Old sheets getting a little threadbare? Feeling a need to change decor with the seasons? Bought a new mattress and need new bedding to go with it? Or maybe you’re just redecorating a room for the in-laws’ first visit in five years. Choosing the perfect sheets from all the thousands available is a bear. Well, no matter your needs this guide will help you decide the Goldilocks match for you!
Thread count: what it means, and what it doesn’t
Thread count is often used as an easy shortcut for guessing at how soft a sheet is without having put hands on it yourself. While this is a temptingly simple way to choose sheets, it’s not very reliable. A lot of manufacturers will inflate their thread count by using twisted-weave fibers, or simply mislabel them outright. Plus, other factors can matter more to the softness in the hand.
Instead of relying on a single number for your purchase, you should look at material, weave, type, and ideally feel the product in person to decide what’s right for you.
What kind of material?
Cotton is by far the most popular choice of material for bed sheets. Inexpensive, breathable, durable, and easily woven into many styles of fabric, cotton has been a benchmark in bedsheets for centuries. Be sure to pay close attention to the cotton type when choosing a sheet. Egyptian cotton is made in the country from premium fibers that are longer and therefore softer and more durable. Supima, long-staple, and combed all have similar but not identical meanings.
Most people will end up choosing cotton for these properties and their familiarity with it, but there are other options worth considering before going with the default.
Modal, Tencel™/Lyocell, and Bamboo
All of these trade names and categories rely on the same basic technology of processed plant fibers. Unlike cotton, which is spun and woven directly from its natural state, all of these fibers take cellulose from sources like wood or bamboo and pulp it before processing it into a fiber.
There are differences between all these materials but the most important thing to know is that they are all very soft, sometimes even as soft as silk for the higher-end varieties. This is nice for sleepers who have skin or sensory sensitivity that make other sheets a no-go. They tend to be quite durable, as well. Excellent stain and hard water deposit resistance, colorfastness, and no special laundering requirements make for sheets where appearance is both attractive and easy to maintain.
These features are all very desirable but so is one other property: price. To get cotton or silk sheets as soft as these fibers you often spend significantly more, or go with less-durable weaves like sateen.
Polyester, what can’t it do? From climbing ropes to aircraft parts to bedsheets polyester has found an application in almost every facet of life. Polyester is a great choice for inexpensive, hard-wearing sheets due to its high durability and low cost.
Unfortunately, it has one big drawback compared to most other options: breathability is not great. So if you’re looking for winter sheets or just something to put in the guest bedroom, polyester is a great choice, but for summertime cooling or frequent use it’s not ideal.
Silk is often perceived (rightly) as the premium option of bedsheet materials. Ultra-soft, superbly breathable, comfortable in almost any temperature, and long-lasting, silk is a great choice for things like pillow covers, where next-to-skin comfort is a big priority.
Just beware, silk cannot be laundered with the same casual attention you’d give cotton! Special detergents like Woolite and low washing temperatures are a must unless you want to turn an expensive set of king-size sheets into queen-size ones.
Percale is the most popular weave of bedsheet fabric by far, and for good reason. It strikes a nice balance between softness, durability, and breathability. Typically percale sheets will be 200-400 thread count. Higher may be better, but it’s best to judge for yourself in person if those extra threads are worth the extra price.
Jersey knit is what most T-shirts are made with, and is both incredibly soft and probably the most breathable of them all. Unfortunately, the loose weave often causes issues with durability, and it can be a bit polarizing with some folks loving it and others hating it. If you sleep in an old T-shirt rubbed to perfect softness, though, this is probably a good choice to consider. Thread count should be at least 150.
Ever worn a nice warm flannel shirt? Well, that’s pretty much what you’re getting with flannel sheets. They are a great choice for extra wintertime warmth, and this weave is among the most durable you can get. Thread count is typically 80-120.
Sateen is an ultra-fine weave, reminiscent of satin ribbon. Sometimes a polarizing choice due to its unusually slick finish, sateen is good for people who really want the absolute smoothest, softest sheets possible. Unfortunately, the ultra-fine weave also makes it more fragile than most, so sateen will wear through sooner than other fabrics. 300-600 thread count.
Don’t assume all queen sheets are the same! That goes for all of the “standard” sheet sizes out there. While the width and length are pretty much the same for any given queen, your sheets still have to reach far enough down to wrap all the way around. If you get a tall mattress, or have a regular one with a foam topper on it, oftentimes the “queen size” sheets you just bought won’t actually fit your queen-size bed.
The bottom line?
The world of bedsheets can be a little bewildering at first with all the options, but you don’t have to navigate them on your own. Visit Mattress Firm at any of our El Paso and Las Cruces locations and speak to one of our experts about our premium PureCare bedding!