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Bed Sheet Buying Guide: Everything You Need to Know

Bed Sheet Buying Guide: Everything You Need to Know

by

Lindsey S.
 | 
Sep 10, 2021

What to Look for in High-Quality Sheets

Buying new bed sheets may seem like a mundane decision, but the quality of your sheets influences the quality of your sleep more than you may think.


After a long day of work or an exhausting adventure, nothing feels better than sliding between fresh bed sheets. The soft touch of high-quality bedding has the power to soothe your skin, promote relaxation, and ultimately help you drift off to restorative sleep.


However, sleeping with the wrong bed sheets can have an equal and opposite effect. Low-quality or worn-out sheets can irritate your skin, make you sweat, and leave you feeling hot and sticky in the morning instead of refreshed and ready to take on the day.


If you need new bed sheets, don’t just grab the first set you see on Amazon or a department store shelf. It’s worth it to research your options and take the time to find sheets that will support your unique sleep needs and provide the ultimate comfort at the end of the day.


While comforters, duvet covers, blankets, and other bedding also contribute to a welcoming bed, your skin makes contact with your bed sheets the most. For that reason, this guide will only explore sheet sets, which typically include a fitted sheet, flat sheet, and two pillowcases.


10 Factors to Consider When Buying New Bed Sheets

When buying a new sheet set, you, of course, have to consider costs, sizing, and your desired color or pattern. But aside from logistics and aesthetics, you can also compare your options based on the following qualities.

1. Texture, Feel, and Friction

Many people can't fall asleep without a blanket or bed sheet, even during the hottest nights of the year. It's hard to explain why, but the touch and weight of sheets on your skin just feel good and helps you relax.


Depending on your personal preferences and the climate you live in, you likely seek out sheets that either feel soft and smooth like silk or fuzzy and cozy like fleece. Either way, you'll want to stay away from any material with a rough texture and stiff feel. Even if you plan to order your new sheets online, you may want to head to a store that sells bedding to get a feel for the most common bed sheet materials.


You'll also want to consider the friction you'll feel as you move around in your sleep or while lounging in bed. Too much friction can irritate sensitive skin, and when it comes to pillowcases, it can cause frizzy hair. The smoother the material, the less friction your movements will create.

2. Thread Count and Construction

How the fabric is made contributes to a bed sheet's feel, weight, temperature regulating capabilities, and durability—all critical factors covered in this list.


Unless you do specialized work with textiles on a regular basis, you don't need to know too much about how manufacturers turn raw materials into familiar fabrics. However, understanding these three key characteristics of different fabrics may help you choose the bed sheets that are right for you:

Thread Construction

To make fabrics, manufacturers first spin the raw materials into threads. Fabrics can feature one-ply threads, two-ply threads, or multi-ply threads, "ply" referring to the number of fibers or yarns twisted together to create a single thread.


The length and diameter of the threads used to construct the fabric contribute to how soft the final product feels and how long it lasts. Generally speaking, woven fabrics with longer threads tend to last longer and have a smoother texture.

Thread Count

Thread count refers to the number of threads present in one square inch of a fabric. This metric alone doesn't determine how a fabric feels, but a higher thread count typically yields a softer bed sheet. Higher thread count also corresponds with better durability.


So, what's a "good" thread count? It depends on the material. Thread count may be a useful metric for comparing two products made with the same material but not for deciding between two different types of bed sheets.


Thread count also matters more for some materials than others. For example, it's not a particularly useful tool for assessing the quality of Tencel™ or viscose from bamboo sheets. One of the main benefits of bamboo viscose sheets is that the fibers are long and smooth, so you don't need high thread count to make soft and durable bed sheets.


Remember, thread count is just one metric of bed sheet quality; you shouldn't choose a set of bed sheets based on this number alone. That said, you can use these general guidelines to point you in the right direction:

Ideal Thread Count by Material

Material

Thread Count

Egyptian Cotton

400-700

Cotton, Sateen Weave

300-600

Cotton, Percale

200-400

Viscose from Bamboo

200-300

Linen

80-150

The Knit or Weave

Knitting and weaving are two ways to construct a fabric from threads. While knits interloop a continuous thread to create a fabric, woven fabrics interlace multiple horizontal and vertical threads. You often see knit sweaters and blankets, but bed sheets (with the exception of jersey sheets) typically use woven fabrics. We'll discuss the different types of weaves and their properties in the next section.

3. Thickness and Weight

Many people prefer heavier, cozier bedding in the winter and lightweight bedding during the warmer months. If you live in a cold climate but don't like thick sheets, you can always opt for standard bed sheets paired with a heftier comforter.

4. Temperature Regulation

On the subject of hot and cold climates, you should also consider how well your bed sheets will keep you comfortable, independent of your environment. It's not just the weather outside and the air surrounding you in your room that makes you feel hot or cold at night—your own body heat and perspiration also play a critical role.


It may sound backward, but the body's natural drop in temperature during sleep can make you overheat at night. With the wrong type of bedding, the heat leaving your body has nowhere to go and remains trapped with you under the covers. The body then sweats to try and cool itself down, and the moisture gets trapped as well, creating an uncomfortable pocket of humid air.


Temperature-regulating sheets—also known as cooling sheets—work with the body's natural temperature regulation mechanisms to maintain the optimal sleeping environment. Two key characteristics make bed sheets temperature regulating: breathability and the ability to wick away moisture.


Looking for more ways to keep cool at night? Check out our article What Are Blackout Curtains to learn how thermoregulating curtains may benefit your sleep.

Breathability

Breathable fabrics have enough space between threads for air to flow in and out freely. If bed sheets are woven too tight, the fabric will prevent circulation, which keeps the air under the covers fresh, cool, and dry. A breathable sheet allows the excess heat—created by your body's natural temperature drop—to escape, meaning you won't continue to sweat throughout the night.

Moisture Wicking

The best cooling bed sheets accommodate perspiration. They don't absorb liquid, but wick it away to the surface for easy evaporation. This prevents humidity from building, which not only makes you hot but also invites bacteria to your bed.

Cooling sheets work with the body's natural temperature regulation mechanisms to maintain the optimal sleeping environment.

5. Wrinkle Resistance

While some bed sheet materials naturally resist wrinkles, others require chemical treatment to prevent creasing and crinkling. You can also opt for sheets that don't naturally or synthetically resist wrinkles—you just have to wash them more often or accept a less polished appearance.

6. Allergen Protection

As previously mentioned, bacteria thrive off moisture trapped in your sheets. Mold, mildew, dust mites, and more can all crawl into bed with you, emitting odors and setting off allergies.


Fortunately, many bed sheets can resist microbes. While some materials are naturally hypoallergenic, antibacterial, and anti-fungal, others are chemically treated to possess this property.

7. Pocket Depth (Fitted Sheets)

Fitted bed sheets have pocketed corners that wrap around the edges of the mattress and keep your sheets in place. Pocket depth determines what mattress thickness the fitted sheet can accommodate.


There is no uniform sizing across brands, but in general, standard fitted sheets work for mattresses up to 12 inches thick. Deep-pocked fitted sheets can fit mattresses up to 14 inches thick, and extra deep-pocketed fitted sheets work with beds up to 25 inches thick.


What is a fitted sheet? Our Bedding Types guide explores all the bedding components you need to create a cozy sleep oasis.

Woman putting a white fitted sheet on a mattress

8. Durability

Bed sheets go through the typical wear and tear of nightly use and frequent washing. Unless you want to replace your sheets with new ones every year, you should opt for sheets made with durable materials and quality construction.

9. Environmental Impact

Those who prefer to shop eco-friendly or organic should look out for synthetic materials, chemical additives, and harmful farming or manufacturing practices. Fortunately, there are many natural and sustainable bed sheets on the market made with materials such as organic cotton, hemp, and silk.


To ensure a textile contains natural, safe materials and that the manufacturers follow responsible, eco-friendly production practices, look for certifications from third-party organizations you trust. A few product standards with strict requirements include:

10. Care Requirements

Tempting as it may be to skip laundry day, you need to keep your sleep environment clean to protect your skin and immune system. However, some luxury sheets are hand wash or dry clean only, so they may not fit a busy lifestyle.


Common Misconceptions and Mistakes When Buying New Bed Sheets

Ten factors may seem like a lot to consider when shopping for new bed sheets, but it's worth it. Doing a little bit of online research before making a purchase will help you choose the perfect bedding for better sleep, and in turn, better days.


But before you start comparison shopping, you may want to review the following misconceptions that shoppers often have when looking for new sheets.

Thinking Higher Thread Count Always Means Higher Quality

Many guests at fancy hotels and online shoppers alike hear the term "high thread count" and automatically associate it with top-tier luxury. While bed sheets with a relatively high thread count often do feel softer and last longer, the number of threads used in a weave doesn't always correlate with quality.


The ideal thread count for a fabric varies between materials and weave styles. Plus, bed sheets can be poorly constructed regardless of the number of threads. If a bed sheet uses cheap materials or shows shoddy craftsmanship, a higher thread count won't save its quality. Moreover, too high of a thread count can limit breathability.


You should absolutely consider thread count when sheet shopping, but don't look at it as the sole or even most important indicator of good quality. Instead, look at the bed sheets' material and construction more holistically.

Confusing Material Types and Weave Styles

Brands often label or name their sheet sets based on the primary (or most impressive) material used to make the product. However, some product names refer to the knit or weave used to construct the fabric, not the fabric source. For example, you may see:

  • Percale Sheets– Often made with cotton, percale sheets are woven one thread over, one thread under, creating a clean criss-cross fabric.

  • Sateen Sheets– Many sateen woven sheets also use cotton. They feature a one thread under, three thread over construction which results in a smoother surface than percale.

  • Satin Sheets– People often think of satin as a silky material, but the term actually refers to a common weave that creates a smooth, glossy surface. Most satin bed sheets on the market use silk, polyester, nylon, or acetate.

  • Twill Sheets– Twill fabric is woven with offset threads, resulting in a very durable fabric with diagonal lines.

Not Reading the Full Product Description

As previously mentioned, bed sheet sets often have product names or labels highlighting the predominant or "best" material used to craft the fabric. However, if you read the tag or product description further, you may find that the sheets contain a blend of materials.


Blended fabrics aren't necessarily bad—in many cases, combining premium materials can create an even better product. But you do want to know exactly what you're buying to ensure your new sheets suit your needs and that there aren't less desirable materials "hidden" in the fine print. So, whether you buy your sheets in-store or online, always look for a full list of materials.


Comparing Bed Sheet Materials

Now that you know what to look for in a set of sheets, you'll want to consider the different materials commonly used to make bedding so you can narrow down your selection.


You can head over to our in-depth Best Bed Sheet Material Guide to learn all about the advantages and disadvantages of bed sheet types and materials. For easy reference, we've summarized the key qualities of the most popular bed sheet options below.

  • Bamboo Viscose– Viscose from bamboo bed sheets are best known for their softness, smoothness, temperature-regulating qualities, and durability.

  • Egyptian Cotton Sheets– True Egyptian cotton sheets use long-staple cotton fibers, making them ultra-soft and smooth. These sheets are also lightweight and durable.

  • Jersey Sheets– While soft and cozy, jersey sheets are generally considered lower-quality, budget options. They're synthetic, trap heat, and wear out quickly.

  • Linen Sheets– Linen sheets are ultra-lightweight and breathable, making them a good fit for hot sleepers. However, linen sheets have a "rougher" feel that not everyone loves, and they wrinkle easily.

  • Microfiber Sheets– Microfiber is another budget bedding material. These sheets typically have a tight weave, so they don't allow refreshing airflow like more breathable materials. Microfiber also tends to absorb and trap sweat.

  • Tencel™ Sheets– Botanic-origin Tencel™ sheets offer natural comfort, a smooth texture, breathability, and temperature regulation.

Disclaimer: Nolah does not provide medical advice. All resources on the Nolah blog, including this article, are informational only and do not replace professional medical counsel. Talk to your doctor about any health, mental health, or sleep-related issues.

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