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Cotton vs Linen: Which Upholstery Fabric is Better?

Find out which would be a better choice for sofa covers; cotton or linen upholstery fabric. Your choice will depend on various factors, and we have covered all of them. Read more

Cotton vs Linen: Which Upholstery Fabric is Better?

How many times did you feel that it could have been better if you were able to differentiate between two types of fabric more skillfully?

You might not feel it daily, but when you are at a fabric shop, trying to select a specific fabric for your sofas, such desires to “know better” would unfold.

We would never like to be in your shoes. Also, it is a matter of time and money; therefore, we will urge each buyer to have a look at the expert opinion.

As many people claim that they are the only busy bees on the planet with no time to wait and watch; so we will suggest they read comparisons instead of reviews.

Here we would be comparing two very closely related fabrics for upholstery; that is cotton and linen. These are undoubtedly the commonest fabrics, but this popularity has somewhat made people oblivious.

Little do they think about the type of cotton or its pros and cons, also linen is sometimes ignored for it being readily available.

Even though both cotton and linen upholstery fabrics are considered to be for the middle class, they still have something that others don’t.

Before we start, let us clarify that we will only be considering those features that are really playing a role. The fabric and its texture may vary from seller to seller, but here we have some general features which every fabric would have. Such as;

  • The comfort level.
  • The ease to clean.
  • Safe for use.
  • Easy to use.
  • Budget.
  • Looks.
  • Durability.

Cotton vs Linen Comparison

Seasonal UsageSuitable for summersSuitable for all seasons
Durability 7-8 years lifetimeUp to 10 years
Softness LevelModerateVery High
Stretchability LevelHighModerate
Safety LevelModerateHigh
Ease of MaintenanceHighLow
Pest and Fungi ResistanceLowHigh
Eco FriendlyNot MuchYes

Seasonal Usage

 If you don’t want to get the flu even while sitting safely in your TV lounge, then we suggest you get linen upholstery fabrics. They are warmer than cotton, and you will get that cozy feeling too.

On the other hand, the cotton upholstery fabric is not as warm as linen. Thus, it would be safer to get a line for the colder regions. Moreover, if you have babies or old people too, then get them linen upholstery.

You might not feel much difference between the textures of these two fabrics, but once they are in use, you will feel the warmth in linen. It is why we prefer wearing linen at night.


Well, you know the durability factor of any fabric relies on the way it is built. If we compare the structure of cotton yarn with linen yarn, then it will become pretty evident that cotton yarn has shorter fabric threads than linen yarn. Linen has more twisted and covered yarn threads.

Thus, it would be safe to say that cotton as compared to linen is less durable. However, it should not be taken as the last word, the way you use it plays a crucial role in making cotton or linen fabric for upholstery durable.


People often confuse the durability of upholstery fabric with stretchability. As most of the upholstery fabric would be used to cover sofas, therefore, it would be great to choose such fabric which is more stretchable.

In this case, cotton is way more stretchable than linen. The reason again is the loosely woven and thin yarn structure of the cotton. On the contrary, linen yarn is tightly woven and gives a thick texture. It is rougher than cotton. So when you cut out a sofa cover of linen fabric, it is bound to be hard for you to cover the entire sofa.

We would suggest you choose cotton if your sofas are very curvy and have complex designs; otherwise, using linen fabric would either cost you more than you have thought, or it will soon go down the drain.


Many would say that they know the answer to this feature, well, I don’t think so. If you rub your fingers on both of these fabrics, you will instantly say cotton is softer than linen.

It is the first impression of cotton, and the reason you feel so is the loosely structured yarn of cotton. Well, even though linen fabric is rough as compared to cotton, after a couple of washes, linen gets softer than cotton.

So if you are a cleanliness freak who would wash the sofa covers every month, then it would be better to go for linen upholstery fabric, it will eventually become soft.

Safe to Use

Being conscious buyers it is necessary for each one of us to check if the fabric is safe to use. The safety of use varies from person to person, some people have sensitive skin, and even regular fabrics can harm them. So you must get yourself tested someday before purchasing upholstery fabric for the entire space.

Now, as per the records, the linen upholstery fabric is the safest option. Even if you don’t know about your allergy triggers, then you must go for the linen upholstery fabric.

So linen fabric is safe and hypoallergenic, it would be an ideal choice for babies and kids, as they come with very thin and sensitive skin, the same goes for elders.

Ease of Keeping and Carrying

If you are good at handicrafts or want to save money by stitching your sofa covers all by yourself, then you must select a light weight fabric.

Here if we compare to cotton and linen, then it would be pretty obvious that linen fabric will be heavier. So if you feel that you would need to change the covers every other month, and it is only you who would manage it, then choosing linen will be a bad option.

Instead, such people must try having cotton covers for the sofa, they are relatively lighter. You don’t need to stress much while uncovering the sofa.

Ease of Washing the Sofa Cover

Why would you purchase sofa upholstery fabric that would be hard to clean? Of course, no one among you would do it on purpose, but still, purchasing randomly will create an issue.

So if you are a cleaning freak, who cannot tolerate dirty sofa covers, then cotton should be your choice. But here one must bear in mind that cotton fabric is not as durable as linen. Regular washing of cotton sofa covers will make them thin.

So if you can afford to stitch or buy new cotton sofa covers every five years, then it would be good to prefer cotton fabric sofa covers over linen.

Moisture Wicking

Having kids or careless people around you means you need to take care of all the precious stuff. Having a certain type of sofa cover that is very absorbent would create a lot of mess.

Imagine that you have guests at your home, and suddenly a kid spills a glass of juice on your sofa, you rush to hold it, but it’s late and a few drops are already on the sofa cover. What would you feel? Obviously, it will be terrible, because you don’t intend to wash the sofa covers every time the guests leave.

In this case, linen would be better, it is less absorbent, thus more moisture-wicking. On the contrary cotton fabric will disappoint you for this particular reason.

Easy to Clean

Of course, we need to clean our sofa covers regularly. But some sofa covers are very hard to clean, therefore, users don’t pay attention to them. Ultimately, it might cause certain skin infections.

For this issue, we cannot prioritize any of the two. Both linen and cotton fabrics are easier to clean. You can vacuum them, for spot cleaning, simply try the blotting method.

Moreover, unlike synthetic fabric you don’t need to worry about deforming, you may use a hair dryer to dry damp areas.


Even though we all would love to have the fanciest and most luxurious sofa covers, still deep inside we wish it to be free. Don’t we?

Well, that cannot happen, unless you own the factory, but there is a price variation in both the discussed categories.

If you would compare cotton with linen, then obviously linen is expensive. The reason is its structure.

The good part about affordability is; both cotton and linen fabric come in a wide variety, so the buyer gets an opportunity to purchase according to his pocket. However, the higher the price, the better the quality fabric might be.

There are multiple reasons why linen is expensive, the top of that is the difficulty to manufacture linen fabric. It is not as easy as cotton fabric. Along with it, the production process is very slow, thus, there always remains a high demand for linen.

Resistance to Bacteria and Insects

Imagine that you tend to travel a lot, or somehow you have to stay away from your house for a year or two. Do you think that your sofa covers would be enough to keep your sofas intact?

Well, it can happen if you have linen instead of cotton. Cotton is also safe from fungi and moths to some extent, but not like linen. Thus, those planning to keep the sofa upholstered for up to 10 years must choose linen over cotton anytime.


You might feel sad whenever there is news about climate change. Well, now we must be actively involved in saving our planet from destruction.

You must be thinking how come choosing between an upholstery fabric is an issue of climate change? It is, and every buyer must give it a thought.

In comparison, linen is way more eco-friendly. It is easier to manufacture with few natural resources. For example, to make cotton yarn, we need a lot of fresh water, on the contrary, minimum water is used to manufacture linen.

On top of that, to grow cotton again, a huge quantity of pesticides is required. It ultimately harms the environment, not only causing soil erosion, but it is also one of the main contributors to the carbon footprint.

However, at the end of the day, both cotton and linen fabrics are biodegradable, thus, causing the very little issue.

So Which is Better? Cotton or Linen Fabric for Upholstery?

cotton vs linen fabric comparison

There would be no simple answer to it. In the end, it would come down to your preferences and what you need.

Both cotton and linen fabrics are natural fabrics, they are very soft, and can be used in both hot and cold areas. However, there are some differences that can be a huge deal for some buyers.

For example, if you don’t want to invest a huge sum in upholstery fabric, then you should choose cotton. Otherwise, linen is better.

To further clarify, if you feel that you need to buy a safe for-skin fabric, as you or your family members have sensitive skin, then linen would be better.

So you see, there is no direct answer to this question.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does linen get softer after several washes?

The reason for linen getting soft after every wash is the protein pectin in it. After every wash the protein pectin dissolves, and a bond breaks. The good thing is you don’t need any fabric softeners for linen.

Which is better for public spaces: linen or cotton?

For public spaces, linen will be a good option, as it is more durable than cotton fabric for upholstery.

Which is a better choice for a kid’s room; linen or cotton upholstery fabric?

As compared to cotton linen is more durable and skin safe, so it would be better to choose it.

How long will the cotton upholstery stay?

It can stay for around seven years if used regularly.

How long will the linen upholstery stay?

It can stay for a decade; depending on the way it is used.

Final Words

We tried to give you a close and deep idea about the similarities and differences between cotton and linen upholstery fabric.

We cannot give a straight statement off the bat, thus, it was essential to explain each feature. I believe this comparison will help you choose better.

For instance, you might pick linen for your parent’s room and cotton for the living area. Or in another case, when you are tight on budget, cotton will be the ideal option.

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Aleksy Kazmer

Aleksy is a full-time blogger born and raised in Warsaw. After earning a degree in MS English from Oxford University, he began utilizing his skills as a content writer to express what he’s most passionate about. Whether it's home improvement, decor, furniture, cleaning products, or DIY projects. Aleksy has a natural curiosity to pursue hidden tips and share them with readers.