New bed sheets are a great way to freshen up your room and give it a different look. More importantly, a good set of sheets creates a comfortable and peaceful sleeping environment.
The confusing jargon regarding bed sheets—such as thread counts, weaves, and ply—can make sheet-shopping difficult. However, by better understanding these terms, finding comfy sheets becomes a whole lot easier. In this article, we’ll lay out some of the most popular types of bed sheets and things to consider so you can find the best sheets for your needs.
Cotton is a popular choice for bed sheets, partially because there are so many variations of it. Cotton sheets can be quite affordable and easy to clean. However, they’re prone to wrinkles and it may take a few washes before your cotton sheets reach their optimal softness.
Not all cotton sheets are made equal. When shopping for cotton bed sheets, consider the staple length and its variation. Staple length refers to the length of the fibers used in the cotton and the three variations are short, long, and extra-long. When choosing between different cottons, the longer staple types are better quality and more durable.
Egyptian is the highest quality cotton on the market. It’s an extra-long staple for a smooth and luxurious finish. It’s super soft but still strong and breathable. The only downside to Egyptian cotton is the high cost.
Supima is the trademarked term for American Pima cotton, a long staple cotton known for its softness and shine. While it’s not as expensive or soft as Egyptian cotton, it’s still durable and considered high quality.
When you see cotton referred to as 100-percent cotton, chances are it’s made using Upland cotton. Upland is a short staple cotton and known to be durable, though it’s also rather rough. It’s incredibly common and inexpensive, but it won’t make for the coziest sheets.
Flannel is a shredded cotton crafted to be softer than traditional cotton. The individual yarns are shaved to release their fibers for a fuzzy feel. Flannel sheets trap body heat and are so they are particularly appealing for cold winter nights.
Unlike other cottons, flannel is measured by grams per square meter (GSM), or the flannel’s weight. A flannel rating of approximately 170 GSM makes for warm and long-lasting bed sheets.
Cotton jersey is a stretchy material comparable to sleeping in a giant t-shirt. It’s warmer than most cotton sheets, but not quite as warm as flannel. The stretchiness is useful for thicker mattresses, but be warned, the fabric may stretch out over time and lose its shape. Cotton jersey is also prone to pilling and developing holes.
Tencel® is the brand name for lyocell fabric, a sustainably sourced material made from the cellulose of eucalyptus trees. The fabric is crafted using a closed-loop process—meaning any waste produced in the manufacturing process is recycled and reused for additional products.
Tencel® is naturally hypoallergenic and antimicrobial. It’s very soft and smooth, though not as breathable when compared to cotton or bamboo. We composed a guide to make it easier to decide between Tencel® and cotton sheets.
Most bamboo sheets are actually rayon—the cellulose in bamboo is extracted from the tree and the fibers are then woven into what is known as bamboo rayon. During this process, the bamboo is chemically transformed and becomes identical to rayon produced by other types of wood cellulose.
The result is a smooth and soft material, similar to that of silk and high quality cotton. Bamboo rayon makes for breathable, durable, and hypoallergenic sheets. However, the chemical process to treat the bamboo isn’t environmentally friendly.
A more sustainable type of bamboo sheets is bamboo linen. It’s costly and rare compared to bamboo rayon, as it requires the manual breakdown of the bamboo fibers to create the fiber. The fabric is very rough and wrinkles easily, so while it’s better for the environment, it doesn’t make for good bed sheets.
Silk is known for its smooth and shiny appearance. It’s carefully made using the fiber from silkworms, so it tends to be pricier than other options. However, the fabric is cool and doesn’t absorb moisture, a feature useful if you have particularly dry skin.
While some people find silk a bit too slippery to sleep on, others consider it incredibly luxurious. Silk sheets are good for preventing bed head and hair breakage. In fact, some people use silk pillowcases to protect their hair and skin.
Silk quality is measured by mommes (mm), or how much the silk weighs. A higher momme means the silk is heavier and stronger. Generally, between 19 to 25 momme is suitable for bedsheets. Silk sheets are available blended with other fabrics or as 100 percent silk.
Linen fabric dates back to ancient Egypt. It’s harvested from flax and is naturally cooling, antimicrobial, and hypoallergenic. Linen has a rustic appearance and a natural color. The durable fabric softens with every wash, but is very prone to wrinkles and pills. Linen sheets do best when air dried.
Compared to cotton, linen has a low thread count and linen sheets with a thread count of 120 or more are considered good quality.
Polyester is an affordable sheet fabric made using synthetic fibers. It’s often blended with other fabrics (mainly cotton) as polyester alone is scratchy and uncomfortable to sleep on. Polyester-blend sheets may trap heat, and are prone to pills and stains.
With that in mind, polyester is incredibly durable and resistant to wrinkles. Also, certain polyester-blend sheets are a good value.
Microfiber is a finely woven polyester or nylon. It’s softer and more comfortable to sleep on than traditional polyester sheets, but not quite as breathable. The heat retention can be good for winter evenings, but might be too hot for warm nights. Due to their tight weave, microfiber sheets are rather durable and resistant to stains.
However, microfiber sheets can feel a bit staticky and attract hair, dust, and lint. The sheets are thin and prone to pilling and wrinkling, as well.
What to Look for in Your Sheets
Beyond choosing the material for your next bed sheets, look into a sheet’s thread count, weave, ply, and pocket depth to better determine its quality.
Fabric weave refers to the way yarn or fibers are woven together to create a fabric. The weave affects a fabric’s thickness, feel, finish, and durability.
Also known as the plain weave, the percale weave is one of the most common weaves for bed sheets. It’s a tightly-woven weave with a crisscross pattern The durable weave is matte, soft, and breathable so you stay cool. Most percale weave sheets are made entirely of cotton, though they’ll occasionally be blended with silk, polyester, or rayon.
Our percale sheets are 100 percent cotton to maximize breathability.
Sateen bed sheets are created by weaving four cotton fibers over and under each other. The fibers are combed and rest along the surface of the fabric for silky smoothness and a shiny sheen. Sateen sheets are incredibly durable and heavy, so if you tend to get cold at night and are looking for extra warmth, sateen weaves are a good choice.
Twill weaves create a distinct diagonal pattern on your bed sheets. They add a parallel, ribbed appearance to your sheets while being sturdy and durable. Twill weaves are generally resistant to creasing or wrinkles as they are rather thick.
A dobby weave is a geometric pattern interlaced into the fabric, such as piques, diamonds, or dots. It often contains two or more fabric colors and a slightly raised feel.
A patterned weave is a design woven into the sheet as opposed to being printed on. The most common patterns are the brocade and damask and they add a vintage, luxurious look to your bedroom.
Ply refers to how many fibers are wrapped together to make one thread. Single-ply and two-ply sheets are the most commonly available, with single-ply being one fiber and two-ply being two fibers.
While it would seem as though the higher ply, the better the quality, thin and low-quality materials are typically used to make two-ply fabric. Multi-ply threads inflate the thread count to exorbitant numbers (think 1000 or higher), but two-ply sheets are often rougher and less durable than one-ply.
When shopping, focus more on the quality of the materials and the weave. It’s best to avoid two-ply sheets and aim for single-ply sheets with high quality fabric.
Thread count is the number of horizontal and vertical thread used per square inch. Thread count is commonly linked to a fabric’s quality, but it’s not actually so relevant.
Thread count is most relevant to cotton, since other fabrics use different measurement systems to describe the quality. A high cotton thread count (300 to 500) makes for fine, soft, and durable sheets. Low thread counts (less than 200) have thick, rough threads with a crisp feel.
You can find threads counts over 1000, but this doesn’t mean you’re getting better quality sheets. Super high thread counts are made by layering cheap and thin fibers to increase the thread count and supposed value, but this does nothing for the actual quality of the sheets.
Before picking sheets based on the thread count, look at the staple length as well. Long and extra-long staples typically produce the most soft and durable sheets, regardless of thread count.
Pocket depth is the height of a fitted sheet and the mattress it pairs with. Choosing the correct pocket depth for your mattress prevents your sheets from coming off at night.
Standard pocket sheets fit most mattresses between 7 to 14 inches thick. If you’re a restless sleeper, a standard fitted sheet might slip off your mattress at night. In this case, you might prefer a deep pocket fitted sheet.
For beds 14 inches or thicker, it’s best to use a deep pocket fitted sheet, as a standard fitted sheet would pop off. Deep pocket sheets generally measure between 13 to 17 inches in depth to accommodate the size of tall beds. Some people even prefer using deep pockets for their standard mattress because they stay in place better than standard size sheets.
Deep pockets also help sheets stay on an adjustable bed.
What Comes in a Sheet Set?
Bed sheet sets typically come with a fitted sheet, flat sheet, and two or more pillowcases. If your sheets are part of a bed-in-a-bag set, they may also include small decorative pillows.
The fitted sheet is a large elastic fabric meant to cover your mattress securely. If your fitted sheet is too big or small for your mattress, it won’t stay in place and be frustrating to deal with at night.
The flat sheet drapes over your mattress and under your comforter. The flat sheet is often considered unnecessary, but it actually protects your comforter from sweat and bodily fluids and keeps you warm.
How often should you wash your bed sheets?
Wash your bed sheets every two weeks. Your sheets collect oil, skin cells, and sweat, and if you don’t clean your bedding regularly, the bacteria builds up and attracts dust mites. Also, if you sweat a lot at night or have allergies, it’s best to wash your sheets every week.
If you want to not only clean but whiten your sheets as well, you can do so with a few household items. Try lemon juice, vinegar, baking soda, or bleach. Do not mix these items together; in particular, do not use bleach and vinegar together.
Do you put a fitted sheet over a mattress protector?
While mattress protectors preserve your mattress and protect it from bodily fluids, stains, or dust, they’re not nearly as soft as bed sheets. Use a fitted sheet over your mattress protector for comfort and to keep the protector itself clean. Protectors don’t need to be washed as often as sheets.
How long do bed sheets last?
Most bed sheets last about three to five years, but it varies based on their quality and durability. To maintain your sheets for as long as possible, regularly wash them according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Also, if you have a deep mattress (14 inches or thicker), be sure to use deep pocket fitted sheets for it. A standard pocket fitted sheet on a deep mattress will stretch and wear out sooner than deep pocket fitted sheets would.
How much should you spend on sheets?
A good price range for high quality queen bed sheets is between $50 to $150 dollars. You can find bed sheets cheaper than $50, but they may wear down quickly and be uncomfortable. It’s better to pay a little more once for long-lasting sheets as opposed to constantly buying cheap sheets.
How many sheet sets should I own?
At the very least, it’s a good idea to have two sheet sets per bed. This way, when one set needs to be washed, you can use the other in the meantime. You may also wish to invest in breathable sheets for summer and warmer sheets for winter.
Next to your pillows and mattress, high quality bed sheets are critical to a good night’s rest. Personal preference does play a part when choosing between different types of bed sheets, but consider if you’re a hot or cold sleeper and the climate.
Even if you’re on a budget, you can find high quality sheets for a decent price. Shop for value instead of looking for the cheapest price, as poor quality sheets will need to be replaced frequently.
About the author
Stacy Liman is a journalism graduate student and a freelance writer with a focus on mindfulness and content marketing. Stacy enjoys discovering new mattresses and connecting people with their perfect bed, but she more so enjoys understanding and writing about the science of sleep to help people get deeper, healthier rest.View all posts