Baffled by bedsheets? So much choice but what's best?  Read on...

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Baffled by bedsheets? So much choice but what's best? Read on...

What are the different types of bed sheet?

Bed sheets are either flat sheets or fitted sheets. A flat sheet is a piece of fabric that you lay on your mattress. You then fold the sheet around the mattress corners and tuck it in at the sides. A fitted sheet has elastic all around the edges. This elastic grips the mattress and stops the sheet from sliding around.

Fitted sheets are easier to put on and less likely to come untucked, but traditionalists often prefer a flat sheet as it gives more leeway on sizing.

What are the different bed sheet fabrics?

Then there are a huge variety of different fabrics to choose from. Here are a few of the most common:

  • Cotton – breathable, long-lasting and easy to wash
  • Egyptian cotton – known for being the world’s finest cotton. It's handpicked to put less stress on its fibres, and it can be elongated to create softer, stronger cotton with more threads per square inch
  • Brushed cotton – cotton that has been brushed on one side during the manufacturing process to give it a softer, warmer feel. Often used for winter bedding
  • Polycotton – a mix of polyester and cotton. Washes easily and dries quickly with little or no ironing
  • Linen – spun from flax (a renewable source), it has longer fibres than cotton, which means it's more durable and a favourite in hotels for this reason. While it can feel slightly stiffer than cotton when new, linen softens beautifully with age without wearing thin. Its weave means it's highly breathable while also helping to filter out allergens. It’s also good for anyone with sensitive skin
  • Silk – for a bit of Hollywood starlet glamour, silk is naturally hypoallergenic. It will keep you warm in winter and cool in summer, and beauty experts swear by silk pillowcases for keeping hair tidy and skin wrinkle-free. Comes at a premium
  • Bamboo – eco-friendly, soft, great at temperature regulation and ideal for those with sensitive skin. It's more expensive than cotton and takes careful looking after
  • Lyocell – made from wood pulp and also known by its brand name, Tencel. It's sustainable, soft and great at wicking moisture away from the skin to keep you comfy in bed

What is the best material for bed sheets?

It depends what feel you want and how big your budget is. If you want a cosy feel, brushed cotton is a good option. If you get hot in bed, bamboo or Tencel will be best. For a hotel-chic look, linen or Egyptian cotton are the way to go, or look for hypoallergenic materials if you suffer from allergies.

Think about how much you’re paying and how long you want the sheets to last too. Linen, for example, will last for decades. It will age but usually just gets better with age. Cotton, on the other hand, will last for five to 10 years depending on the quality and thread count.

What is thread count?

Thread count refers to the number of threads woven into one inch of any given fabric. You count both the warp (the threads that go vertically) and the weft (those that go horizontally).

In general, the higher the thread count, the better quality the fabric, but other factors, such as the different fibres and weaves, also have an impact on the feel and quality of the fabric.

What is the best thread count for bed sheets?

Don’t be dazzled by very high thread counts. They’re a bit like expensive wines – once you get to a certain level, you’re really not going to notice the difference.

A thread count of between 200 and 800 will give you a sheet that you can really feel the difference in. Anything above 800 won’t necessarily feel that much better. Below 200 will be cheaper, but won’t last as long or feel as nice to sleep in.

What do the various weaves mean when it comes to bed sheets?

You might also see fabrics referred to as 'percale,' 'jaquard,' sateen,' etc. These refer to the patterns the threads are woven in and this, along with thread count, can make a big difference to the feel of the sheets.

Duvet covers might be jaquard or chambray, but sheets are usually percale or sateen weave.

  • Percale – the weft (horizontal) and the warp (vertical) threads are woven alternately, like a chessboard. This weave gives a crisp, cool feel
  • Sateen – here, the weft goes over several warp threads rather than over and under each one. Sateen tends to feel softer, smoother and warmer than percale
  • Jacquard – this weave produces patterns in the fabric. It tends to feel quite heavy

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