the first wash, viscose shrinks after each wash, which is why viscose beddings require dry cleaning.

Cost

The production cost and manpower required in the production of viscose are minimal. This makes it a budget-friendly and affordable fabric option. 

Cotton production is generally more tedious and expensive to make. For Pima and Egyptian cotton sheets that are even more high-end, the costs are just as luxurious as the raw material and are an option for when you’re looking to spoil yourself.

Sustainability

When it comes to the source plant material, viscose is the clear winner. Cotton plants generally cannot be replanted on the same soil and require a high amount of pesticides, water and fertilizer to grow properly. 

Viscose is sourced from fast-growing regenerative trees that do not require as much maintenance and are also eco-friendly. If you want a bedding material that is always in season, you should choose viscose. 

However, since viscose is semi-synthetic, the chemicals used in its production may be harmful to the environment. On the other hand, cotton is all-natural, and its production process is more eco-friendly.

Maintenance

Cotton fabrics are durable and strong. You can machine wash your cotton material with mild detergent and cold water, and even dry them without worrying about shrinkage or pill issues. Cotton fabrics become more durable the wetter they become. 

Viscose materials become weaker the wetter they get due to their thread structure. You can’t wash this material in the washing machine because it can cause it to shrink or tear. Viscose materials should always be dry cleaned, making cotton the best option for people interested in lower maintenance.

Bottom Line

Choosing between viscose and cotton fabrics for a bedding material has distinct advantages and disadvantages. 

If you can afford both, there may be times where you prefer using one fabric over the other, and owning both may come in handy. However, if you only plan to buy one, you may want to choose the fabric with lower maintenance, as this will help you save money and time.

Now that you understand the benefits and differences between viscose vs. cotton, choosing one should be simpler and easier. 

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