What Should I Look For When Buying Bed Sheets?

Picking the right bed sheet begins with knowing the proper size. Buying bed sheets would be easier if everything was uniform, but manufacturers still haven’t standardized sheet sizing. The simple advice is: get the sheet size that fits your mattress, and if you need to, it’s better to pick one that’s too long rather than too short. Additionally, select a sheet material that is right for you.

What’s the difference between fitted and flat sheets?

The fitted sheet is the bane of many a laundry-folders existence. They’ve got handy elastic bits around the edges and in the corners that help users complete the “making the bed process.” This is the sheet that separates the mattress from the sleeper. Your fitted sheet should fit snugly around the bottom of the mattress. This is made more difficult if you use a mattress pad. If your sheets keep popping off at the corners, you may want to consider a “deep pocket” sheet.

The flat sheet, optional to some and required for others, separates the fitted sheet from the duvet cover. Adding an extra cover layer, this sheet can be used in the summer to provide a thin blanket without overheating. Flat sheets come in all sets but can be kept in storage if you opt not to use them.

Which bed sheet material is best?

There are nearly a dozen types of sheet options that you can choose from. I will focus on the three most common ones:  cotton, silk, and poly-cotton blends.

1. Cotton

Most sheets in America are made of “American Upland” cotton. Though they are not what we call “luxury sheets,” cotton bed sheets are the American staple. Top-of-the-line “Egyptian” cotton made its way to America during the 20th century and still maintains the allure of premium cotton. However, modern consumers need to know that producers call something “Egyptian cotton” even if it has only 5% Egyptian cotton in it. Expect to pay a premium for anything with “Egyptian cotton” on the label.

What thread count is best for cotton sheets?

You may be tempted to look into purchasing sheets with “high” thread counts, but as Consumer Reports put it: There’s no need to pay high prices for a higher thread count. It is a myth that higher thread counts equate to comfort or luxury. Don’t be fooled.

2. Silk

There’s just something special about silk. I’m not exactly sure how something that comes from the lowly caterpillar is transformed into something shiny and soft, but I know it makes for excellent sheet material. Silk sheets are naturally temperature-regulating, so you don’t have to worry about overheating. In addition to their temperature-regulating nature, silk sheets are also hypoallergenic.
This means you can rest easy knowing that the dust mites associated with other types of sheets are less likely to impact your allergies. Due to their natural nature, silk sheets are also so smooth that they reduce the friction between your skin and the bedding. This means less pull on your hair and skin.

3. Poly-Cotton Blend

Most blended sheets have a breakdown of 65% cotton and 35% polyester. Poly-cotton sheets are very durable and long-lasting due to the combination of the two materials. Poly-cotton blended sheets are slightly less breathable than cotton or silk sheets, which could lead to discomfort for hot sleepers. On the plus side, because of the ability to be made in a lab instead of relying on nature, these sheets are often more affordable options when buying bed sheets.

What other types of sheets are there?

Apart from the bed sheet materials mentioned above, there are several other types that have risen in popularity during the past few years.

1. Jersey Knit Sheets

This is the sheet that feels like someone took 40 of your favorite t-shirts and sewed them together to make a bedsheet. These are affordable, soft, and ready to sleep on directly out of the box. They also wick away moisture better than some of the poly-cotton blends. They are prone to pilling and wearing out over time and repeated use. Great for kids’ rooms, these sheets lack the feeling of luxury, but they make up for it with the perception of comfort.

2. Flannel Sheets

A favorite of the Midwestern household, flannel sheets are must-haves for the winter months. Typically made of wool, cotton, or some other blend, these sheets are heavier than your typical cotton sheet and thus, provide more warmth. These sheets are absorbent, so they will wick away moisture, allowing you to sleep comfortably and remain warm through the night.

How should I care for my sheets?

Depending on the sheets you select, you should follow the care instructions found on the packaging. Some rules of thumb I like to follow to ensure our sheets are at their cleanest are:

  • Wash weekly. As soon as you start to think your sheets have lost that freshness, wash them. Humans sweat a lot at night.
  • Wash hot. Hot water kills more germs than cold.
  • Air dry, preferably in direct sunlight. The sun is one of the best disinfectants out there. If you have a clothesline, hanging your sheets on the line is ideal for drying your sheets and killing germs.
  • When possible, iron. One additional layer of disinfecting comes from the hot press of the iron across the sheets. The fewer germs that you have on your clean sheets, the better.
  • Duvets don’t need to be washed as often. The duvet’s location above us rather than under us means collecting about half as much dirt as the sheet does.

It can be tempting to take the cheap route when it comes to buying sheets or to err the other way and forfeit comfort because of price. However, a good night’s sleep is the first step toward a more productive day. Just keep in mind that sizing and your preferred material are the two most important factors when buying bed sheets.

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