Shopping for sheets can feel oh-so-daunting. There are many things to consider before welcoming a new variable into your sleep environment. From thread count to source, patterns and colors to material, it can be very confusing. We're always blown away by the cost, too - good sheets are an investment. (Even more so if you're like us and want multiple sets so you can put off doing the laundry a few more days.) And, to complicate matters further, now we have to worry about things like where and how the sheets were sourced, treated and manufactured.
Thinking about it all made us, well, want to climb back in bed and go to sleep. But we didn't. Instead, we did a bit of research. Here's what you need to know before making your next purchase.
FABRIC: SOURCING & FINISHING
Cotton has long been the bed sheet fabric of choice because it is soft, durable and breathable. Sheets labeled "100% Cotton" are typically made from American Upland cotton, the most commonly grown in the United States and Mexico. American Upland cotton has a shorter staple (length of the individual fiber), resulting in a sheet that, while affordable, is likely to pill and thin over time. Pima Cotton has a longer staple than American Upland. It was originally grown by the Pima Native American Tribe in Arizona; now it is sourced from many countries in Central and South America. "Supima Cotton" is the trademarked name to signify the cotton was grown in the United States. Egyptian Cotton boasts the longest staple fibers, resulting in a more durable, softer weave.
You may also see terms like "percale" and "sateen" when looking for sheets; these refer to the way the fibers are woven. Percale threads cross over each other one at a time to make a flat weave, resulting in a sheet that is cooler on the skin. Sateen threads have longer sections on top of the threads woven perpendicularly, resulting in a sheet that has a warmer feel and slight sheen.
Does it matter? Sort of. Thread count refers to the number of threads running horizontally (weft) and vertically (warp) per square inch. The higher the thread count, the softer the sheets are likely to be and the better they are likely to wear over time. But there's a catch: there are manufacturers who count each fiber as threads, resulting in a much higher "thread count." Anything over 600 thread count is rumored to be misleading. Additionally, the quality of the threads in the first place can have a big impact on softness and wearability. A densely-woven cheap thread will not feel as soft as a loosely-woven fine thread. Shoot for a minimum thread count of 200 and optimally 300 - 400.
WHY BUYING ORGANIC & NON-TOXIC MATTERS
Look for sheets that are not only made from organic cotton, but are also manufactured organically, without toxic chemicals and dyes. Wrinkle-free sheets sound brilliant, but their finish comes from a resin that releases formaldehyde. Ick. Fabric blends are soft but likely to contain polyester, which is made from petroleum. Double ick. Choosing organic is better for you, the environment (conventionally-grown cotton uses 25% of insecticide used worldwide), and the people in manufacturing facilities.
We started by narrowing the options to Fair-Trade, certified organic cotton sheets that are not treated with harsh chemicals. From there, it's all about what feels good to the touch and buying the best quality you can afford. We're dying to try these sheets from Coyuchi. They check every box: organic cotton, non-toxic dyes, Fair Trade Certified, super-soft sateen weave and 300-thread count. At $348 for a queen-size set, they're certainly not cheap. But we'll certainly rest easy knowing we made a healthy choice.
Have an idea to share with us about this topic? We'd love to hear from you. Contact us.