Types of Bed Sheets – Common Materials, Fabrics and Thread Count Explained!
When you think of the most comfortable spot in your home, what comes to mind?
If you did not think of your bedroom, particularly your bed, right off the bat then perhaps it is time to reevaluate on why that is.
You may spend hours in your garden or patio during nicely cloudy afternoons, or hours in your living room with your friends and family.
What is guaranteed though is that you will spend a considerable amount of time on your bed spanning from as little as an hour to over nine in some cases.
Sleep, just like all basic needs, is a priority that when properly met will lead to increased productivity and an overall better disposition.
Good quality sleep will need more than just the most deluxe mattress you can find.
An often overlooked factor to good sleep, your bed sheets are crucial in setting up the paragon environment conducive for sleep.
To determine what bed sheets would be optimal for you, it is important to be aware of the kinds of options available for you and what those options would mean if you decide to go for them.
Perhaps surprising, bedding options are not just down to whether they are made from cotton or silk and how many thread counts they have.
Purchasing bed sheets means considering numerous other properties such as differing elasticity, cooling capabilities, and more on top of the usual thread count and material types.
Pinpointing what would make the most out of your dedicated sleeping space and making a better informed purchase decision overall is something we can help you with.
Below is an extensive catalog of the most widely available types of bed sheets up for grabs, compiled especially for you.
The Most Common Material – Cotton
You know how you could have two objects of the same material yet the quality could differ vastly and you could end up favoring one item of the same material over the other?
Cotton is the same.
For those that are not aware yet, not all cotton is created equal.
There are standards by which cotton is rated such as the widely known thread count.
There is also the cotton’s weave, staple length and more to consider.
Cotton may also come in boles that need to be stretched to produce the fibers needed for weave threads and bed sheets.
Stretched boles make up what we know as the cotton’s staple length.
As its name suggests, staple length refers to the length of the fibers used to weave cotton into a bed sheet.
The three standard lengths when discussing cotton’s staple length are:
- short staple (customarily 1 – 1/8 of an inch)
- long staple (at a minimum 1 – ¼ of an inch)
- extra long staple (in the middle of 1 – 3/8 and 2 inches in length)
Softer, more durable bed sheets are made from long staple cotton variants.
It follows that the longer the staple length, the higher quality the cotton will be.
If you are in the market for the best of the best, Egyptian cotton should be on your list.
This type of cotton is made with an extra long staple.
It’s no surprise that this is considered the highest quality of cotton available for purchase though it can be rather costly.
Supple softness and robustness are guaranteed when acquiring Egyptian cotton.
Pima / Supima
A long staple that is not as expensive as Egyptian cotton, Supima is the trademark name for American Pima Cotton.
Pima is described as being recognized for its hard-wearing and long lasting nature.
Although a more affordable option compared to Egyptian cotton, you can still expect top quality bed sheets made of Pima cotton that does not sacrifice on softness.
When you find items that have a tag indicating it is made from “100% cotton”, then you most likely have American Upland cotton in your hands.
This type of cotton is classified as a short staple so it is rougher than the pricier cotton bed sheets available.
There is no shortage in American Upland cotton as it is the most commonly used type of cotton.
Though still a sturdy option, this short staple cotton will not provide a lavish feel for the most part.
Micro Cotton ®
Another cotton blend made from long staple, Micro Cotton ® is a trademarked and distinctly branded cotton made by very fine threads sourced from India.
This cotton type is another option to look at for bed sheets that are soft and long wearing.
For most people, businesses and households out there, Egyptian cotton is considered as unnecessarily extravagant, with a price tag that is too steep for most uses to match its luxurious feel.
This is why, in addition to the staple length, choosing the right kind of weave can add the perfect balance between a fabric’s softness and structural durability even to cotton that is not as high quality as its expensive counterparts so you can still enjoy excellent, high grade bed sheets that do not require more of a splurge than you are comfortable with.
The most widely known weaves are:
Flannel cotton bed sheets are softer, elastic, flexible, and more supple than many of the other weave options available.
Flannel cotton bed sheets are made with either a plain or twill weave.
For those that sleep in hot climates and need a cooler, more well regulated sleeping environment, Percale is a superb choice.
Percale is also known as a ‘plain’ weave and is commonly used for making higher quality cotton that is combed and is then tightly woven to produce a softer feel and smoother finish.
The airiness of this kind of weave is ideal for preventing heat from fully getting trapped in the fabric.
The taking of four threads over and one under is the precise technique used to produce Sateen.
Those who are not familiar with the craft or do not actively weave and sew would not be too particular with the method of which Sateen is made, however what is known is that this type of weave is created to feel lavish, silky and durable.
Sateen is actually the most resilient of all the widely known weave types discussed so far.
Sateen is inclined to be a heavier cotton blend making it the go to choice for people who tend to feel cold at night and would like to have a warmer sleeping atmosphere.
This type of material is knit instead of being woven.
It is made of cotton though at times it can be made of a cotton and synthetic blend.
Jersey knit is characterized as being stretchy thus allowing it to easily cover mattresses while offering a soft, broken in feeling.
Similar to flannel, jersey knit is measured by the ounces or yards in place of thread count.
For those who are living colder climates or have the tendency to get cold at night, jersey knit is a prime choice for holding in heat.
A common misconception that is still believed in today is that the higher the thread count, the better.
The comfiest, most memorable bed sheets do not start and end with the number of vertical and horizontal threads per square inch.
There is so much more to the purchasing criteria of the best bed sheets for you.
Suffice it to say, with respect to the other aspects that come into play when making the decision to buy, thread count has become a negligible factor to consider in the shopping process.
However, this does not mean you should disregard thread count all together.
In fact, you will still need to have enough of a thread count to produce a proper weave so you can enjoy the durability of your bed sheets without compromising on its softness.
To be guaranteed of a weave that is tight enough to handle everyday wear and tear while being soft and cozy, aim for a thread count that is no lower than 250.
It would not hurt to go higher than a 250 thread count as well especially if your budget permits.
Choosing Single or Two Ply
When you heard the words single or two ply, did you think of paper towels or toilet tissue right away?
If you did, then you have the right idea. Except with bed sheets, the concept works backwards.
Two ply bed sheets are woven more loosely than their single ply counterpart; because of this, two ply bed sheets feel rougher to the touch and are also consequently less sturdy.
With those things considered, you are more likely to enjoy a single ply bed sheet set (even if it is made out of lower quality cotton) than you would enjoy a two ply bed sheet set even if it has a higher thread count.
Other Materials to Consider
Without a doubt, cotton is by far the most popular choice when it comes to bed sheet materials.
Despite its widespread use and popularity, cotton alone does not need to be the only material you use for your bed sheets.
There are plenty of options to consider and this flexibility allows you to cater your bed sheets to your specific needs.
Taking into consideration the different designs emerging and constantly improving on its quality, you may prefer one of the other bed sheet materials we will be discussing below to create the most optimal sleeping environment for you and your home.
A member of the cotton family, flannel deserves to be considered on its own right from other cotton weaves as it is better suited for cold winter nights, effectively keeping the one who is using it warm.
Flannel successfully traps in body heat and is a surefire way to keep you snug during chilly nights.
Conversely, for warmer climates where you are left looking for a cooler sleep atmosphere or if you often have night sweats, flannel may not be the best option for you even in the middle of winter.
When shopping for flannel, you will find that it is not classified, measured or rated by its thread count. Instead, the quality of this specific cotton weave is determined by its amount in ounces per square yard.
This is because flannel is a loose weave that integrates a technique identical to that of making two ply bed sheets without the sacrifice of the material losing its strength and durability.
Another branded choice of material, Tencel is made out of the wood pulp of the eucalyptus tree which is anti-microbial in nature.
Tencel is regarded as an environmentally friendly option for making bed sheets.
Tencel is a sustainable material and is good for households that like to opt for low waste practices as Tencel is relatively conservative when it comes to resources, requiring less chemicals, water and energy to produce in comparison to cotton yet it still comes out soft, cozy and comfortable.
Something to note about Tencel is that its composition makes it the kind of material that is not as breathable as cotton.
Tencel tends to hold in more heat than it releases it, making it ideal for colder temperatures.
Despite its lack of breathability compared to cotton, Tencel still does offer better airflow than flannel and other materials.
If you would like to keep warm and eliminate significant issues with overheating or heat exhaustion while you sleep, a bed sheet made of Tencel is something you would enjoy.
Silk is heavily associated with luxury though where it is made begins with silkworms.
Silk is cool to the touch, invoking a seductive, corporeal and sensual feel and experience that is difficult to match by any other material we have discussed so far.
Those who are after a cool sleeping atmosphere will find that silk is the no brainer option.
Silk is also the way to go for those who would like to make or add a little romance to their rooms.
Silk is not just useful for adding to sensory pleasures or likings.
Silk also happens to be hypoallergenic.
Those plagued by their raw allergies throughout the day might find silk bed sheets invaluable in easing allergic symptoms while you are sleeping.
For all the good things that can be said about silk, there are also its inherent drawbacks which you should consider before committing to having these added to your set up.
The first drawback to consider will be more crucial to the budget conscious: silk is going to cost you quite a premium as these high quality bed sheets do not come without a price to match which may be a deal breaker for those that would not choose to splurge on bed sheets.
It should also be mentioned that on top of being costly upfront, silk is also particularly delicate which equates it to needing higher maintenance and precise care that other materials do not necessarily need as much as silk does.
It is the additional effort of retaining silk’s quality that may be too cumbersome for others.
You will also need to take into account that silk is not as durable and hard-wearing as standard cotton and several other materials available for purchase.
It would not be a surprise if you were not already aware of the fact that the man made polyester used for clothes, scarves, towels, bed sheets and the like is actually created from the same polymers infused into the manufacturing of plastic bottles.
It is not uncommon to find polyester bed sheets feeling scratchy or stiff though it is also possible to find a polyester blend that feels pleasant to use.
An example of how a polyester blend can make a difference is when you avail of cloth made from a blend of cotton and polyester.
The aforementioned blend will produce cloth that is so much more affordable yet it still retains a soft and smooth finish to it.
Another type of polyester is a material called microfiber cloth which is characterized by its tightly woven nature, producing a softer feel compared to standard polyester but with greater durability to it.
Due to the tightly woven nature of microfiber, it is not the type of material designed to promote breathability especially against other polyester options or against cotton blends.
Microfiber does not work to keep your sleep atmosphere cool through out the night.
Though with these things considered, it should also be mentioned that microfiber tends to be resistant to stains which makes it a superb choice in choosing beddings for children.
‘Linen’ has been a term used interchangeably with denoting bed sheets.
More accurately, linen is actually a separate material in its own right and can still be a reliable source of breathability, comfort and durability in bed sheets.
Linen is made from flax which is extracted from the fibers of the Linum plant.
Because of the flax in linen’s composition, linen is textured with an almost quilted sensation in certain weaves.
Linen can be purchased in blends and whether you buy pure linen or linen blended with cotton, you are guaranteed to have breathability and good airflow through the material that is similar to 100% cotton bed sheets.
Linen is perfect for any season the year may bring as they do not trap in heat but at the same time, they do a sufficient job at protecting you from the cold.
Linen bed sheets are durable and can withstand the jumping, playing or tossing of children which would make it a good option also when choosing bed sheets for kids.
Bamboo – Rayon
The rise of eco friendly movements has caused consumers and businesses to look into more sustainable options with the idea of sheets made from bamboo sounding enticing.
However, when further examined, actual bamboo made into fibers and woven into bed sheets would be extremely rough to the skin and highly unsatisfying to sleep on.
More accurately, much of what is labeled bamboo in bed sheets is actually a material called rayon.
Rayon is bamboo pulp that has been chemically processed which is not the best when it comes to caring for the environment.
If you are looking for a budget alternative to Egyptian cotton, rayon is your bet as it is soft, almost silky feeling and is durable while keeping the sleep atmosphere cool thanks to its high breathability brought on by the fact that it is lightly woven.
A more affordable option to 100% cotton that does not sacrifice on breathability and softness is the most common material blend of cotton and polyester.
With the advancements of methods and technologies, you will find that there are so many blends to choose from in the market that strike a good balance between price and quality while being able to surpass some of the single material products available for sale.
An example of how blends can be the middle ground you need is the availability of cotton and rayon blends for bed sheets.
Cotton and rayon blends require less resources to produce while still delivering a breathable, soft and smooth bed sheet that is resistant to wrinkling for a more polished look minus additional efforts even if it has been folded for quite a while.
After determining what bed sheet you will go for and what level of quality you are going to invest in, another factor to be considered is the size of the bed sheets you will be availing which entails more than just measuring your mattress and making sure the sheets fit that measurement.
A question you will need to answer is how thick your mattress is as not every fitted sheet will be made with deep pockets to fit your particular size of mattress.
Another thing to consider is if you use mattress toppers as this is something you will have to take into account as well or your bed sheets will not fully cover your mattress.
There are numerous options of sizing from the usual king sized, queen sized and standard twin sized mattresses to twin XL, full XL, and even a California king mattress.
It is important to take note of these differences as standard king sized bed sheets will not fit a California king mattress just like how a twin XL mattress will not be covered by a standard twin sized bed sheet as it spans longer.
Good bed sheet purchases include the right sizes for your mattress and thickness levels of each bed sheet will need to match what applies to your bedding needs.
Bed sheet classifications are as follows:
Standard mattresses are characterized by a fitted sheet made to cover a thickness between 7 to 14 inches.
Any mattress over 14 inches thick is considered deep and will need sheets that cover 11 to 17 inches.
Any mattress over 15 inches thick is considered extra deep, with its addition in depth often being due to a mattress topper along with your mattress. Extra deep fitted sheets can stretch anywhere between 15 to 22 inches.
Affordable ‘Back Up’ Sheets
It is understandable to want to invest in the highest quality of sheets you can afford though it is always a good idea to also acquire a set of back up bed sheets that do not necessarily come with the top of the line price range.
In the interval between the time it takes to wash, care and cycle through your high quality sheets, back up sheets can be used to provide the cozy bedding needed for a comfortable sleep atmosphere.
It will also benefit your household to have a set or two of bed sheets for guests that stay for the night.
Providing your visitors with bedding that are breathable, soft, and comfortable is possible without spending as much as the bed sheets you use daily especially since guest bed sheets would not likely be used as much as the primary bed sheets at home.
For children who may still have accidents at night and are prone to slips and spills, Egyptian cotton sheets would not be the best fit.
It would be wise to have back up bed sheets available for those cases as well to guarantee that your dollars are spent in a way that maximizes its value.
Bed sheets that are cost effective while retaining quality that can still deliver a good night’s sleep include cotton and polyester blends, rayon blends, and linen or linen and cotton blends.
The Bottom Line
Gone are the days of thinking that the only indicator of quality bed sheets is its thread count.
With the many choices available, you will have no problem finding the bed sheets that tick all the boxes of your needs and preferences.
When it comes to what should be the most comfortable part of your home, you will not go wrong with making the conscious decision to upgrade your bed sheets as part of creating the most optimal sleeping experience for you.
The bed is where we spend majority of our time in a day, and it would be in your best interest to make it a place conducive for proper rest.
With the help of this comprehensive list to guide you, making better informed bed sheet shopping choices just got a whole lot easier.