Though a soft-yet-sturdy mattress and a pair of perfectly plush pillows are the foundation of a good night's sleep, you should never overlook a set of sheets. (After all, nobody wants to spend the time they should be snoozing tossing and turning on scratchy, stiff sheets.) But, herein lies the problem: there are simply too many options. With so many brands, materials, and price points to choose from, buying something as essential as sheets turns into a challenging—and, let's be honest, stressful—endeavor.
If you've ever wondered what the best bedding material is or if thread count really matters, help is on the way. We're breaking down everything you need to know about how buy sheets with confidence.
Before You Buy
Ultimately, buying sheets is an incredibly personal experience; it's important to find bedding that you actually want to spend eight hours a day on. But, before you start researching materials or weighing the pros and cons of a top sheet, you'll want to determine what size you'll need to buy. Simply put, the size of your mattress directly correlates to the size of your bedding. (Translation? Anyone with a twin-sized mattress will need twin sheets, while a full-sized mattress requires full sheets, and so on.)
However, if it's been a minute since you bought new sheets or a mattress, you might be in need of a refresher. When in doubt, you can always remeasure your mattress. To figure out which size your mattress needs, measure its width and length. According to the Sleep Foundation, twin mattresses are 38 inches by 75 inches; twin XL mattresses are 38 inches by 80 inches; full mattresses are 54 inches by 75 inches; queen mattresses are 60 inches by 80 inches; king mattresses are 76 inches by 80 inches; and California king mattresses clock in at 72 inches by 84 inches.
Ideally, your sheets should fit snugly on your mattress. But, in the off chance your sheets are too loose or won't physically fit over your mattress' four corners, it's possible you accidentally picked up the wrong size. (Don't worry, it happens! Just be sure to double-check your size before you add to your cart—especially if you're shopping for twin, twin XL, king, or California king bedding.)
Considerations for Buying Sheets
Since you'll be laying on your sheets every single night for hours on end, you'll want to invest in a set that feels good against your skin. That's where choosing the right material comes in. Generally, sheets come in a handful of go-to materials—percale, sateen, microfiber, linen, flannel, and silk, for starters—all of which have their fair share of nuances and benefits. While personal preference comes into play, you'll also want to think about the time of year and your sleeping temperature.
Lighter materials like linen or percale are ideal for warmer seasons or anyone who runs hot as they sleep, while heftier fabrics like flannel and sateen will give you some extra insulation.
Once upon a time, thread count was the ultimate indicator of good sheets. Since thread count is the number of vertical and horizontal threads that make up a square inch, the logic was that a higher thread count equaled a higher quality. But, over the past few years, both bedding brands and experts have debunked the myth once and for all. Turns out, thread count isn't as important as it was once cracked up to be.
Why the sudden change? Some brands will cut corners by twisting multiple, thinner yarns together to bump up the thread count. (These twisted threads are typically referred to as two-ply.) Problem is, these thinner yarns are not as durable as a single-ply yarn. When you're only focused thread count, you're not paying attention to the quality of the actual yarn.
“An 800-thread count sheet woven from two-ply, thinner threads may well be of poorer quality than regular single-ply 400 thread count sheets,” Jacob Andsager of The Modern Dane previously told The Spruce. “The reality, however, is that 400 is the maximum thread count that makes a discernible difference to the quality, and you'd be right to be suspicious of anything beyond that.”
Quality of Material
Instead, do your research and look for high-quality fabrics that can withstand the test of time. Depending on the brand, it's likely that bedding with a single-ply weave will be more durable than a deceptively high thread count.
And, if sustainability is important, you'll be happy to know that many brands have sheets that are certified by Global Organic Textile Standard (a.k.a GOTS) and OEKO-TEX. Since many companies love to highlight their eco-friendly efforts, it'll be easy to spot these accolades on their websites or packaging.
Comfort might be key, but it's important that your sheets look nice, too. The good news is that bed sheets are available in a handful of colors and patterns, making it possible to find something that matches your personal aesthetic. If you're looking for sheets that can stand against time and trends, it doesn't get more classic than a solid color. But, if you want to shake things up, go bold with a bright color of eye-catching print such as stripes, checks, or florals.
Types of Sheets
There's a reason why percale is one of the most in-demand bedding materials around. Made from combed and carded cotton yarn, percale features a one-over-one-under weave. The result? Lightweight sheets with a crisp feel, making these a must-have for warmer season and hot sleepers alike. (If you love the feel of a freshly ironed button-down, this is the right material for you.)
For some extra shine, reach for a set of sateen sheets. Decked out with a four-over-one-under weave, this material has a buttery smooth feel and slightly lustrous finish. Sateen sheets are slightly heavier than their percale counterparts, so they'll definitely come in handy during those transitional seasons like spring and fall.
Looking for a clever way to beat the heat? Look no further than linen, which is arguably a summertime staple. Made with a natural fiber of a flax plant, this material is equal parts lightweight and breathable.
Silk might be synonymous with luxury, but there's more to this fancy fabric than its smooth-to-the-touch nature. In fact, research shows that silk can reduce the friction on your face and hair, making frizzy strands, fine lines, and acne a thing of the past. Admittedly, silk pillowcases are more popular than flat and fitted sheets, but here's hoping silky slumbers will become the status quo.
Ultra-soft and virtually wrinkle-resistant, microfiber sheets use manmade fibers to make you feel like you're sleeping on cloud nine. This thick, tight weave tends to be very insulating, which is perfect for those chilly winter nights.
If linen is the unofficial material for the summer, flannel will deliver all winter long. Since flannel is typically made with mid-weight to heavy cotton, this option is perfect for the chillier seasons or anyone who runs cold when they sleep. Another thing to love about this pick? Its double-napped finish, which will feel so plush against the skin.
Cost of Sheets
So, how much should you spend on great sheets? Well, it all depends on how much you're willing to spend. Fortunately, it is possible to find great sheets at every price point. While mass retailers sell bedding for as little as $20 per set, high-end brands can charge hundreds of dollars. Additionally, the rush of direct-to-consumer brands are offering a happy medium: high-quality sheets minus the markup. The choice is yours, so choose an option that fits comfortably within your budget.
How to Choose Sheets
Though doing your due diligence on fibers and materials is incredibly important, choosing the right pair of sheets all boils down to your personal preference. Do you love the feeling of crisp, hotel-quality sheets? Pick up some percale bedding. Run warm when you sleep? Consider linen. Or, if you want to live the lap of luxury, silk pillowcases might be in your future.
Where to Shop for Sheets
From big-box retailers, to small boutiques, to direct-to-consumer companies, you are in no shortage of places to buy great sheets. But, where you ultimately buy your sheets might affect how you shop for them in the first place. To help, we're breaking down how to shop for sheets in-person and virtually. (Psst...don't forget to browse through our go-to bedding brands.)
How to Shop for Sheets at a Brick-and-Mortar Store
When you shop for sheets in-person, you have the luxury of copping a feel before you add them to your cart. But, while assessing the texture is a great way to narrow down your top contenders, check if the store has that set of sheets on display. Chances are, an in-store setup will help you get a sense of how the sheets will look and feel after a few washes.
How to Shop for Sheets Online
Though buying great sheets from the comfort of your couch is the shopping dream, you won't be able to see them in-person until they arrive to your doorstep. To keep unnecessary returns to a minimum, scroll through the products' reviews. While all reviews should be taken with a grain of salt—after all, no two opinions are the same—reading a few of them will paint a better picture of a bedding set's pros and cons.
Do you need a top sheet?
Well, it depends. While a top sheet is supposed to keep your blanket or duvet cleaner for longer, direct-to-consumer brand Parachute found that 40 percent of Americans actually don't sleep with one. If you like the idea of lots of layers and a clean duvet, add a top sheet. But, if the mere thought of yet another sheet leaves you feeling hot and bothered, feel free to leave it off your bed.
How do you clean sheets?
More times than not, your bed sheets are machine-washable, making them a breeze to clean. But, before you kickstart that spin cycle, read through your sheets' care instructions. Some brands might have recommended water temperatures—for example, cotton does best in hot water while blends and synthetic fibers can be put in warm water—or special instructions to hang dry.
How often should you clean sheets?
As a general rule of thumb, snoozers who shower before bed and wear pajamas can clean their sheets every two weeks. (If you have a bout of allergies or snuggle with your furry friend, you might want to clean them sooner.) But, if you are home sick or have chronic skin problems, you might want to change them on a daily basis.
How often should you replace your sheets?
Bed sheets don't have a strict expiration date, so you can keep them for as long as you see fit. That said, you might start to notice some wear and tear after a few years—especially if you use the same sheets often. But, if you change your sheets often, you might want to pick up a new set as needed.