Proper bed sheets are a truly worthwhile investment. Just as the right blanket or duvet provides the perfect warmth for your cosy cocoon, the right sheets provide a comforting layer against your skin. Slipping into a silky set of sheets is a relatively inexpensive luxury, while cheaply made bargain bedding provides a false economy given the itchy, unpleasant sleep environment it creates.
Here's what you need to know to get the sheets that suit you best.
Thread count refers to the quantity of threads woven into a square inch of the sheet's fabric. Look for a minimum of 200, but no higher than 600. (Anything over 600 is likely to uncomfortably trap body heat.)
Sheets falling within the thread count sweet spot of 280 to 400 will have a smooth, soft, absorbent and breathable feel. They'll wear better and shrink less, meaning you'll replace them less often than their cheaper counterparts. Best of all, they're widely available at all price points.
Cotton is still considered the go-to sheet-set fibre. It's comfortable year-round and easy to care for. Cotton comes in different qualities, so be prepared for some variety in pricing.
Sea Island Cotton is grown only in the West Indies, parts of Georgia and the Carolinas. It's silky, white and considered by fabric aficionados to be the best in the world.
Egyptian cotton is the ne plus ultra of bed linens. It produces durable, luxuriously soft sheets.
Pima or Supima cotton is American-grown and known for its high quality.
100 per cent cotton is a catchall term for non-premium cotton.
Organic cotton is grown without pesticides and is a great choice for eco-friendly consumers. Sheets made of organic cotton are carried by an increasing number of shops and can be found online.
Bamboo is a fast-growing Asian plant that can flourish without pesticides or synthetic fertilizers, making it an eco-friendly fabric. Bamboo-blend sheets (often mixed with cotton) are soft, breathable and easy to care for.
Modal is a soft, durable fibre made from beech pulp, often blended with cotton.
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Silk is a warm and luxurious material for winter sheets, but it's not suitable for summer months. Remember to wash and dry your silk sheets using the delicate cycle.
Linen stays cool, making it a great option for warm-weather months. Linen's a true luxury fibre and requires extra care to make sure it looks its best. However, if properly cared for, linen sheets will last for decades, unlike any other fabric.
Synthetics such as polyester, acrylic and rayon are best avoided. They don't absorb moisture or breathe well. They tend to feel less crisp or smooth than cotton and they can pill and cause irritation if you have sensitive skin.
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.
Sateen: Used on higher thread count sheets, sateen has a lustrous sheen, but can snag easily, affecting its appearance over time.
Jersey: A fine-knit (rather than weave), jersey is known as the t-shirt fabric. Sheets are soft, breathable and casual looking.
Flannel: Napped and fuzzy flannel sheets are super-cozy, making them perfect for winter.
Jacquard: Jacquard fabrics feature patterns woven in using special looms. Damask and brocade are two examples of jacquards. Jacquard sheets can be pricey.
Caring for your investment
• Once you've bought your sheets, take care of them to maximize your comfort – and your sheets' shelf life.
• Launder bed linens weekly. Rotate sets to ensure even wear.
• Spot-treat stains and swap harsh chlorine bleach for gentle oxygen bleach.
• Use a mild, eco-friendly detergent. It's gentler on sheets, your skin, and the planet!
• Wash in warm rather than hot water.
• Dry on low heat and remove your sheets just before they're completely dry.
• To iron or not to iron: unless you have linen sheets (which definitely need it), ironing is completely optional. If you find ironing relaxing, by all means, enjoy! If not, don't knock yourself out.
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