Types of Bed Sheets
When it comes to getting a good nights’ sleep, choosing the right type of bed sheet is important. A comfortable sheet can mean the difference between being hot and scratchy or cool but cozy.
There are many factors to consider when shopping for your next sheet set—cost, ease of care, and durability to name a few. It may come as a surprise to some how many different options there are available on the market!
Whether you’re looking for something that you can easily toss in the wash or you want to opt for a more luxurious look and feel, there’s sure to be a sheet set suited to your specific needs.
In this article, we will walk you through the most common types of bed sheet fabrics, highlighting the advantages and downsides of each, so you can confidently choose the best sheets for your comfort preferences and budget.
Cotton is the most common type of bed sheet and one that people are often already familiar with. It’s easy to find and a practical choice due to its affordability, versatility and ease of care. Cotton sheets can withstand frequent washings and hold up very well for long periods.
There are many different types of cotton, each with distinguishing features. The variations in quality levels can be daunting to some, as you must do your research in order to find the best fit. However, it can also be nice to have various options to choose from based on your preferences.
Here are the most popular types of cotton used in bed sheets today:
American Upland: When a label states “100%” cotton, chances are it’s American Upland cotton. This is the most widely used cotton in the United States. With relatively short fibers, it feels a bit more coarse and is the least expensive of the cotton varieties.
Egyptian Cotton: Grown in the Nile River Valley, Egyptian Cotton is notorious for its superior softness and great durability. Because of its very long fiber threads, it is the highest quality among the different types of cotton, strong and built to last. However, since it is considered top-of-the-line, there is typically a high price tag that goes along with Egyptian cotton sheets.
Pima: Pima cotton, sometimes also referred to as Supima, is sourced in the southwestern United States. Its long fibers make it soft and it has a slight sheen in its appearance. This type of cotton doesn’t wrinkle after washing, making it a low maintenance option.
Flannel: When cotton is shredded to make it softer, the end product is flannel. This is a great choice for chilly winter nights, as it traps and retains heat. Between its thickness and fluffy texture, flannel can be very comforting for cold sleepers. However, because it’s so heavy, it can be stifling in warmer environments.
Jersey Knit: Also known as the “t-shirt material”, jersey-knit sheets provide another excellent option to keep warm in cold weather because of their ability to trap heat. The material is very stretchy, soft, and wrinkle-resistant. However, it is not as durable as its other cotton counterparts.
The downsides of cotton include being prone to shrinkage and likely to experience some creasing after drying. The production process is not particularly environmentally friendly either, which may be a deal-breaker for more eco-conscious consumers.
Silk sheets are often associated with luxury. Their refined, elegant appearance makes them a popular choice for many. Made by silkworms, this material is incredibly cool and soft to the touch. As a naturally-hypoallergenic material, they are great for those struggling with allergies or skin sensitivities.
One of the major drawbacks of having silk sheets is their high price point. They are a financial investment, but when properly cared for, make a versatile choice due to their ability to keep sleepers cool in the summer and warm throughout winter. Budget shoppers may prefer a less expensive fabric with a satin weave; satin and silk have similar smooth feels.
Another downside is that silk requires special care. It’s recommended that you only hand wash or dry clean, making it an unrealistic, high-maintenance option for some individuals and families. As far as fabrics go, it is the least durable of the bunch.
Some people also find that silk sheets are too slippery to comfortably sleep on. This will be up to you and your personal preference.
Linen is an appealing, go-to option for bed sheets for many reasons. Most notable is its ability to accommodate different temperatures. It’s often considered the best option for year-round use because it is lightweight with superior breathability.
Aside from that, the material requires minimal care. It is naturally antimicrobial, hypoallergenic, machine washable, and built to last. The fabric becomes increasingly softer with each wash cycle, too.
On the flip side, linen sheets are very prone to wrinkling, which may be discouraging to some people. Additionally, for those seeking softness straight out of the package, a linen sheet set may be somewhat off-putting as it will take a few washes before it reaches ideal smoothness.
Prized for its softness and cooling effects, Tencel is a top choice for bed sheets, and it just continues to grow in popularity. Made from the wood pulp of sustainably-sourced eucalyptus trees, it is one of the more eco-friendly options as far as materials go.
Tencel fabric is a naturally-derived plant material that’s created using what’s called a “closed-loop production process” which means that no chemicals are leaked into the ecosystem during manufacturing. On top of that, the process utilizes far less water, energy, and resources overall than, say, cotton, making it an especially appealing option for the conscious consumer.
Hot sleepers will rejoice at Tencel’s moisture-wicking properties. It does a wonderful job of pulling sweat away from the body for a comfortable, airy nights’ sleep. It’s cooler and softer than cotton, and the material has proven to be gentle on sensitive skin. It is also naturally wrinkle-resistant which can be an enticing feature for those who care about appearance.
One of the disadvantages of Tencel bed sheets is that they require somewhat special care. You can wash them in the washing machine, but only on the gentle cycle setting and separate from other laundry. As far as drying goes, hang drying will be your best bet in order to preserve the fabric fibers. If needed, you can tumble dry on low settings. The material does dry very quickly, though.
Another drawback is the cost. Tencel sheets are often sold at higher price points, which may be a barrier to purchasing for some.
Sometimes referred to as viscose rayon, bamboo sheets are another eco-friendly option and a favorite among those seeking sustainability in their homes. Its perks include breathability and softness that feels great against the skin. It’s also a wonderful option for people with sensitive skin or who suffer from allergies because it’s naturally hypoallergenic.
As for the cons, bamboo is wrinkle-prone and requires gentler care. To maximize the sheets’ longevity, you’ll want to wash it separately from other laundry, as it can pill easily. Line drying is optimal.
One other drawback is that high-quality bamboo sheets can often be expensive.
Cotton-polyester blends are popular because they make for an easy-to-maintain sheet. The ratio of cotton to polyester varies quite a bit, but the most common is 90% cotton and 10% polyester. With these percentages, you have the best of both worlds; soft and cozy, but still durable.
Other Factors You’ll Want to Consider
Aside from the bed sheet material, there are a handful of other important factors that you’ll want to consider when shopping for the best sheets, including thread count, weave, and materials.
The first is the thread count, a term that’s thrown around a lot in the bedding world. It refers to the number of vertical and horizontal threads per square inch.
Despite what many people are taught to believe, thread count is not always an accurate indicator of softness. There have been cases where manufacturers use multi-ply thread in an effort to inflate the thread count number. It’s a method to creatively deceive consumers into thinking that they’re purchasing a higher quality, softer product.
Quality over quantity is a good rule of thumb to use here. If you see packaging with a thread count greater than 800, chances are its manufacturer is being misleading and inaccurate. We would recommend focusing on fabric quality, instead.
Another important factor is the type of weave within the sheet fibers. Weave is the way that the threads are interlaced together. It is an important detail that greatly affects the durability and softness of the sheet. There are two primary types of weave patterns used in bedding: percale and sateen.
Percale follows a one-yarn-over, one-yarn-under pattern. It is the more durable of the two and has a matte appearance. Percale sheets are also more lightweight, and therefore, a better choice for staying cool throughout the night. It does wrinkle more easily than its counterpart, sateen.
Sateen features a three-yarns-over, one-yarn-under pattern. With a similar look and feel to silk, it has an elegant air to it. It is the heavier of the two options and retains heat better.
Some fabrics, such as silk, are naturally grown, while others, like polyester-cotton blends, are synthetic. The primary difference between the two is that synthetic fibers are man-made. This may be an important distinction for consumers who place emphasis on health and natural living. If this sounds like you, you’ll want to select one of the organic options for peace of mind, as there will be far fewer chemicals involved in the production process.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best type of sheet for hot sleepers?
People who find themselves sweating and feeling hot at night will want to look for sheets that are moisture-wicking and breathable. Natural fibers tend to do the best job of promoting cool nights. Therefore, linen, bamboo, and Tencel all make great sheets for hot sleepers. A fabric’s weave can also make a difference in helping to regulate body temperature at night. Percale sheets are generally more cooling than sateen ones because they are lighter in weight, enhancing breathability.
What is the best sheet for those who suffer from allergies?
Silk, linen, and bamboo sheets are all naturally hypoallergenic, making them excellent options for sleepers with allergies and skin sensitivities. These fabrics do well at repelling dust mites and other common allergens.
What is the best thread count?
Ideally, you will want to aim for a thread count in the 200-400 range because sheets within this thread count are lightweight and soft but still durable and long-lasting. Promises of high thread counts, above 800, are misleading and will have little effect on the quality of the sheets or be any softer.
It’s important to note that the numbers will be very different from one fabric to another. For example, silk has much thinner fibers than cotton, so a thread count is irrelevant and should be ignored. Its quality is better measured by weight. Linen, on the other hand, is very thick, so the thread count will appear low in comparison to cotton.
Remember: Thread count isn’t synonymous with better quality sheets. A sheet’s fabric is usually a better indicator of quality.
What type of sheets do hotels use?
While it varies from hotel to hotel, many of them gravitate toward using 300-thread count Egyptian cotton or cotton blend sheets with their hotel mattress. These are common choices because cotton sheets are easy to clean and low maintenance, while still providing the crisp, breathable comfort guests enjoy.
How often should I wash my sheets?
There is no magic number, as this will differ based on the type of sheet you have. For best results, you’ll want to follow the care instructions that come with the sheet when you purchase it. Otherwise, washing your sheets every other week is standard. If you struggle with night sweats and/or allergies, you may want to consider washing them more frequently instead—Ideally, every 7 to 10 days.
There are a lot of different options and factors to consider on your quest for the perfect sheet.
Is cost important? Do you live in a cold climate and crave warmth? Are you willing to dry clean the sheets, or is a machine-washable sheet more realistic for you? Once you figure out what you like and can afford, it will be easier to narrow down the choices that meet your personal preferences.
Finding the right sheet set can help you to create an ideal, ultra-comfortable sleep environment. We hope that our guide has helped you feel more informed and empowered to find the bed sheet that’s right for you.