Being that we spend about one-third of our lives asleep, it makes sense to invest in bedding that's not only comfortable, but stands the test of time. But with so many options out there — thread count, fabric make-up, patterns, solids — the decision process can be overwhelming.
Cotton sheets are described by thread count, which literally means the number of threads in the cloth. Most sheets are in the 200 range, while expensive sheets are more than 500. The higher the thread count, the softer and more durable they are. Hold up a sheet to the light to determine its quality. Light will not shine through a high-thread-count sheet. Also, high-thread-count sheets won't fuzz or pill. Another great way to test this is to scratch the sheet with your fingernail to see if any pill comes off. If so, it's a lesser-quality sheet.
Top-of-the-line is 100 percent Egyptian cotton. Second best is 100 percent pima cotton, also known by the trademarked name Supima. If a label says simply, “100 percent cotton,” assume that it’s American upland cotton, a rougher, less expensive variety. Egyptian cotton’s long fibers produce sheets that are thin and sumptuous yet extremely strong and long-lasting.
What’s Better, Percale or Sateen?
Neither. It’s a matter of taste. Percale is a plain, matte weave that has a crisp, cool feel, so it may be sensible for people who tend to get overheated when they sleep. Sateen is slightly heavier and very soft, with a lustrous, smooth finish that’s almost satiny—hence the name. If you’re not sure which you prefer, look for fabric swatches on display for a touch test.
The way a fabric is woven affects its look, feel and durability (not to mention price point). The most common weaves for sheets include:
Percale: Look for combed cotton percale, which refers to a durable, supple, luxurious-feeling sheet with a minimum thread count of 200.
Pick Materials Carefully
If you tend to get warm or sweaty at night, look for natural materials (like cotton, bamboo, or linen), as these will help wick away perspiration.
Test It Out
Many stores will have sample sets that are out of their packaging. Notice how the fabric feels against your skin. If it’s itchy or rough in the store, it will be uncomfortable in your bed, too.
To keep your sheets in tip-top condition, wash them in warm water at least once a week for hygiene purposes and avoid drying them in high heat (unless the care instructions say otherwise). And, while it may seem like a smart idea to use laundry softener to make your sheets even cozier, the chemicals in fabric softeners can actually wear out the material faster.
All White Is Right
When we invest in anything, we should invest in a classic—something that will never go out of style. White sheets and bedding will always remain classic. While this may sound boring, it is wise advice.