Picking the perfect sheet is both and art and a science. Since we spend up to a third of our lives sleeping in bed, comfortable and good quality sheets should be a priority!
There are many variables you need to consider as far as durability, fit and comfort are concerned. Fabric content, thread count, pocket depth and price point are all important factors. With so many options available in the marketplace, it is important to know what to look for to find a quality sheet that suits your preferences.
What to look for in a sheet:
1) Fabric Content
Sheets are made from a variety of textiles woven with cotton, polyester, linen, silk and more recently, wood fibers like bamboo and eucalyptus (Tencel). Each fabric has its advantages and drawbacks, so the best sheet for you essentially depends on your preferences and budget.
Cotton is still the most prevalent fabric in sheets. Cotton is readily available and because it is a natural fiber, it is an ideal source for sheeting due to its breathability and softness.
Though it is very common, not all cotton textiles are made equal. There are several varieties of cotton, each producing either a high quality, long strand thread, or lower quality short strand fibers. Egyptian, Pima, Supima, and Giza are all examples of high quality cotton capable of producing long and strong threads. The resulting weaves produce a very smooth and durable fabric. Short strand cotton fibers require more piecing together prior to weaving, so the resulting thread is less durable. Sheets made with short strand cotton produce a less uniform weave which is more prone to breakages within the fiber, also known as pilling.
Look for 100% long strand weaves, and let the price point be your guide. High thread counts at low prices are a red flag.
Polyester is a synthetic fiber used in sheets and is often blended with natural fibers like cotton to help reduce wrinkling and price point. While it reduces the benefits of natural fibers, some prefer the “crispness” of a cotton/polyester blend and its ease of maintenance.
A well-made blended sheet can be just as durable as a long strand cotton, but will be less soft and breathable. 100% polyester products include faux silk (polyester satin) and microfiber or fleece sheets. These textiles are very affordable, but lack all the benefits of natural fibers and are generally less durable. Polyester is also known to easily absorb and trap oils, making oil-based stains much more difficult to remove.
Linen is a natural fiber, made from the stalk of a flax plant. Linen was the first fibre used to weave fabric and dates back over 8,000 years. It is regarded in Europe as the best quality fabric. It softens the more it is used and washed, is extremely durable and lasts decades when cared for correctly.
Linen has many benefits over cotton. It is 30% stronger, highly absorbent and naturally hypo-allergenic. It is also very breathable, and structurally sound so the products keep their shape. These plentiful benefits don’t come without a price. Now because of the laborious time it takes to produce linen yarn, and the manual processes that have to be undertaken, linen has become a higher priced commodity, and is considered among many to be a ‘luxury’ fabric.
Silk is another natural fibre known for its luxurious feel and hypoallergenic properties. It is highly resistant to dust mites, so it is a great choice for those with such allergies. It is also highly revered for its delightfully smooth texture and its ability to reduce wrinkles on the skin and prevent hair damage while sleeping. As a natural fibre, silk also has the ability to help regulate your body temperature by wicking away moisture or insulating when necessary. While the benefits are many, authentic silk textiles are very expensive, and therefore, not widely available. Silk also requires a lot more care in cleaning and maintenance, making it a less practical choice for most people. A good compromise is to purchase a 100% silk pillowcase, and add a touch of elegance without breaking the bank!
It is important to note that Satin is not the same as Silk. Satin refers to a type of weave, is man-made, and is usually composed of synthetic materials like polyester. Though it is made to resemble silk in its appearance and feel, it lacks all the benefits of natural silk. To its credit, satin is much more affordable, and is still efficient at maintaining hair shape and style, and preventing split ends.
Originating from wood cellulose, these natural fibres are a relatively new breed of textiles. While they are sourced from nature from plants like bamboo and eucalyptus trees, they are considered a manufactured natural fibre, as a lot more processing is required to convert the wood pulp into the finished product than other natural sources. That being said, sheets made from wood fibre have several advantages over cotton. Bamboo and Tencel have a luxuriously soft hand and silky texture, are as breathable but more efficient at wicking away moisture due to their superior absorbency, and are naturally hypoallergenic and antibacterial. They are also both considered to be environmentally friendly as they are sourced from sustainable and fast growing plants that are grown without the use of pesticides. As for the drawbacks, bamboo sheets are more prone to wrinkling, are less durable than long strand cotton, and are very sensitive to high heat. As a result, bamboo does not always keep its shape and is more prone to shrinkage. Tencel is more durable and wrinkle resistant, but comes at a higher price point than bamboo products.
2) Thread Count
Thread count is simply the number of threads woven into a square inch of fabric. Though there has been much emphasis placed on thread counts in the marketing of sheets, it is actually not the best measure of quality. While it is still important to observe the thread count when shopping for sheets, it is equally important to consider the content and characteristics of the woven fabric in order to measure its overall quality. To find a sheet that is both good quality and well suited to your sleep habits and preferences, you should examine thread count as it relates to breathability, durability, and feel. A good quality cotton sheet should have a minimum of 200 threads per square inch, with a well-constructed weave (sometimes referred to as Percale). In the case of Linen, however, thread counts range from 80 to 150 for the same level of quality, so it is clear that there is more to consider than this arbitrary measure. Higher thread counts, like 800 to 1000 have become synonymous with luxury and high quality, but this is not always the case. These very high thread counts are often “two-ply” (interwoven 400-500 thread count), or have a manipulated weave that allows manufacturers to label the sheets as such. In addition, high thread counts greatly reduce breathability, and therefore, eliminate one of the most important benefits of natural fibres like cotton.
3) Pocket Depth
When shopping for sheets, it is important to know the depth (or thickness) of your mattress, as fitted sheets come in a wide variety of pocket sizes. Choosing a sheet with the appropriate pocket depth for your mattress will ensure a proper fit and eliminate the frustration of sheets that are either too loose fitting or so tight that they are continually slipping off the corners of your mattress.
4) Price Point
There are many variables that go in to determining the price point of a sheet. These include type of fabric, country of origin, quality of workmanship, and pocket depth. Expect higher price points for luxury fabrics like silk, linen and Tencel. Sheets made from synthetic materials or low quality cotton tend to have low price points.