Fleece vs Flannel Sheets

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When you are shopping for bedsheets for cooler weather, you’ll find there are a lot to choose from! Often though your basic first choice will need to be between the types of bedding fabric available, and in the case of cool weather sheets that choice will often be between fleece and flannel. Leading to another question; which of them is better?

The basic answer to the question of fleece vs. flannel when it comes to bedding is that one is not better than the other, they are simply different. Which you choose will come down to personal preference, but to help you make the choice here we are going to take a closer look at those differences and the pros and cons of each.

In very simple terms:

You’ll LOVE flannel bedsheets if:

  • You are looking for a sheet that feels soft and light against your skin
  • You sometimes ‘sleep hot’ even in the winter
  • You want a bedsheet that is quick and easy to launder.

You’ll LOVE fleece bedsheets if:

  • You like to feel like your bedding is very warm and cozy.
  • You want to create a more welcoming winter bedroom decor look inexpensively (think hygge)
  • You don’t mind a bedsheet that’s a little heavier.
  • You sleep in a bedroom that tends to be very chilly in the winter months and you really need some extra, constant warmth.

However, the fleece vs flannel bedsheets debate is often more complicated than the basic breakdown above suggests. So read on to find out a lot more about these two very popular cold weather bedding options.

What is Fleece?

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Polyester is most commonly used to make fleece. Delicate polyester fibers are woven to create a light fabric before being brushed into a thick fabric. Other natural fibers, such as wool, rayon, or sometimes even hemp are sometimes woven into the fabric to give it a unique texture or vibrancy and in some cases to extend its useful life.

These days you can also fairly easily find fleece bedsheets made from recycled plastics like plastic water bottles, giving them an environmentally friendly quality that those looking to live greener will appreciate. As these types of sheets become more common they are becoming more affordable as well.

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Pros of Fleece Sheets

  • Very warm and cozy, with a wool-like feeling against the skin some people love.
  • Unlike wool, fleece is hypoallergenic, so it won’t make you itch in the way that natural wool might.
  • Soft to the touch, and when next to skin while sleeping.
  • Fleece traps body heat, so keeps you super warm.
  • Usually very inexpensive
  • Fleece is moisture wicking, but dries fast, so will stay dry if you sweat while sleeping.
  • An increasing number of eco-friendly fleece options are available.

Cons of Fleece Sheets

  • Fleece bedsheets are not naturally temperature regulating, so may be a little too cozy if you are a person who tends to ‘sleep hot’.
  • Fleece fabrics need special care, you can’t just toss them in the washer with the rest of the laundry, as they are very prone to shrinkage.
  • Fleece will attract, and hold onto, things like pet hair, dust and dander, making them often not the best choice for people with allergies.
  • Need washing more often than some other bedsheets, as they absorb odor faster, and as a result may wear out faster than you’d like.

How to Wash Fleece Bedsheets

As we mentioned, fleece bedsheets do need to be laundered quite often to keep them soft and fresh smelling. They also call for a little specialist treatment when you do wash them. However, it’s not too hard to keep your fleece bedsheets clean and comfy.

  • Wash fleece bedsheets separately on the coolest water setting possible.
  • Use a gentle detergent that won’t cause piling because it is too harsh. Baby Dreft is an excellent choice, as it has a pleasant, but not overpowering scent that fleece will absorb readily.
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  • Ensure the bedding is rinsed thoroughly, as any remaining detergent will make them feel stiff.
  • Line dry the sheets, or tumble dry on a very low heat – or better still no heat – setting. Using a hot setting will result in shrinkage or even cause the fleece to melt.

What is Flannel?

A stack of clean coral patterned flannel bed sheets.
Coral patterned flannel bed sheets.

Flannel is a woven fabric that is usually made of wool or cotton, and a flannel sheet is almost always made of the latter. The “napping” of flannel distinguishes it from other woven fabrics. This raised texture is what gives the fabric both its signature softness and allows it to ‘trap’ body heat to keep you warm.

Flannel has been used to craft warm bedsheets for centuries, and its excellent durability means that yes, those flannel sheets that were your Grandmother’s are indeed probably still going strong.

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Pros of Flannel Sheets

Despite being super warm, flannel sheets are also breathable, so they feel light against the skin and will be helpful for those who sleep hot to regulate their body temperature as they sleep.

  • Flannel is an all natural fabric that makes it an ‘old-fashioned’ eco-friendly choice.
  • Flannel is easy to launder
  • Flannel is smooth, so irritants like pet hair and dust, for the most part, slide off easily.
  • Flannel sheets are long wearing and durable

Cons of Flannel Sheets

  • Flannel will be subject to ‘piling’ over time, with some of its smooth appearance getting lost. You can minimize this, however, as we’ll explain in a moment.
  • Dark flannel sheets will often bleed color in the wash, and very bright colors will fade over time.
  • Flannel is one of the more expensive choices you can make when choosing bedsheets.

How to Wash Flannel Bedsheets

As we mentioned, flannel sheets are pretty easy to care for, thanks in part to the fat that most are crafted using cotton which is not prone to shrinkage and can withstand a harsher detergent. Here’s a look at the best way to launder them.

  • When you wash flannel sheets for the first time, use a mild detergent and add a half cup of plain white vinegar to the wash water. This will help seal in the dyes and prevent piling in the future.
  • While flannel sheets can be laundered with other things if they are dark-colored, it’s always best to wash them separately.
  • Use a warm water setting rather than hot, Flannel sheets rarely shrink, but very hot water may cause them to do so.
  • You can tumble dry flannel sheets but do so on a medium heat setting and add a dryer ball or two, rather than making use of dryer softener sheets, as this will also help prevent piling in the future.
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Fleece or Flannel Sheets: The Takeaway

Earlier in this piece, we offered a few reasons why you might love one of these sheet choices. And those reasons really are the differences between fleece and flannel you’ll want to consider when shopping.

  • Fleece is warm and fuzzy, it even looks warm and welcoming. Flannel is also warm, but it’s smooth and soft. Both feel great, so this difference really comes down to a matter of choice.
  • When it comes to laundering, fleece is a little more complicated, especially as you’ll likely have to wash fleece bedding more often than flannel. On the other hand, fleece rarely piles, which can be a problem with flannel, as we’ve explained.
  • If you have pets that you let sleep with you, flannel may be the better choice as pet hair will fall off it, while fleece will often actually attract it.
  • Both fleece and flannel are warm, but if you sleep hot, or suffer from nighttime hot flashes, flannel’s breathability and temperature regulation properties will often be a plus for you.
  • If you like to choose eco-friendly products to use in the home, then flannel has been one for hundreds of years. However, if you choose fleece sheets that have been made using recycled materials, then you will be playing a more active part in helping to save the planet, by keeping things like plastic bottles out of landfills and giving them a ‘new lease on life’.
  • If you are looking for budget bedsheets then often fleece will be the cheaper option. You will have to remember however that fleece is not as long-lasting as flannel, so the initial savings may not always translate into a good long time ROI.

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2 thoughts on “Fleece vs Flannel Sheets”

  1. A friend recommended fleece sheets for our caravan, which doesn’t have any heating during the winter as we free-camp and so there’s no electricity. The only problem I can see is that we have 2 single beds, and caravan single beds are more narrow than conventional beds – so the fitted sheet in a set would be too big and would consequently fit too loosely and scrunch up. My question is, can I purchase just non-fitted top sheets singly?

    • Hey Sally.
      That’s a tough one – most of the fleece sheets come as a set, you might find a supplier sell the fitted sheet separately but not the flat sheet.
      You could look into using bed sheet fasteners or straps for keeping fitted sheets tight as an interim solution. Fleece sheets are the best sheets for your situation and should keep you cozy and warm over the colder months.
      Best of luck!

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