9 Things to Know Before You Buy New Bed Sheets

A good night's sleep starts with soft, cozy sheets that let your body breathe. Here's what to look for when you dress your bed.

things-to-know-before-buying-bedsheetsiStock/TeerawatWinyarat

Go for cotton

This natural fabric is machine-washable and breathable, according to Roberson Keffer, Macy’s VP fashion director of home. “Long-fiber cottons, such Egyptian, Pima, and Supima, are the strongest and softest,” he says. Longer fibers also mean that the fabric won’t pill, so they’ll feel softer longer. These high-end cotton sheets tend to be more expensive, so it’s okay to consider a polycotton, which is typically more affordable than 100 percent cotton—and as a bonus, gets less wrinkled. Linen is also a great natural fiber, according to Keffer. It’s especially ideal for summer for its lighter weight and breathability, but it does wrinkle easily, even more so than cotton. These are other dreamy ways to make your bed.

 

Know the weave

Though weave is invisible to the naked eye, bed sheets can be woven differently. The type of weave affects a sheet’s softness, appearance, longevity, and price, according to Real Simple. “I prefer percale sheets,” says Keffer. “They they are lighter weight, crisp, and stay cooler through the night. Many people also like sateen for its smooth feel.”

 

Look for the finish

Sheets are often treated with chemicals to ensure that they won’t wrinkle or lose their shape. That said, some manufacturers make organic cotton sheets with a “pure finish,” meaning it’s chemical-free. Though organic sheets may wrinkle more easily than the chemical alternative, many consumers prefer the organic option. “This is a true personal choice,” notes Keffer. “We recommend feeling the sheet in person and deciding what you prefer before purchasing.” These are other ways to make your bed cozier.

 

A high thread count isn’t everything

Thread count, the number of threads in each square inch of fabric, was once considered the single most important measure of quality, but now we know better. Things like yarn fiber, size, finishing, and spinning all play a huge role in the overall quality of a sheet, according to Keffer. As Real Simple explains, “a sheet of a better-quality fiber with a lower thread count will feel softer and stand up to washing better than a sheet of a lower-quality fiber with a higher thread count.”

 

It matters where bed sheets manufactured

France and Italy are known as some of the best sheet makers in the business, according to huffingtonpost.com. However, as Keffer says, “it’s important to note that every country that makes sheets produces a wide spectrum, so price can be a basic guide as to what you are buying.”

 

Consider the environmental impact

It’s a little complicated. According to a study reported by the Yale Environment Review, though the chemical finishes on bed sheets have a negative environmental impact, their “easy-care finish,” which typically applies to cotton-polyester blend sheets, prolongs the lifespan of bedsheets, leading to an 87 percent decrease in environmental impacts. The same research also points out that cotton is a water-intensive material, so although it may seem more environmentally friendly than a synthetic fabric like polyester, it takes gobs and gobs of water to manufacture. Ultimately, the study concludes that “bedsheets composed of lightly dyed, combed cotton-polyester blends with easy-care” are ideal for consumers that who prioritize environmental impact.

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Understand the pros and cons of wrinkle-free

“Wrinkle-free sheets are not a must-have—it’s all about personal preference,” Keffer says. The upside is that you won’t need to press them to remove wrinkles. The downside is that chemical process can wear off with multiple washes, so you might end up at the ironing board anyway, or just dealing with wrinkly sheets. Another downside is the potential health effects of the chemical finish. The New York Times points out, “Though it is not obvious from the label, the antiwrinkle finish comes from a resin that releases formaldehyde, the chemical that is usually associated with embalming fluids or dissected frogs in biology class.” People with skin allergies may be sensitive to formaldehyde.

 

Consider upsizing

If you have a mattress topper that significantly increases the height of your mattress, it may make sense to purchase sheets that are “extra deep.” That way, you’ll have an easier time putting them on. Make sure to measure the depth of your mattress and mattress topper before selecting the size.

 

Always wash sheets before you sleep on them

If you choose to go with a non-organic finish, make sure to wash your sheets before using them if you have any sensitivities or allergies to certain chemicals. Plus, Keffer suggests that “washing sheets before you use them allows the yarns to bloom and creates a softer feel.” Here’s what happens if you don’t wash your sheets every week.

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