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What Are You Sleeping On? Sheets 101

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Kara
08.29.13

The bedding section of home goods stores is like the Bermuda Triangle. It’s easy to get lost in the sea of thread counts. When you finally make your way to the other side, you’re still trying to figure out the difference between Egyptian and organic cotton while simultaneously debating what texture you like best – jersey knit or sateen?

It doesn’t have to be this way! Understanding bed-linen lingo will make your shopping experience a whole lot simpler. Here’s the skinny:

Note: No matter what the label says, you’ll want your sheets to pass a quick “touch test” before you buy. Make sure you feel the sheets at the store before making a final decision, or ask a store employee for a sample piece of fabric.

Thread Count

Thread count is the number of threads per square-inch of a piece of fabric.

  • 0-200: Low-quality material
  • 200-300: Noticeably better quality
  • 300-400: The cream of the crop for bed sheets
  • 400+: Most likely only 200-400 actual thread count

As a general rule of thumb, don’t buy your sheets based on thread count alone.

We hate to be the bearer of bad bed-sheet news, but thread counts can be misleading. Some manufacturers will skimp on fabric quality or even count thread twice to make a sheet’s thread count number as high as possible. If you see linens labeled with a thread count higher than 400, that number is probably inflated (meaning the price will be, too).

Fiber Type

Pay attention to fiber types, because it will largely determine the price of your sheets. Cotton-polyester blends are usually less expensive than most cotton sheets. Long-fiber cotton blends (such as Egyptian cotton or Pima cotton) are higher quality fiber and will be more expensive. Note: Although there are a few other types of materials used to make bed sheets (linen and silk), these are hard to come by. These days, most sheets are primarily composed of cotton.

Weave Name

This is important! It’s the weave of a fabric that will determine it’s overall level of comfort. Here’s the breakdown of the most common types of weaves on the market:

  • Percale: Known for being crisp and cool with a “sturdy” feel.
  • Sateen: Think satin sheen – this weave has a soft, smooth, satin texture.
  • Jersey knit: Warm, soft knit fabric sometimes labeled as “T-shirt sheets.”
  • Patterns: Weaves with intricate designs that create a more textured feel.

Fabric Finish

Many bed sheets are treated with chemicals (including chlorine, formaldehyde and silicon) to keep them from wrinkling or shrinking. Check the label for the words “wrinkle resistance” or “shrinkage control” to determine if your sheets are treated with chemicals. If you want sheets that are chemical-free – especially if someone in your home suffers from allergies – look for sheets labeled “pure-finish” or opt for organic cotton sheets.

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