All bedding is not created equal. Here we take a look at the major options, so you can choose the one that’s right for you.
BETWEEN THE SHEETS
STANDARD COTTON $
A common basic material, standard cotton is a breathable natural fibre. It holds up relatively well to washing, but can require ironing if you’re not a fan of wrinkles.
COTTON PERCALE $$
There are several grades of cotton percale, depending on thread count, but they all contain longer, more tightly woven fibres than those of standard cotton. Percale is high-end construction, durable, breathable and quite cool to the touch. It looks sleeker when ironed. Percale may not be the best choice for cold sleepers.
COTTON SATEEN $$$
Cotton sateen’s long fibres are treated to have increased lustre and strength. The shinier appearance of cotton sateen and its very fine and tight weave are reminiscent of the sheets at luxury hotels. They’re wrinkle-resistant and cozy, but hot sleepers may find that these sheets retain too much heat.
WASHED COTTON $
Very popular, washed cotton is equivalent to standard cotton, but it’s been prewashed to give the fabric the soft, lived-in feel that normally takes several washes to achieve when buying standard cotton sheets. Advantages of this material are that it does not need to be ironed and it’s very affordable.
EGYPTIAN COTTON $$$$
Considered to be one of the most high-quality and luxurious bed linens, Egyptian cotton is no longer only made in Egypt, but the name has been retained. Finely woven and very durable, it’s known for its exceptional comfort. Its higher price point matches its top-of-the- line quality.
COTTON FLANNEL $$
Warm, soft and breathable, flannel sheets are appreciated in the colder seasons. Flannel doesn’t wrinkle easily and is often sold at an affordable price. Its only drawback is that it tends to pill over time.
Bamboo sheets are soft, durable and more environmentally friendly, since growing this plant requires very little water. Viscose (or rayon) from bamboo is the most common type; sheets made from pure viscose from bamboo are prized for their softness and hypoallergenic, thermoregulating qualities. Plus, they have moisture-wicking properties and are odour- and bacteria-resistant.
Very fashionable in recent years, linen is appreciated for its thermoregulatory qualities that keep the body cool in summer and warm in winter. It’s also prized for its naturally wrinkled appearance, giving a bohemian touch to the bedroom. Linen is durable and can feel a little rough, but it softens over time. Linen sheets are expensive, but they make a good-quality longterm investment.
Polyester is a very durable synthetic fibre that usually survives years of washing and wear, generally retains its shape and is economical. Polyester is easy to wash, dries quickly and doesn’t wrinkle, but it still has some drawbacks. Indeed, this textile tends to pill over time and doesn’t absorb water, which can make nights sweaty and uncomfortable. Its fibres can also irritate sensitive skin and attract static electricity.
COTTON-POLYESTER BLEND $
If polyester is less attractive than cotton in terms of comfort, its ease of maintenance and its low price tag appeal to many buyers. Choosing bedding that mixes cotton and polyester is a sensible alternative, because it will be softer and less irritating for those with sensitive skin.
Tencel is an environmentally friendly material produced from wood pulp and a nontoxic solvent. Breathable and durable, this material is softer than silk. Its ability to wick away moisture makes it an ideal solution as bed linens for people who perspire at night.
ORGANIC COTTON $$$
All the cottons mentioned here can be certified organic, which means the cotton plants are grown from natural seeds and the fabric is made without toxic substances or polluting pesticides. Grown without harmful chemicals and free of bleaching agents, it leaves the soil, air and water free of contaminants and produces approximately 46 percent less CO2 emissions than nonorganic cotton. In addition, organic’s handpicked fibres are longer and softer, giving sheets a plush feel.
THE PRICE OF THE PATTERN
Printed, embellished or embroidered bedding requires more work, making it more expensive to produce, which in turn justifies a higher price tag than plain linens.
An international label
Textiles bearing the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certification meet very strict ecological, social and environmental criteria. This certification covers the processing, manufacturing, packaging, labelling, trading and distribution of all textiles made from a minimum of 70 percent certified organic natural fibres. To bear the “organic” GOTS label, a textile product must contain at least 95 percent certified organic fibres, while a product bearing the “made with organic materials” label contains a minimum of 70 percent certified organic fibres. In addition, to be GOTS certified, a product must meet certain social criteria established according to the key norms of the International Labour Organization (for example, elimination of forced labour or child labour) and environmental practices (for example, the absence of heavy metals, PVC or GMO).
Ecology and recycling
All textiles used to make bedding are recyclable, but when it comes to composting, natural fibres like cotton can biodegrade, while man-made fibres like polyester cannot. That said, since it’s very durable, polyester is less likely to quickly turn into mass waste. Linen, bamboo, Tencel, organic cotton and all other types of cotton are natural fibres that have less impact on the environment.
Organic and bamboo fabrics are the most environmentally friendly; the former because it isn’t produced using chemicals and the latter because the plant replenishes quickly.
WHAT DOES THREAD COUNT MEAN?
The number of threads per square inch or square centimetre defines the thread count of a sheet. Generally, the higher the thread count, the finer the threads used, meaning smoother and denser fabric. But thread count doesn't always indicate higher quality; Make sure to pay attention to the quality of yarns used, the weave and the craftsmanship, too!