What Is the Difference Between Linen and Cotton?

Most of us are already familiar with cotton. As the world’s most common fabric, cotton is used in a large percentage of commercially available clothing and bedding. Cotton fabric is made from the cotton plant, whose species share the genus Gossypium—a member of the mallow family. Different species of cotton are native to regions throughout the world, and cotton has been cultivated as a fabric plant since prehistoric times.

Cotton, although inexpensive and ubiquitous, is very vulnerable to pests, and requires a great deal of water to farm. Therefore, the cotton industry relies heavily on pesticides, fertilizers, and irrigation—all of which put workers and the environment at risk, especially when the global demand for cotton is so high, and the price is set so low. And cotton, although generally cheap, is not the most durable fabric. It’s prone to pilling, tears, and wearing over time (or even in a relatively short time).

Cotton field

Linen—not to be confused with linens, which refer to any cloth items for the home—is fabric made from the fibers of the flax plant. With an equally ancient history to cotton, flax is native to a specific coastal region of Europe, spanning from northern France to the Netherlands. Unlike cotton, flax plants are naturally resistant to pests, and require no fertilization or irrigation when grown in their ideal zones. Flax fibers are also much stronger than cotton, which means that when they’re woven into fabric, they can easily last a decade or more. And instead of pilling and thinning, flax fabric tends to get softer and more luxurious with wash and wear.

Flax field in bloom

All bedding products from The Modern Dane, from fitted sheets to duvet covers, are made from certified European Flax® linen, a superior fabric that’s guaranteed to be safe for you, and easy on the environment. Click to read about the linen certifications we are proud to support.

Curious about linen? Discover the many benefits of flax linen—for you and the planet.

Want to know more about the hidden costs of the cotton industry? Learn why we use linen and not cotton, for important ethical and environmental reasons.