The best bed sheets are comfortable, durable and stylish
Comfortable bed sheets are key to a good night's sleep, but sheets that feel heavenly to one person can be uncomfortable for another. Many choices in quality sheets are available for a reasonable price, but shoppers should still do their homework to ensure they buy the best type of bed sheets for their taste and lifestyle.
With the exception of silk or satin sheets, which we don't recommend here because they don't get very good reviews, virtually all bed sheets are made of cotton or cotton blend fabrics, although a few are made of polyester, rayon or other blends. Cotton is enduringly popular because it's a natural fabric that "breathes," providing natural air flow and wicking properties, while also providing warmth. In other words, you won't get too hot in summer or too cold in winter.
Both percale and sateen sheets are made from cotton that is derived from different, but very closely related, species with varying fiber lengths. The difference in softness, durability and texture comes when those different fiber lengths are either woven and/or brushed in different ways. Terms like "Egyptian cotton" are used mainly as a selling point, as Egyptian cotton sheets are merely one species of cotton that is woven to sateen or percale standards.
Which brings us to bamboo sheets, a very popular item with a rather misleading name. Bamboo fabrics are actually rayon or rayon blends. They may get their start from the fast-growing bamboo plant, but by the time they become sheets they've been processed to the point that they retain virtually none of the qualities of bamboo. Many of the claimed environmental and organic benefits of bamboo sheets have been grossly overstated to the point that the Federal Trade Commission has directed retailers to stop labeling and advertising rayon textiles as bamboo and to stop misleading customers about the fabric's supposed antimicrobial and eco-friendly qualities. Yes, bamboo sheets are very soft and they get good reviews for softness, but don't be misled -- they're just rayon.
And, while we're debunking bed sheet myths, a word about thread count. A high thread count has long been seen as the gold standard in the "best" bed sheets. The thread count refers to the number of horizontal and vertical threads in one square inch of fabric, and higher thread counts supposedly means the fabric is softer. In fact, according to experts, anything over about 300 thread count isn't necessarily softer or stronger, and may only be more expensive. The best way to buy any sheet is to put your fingers on it -- if it has a feel that is pleasant to you, that's probably the right one.
Common types of bed sheets
Percale sheets are ideal for those who want a crisp, cool feel. Percale refers to a common type of weave used in cotton or cotton-blend sheets. Woven like a basket with one thread over and one thread under, percale sheets are very breathable and often lighter in weight than other sheets. Many users describe them as "crisp," but percale may not feel soft or warm enough for some.
Microfiber sheets are manmade materials. Microfiber is composed of very finely woven fibers that are manufactured from wood pulp, or polyester and nylon blends. Microfiber sheets are quite thin, but, in spite of their seemingly fragile construction, are actually quite strong. Fans of microfiber say they are very soft and comfortable out of the package. They also tend to be very inexpensive.
Sateen is a good bet for those who want soft, smooth sheets. Woven with four threads over one thread, sateen sheets are slightly thicker and have a unique luster. They're known for a soft, smooth feel, but some users find them too warm or "slippery," and they can be less durable than percale sheets.
Flannel sheets are best for those who want warm, cozy bedding without adding bulk. Today's flannel sheets are usually made of cotton, although some may also use wool or synthetic fibers. The weave has a raised surface known as nap that makes the sheets soft and fuzzy. Flannel can be ideal for frostier climates or those who get cold easily, but it may not be best for those who sleep hot. The sheets may also shed and pill more easily than others.
How we found the best sheets
To find the best bed sheets, editors analyzed expert and customer reviews to evaluate the comfort, style and durability of the most popular bed sheets. The result is our picks for the bed sheets to ease you into a good night's sleep and keep you comfortable while you snooze.
Elsewhere in this report:
Best Percale Bed Sheets | Best Sateen Bed Sheets | Best Flannel Bed Sheets | Buying Guide | Our Sources