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Flannel vs. fleece: choosing the right winter sheets

A guide to the coziest, warmest winter night’s sleep 

When the cold weather officially arrives, it can be tempting to turn up your thermostat and crank up the heat. Yet, if you’re looking for a way to save money on your energy bills while staying toasty, is a great option!

When thinking about what fabrics make the best sheets for winter, flannel and fleece are two of the most popular choices. But do you understand the differences between them, and when it comes to the question of flannel vs. fleece, which one is right for your bed? Which is warmer?

Here’s a guide to help you distinguish between flannel vs. fleece and learn which fabric will give you the coziest, warmest, best night’s sleep.

Fleece vs. flannel sheets: what's the difference?

Flannel is a brushed fabric, typically made from cotton, that’s loosely woven and feels lightweight and soft against the skin. Fleece, on the other hand, is a knit fabric that's typically made from man-made materials like polyester. Fleece is made by wrapping threads around each other, which makes for a thicker fabric. It may be considered warmer in that it traps heat very well, but it won't regulate your temperature, so you may become too hot. Flannel, however, doesn’t have those extra threads, and is made with a loose weave that allows excess heat to escape.

Content Tile - Flannel Close up

What makes Boll & Branch flannel different?

Not all flannel is created equally! In an effort to seek out the finest flannel, our search brought us to Guimaraes, Portugal, where we worked closely with our manufacturing partners to create the next generation of cotton flannel.

We began by choosing 100% organic open-ended cotton thread. This means the thread itself is spun in a way that allows the cotton fibers to look “hairy.” After the sheets are woven and sewn, they go through a brushing process to uniformly exaggerate the hairy fibers, creating that quintessential velvety flannel feel. This is how flannel differs from traditional cotton sheets, whose threads are smooth and uniform. One of the reasons our flannel stands out from the crowd is due to an extra step we use during manufacturing: we add a brushing process, and then triple shear the fabric to naturally reduce the appearance of pills. This extra step is why our flannel is the premium choice for all flannel enthusiasts, and why our flannel feels so warm.

Now that you know the difference between the two fabrics, here are some factors to consider when making your choice:

Are you a hot sleeper or a cold sleeper?

If you are someone who can never get enough layers on to stay warm, fleece sheets may be the way to go. The thick fleece fabric will provide extra warmth, and keep the heat trapped in your bed throughout the night. However, if you like to feel cozy, but not sweaty, then flannel may be the better choice. The cotton found in flannel is a lightweight, highly absorbent material that will keep you cool in warm temperatures and warm in cool temperatures. So while it’s typically thought of as a winter sheet, you can actually use flannel year-round!

Is flannel warmer than fleece?

If your question is which is warmer, fleece or flannel: the answer isn't straightforward. Fleece may be considered warmer in that it traps heat very well, but it won't regulate your temperature, so you may become too hot. Flannel, however, will keep you cozy while still allowing excess heat to escape.

Content Tile - Flannel

How good are you at caring for your sheets?

The man-made fibers in fleece will help prevent wrinkling and shrinkage, so it may be a better option if you put it in the wrong laundry cycle by accident. However, the stretchy fabric means the fitted sheet may not return to its original shape after you wash it. Furthermore, synthetic materials can retain smells. Both fleece and flannel will pill over time, though using the highest quality materials, like the ones we use in Boll & Branch flannel sheets, will help ensure the durability of the fabric. All cotton sheets will shrink in the wash. The good news is Boll & Branch Flannel Sheet Sets are oversized to account for the natural shrinkage, so you can always ensure the perfect fit. The cotton used in flannel will also naturally wrinkle, which isn’t a bad thing! Many “wrinkle-free” sheets are coated with harmful chemicals, so you can be rest-assured that Boll & Branch sheets are pure and chemical-free. If you prefer a spotless finish you can always iron your sheets for a crisp look. Check out more more laundry care tips.

Does the environment factor into your decision?

Fleece, a synthetic material, poses an increasing problem for our oceans. Every time fleece is washed, it sheds thousands of fibers which wash away as waste water. This contaminated water washes into the ocean and poisons food sources for ocean wildlife. Furthermore, synthetic materials like fleece retain smells even after washing.

Boll & Branch flannel, however, is made from 100% organic cotton, which is biodegradable and completely non-toxic. And unlike fleece, which sheds more and more fibers with every wash, cotton flannel will not degrade over time. If environmental friendliness is important to you, there is no debate about flannel vs. fleece. Flannel is the superior choice.

Are fleece or flannel sheets better?

We spend roughly a third of our lives in bed, therefore no one can make the right decision except for you! Bedding is truly a personal choice, and the best way to decide what fabric works for you is to try them out for yourself. If it’s important that your sheets keep you at just the right temperature and are organic, durable, environmentally-friendly, and oh-so-soft we think you’ll love our Boll & Branch Flannel Sheet Set. With free and fast shipping and free returns, there’s no risk in trying!