How To Tell If Egyptian Cotton Sheets Are Real or Fake?

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If you have shopped for sheets for your bed recently – or ever, in fact – you will have read, seen or heard that Egyptian cotton sheets are one of the best choices you can make.

This statement is quite true, but it can’t be applied across the board, as an increasing number of ‘Egyptian Cotton’ sheets on the market are not quite what they claim to be. Which begs the question, “how to tell if Egyptian cotton sheets are real?” and maybe even “why does it matter anyway?”

Read on to discover as we expose the truth about spotting fake vs real Egyptian cotton bed sheets.

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What is So Special About Egyptian Cotton?

The cotton that is so prized for bedding grown in Egypt is a species of extra-long-staple cotton, Gossypium barbadense, and aside from the fact that the plant in itself is special, so is the soil it is grown in, as the nutrient rich soil along the Nile is especially good for cultivating this unique plant.

A field of ripe cotton bolls
Ripe cotton bolls

Compared to other cottons, Egyptian cotton yields fibers that are much longer. These fibers have a smaller surface area, a longer length, and are significantly stronger. More threads can be utilized per square inch when making fabric using Egyptian cotton, and that higher thread count means. Bedsheets made out of Egyptian cotton are cooler, softer, and more durable than the majority of other cottons as a result.

Egypt is far from the only country that produces cotton, and one special cotton that is grown in the US, sold under the brand name Supima, boasts the same long, long fibers and excellent softness and durability, but is grown in the American South, rather than along the Nile.

A good Supima cotton-covered bedsheet is another excellent choice bed linen, as this long-staple variety if well known for its longevity and exceptional softness.

However, genuine long staple Egyptian cotton remains the gold standard for bedsheets in the minds of many.

How Can You Tell If Egyptian Cotton Sheets Are Real?

As we mentioned, an increasing number of sheets that claim to be Egyptian cotton, and offer all those great benefits you’ve heard about, are not.

In fact, it’s become such a problem that the reputable members of the cotton industry had to turn to cutting edge science to try to help solve it (more on that in a minute.)

But how can you tell if the Egyptian cotton sheets you are considering purchasing are the real deal?

Here are some helpful pointers.

1. Ensure That They Are 100% Egyptian Cotton By Checking the Label

While they can get very descriptive and flowery in product descriptions, every sheet manufacturer does have to state on their labels, and somewhere in the small print of the product descriptions, just what their sheets are made of, where the cotton came from, and where it was made.

There are a couple of caveats here.

Egyptian cotton sheets might not be made there. Sheet manufacturers from all over the world import Egyptian cotton to their manufacturing country to produce all kinds of linens, so manufacturing country of origin is not that important.

That the cotton is Gossypium barbadense grown in Egypt is. Not all the cotton grown in Egypt is long staple cotton, and that is the stuff you want if you want the very best quality for your bedsheets.

An increasing number of sheet makers add the Egyptian cotton logo to their sheets, a mark that they can only use if their sheets really are crafted from 100%  Gossypium barbadense, so spotting that is always a good sign that you are buying the real thing.

One note here. Some sheets contain some real Egyptian cotton, but to save money it is utilized as a part of a blend, with other fabrics like polyester or microfiber making up the bulk of the sheet. These sheets will not have the same properties as those crafted using 100% Egyptian cotton (although they may not be a bad budget choice.)

2. Spot the fakes using DNA Testing

Remember we mentioned that reputable sheet manufacturers had turned to science to help stop their products being confused with fakes?

The science they turned to was DNA testing, a process that is increasingly being used across the textile industry as a whole.

DNA testing can prove – or disprove – a fabric’s origin. It was implemented in the bedding industry after a DNA testing based study commissioned by Cotton Egypt in 2017 found that a whopping 90% of the ‘Egyptian Cotton’ products, including sheets, being sold in stores in New York City they tested did not actually contain any Egyptian cotton at all.

Now, to obtain that logo we just mentioned, sheets have to pass a DNA test.

3. Expect to Pay Between $150-$250 for a Superior Quality Queen Set

Egyptian cotton sheets are not cheap, but they are tanked as the number 1 cotton by consumers in terms of quality.

61% of consumers would pay premium prices for Egyptian Cotton.

Cotton Egypt Association

While you might be able to find a great sale occasionally – think Amazon Prime Day, or the big bedding sales many stores stage on holidays like President’s Day – if a set of Egyptian sheets you are considering seems to be a lot cheaper than others then they probably are not 100% Egyptian cotton at all.

Usually a good set of 100%, DNA certified Egyptian cotton sheets cost between $150 and $200. This sounds like a lot, but they do offer great ROI, as a high quality set that is properly cared for will last for many years, and even often get better (and softer) with age.

Resources and Further Reading:

The Hotel Sheet: The truth about Egyptian cotton
Cotton Egypt: Calling out Egyptian cotton fakery
Bloomberg: DNA Testing could put an end to fake Egyptian cotton

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