The best bed sheets have

  • Adequate pocket depth. The fitted sheet should be deep enough to comfortably fit your mattress, with enough elastic to keep it from sliding or popping off.
  • Breathable fabric that works for most seasons. Sheets that are 100 percent cotton "breathe" more and are less likely to make you sweat than polyester blends, which is especially important during warmer weather.
  • Sturdy, durable construction. Look for double-stitched hems that lay flat on flat sheets and pillowcases, and be sure the elastic on fitted sheets either runs all the way around the sheet or at least lines two opposing sides to minimize slippage.
  • Reasonable care instructions. With the exception of very high-end silk, nearly all sheets are machine washable and dryable. Follow care instructions for cycle speed, temperature and stain removal to maximize their lifespan.

Know before you go

Do you like warmer or cooler sheets? Sheets that are all cotton, all linen or a mix of the two will keep you the coolest, according to luxury bedding retailer Frontgate. Sleepers who get cold easily may prefer flannel or a cotton knit such as jersey.

Do you like a crisp, soft or fluffy feel? This is where fabric weave comes into play, says About.com. If you prefer a crisp feel, opt for percale, a plain weave made from combed and carded cotton. For a softer sheet, sateen puts more yarn at the sheet surface. Flannel sheets feel fluffier than percale or sateen because they have a fuzzy, raised "napped" finish.

Check thread count, but don't rely on it to make your decision. As luxury bedding retailer Linenplace reports, thread count is just one consideration when you purchase bedding. While good bed sheets should have a minimum thread count of 200, experts say higher counts can mean significantly higher prices with only marginal benefits. Fiber quality, yarn size, finishing and construction also play a role in sheets' comfort and durability.

Are you picky about colors and patterns? Many sheet manufacturers offer only solids in neutrals or muted pastels. You may have better luck finding brighter colors and patterns on comforters or duvet covers. Note that yarn-dyed fabric will generally resist fading better than printed fabric, but it will also boost the sheets' price.

Beware of chemically treated sheets. Sheet manufacturers often apply chemicals to prevent shrinking and wrinkling or to add sheen. Real Simple magazine recommends buying sheets that are labeled pure-finish or 100 percent organic if you don't want these chemicals next to your skin.

Know your retailer's return policy. Don't be afraid to inspect package contents before you buy to make sure you get the proper sizes and number of pieces. Experts at ConsumerReports.org encourage customers to return sheets even after laundering them if there are problems with fading, shrinking or feel.

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