What Is a Fitted Sheet, and How Is It Different From a Top Sheet?

Person putting fitted sheet on a bed

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The world of bedding can seem confusing and overwhelming; between duvet covers, comforters, shams, flat sheets and fitted sheets, you may wonder what each of those items are and what you actually need for your bed. Today, we're going to focus on fitted sheets and what exactly they are, why they are necessary and how to pick the right fitted sheet for your bed.

What Is a Fitted Sheet?

A fitted sheet is a rectangular sheet with elasticated edges designed to protect the mattress and provide a comfortable surface to sleep on.

Fitted Sheet vs. Flat Sheet

While there are similarities between a fitted and a flat sheet, such as them being made out of the same material and having the same basic shape, they each have their own function and advantages. You can immediately tell the difference between the two however, because a fitted sheet is elasticated around its entire perimeter, while a flat sheet is not. The purpose of a fitted sheet is to protect your mattress and to provide a soft and comfortable surface to sleep on, and it's the elasticated edges that ensure it stays put on the mattress and doesn't come off during a restless night of tossing and turning.

A flat sheet on the other hand does not have elasticated edges and lays flat on top of the fitted sheet, creating a barrier between you and the top bedding layer, be it a comforter or a duvet. When making the bed, it is tucked underneath the mattress but because it doesn't have the elasticated edges, it comes undone much more easily than a fitted sheet does. It also serves a decorative purpose, since some of it is often exposed when the bed is made, its pattern and colors are a great way to add some visual interest.

How to Pick the Right Fitted Sheet

One of the main things to consider when shopping for a fitted sheet is its size. As other bedding items, fitted sheets come in twin, queen and other sizes, however don't forget about the depth of your mattress as well. Measure how deep you need the sheet to be, as they come in regular and extra-deep pocket sizes and you want to make sure that you get the correct size so that it fits tightly around the mattress and stays put.

Also consider the material of not just the fitted sheet, but your entire sheet set, as the fitted sheet is usually part of a set. A 100% cotton set is always a good choice, as is an Egyptian cotton one which will feel even softer, depending on thread count. If you're looking for a more breathable option, percale is an excellent choice that's lightweight and perfect for summertime.

Folding a Fitted Sheet

A common struggle people have when it comes to fitted sheets is how to fold and store them. You may know the frustrating feeling — trying to neatly fold an unruly piece of material that's not a perfect rectangle and therefore getting any straight edges and folds seems completely impossible. While it may be easier to just roll it into a messy ball and shove it in the closet, here is an easy-to-follow step by step guide to beautifully folded fitted sheets:

  1. Take a clean fitted sheet and hold it up longways, with the opening facing you. Place your hands inside each of the two top corners.

  2. Next, turn the corners inside out and place your hands inside them. Take the left corner and bring it over to the right corner, then flip it over the right corner. Make sure the seams are lined up and try to flatten out any major creases.

  3. Grab one of the other two corners and place the first two corners inside it, then take the fourth corner, bring it over to the other three corners and flip it over them. All the corners should now be aligned and tucked into each other.

  4. The final step is to flatten the sheet so there aren't any big creases in it, then fold it over in half or whatever your folding preference is so that it can be stored neatly in your linen closet without taking up too much room and be crisp and as wrinkle free as possible when unfolded to make the bed.