A Guide to Buying Sheets (Different Types)

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Buyer’s Guide to Bed Sheets

It’s estimated the average person spends about a third of their lives in bed.  So it makes sense to think twice about not only your bed but the sheets you’re lying between every night.  There are a lot of fabrics to choose from, and we break down the many fabric choices for you to consider before investing in bedding.

It is no surprise that Egyptian cotton sheets have such a good reputation. The first items of bed clothing were made in Egypt centuries ago. These were made from flax. Eventually, these made their way to Europe. The Europeans brought flax-based linen to the United States and it wasn’t until the 1830s that we began making cotton material. Since then, we have perfected the weaving methods and made scientific advancements that allow manufacturers to create sheets from a number of different natural and synthetic fibers.

With so many choices on the market, it can be difficult to decide which sheets to buy. This guide helps break it down for you.

Things to Consider

When looking for a good quality sheet, the first thing many guides tell you is to look for the thread count. This is helpful to a point. Technically, the higher the thread count, the smoother the feel of the material. We will discuss the thread count more in a minute.

Other things you need to take into account are the differences in the quality of the material used, the type of weave that was used in making the sheet, and your own comfort preferences.

Another consideration is if you sleep hot or cold.  Some materials, such as percale, are better suited for hot sleepers who find themselves tossing and turning from the slightest heat. On the other hand, flannel sheets are better for those who get cold easily.  Linen is touted for it’s breathability – keeping you both warm and cool.

Skin sensitivity is another thing to consider. Some people can sleep comfortably on logs while others feel even the smallest wrinkle. Still, others have chemical sensitivities and need a more natural product.

Thread Count

The thread count that you see listed for bed sheets is a measure of how many fibers are woven into a square inch of fabric. The manufacturer counts the number of threads going horizontally and the number of threads woven vertically and then adds those two numbers together.

Unfortunately, there are no standards in the process, and different countries, as well as different fabric creators within a country, may vary. In addition, some types of fabric are measured in a different type of measurement than thread count.

Silk is measured by weight and listed as momme. The best silk sheets are 17-22 momme. Microfiber, flannel, and jersey are all measured by grams per square meter (GSM). With these measurements, you should look for a GSM of 90-120 for microfiber, 170+ for flannel, or 150 for jersey sheets.

For sheets made from other materials that do use thread count, the best average also varies based on the type of weave that has been utilized.

Here are some averages to use

  • Cotton averages 200-400 while Egyptian cotton runs 300-400.
  • A percale weave yields good quality at 200-400
  • Sateen weave, which is tighter, averages 300-600.
  • Bamboo sees quality products at 300-500.
  • Linen thread count is 80-140.

Any higher than average counts might be suspicious as to the quality of the actual fibers used. Some manufacturers use thin fibers that break easily and will wind two or three together to make one thread. They then will inflate the fiber count by counting each strand. For example, using 300 triple-ply strands, they will say the finished product has a 900 thread count. Unfortunately, that is based on a very low-quality beginning element.

Minimal classic bedroom with wooden bed

Types of Sheet Materials

There are so many choices when it comes to sheet materials.  Here are a few things to consider to narrow down the field.

  • If the material is wrinkle-resistant, it may have been treated with chemicals that irritate sensitive skin.
  • One-ply products are woven more tightly and use better quality fibers than two-ply sheets.
  • Polyester doesn’t breathe well, so it isn’t a good choice if you get hot easily.
  • Jersey is very breathable due to being knit rather than woven
  • If you want a crisp, clean look, jerseys and microfiber are not good candidates.

Satin Sheets

1. Silk – This is the softest. It is a natural material that is luxurious if you don’t mind dry cleaning only.

2. Polyester Satin – This is a synthetic material that mimics the look of silk. It is wrinkle-resistant and easy to care for as you can throw it in the washing machine. One drawback is that these sheets are often thinner than other materials.

3. Acetate satin – This material needs to be dry-cleaned in order to stay soft. It is made of wood fibers and is a great compromise between silk and polyester satin.

4. Nylon Satin – These look pretty but can start pilling after several rounds through the washer. You need to use caution with heat and don’t risk ironing, which is fine as these sheets don’t wrinkle easily.

5. Linen -The original sheet material is very durable and actually gets softer with age and washing. It does tend to wrinkle easily. You can expect to pay more for these but they are likely to last most of your lifetime.

Stack of organic flax with tag of 100% linen on light background

Cotton Sheets

1. Egyptian Cotton – This is considered the elite in sheet material, along with Turkish and Pima cotton. Harvested from cotton that grows along the Nile, only long strands of fiber are used. These strands are very thin but strong and sheets made from the material are extra soft and not subject to pilling.

2. Cotton Flannel – super cozy and soft. Great if you tend to be cold at night. Perfect for a winter cabin. Flannel sheets use a weight indicator rather than thread count to measure quality.

3. Cotton Sateen – One hundred percent cotton. These sheets are soft and very lightweight. The tightly woven material lasts a long time and the sheets can withstand machine washing, even in hot water.

4. Percale – Tightly woven and soft, sheets with 18-280 thread count are considered to be superior bedding.

5. Batiste/Voile – This cotton is soft and cool, best used in warmer weather or by those who get too warm at night. This is a good material choice if you want to embroider sheets. It does wrinkle easily.

6. Tencel/Modal/Bamboo – Made from eucalyptus and other plants, these are environmentally friendly and considered healthy choices. The soft, smooth textures are worth the greater expense to buy these.

What To Buy

There are even more choices available, such as the worn t-shirt feel of jersey or the warm softness of fleece. Some of it will come down to personal preference and how you sleep.

If budget is not an issue, silk or linen might be the most luxurious sheets you can buy.  Linen sheets have been trending of late due to their relaxed but elegant style and breathability.  100% cotton sheets are widely used for their affordability and durability.

Since we spend roughly one-third of our lives in bed, it’s worth spending some time researching your best pick for sheets before you invest.  Ultimately the best sheets are the ones that you look forward to getting into at the end of the day.