Viscose Rayon vs. Cotton: Which is Better?

We all know what cotton fabric is. But have you ever heard of viscose? Most people have encountered viscose material at some point and didn’t even realize it. If you’ve ever owned anything made even partly of rayon, there is a 33% chance you’ve owned viscose as it is one of three popular types of rayon. 

You may be wondering why it is important to know what viscose rayon is, much less viscose vs. cotton, but the reality is that these things matter when it comes to mattress materials like toppers and sheets. There are pros and cons of each, price differences and optimal usage differences that can mean the difference between a night of tossing and turning and a night of peaceful slumber. 

In this article, we’ll cover what you need to know about both viscose and cotton, how they’re made, their pros and cons and other things to consider when you’re choosing mattress materials. 

What Is Viscose? 

What is viscose made of? Viscose is a human-made fiber created from the cellulose of plants and trees. It may be made from natural materials, but viscose is considered a synthetic product because the manufacturing process uses chemical solutions to turn the cellulose into fibers. 

This lustrous and soft fabric originated in Europe in the 1800s as an effort to create a more affordable alternative to silk. By the 1900s, the production process was patented and the first viscose rayon hit the commercial market. 


  • Breathable and cool
  • Highly absorbent
  • Moves and drapes well
  • Can be blended with other fabrics
  • Holds dyes well through washings
  • Low permeability


  • Not stain resistant
  • May deteriorate with sunlight exposure
  • Delicate fibers may be easily breakable
  • Prone to shrinkage
  • Not an all-natural material
  • Less eco-friendly than cotton

How is the fabric made? 

For the inquisitive of you who like to know where things come from, we’ve summarized the process for making viscose material. 

  1. Harvesting and preparing for pulping: The most common plants and trees used for viscose are eucalyptus, bamboo, spruce, pine and beech, among others.
  2. Dissolving plant materials: The chipped plants dissolve in a chemical-solution (usually sodium hydroxide) to create the pulp.
  3. Removing impurities: Another chemical process with caustic soda produces a clean raw material for the fabric
  4. Creating pressed sheets: The clean raw material goes into a roller machine to remove liquid and create sheets.
  5. Shredding the pressed sheets: The crumbs from this process are treated with carbon disulfide.
  6. Creating viscous solution: The treated crumbs dissolve in sulfuric acid to create the viscous solution that gives the name to the fabric.
  7. Filtering and degassing: The solution goes through filters to remove undissolved materials and air bubbles, which can make the fiber weak.
  8. Making the fiber: The solution runs through a machine called a spinneret. 
  9. Spinning into yarn: The fiber is ready to use in viscose material production.

What Is Cotton?

Cotton is a plant that has many uses and one of those uses is to create cotton material for clothing, dishcloths, hygiene materials and mattress materials among other products. There is evidence that cotton was used as fabric in ancient India, China, Egypt and Pakistan all the way back to 3000 B.C.

The beginning of the U.S. The Industrial Revolution is marked by the opening of Slater Mill, the first American textile mill that would utilize recently innovated water-powered spinners for cotton material production.  

Cotton production is a long process that requires special expertise to avoid potential problems, like pests and poor crop yield. Though the process is tedious, cotton is a plentiful crop that results in one of the most common fabrics in our stores today. 


  • Softens with washings
  • All-natural material
  • Breathable and cool
  • Easy to find
  • Blends well with other materials
  • Strong


  • Pricier than synthetic fabrics
  • Prone to shrinkage
  • Takes longer to dry

How is the fabric made? 

Here’s a summary of how cotton is made:

  1. Harvesting: The raw material comes from cotton plants.
  2. Cleaning and scouring: Being a natural material, cotton needs de-seeding and washing before processing. This part of the process may include using a solution of sodium hydroxide.
  3. Purifying: This step removes impurities from the fiber by using either hydrogen peroxide or chlorine. What’s left should be pure cellulose.
  4. Drying and baling: Manufacturers can specify the level of moisture they desire in the fiber.
  5. Spinning into yarns: The fiber is ready for cotton material production 

Viscose Rayon Vs. Cotton

Viscose Rayon Cotton
Texture Soft and silky Soft and crisp
Breathability Breathable, cool and moisture wicking Breathable, cool and holds moisture
Price Less expensive More expensive
Brightness Bright and fade-resistant Bright and fade-resistant
Eco-friendliness Less eco-friendly due to chemical processes Eco-friendly, all-natural material
Fabric care Gentle cycle machine wash or hand washing recommended Machine washable
Availability Less common Common
Wrinkling Easily wrinkled Easily wrinkled
Production process Plants and trees harvested, chemically-processed, pulped, chemically-processed again and then manufactured into yarn Cotton harvested, no chemical-processing, manufactured through spinner machines into yarn

Which Is Better: Cotton Or Viscose Rayon?

When it comes to bedding, all fabrics are not created equally. Cotton sheets are common and available in a wide range of qualities and blends. Cotton mattress materials are known for being eco-friendly, soft, luxurious and durable. Viscose rayon isn’t quite as common, but is usually a bit less expensive and is known to be great for hot sleepers due to its breathability and moisture-wicking. But viscose isn’t known for being eco-friendly or as durable as cotton. 

If you’re still deciding on viscose rayon vs. cotton, consider the pros and cons we’ve shared and what is most important to you. Maybe that is comfort, durability, eco-friendliness, moisture-wicking or even just price. Both fabrics have their strengths and weaknesses and can make excellent mattress materials if they fit your unique needs.

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