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Bed Sheets buying and care guides

Buying sheet sets should be an easy experience but it is often made out to be complicated and confusing.  But with a little knowledge and insight, the process of selecting sheets can be simplified and you’ ll have sheets that in the Goldilocks tradition are “ just right” .

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Size Does Matter – What Size Sheets Do I Need?
While most sheets/sheet sets tend to be standardized to fit all common mattress sizes (usually up to 18” deep), nothing is more disappointing than to get home and make up your bed with your new sheets, only to find out you have to be a weight lifter to lift the mattress in order to get the sheet to fit firmly across the bed and it still doesn’ t fit properly.  To be on the safe side, we recommend you must measure your mattress.  If you normally use a pillow top mattress or any other kind of covering with measurable width, leave it on when you do your measurements.

Sheet sets contain a fitted sheet which wraps around the mattress, a flat sheet that is laid over the fitted sheet, and one or two pillowcases. Two is the standard, but twin size sheet sets come with just one pillowcase. Standard sheet sets tend to be sold in the following measurements

  • Twin: Fitted Sheet: 39 x 75 Flat Sheet: 74 x 105" Standard Pillowcase: 21 x 32"
  • Full: Fitted Sheet: 54 x 75 Flat Sheet: 90 x 105” Standard Pillowcases: 21 x 32"
  • Queen: Fitted Sheet: 60 x 80" Flat Sheet: 96 x 105" Standard Pillowcases: 21 x 32"
  • King: Fitted Sheet: 78 x 80" Flat Sheet: 108 x 105" King Pillowcases: 21 x 42"
  • California King: Fitted Sheet: 72 x 84" Flat Sheet: 108 x 105" King Pillowcases: 21 x 42"

Some Things To Consider and Sheet Terminology

Other than size and price, the three most common qualities people consider when choosing sheet are thread count, weave, and fabric.  

Thread count – How Much Do the Numbers Truly Matter:

Thread count is the total threads which run horizontally and vertically in a square inch of fabric. Higher thread count indicates a tighter weave and lends softness to the material.

But what many people don’ t realize is that thread count is affected by a number of factors, including the ply and the thickness of the threads used. Ply refers to how many threads are wrapped together into a single thread. Single-ply fabrics, for example, use threads on their own, while two-ply fabrics are formed by two pieces of thread twisted together.

And herein lies the confusion: Should a two-ply fabric’ s threads be counted as one, single thread or as two, individual threads? As a result, are those 600 thread count sheets truly 600 single-ply threads-per-inch, or are they 300 double-ply threads-per-inch?

Finer threads allow more thread to fit into that one square-inch measure and generally create smoother, softer fabrics.  However, finer threads also create a more delicate fabric.
Additionally, how the fabric is treated can be a much more decisive factor in comfort and overall feel than the thread count of a fabric, as can the final finishing of the fabric.  

Nonetheless, all else being equal, a thread count of at least 200 makes a wonderful, long lasting sheet. Sheets with a thread count of 300-400 are a little nicer yet still affordable. 400-900 thread count sheets may cost a little more, but if it is softness you want, these sheets are fantastic. Thread counts of 1000 or more make very soft and smooth sheets, but the finer threads used to achieve this high thread count often make these types of sheets less durable.

Therefore, while thread count is something to consider it should not be considered in a vacuum.
What about Weave?
Weave creates the texture of the fabric and affects the look and feel of the sheets. Sateen sheets are woven with more fibers on the fabric surface, creating a luster almost like that of satin sheets.

Some of the more commonly-used weaves in bed sheets are:

  • Percale: a closely woven plain weave, spun fabric made from both carded and combed cotton. Percale sheeting is the finest available. Percale sheets are woven closely in a kind of basket weave and have no gloss, creating smooth-textured sheets.
  • Flannel: a soft, medium weight plain or twill weave fabric, usually made of cotton with a napped finish on one or both sides. The raised surface provides a fluffy appearance and supper soft, cozy feel.
  • Jersey: a plain stitch knitted cloth. The fabric is knitted in circular, flatbed or warp knitted methods. Very elastic with good draping qualities.
  •   Sateen: Sateen sheets are woven with more fibers on the fabric surface, giving a soft look and creating a luster almost like that of satin sheets.

What about Fabric?
One thing remains true studies have found that the majority of people want 100% cotton sheets. Nature has given cotton attributes that make it a smother, softer and more comfortable choice. It’ s breathable, so cotton sheets never feel sticky against your skin.

Fabric offers more choices in bed sheets than ever before. The most common fabrics used in bed sheets are:

  • Combed cotton is cotton which has gone through a process to remove shorter fibers and any impurities in the material, which creates a smooth, soft fabric.
  • Egyptian cotton is long staple cotton grown only in Egypt. It enjoys worldwide renown as the strongest, most beautiful and lustrous cotton produced, and its extraordinary quality is due to the long growing season in that country. Sheets of Egyptian cotton with a high thread count are reputed to be more luxurious than any. Thread count for Egyptian cotton bed sheets is usually 200 and above.
  • Flannel is a blend of cottons. Quality is not measured by thread count, but in ounces of material per square yard of fabric. Four ounces or more per square yard is considered good quality flannel. Flannel bed sheets are highly popular for their warmth and are often used in baby bedding.
  • talian linen is a luxurious fabric made only in Italy from the long-staple luxury cotton which is grown exclusively in Egypt. The lustrous cotton and the processes used in Italy to create the fabric are so high quality that bed sheets of this material are truly luxury items with a price tag to match.
  • Muslin is cotton which is rougher yet tougher than others. Muslin is frequently used in children's bedding, and printed with shapes or figures. During washing this fabric tends to "pill" and fade more than other bed sheets. The thread count varies from 128 to 140.
  • Percale is a combed and close-woven cloth of either cotton-polyester blends or 100-percent cotton. It is finer and softer than muslin and generally has a thread count of 180 to 200. Because of their polyester blend, percale sheets have a very low wrinkle factor.
  • Pima cotton bed sheets have a silky, soft feeling. It is grown only in Australia, Peru and in the United States in Pima, Arizona. "Supima" is a trademarked name for 100-percent pima cotton which has been grown in America. The term means "Superior pima." Pima cotton sheets usually have a thread count of 200 to 300.
How Should Sheets Feel?
The next thing to decide is what kind of feel you like from your sheets. Do you enjoy super soft sheets which seem to get better with age? Is your preference a clean crisp feel? Do wrinkles drive you mad?
If softness is your main priority than 100 percent cotton sheets are a good choice. There are different types of cotton and thread counts which will determine the quality of sheets you purchase. Generally the higher the thread count the softer to the touch the fabric will feel.
If your preference is to have wrinkle-free crisp cool sheets, than cotton blends are the best choice. Cotton and polyester blended sheets still lead the pack in consumer preferences. They are generally more cost effective and hold up well to repeat washings.  Polyester has come a long way since the 1970s and now can be made to feel luxurious and soft when blended with cotton and other fine fabrics.

However, we recommend making your selection based on a goldilocks “ just right” process rather than trying to compare every issue.

For example polyester sheets (excluding microfiber which are quite different) are very durable, can be soft, come in great colors, are easy care and don’ t wrinkle. However, because of the fabric they generally don’ t breathe and are very hot. In contrast, fine cotton sheets (above 700 count) are usually beautiful, feel great, are soft and have fine-looking finishing and sewing touches.  However, they can cost over $ 200, are generally not durable they tend to wrinkle and require a lot of care. Surprising to some people they can also be uncomfortable and hot because the tight weave restricts breathability.

Editors’ Suggestions: In general, we recommend a 300-500 count all cotton sheet set with long staple cotton and simple finishing. 300-500 all cotton sheets are generally soft, durable and breathe to provide comfort. They wrinkle less than higher count sheets and are reasonably priced – usually ranging from $ 49 to $99.

Advertised cotton fabrics like Supima or higher thread count sheets offer little perceivable difference and are generally much more expensive up to three or four times as much.  Equally important is choosing the right color and fitted length which subsequently influence your long term satisfaction.

In short, 300-500 count all cotton sheets with long staple cotton are “ just right “ and eliminate trying to evaluate numerous factors that are difficult to assess or may not be important to you. For example, you really can’ t judge softness, wrinkles, durability and comfort until you wash your sheets at least 3-5 times. In that way they are like a new car that all seem great in a test drive but you just don’ t know until you have truly put some mileage behind the wheel.     

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