It’s a well-known statistic that we spend approximately a third of our lives sleeping, so a decent bed and mattress are no-brainers. But what about bed linen? It’s the icing on top of a warm, comfortable cake and just as important.
Cotton has long been the most popular material for bed linen, and for good reason: it’s natural, breathable, durable, easy to care for and affordable, but there’s a pretender to its crown. Bamboo.
It’s no exaggeration to say that the bamboo plant borders on miraculous: it can grow by up to 150cm a year, which in turn produces very high yields on less land. Cotton, by comparison, takes around six months to produce useable fibres and needs a third more water than that of bamboo to thrive. Bamboo is also an extremely hardy plant that doesn’t require pesticides, fertilisers or chemicals to grow effectively.
Glowing eco-credentials aside, bamboo is also naturally antibacterial and has hypoallergenic properties, so it’s a great choice for eczema and allergy sufferers.
We know what you’re thinking, though: is it soft? Think of bamboo and a woody, tough, hard material springs to mind – not one that translates to cosy bed linen. That is what we’re here to test. We’ve put six sets of bamboo bedding through their paces on a king-size bed and spent the night to see how we feel in the morning. We’ve also washed each of them to test their ease of care, durability and how much they crease.
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All Bamboo duvet cover set in natural white
Best bamboo bedding
Let’s start by dispelling the assumption that bamboo bedsheets might feel a little scratchy and rough. They don’t. We were as sceptical as the next person when we decided to test it, but were pleasantly surprised to find that they really are soft – even satin-like – to the touch. While we admit we don’t always get round to ironing our bedlinen (sorry, Mum!), we did here for the purposes of testing, though this bedding didn’t really require much ironing at all after washing. Plus the material is so silky, the iron glides over it much easier than it does on cotton. The natural white shade is great too, much less bright and in-your-face than some of the other white bedding we tested. The 300 thread count fabric is equivalent to around 800 in cotton terms, but the make-up of the bamboo fibres means it feels so much higher than that, and therefore belies its low price tag. The best all-rounder.
Buy now £71.00, Allbamboo.com
Panda bamboo grey bedding set
Best for hotel-level luxury
Laying on this bedding felt like laying on the high thread count cotton bedding you normally find in top-notch hotels. You know, that feeling you just can’t seem to recreate at home? It’s super smooth and feels absolutely gorgeous, as the 320 thread count is the equivalent to about 1,000 in cotton terms. It was also nice and easy to fit the sheet over the mattress, with a little bit of room for manoeuvre, which we later found out was to combat any potential shrinkage caused by the first few washes (something that’s completely normal with bamboo and usually factored into the dimensions). It’s a close call, but this is the best-feeling bedding of the lot in our book. The only thing we can find fault with is the price – £160 for a king is a little steep, but Panda is a well-known bamboo brand so…
Buy now £160.00, Dunelm.com
Marks & Spencer bamboo duvet cover
Best for easy care
While not made entirely of bamboo (this range is a bamboo and cotton mix), it does still retain the silky feel of bamboo bedding, but with the added benefit of a recommended 40°C wash cycle and medium-heat tumble-dry setting (30°C is more common and tumble-drying is often advised against). Its 300 thread count bamboo/cotton mix actually made it feel silkier than the all-bamboo designs we’ve tested, although the sheet had puckered slightly when we woke up. That being said, it is nice and deep, comes in a choice of eight colours and is at the lower end of the price scale, putting it very near the top in the all-rounder category.
Buy now £49.50, Marksandspencer.com
Best for deep mattresses
The first thing we noticed about this bedding is that the sheet has a really generous depth, so it’s definitely the one to go for if you have a particularly deep mattress or like to sleep with a mattress topper, as it covers the sides completely. You’ll need to buy the pillowcases and duvet cover separately – it comes in at just under £110 for a full king-size set, including a sheet, so not a bad price. Again, this fabric has a thread count of 300 and is available in four colours, however, if we had to rank it in terms of softness, this is probably the least silky feeling of all the bedding we’ve tested, although not by very much at all, so consider it a good entry-level option. Like most bamboo bedding, it’s recommended that this one is washed at 30°C and air-dried, if possible, as high temperatures can damage the fibres. After our 30°C wash it was still extremely smooth to the touch.
Buy now £32.99, Amazon.co.uk
Ebern Designs Zeke 1000 thread count fitted bamboo sheet
Best for a choice of colours
If it’s only the sheet you’re after, then this one can be bought singularly, and comes in a range of colours. Just for a change, we used the natural shade for our test which, if anything, looks even more silky and inviting than white because it catches the light better. First impressions count, and never have we wanted to jump into a bed more. The night we tested this sheet was particularly humid, but thanks to the bamboo’s impressive wicking qualities, it didn’t feel as stifling as it could have done – and simply rolling over to another, cooler part of the sheet felt like turning on the air con (without the noise!). While a choice of colours – seven in this case – is great, the downside of having block-colour bedding is that creases show up much more than on white or patterned bedding, so we definitely had to iron this sheet after washing. It’s not the cheapest sheet on the market, but you get what you pay for in this case.
Buy now £49.99, Wayfair.co.uk
Lune Living bamboo duvet and pillowcase set
Best for expensive looks
First off, we really loved the little note and bag that came with this bedding; such a lovely personal touch. But we’re not sleeping on the note or the bag, so back to business. Of all the bedding we’ve tested, this one looked the most expensive because you can really make out the weave in the fibres; the pattern reminded us of a well-made twill jacket. And that’s what you’re paying for. It’s very generously sized, so we’d say you need a deep mattress for it to look its best when fitted, and comes in four colourways, including the beautiful soft green that we tried (as part of a limited-edition set). As most makers of bamboo bedding recommend washing without clothing that has zips and other embellishments, we washed this set with a zip-up jumper, just to see if there was any discernible roughing-up of the fabric. There wasn’t, although it’s not a huge leap to say we’re sure if it was washed with clothing like this regularly, it would affect the fabric’s softness over time. A truly beautiful set.
Buy now £125.00, Luneliving.com
The verdict: Bamboo bedding
This is a very close one to call, but taking softness, amount of creases after washing and price into consideration as a whole, the All Bamboo set just edges it. Ultimately, it felt almost every bit as comfortable and silky as the other options we tested, but came in at less than the higher-priced examples.
The Panda and Lune Living designs come a close second for their expensive feel and looks, but the price couldn’t quite be justified next to the All Bamboo set. Honourable mention must go to M&S for its range of colours, care instructions that are a little less strict than the others and its low price.
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