Cotton vs Polyester Sheets; Which is Better for Mothing?

Hey everyone,

I’m curious to hear people’s input on whether they think using a cotton sheet is better or worse than using a polyester sheet for mothing. I’ve been using a polyester sheet in my setup for the past 2 years now with decent success, but it was suggested to me pretty regularly that a cotton sheet would be more effective (in terms of how many moths it brought in). Earlier this week, I finally caved and ordered a cotton sheet online. I put it up today in the same spot I’d normally put up my other sheet, and over the course of this night, I have had different results… but not what I was expecting.

Rather than an increase in moths, I’ve barely had any on my sheet, with most of those that did show up just passing right by it. Instead, I’ve got dozens of wasps, flies, midges, etc.-- way more non-moth insects than normal, but very few moths overall. Of course, this might be a one-time issue, but I’ll obviously be going back to the polyester sheet if the cotton one keeps up on this trend. I’m still interested to hear, though, if a lot of people do think cotton is better.

I feel that cotton is better than Polyester Sheets
These are the advantages and disadvantages of cotton sheets for Mothing
Cotton being a natural fabric is great for summers, is soft, and breathable. At the same time, cotton sheets are a bit on the higher end, and susceptible to wear, and tear, and wrinkling. Polycotton overcomes the challenges of cotton as it is less prone to wrinkles, is more durable, and cost-effective as well

I think that cotton is better. It reflects UV light so it shines the light much farther than a material that doesn’t reflect UV.

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I do some rather serious sheeting and moth photography, and there are several factors to consider when choosing a fabric: durability, reflection, and ease of cleaning.

Cotton sheets are less durable and are harder to clean. After a long night of mothing with lots of beetles present, there can be some pretty ugly stains. Remembering to wash whatever sheet you choose in cold water is important (treat the stains like blood). They wrinkle, take longer to dry, and cause more shadows in your pictures (if you’re taking them) because they do not reflect the light as well.

Although I’ve not seen any studies on the subject, my anecdotal experience is that polyester or poly/cotton blends are much better at enhancing the light source. I abandoned my use of cotton rather quickly. The other night I tried out a 100% polyester setup and I was over the moon with the results. I was concerned there might be too much sheen that would give me glare in my photos, but I was wrong. It did a great job at enhancing and reducing shadowing. (I also use an MK diffuser which helps, but the difference in the fabric is remarkable.) Additionally, the glow put off by the poly seemed to do a wonderful job.

I suggest that you skip the cotton and go back to the poly–more importantly, do what works for you! If you want to see the results I’ve had, you can go to my observations: annainok. I keep playing with things, always looking for a way to improve both my numbers and my photography.



Great topic! I will keep in mind while looking for a new one since mine has seen better days. I also came across this:
I thought it was very clever of @finatic to use a sheet with an embedded metric value for size and have the linked reference in the notes field.

If you check the bulk of my moth photos, annainok, you’ll see I too use a gridded fabric. Ripstop nylon will work too.

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