Reviewers say that 100 percent cotton is relatively easy to care for and makes durable and comfortable bed sheets. Premium cottons, such as Egyptian or pima, have longer fibers that feel smooth and have minimal pilling. Cotton can be blended with polyester, rayon or other fibers to reduce the cost and resist wrinkling.
The most popular way of gauging the quality of cotton sheets is to check the thread count, meaning the number of horizontal and vertical threads per square inch of fabric. However, experts say that thread count as a quality indicator is overrated, and that the weave and material matter as much as thread count. Cotton can be woven in a variety of ways, with the most common being sateen and percale. Sateen crosses over four threads and then under one, giving fabric a smoother, more fluid appearance but also giving it a tendency to snag. Percale has an even over-under pattern that lends a crispness to sheets.
Experts say sateen has gloss and smoothness, but many reviewers prefer the durability and crispness of percale. Either weave can be made of organic cotton, which is grown and manufactured without the use of chemicals.
Among sateen sheet sets, experts recommend Wamsutta Dream Zone Sheets (*Est. $160 for a queen set) for its exceptional softness. One expert review praises the construction quality and minimal shrinkage after repeated washing and drying. Furthermore, the unusually wide elastic band and deep pockets that fit a 20-inch-thick mattress ensures the fitted sheet stays in place. About three dozen owner reviews at BedBathAndBeyond.com, where these sheets are sold, are largely positive. Owners agree that these bed sheets have a silky softness and don't wrinkle much out of the dryer. Dream Zone sheets are available for all mattress sizes except twin XL. The bed sheets are sold in 10 muted colors from white to dark brown.
A pricier Wamsutta sheet set, Wamsutta 1000 Sateen (*Est. $200 for a queen set), receives similar accolades by experts. Although this sheet set has a higher thread count than the 750-thread-count on Wamsutta Dream Zone, experts say they aren't quite as soft. However, they receive the highest rating for fit in one professional bed-sheet review. Only a handful of owner reviews are posted at BedBathAndBeyond.com, where the Wamsutta 1000 Sateen receives a 5-star average rating. These sateen sheets are available in white or ivory as a solid or in eight colors with a tone-on-tone stripe.
JCPenney sheets also receive recommendations in reviews, and although the list prices are above $100, they often are on sale for about half price, making them a more affordable option among sateen sheet sets. The JCPenney Studio 360TC True-Fit Wrinkle-Free Sheets (*Est. $140 for a queen set) are recommend by Real Simple magazine for "the luxurious, slightly satin finish." The manufacturer says the sheets will fit a mattress that's up to 20 inches deep. We also read about 45 owner reviews at JCPenney.com, where owners give it a solid average rating of 4.5 stars out of 5. Users say the sheets fit a thick mattress well and don't wrinkle. These cotton bed sheets are available in eight colors and five mattress sizes.
Another option among sateen sheet sets is the JCPenney 400TC WrinkleGuard (*Est. $120 for a queen set), which are the top-rated sheet at JCPenney.com. More than 220 owners give them an overall rating of 4.6 stars. Most owners say they don't wrinkle and fit just right. The manufacturer says the fitted sheet will fit a mattress up to 18 inches deep. They are available in a wide spectrum of eight colors, but not white. Additionally, a few owners say the color didn't match the online picture. JCPenney 400TC WrinkleGuard sheets are not available in a twin size -- only full, queen, king and California king.
Walmart Canopy Luxury 400-Thread Count Sateen (*Est. $50 for a queen set) is an excellent budget-priced sheet, considering it's made from premium Egyptian cotton. About two dozen owner reviews at Walmart.com give this sheet set an average rating of 4.5 stars out of 5. Reviewers agree these soft, comfortable bed sheets are a good value. A few complain about wrinkling. The manufacturer says this Canopy sheet set will fit up to an 18-inch-deep mattress. However, the only available colors are vibrant red, blue or purple; and sizes are limited to full, queen or king sizes.
If you prefer to sleep between the crispness of percale, rather than the softness of sateen, experts say L.L.Bean 280-Thread-Count Pima Cotton Percale Sheets (*Est. $115 for a queen set) don't disappoint. In comparison testing by one consumer-goods organization, they prove to be the strongest of the 23 sheet sets tested. After several wash and dry cycles, they showed little sign of shrinkage and maintained a good fit. About two dozen owners at LLBean.com -- where these sheets are exclusively sold -- give them an overall rating of 4.1 stars out of 5. Although a few owners say they feel too rough, most are happy with the texture, which they say isn't too soft or slippery. These sheets get nods for their high-quality construction, and L.L.Bean offers them in seven colors and the standard four mattress sizes. All pieces are sold separately, rather than as a sheet set.
A lesser-known name in sheets, Garnet Hill, launched its flannel sheets in 1976 and has since expanded into percale, jersey knit and other options. Good Housekeeping magazine includes Garnet Hill Fiesta Percale (*Est. $90 for a queen set) in its quest to find durable dorm room bedding. The sheets are made of combed cotton with a 200 thread count, and editors say the fabric "resisted pilling or fuzzing and didn't shrink very much after we washed and dried it five times." However, the sheets did have some puckering at the seams and exhibited a slight color change. These cotton bed sheets are available in eight colorful solids. The same percale sheets are also sold in the Garnet Hill Dot to Dot Percale (*Est. $110 for a queen set) design in 12 different color options for a bit more money.
At GarnetHill.com, both percale sheet sets receive about 100 owner reviews. The Garnet Hill Fiesta Percale receives an overall rating of 4.4 stars out of 5 and the Garnet Hill Dot to Dot Percale receives a slightly higher average rating of 4.6 stars. Owners rave about the quality, saying they are soft and smooth and never pill. The main drawback noted is they are prone to wrinkling. According to the manufacturer, pocket depth is only 12 inches. Garnet Hill sheets are available in five sizes -- twin, twin XL, full, queen and king. Plus, the dotted pattern is available for a crib mattress.
Good Housekeeping magazine also evaluates Garnet Hill Solid Jersey Knit sheets (*Est. $150 for a queen set). Jersey knit feels a lot like a T-shirt, and editors say these Garnet Hill sheets are "super-soft and resisted shrinkage." The sheets were less impressive in the abrasion test, where they showed signs of wear. About 70 owners at GarnetHill.com give them a high average rating of 4.7 stars. Most reviewers like the feel and say they stretch to fit deeper mattresses. Made of 100 percent cotton, these sheets are sold in 10 bold colors, and the same five sizes as the percale sheets.
For those seeking cotton sheets that are environmentally friendly, Indika Environmental Bedding Pali (*Est. $480 for a queen set) is made from Peruvian organic cotton (grown without the use of pesticides or herbicides). Additionally, Indika uses only all-natural plant and vegetable dyes to achieve the six color choices. Although expensive, the natural aspects and softness of these sheets earn an "excellent" rating at AllergyBuyersClub.com (though the site also sells these sheets). These 600-thread-count sateen sheets are woven in the United States and available in standard mattress sizes plus crib and California king.
Although it calls them "the very best in organic bedding," AllergyBuyersClub.com gives its own Organic Sateen Bedding (*Est. $265 for a queen set) a lower 4-star rating. These 300-thread-count sheets are made from organic cotton grown in India, where they are also woven. Editors say these sheets are soft, comfortable and durable; and the twill weave resists wrinkling. The sheets are available in six colors and a multitude of sizes.
At the lower end of the price spectrum is the Magnolia Organics Dream Collection (*Est. $55 for a queen set). These organic cotton sheets have been certified to meet the Global Organic Textiles Standard. They are available in 10 colors, which are dyed without harmful chemicals. The 300-thread-count sheets have a dobby weave, which is characterized by a geometric pattern. We didn't find expert reviews on these sheets, but they are highly rated at Amazon.com, where all but five of the 35 reviewers give them 4- or 5-star ratings. Reviewers say the sheets are quite comfortable and soft for the price. A few owners are dissatisfied with the feel, although it seems to improve with repeated washing. These sheets are sold in standard mattress sizes, plus California king.
One of the unfortunate downsides of 100 percent cotton, according to some reviewers, is that it can come out of the dryer slightly wrinkled. Consumers who like wrinkle-free sheets but would rather skip the ironing might want to try some in a polyester-cotton blend, such as 300TC JCPenney Easy-Care Solid sheets (*Est. $100 for a queen set). More than 300 owners give them an overall rating of 4.6 stars, saying these percale sheets are crisp and don't wrinkle in the dryer. They are available in five sizes, and the manufacturer says the sizes other than twin fit a mattress that's up to 17 inches thick. These sheets are offered in 11 color choices, a few of which are also available in ruffle or lace options.
An alternative to traditional cotton sheets is bamboo fabric, which is made by pulping bamboo, a fast-growing grass, and separating the fibers. Bamboo fabric has a strong following among consumers. Experts say that bamboo, unlike cotton, is easily grown without pesticides, but some point out that separating the fibers is often a chemical-intensive process. They also note that while bamboo fabric tends to be soft and breathable, it is prone to shrinkage and pilling, especially when it's not mixed with another fiber. We found few reviews for bamboo sheets.
Modal sheets are another pulp-based, eco-friendly option, made from the soft wood of the beech tree. Walmart Canopy Modal Jersey (*Est. $40 for a queen set) are an economical blend of cotton and modal. Approximately 45 owner reviews at Walmart.com give these sheets a near-perfect rating. Reviewers praise the softness and say they don't wrinkle. These sheets are only available in three sizes -- full, queen and king -- and five colors.