Everything You Need to Know About Buying Sheets

Rest easily with the right fit for your preferences

Stacked Blankets On Bed At Home
Tawan Boonnak / EyeEm / Getty Images

Most people buy sheets based predominantly on how they look and feel in the store. However, there are several other factors you should take into consideration if you’re serious about finding a high-quality set of sheets that you’ll love sleeping in and will last for years to come. After all, if you spend a third of your life sleeping, you should be comfortable while you do so!

Sheets are typically sold in sets that include a fitted sheet to go on your mattress, a flat sheet that acts as a buffer between your body and the comforter, and a few pillowcases. However, it’s also becoming more common for retailers to sell these pieces separately, as some people prefer to sleep without a flat sheet and have more or fewer pillows. Depending on your personal preferences, you might like soft, cozy sheets or cooler, breathable sheets—these different experiences are provided by various fibers and fabric constructions, as we’ll discuss below.

As you shop for sheets, you’ll likely encounter popular fibers like cotton, linen, and microfiber, as well as terms like percale and sateen, which refer to how the fabric is constructed. You’ll be able to choose from features like thread count, pocket depth, wrinkle-resistance, and more—there’s a lot to consider when buying sheets!

Depending on your preferences and budget, you can spend anywhere from $20 to $200 on new sheets, so it’s important to be able to differentiate between the various options to find the best sheets for your needs.

Breakfast tray in elegant bedroom
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What to Look for in Bed Sheets?

There are several factors that affect the performance of sheets, so it’s beneficial to familiarize yourself with these considerations.

  • Fiber: As with any soft goods purchase, it’s essential to consider what fiber your sheets are made of. The most popular options for sheets include a few varieties of cotton, as well as linen and microfiber.
    Cotton sheets are perhaps the most common, as this fiber is affordable, soft, breathable, and durable. You may see different variations of cotton, including high-end Egyptian cotton, organic cotton (which is grown without pesticides), and even long- or short-staple cotton, which refers to the length of the fiber itself. If the sheets don’t specify what kind of cotton is used, it’s most likely American Upland, a widely used, basic fiber.
    Linen, on the other hand, is considered a luxury fiber for sheets. Linen sheets are incredibly durable, often lasting decades when cared for properly, and they get softer each time you wash them. Additionally, they’re breathable and wick moisture away from the skin, and some people tout linen sheets as a great solution for those with sensitive skin. The downside of linen sheets is they’re incredibly expensive and the wrinkled look might not be appealing to everyone.
    Finally, there are polyester sheets, also referred to as microfiber. This synthetic fiber is typically very soft from day one, but it isn’t as breathable as cotton and may leave you sweating in the summer. Microfiber sheets are typically the least expensive, but there are certain environmental considerations associated with the care of this fiber, which often deters eco-friendly consumers. Microfiber sheets are less wrinkly then cotton or linen so that is something to consider.
  • Weave: When you see terms such as percale, sateen, satin, flannel, and jersey, it’s referring to the type of weave (or knit) used to make the sheet. These various construction methods result in sheets that have a different look and feel.
    Percale sheets are made with a plain weave—the yarns are arranged in an over-one-under-one pattern—that results in a crisp-feeling fabric. These sheets are typically very strong and durable thanks to their simple construction. However, they’re generally not the softest option available and are a bit more prone to wrinkles.
    On the other hand, there’s a sateen weave, where horizontal yarns are woven over several vertical strands to create a smooth, almost silky texture. These sheets have a lustrous feel that many people enjoy, but they’re not as durable as percale sheets and are much more susceptible to pilling. Satin sheets are even more lustrous than sateen sheets, as the horizontal yarns are woven over a greater number of vertical ones. This fabric is almost slippery feeling and considered luxurious, but is very prone to pilling and may not last as long as a result.
    Finally, jersey and flannel sheets. The vast majority of sheets are created from woven fabric, but flannel and jersey sheets are knitted. As you might suspect, jersey sheets feel similar to a cotton T-shirt, while flannel sheets feel like, well, flannel shirts. Jersey is known for being soft and cozy, and flannel sheets are incredibly warm and a popular option for winter.
  • Thread Count: People typically think sheets with a higher thread count are more luxurious, but it actually depends on the quality of the fiber and your sheet preferences. Thread count simply refers to the number of horizontal and vertical strands of yarn in one square inch of fabric, and you can find sheets with thread counts ranging from 200 all the way up into the thousands.
    Sheets with a higher thread count are often thought to be softer, but a lot of this depends on the fiber and construction, as well. Many manufacturers will cut corners to “fake” a higher thread count, and experts say that above a certain number, most people can’t tell the difference in softness anyway.
    All this to say: Don’t make thread count your top priority when shopping for sheets. A 300-thread count sheet made from high-quality cotton will likely serve you better than an 800-thread count product that’s poorly made.
  • Fit: When most people think about the fit of their sheets, they simply choose the same size as their mattress—for instance, twin, full, queen, king, etc. This is obviously important, and it can be challenging to find sheets that fit if you have a unique mattress size, such as a Twin XL, California King or a Split King (also known as Dual King). Many retailers don’t carry these sizes in-stores, so you may have to turn to online retailers to find high-quality sheets for these types of mattresses.
    This isn’t the only factor you should consider when it comes to fit, though. It’s also important to measure the depth of your mattress, which can range pretty dramatically from around 7 inches to upward of 20 inches. If you buy sheets that don’t have a deep enough pocket, you run the risk of them popping off in the middle of the night.
    When it comes to depth, you’ll want to ensure the pocket is at least 2 inches bigger than your mattress itself—so if your mattress is 12 inches deep, a 14-inch pocket is ideal. “Standard” sheets are typically fit mattresses up to 12 inches deep, while “deep” sheets fit mattresses up to 15 inches and “extra deep” are for mattresses up to 22 inches. If possible, it’s best to find sheets that tell you exactly how deep the pockets are to ensure they’ll be a good fit.
  • Treatments: Finally, many sheets are treated with certain chemicals to make them more durable and/or decrease wrinkling. If you have sensitive skin, you may want to look for organic sheets that are labeled as “treatment free.” However, if you want wrinkle-resistant sheets, you should look for sheets that have been treated to reduce creasing.

What Is the Best Type of Bed Sheet for Me?

Here are a few of the most common types of sheets you’ll encounter and the differences between each.

Percale

parachute-sheets
Courtesy of Parachute

Thanks to their traditional weave, percale sheets are known for being crisp and cool—though not overly soft. They’re often more durable than other constructions but are more prone to wrinkling, too.

Percale sheets are great for those who get hot while sleeping or live in warm climates. Many people opt for percale sheets in the summer, as they’re very breathable. Depending on the fiber they’re made from, percale sheets can range significantly in price, starting as low as $20 and ranging up into the hundreds.

Sateen

macys-sateen-sheets
Courtesy of Macy's

As explained above, sateen sheets are woven in a pattern that makes them a lot softer and smoother than percale fabrics. They feel almost slippery to the touch and often have a bit of shine to them. The downsides of percale, however, are that they’re not as breathable and are prone to pilling.

If you like to slide into a silky bed at night, sateen sheets are the way to go. These sheets are often a little more expensive than percale sets, ranging from $30 or $40 up to $200 or more.

Jersey

jersey-knit-sheets
Courtesy of The Company Store

Jersey sheets are knitted instead of woven, making them feel like your favorite T-shirt. They’re soft and smooth, but also a lot stretchier than traditional sheets. Jersey sheets are a popular option for children, and you can find many inexpensive sets in the ballpark of $20.

Flannel

ll-bean-flannel-sheets
Courtesy of L.L. Bean

Cold winters call for flannel sheets. These sets are thicker and heavier than other fabrics, and they have an especially soft feel thanks to their brushed finish.

Flannel sheets are perfect for the winter, as well as for people who tend to be cold while sleeping. You can find them at a variety of price points, starting at $20 and topping out around $150.

Organic Sheets

pb-organic-sheets
Courtesy of Pottery Barn

When cotton is labeled as “organic,” it means it was grown without use of any pesticides, making it more eco-friendly. Further, these sheets are typically untreated, making them a good option for those with sensitive skin or allergies.

Organic sheets provide all the benefits of regular cotton sheets, and depending on where you buy them, they may cost anywhere from $40 to a few hundred dollars.

Bamboo Sheets

bamboo-sheets
Courtesy of The Company Store

As more and more people consider environmental impact while shopping, bamboo sheets have gained popularity. Bamboo is a more eco-friendly fiber thanks to the fact that it grows quickly and doesn’t need many pesticides, and it yields soft, durable sheets that are natural odor-resistant, anti-bacterial, and many say they are more breathable. The downside of bamboo is that it’s more prone to shrinking than other fibers.

You’ll often find sheets made from a bamboo-cotton blend, and these typically cost $60 and up per set.

Microfiber Sheets

microfiber-sheets
Courtesy of Amazon

Microfiber sheets are made from polyester, a synthetic fiber that’s similar to plastic. Since this yarn is made in a factory, it can be used to create extremely budget-friendly sheets that cost as little as $20 for a whole set.
While microfiber sheets are usually very soft, they don’t breath as well as natural fibers, and they can also become staticky, attracting pet hair and lint. They’re often thinner than other sheets, as well.
One of the big concerns about microfiber sheets is that microscopic pieces of plastic flake off every time they’re washed, and these tiny fibers often end up in the water system and oceans.

Wrinkle-Free Sheets

wrinkle-free-sheets
Courtesy of Bed Bath & Beyond

Some people don’t like sheets that get really wrinkled, in which case, you may want to look for “wrinkle-free” or “wrinkle-resistant” products. These sheets, which are typically made of cotton, are treated with a resin after construction that allows them to come out of the dryer with minimal wrinkling and stay smooth throughout use. They will typically feel the same as untreated sheets, but there is some controversy surrounding the “wrinkle-free” treatment because of the use of formaldehyde.

Linen Sheets

line-sheets
Courtesy of West Elm

On the flip side, linen sheets give you a more relaxed and wrinkled look to your bed. These sheets get softer over time and give your room a cozy casual feel. Besides the laid-back look, linen is also great at regulating temperatures—so if you run hot in the summer and cool in the winter these sheets are the right fit for you.

You'll pay a premium for these sheets with sets starting around $200 and going up to $400 though these will last for a very long time. If you notice any linen sheets that are less than $100 be weary of their makeup.

Leading Manufacturers

Just about every home goods store out there sells sheets, and many even have their own in-store brands, such as Threshold from Target. However, there are several stand-out brands that are known for their high-quality sheets.

Boll & Branch: This online retailer delivers top-tier percale, sateen, and linen sheets—for premium prices. They only carry plain colors, but reviewers rave about the high-quality linens from Boll & Branch.

Parachute: This retailer specializes in home linens, including high-end sheets. They offer percale, sateen, and linen options, and what’s interesting is that their sets do not include a flat sheet, as they claim this is the consumer preference nowadays.

Brooklinen: Brooklinen is another top performer in the world of home linens thanks to its impressive sateen, percale, and linen collections. While these sheets come at a premium price, they’re comparable to the high-quality sheets you’d find in a luxury hotel.

L.L. Bean: While perhaps best known for its outdoor apparel, L.L. Bean also offers a selection of quality sheet sets, including well-regarded percale options. This is also a great place to shop if you’re in the market for some cozy new flannel sheets.

Pottery Barn: Pottery Barn and its associated brands, such as West Elm, carry a wide variety of quality bedding, including many fabrics and fibers in several styles and colors. This is a good place to shop if you’re looking for organic cotton sheets, as they carry a wide selection, as well as patterned sheets.

The Company Store: While some people are more concerned with the feel of their sheets, others want sheets that look good, as well. If you’re looking for a wide array of colors and patterns, check out The Company Store, which carries many highly-rated options.

Care

Caring for your sheets isn't as simple as just throwing them in the laundry whenever you feel like it. And your sheets should be washed before your first use. You should read the tag on your sheets to see if they're any special instructions you need to follow, but in general, sheets should be washed about once a week in a cool or warm cycle. If the manufacturer recommends it you should dry your sheets and remove them promptly to reduce wrinkles. If you have left them in the dryer sitting you can unwrinkle them a bit by adding a damp washcloth and running the dryer for 10 more minutes. Most sheets will soften over time, so don't rule out scratchy sheets after one wash.

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