Bedsheets are made in a variety of fabrics, each with its own unique properties. To find the right sheets for you, it’s important to consider what characteristics you need in a sheet. For example, if you have sensitive skin, you would need a sheet with hypo-allergenic properties. If you are a hot sleeper, sheets that have good moisture-wicking capabilities are needed.
We’re going to go over the materials that are commonly used for sheets, their good, and bad points, as well as what to look for when buying the right bedding.
Materials Used for Sheets
Most will agree that, when it comes to the best materials for sheets, cotton comes out on top. Especially higher quality cotton, such as Egyptian, Pima, and Supima. There are other fabrics that some will prefer over cotton, and we will look at all of these.
We’ll start with your everyday basic cotton. Upland cotton has shorter fibers than you would find in Egyptian cotton. They aren’t as soft, flexible, or strong as long-staple fibers, however, they cost significantly less. They are also more widely available, and still quite soft and breathable.
The downside is that the short fibers are prone to break outside of the weave and lead to pilling, which gives it a rougher texture. So they aren’t great for durability.
Egyptian cotton is considered to be of higher quality than ordinary cotton. This is because it is grown in a climate that is beneficial for cotton and it is harvested differently. Egyptian cotton is hand-picked, which puts less stress on the fibers, allowing them to be long and straight. These longer fibers give a softer and much more flexible fabric that is very breathable. Bedding made using 100% Egyptian Cotton means softer, more durable sheets thanks to its longer than average fibers, making your sleep experience more luxurious and uninterrupted.
The downside is that 100% Egyptian cotton sheets are more expensive than regular cotton sheets.
Pima cotton is similar to Egyptian cotton, having the same long fibers that create super soft, breathable bed sheets. The difference is that Pima is grown in the desert climates of the U.S.A, which is close to the Egyptian climate. Pima is considered to be a high-quality fabric, but less expensive than Egyptian cotton.
The downside is that it is still more expensive than regular cotton.
Note: Both Egyptian and Pima have often been blended with ordinary cotton and passed off as 100% Egyptian, or Pima. You need to be cautious of these knock-off brands.
Another version of Pima cotton is the trademark Supima (short for Superior Pima) brand, which is Pima that follows a stricter standard of purity and quality. Supima uses extra-long staple fibers of 1.5-inches, as opposed to the 1-inch of long-staple fibers. Supima sheets are hypo-allergenic and great for hot weather due to their light and cooling texture.
The downside is that Supima can often be more expensive than Egyptian cotton.
[Also See: Supima vs Pima Cotton Sheets]
MicroCotton is the trademark name for Indian produced fine cotton. Because it has the ability to dry quickly and it produces the least amount of lint, it was originally used in towels. However, those same benefits are what makes it a great fabric for sheets. Micro cotton uses a similar fine long-staple fiber, is very breathable and will keep you cool and dry.
The downside is that they cost more than Upland cotton and they don’t come in a large variety.
For cold weather, flannel sheets are a good choice. Made from cotton, wool, and other fibers, flannel is brushed when being processed to give it a soft and denser material. It allows the fabric to trap heat to keep you warm. They are also very affordable.
The downside is that they are too heavy for warm climates and not as breathable in comparison to cotton.
Made from silkworms, silk creates a fabric that is smooth, hypo-allergenic, cooling, and very soft. While some buy silk sheets for their luxurious feel, others choose silk sheets because they are gentler on the skin. They are also moisture-wicking.
The downside is that silk sheets are the most expensive sheets that you can buy, and they need to be cared for delicately, so not the best choice if you want easy maintenance sheets.
Tencel is a brand of natural fabric that often gets mistaken for synthetic fiber. This is down to how it’s processed. Made from the pulp of the eucalyptus tree, it has a soft feel, is highly breathable, and moisture-wicking that is comparable to cotton. Tencel sheets also have hypoallergenic properties that make it perfect for allergy sufferers and those with sensitive skin. Tencel is also stronger than cotton and eco-friendly.
The downside is that they aren’t 100% hypo-allergenic, like silk is, and is more expensive than cotton because of the complex way it is manufactured.
Made from flax fibers, linen gives you a breathable, soft sheet that is more absorbent than cotton. Flax fibers are also thicker than cotton fibers, giving linen a crisp feel and high durability. Linen sheets are known for their hypo-allergenic features and resists bacterial growth.
The downside is that it’s more expensive than cotton because of the difficulty in weaving and it being more expensive to produce. It also wrinkles very easily, so wouldn’t be a good choice if you like wrinkle-free sheets.
Polyester is a synthetic material that is more durable and less expensive than cotton. It’s soft, as well as being water and wind-resistant, which is what made polyester perfect for things like raincoats and waterproof clothing. For sheets, polyester is usually blended with cotton to give it a soft finish. It is also wrinkle-resistant and stain-resistant, making it a good choice for children’s sheets.
The downside is that is is not as breathable or comfortable as cotton and can irritate skin that is sensitive.
How to choose bed sheets?
Now that you know the variety of materials that sheets can come in, let’s look at what considerations you should take when choosing a bedsheet.
While thread count is no longer an indication of quality, with many manufacturers using tricks to raise their thread count, such as using cheaper multiple-ply threads for example. Not all fabrics use thread count to judge quality or softness either. Flannel and wool go by weight, and silk uses momme. So, thread count shouldn’t be the main thing you use to judge a good sheet.
The material you choose will be down to your own preference. Depending on the climate you live in, what fabric you like the feel of, if you have sensitive skin, and whether you are a hot or cold sleeper will all be part of choosing the material for your bedding.
The way a sheet feels is directly impacted by the way it is woven. There are several weaves that are used for sheets.
Percale: this is a plain weave that is combed to get rid of loose fibers, giving it a smoother and firmer feeling. It makes for a fabric that needs very little ironing.
Poplin: poplin uses a tighter weave that gives you a good quality sheet that requires little ironing.
Sateen: this is a more intricate weave that has more threads on the surface to create a satin-like finish and a silky feel.
Satin: woven like sateen, satin gives a soft silky feel and has a more subtle sheen than sateen.
Waffle: this weave looks like a honeycomb or grid using squares that are recessed. It gives the fabric a very textured look.
Pattern and design are down to personal preference. You can choose from solid colors to bold prints that compliment the decor of your bedroom.
As we saw previously, some sheets can be used all year long, where others are good for either hot or cold seasons.
What is the best material for sheets to keep you cool?
Both linen and cotton sheets are best for keeping you cool due to their breathability and moisture-wicking capabilities. It allows the air to circulate over your skin to dry any perspiration while sleeping.
One thing to watch with cotton is the thread count though, because of the higher the thread count, the denser the fabric, which means a less breathable sheer. Aim for a 300 to 400 thread count for cotton sheets.
What is the best material for sheets that don’t pill?
Sheets that pill can’t be uncomfortable for people with sensitive skin. Long-staple threads are the best choice for sheets that won’t pill, which includes Egyptian, Supima, Pima, and silk sheets.
What is the best material for sheets if you’re allergic to / have sensitive skin?
There are a few choices you have if you have sensitive skin or allergies. Organic cotton is one choice because it isn’t treated with any harsh dyes or chemicals. Silk is another good choice due to its smooth texture that won’t’ irritate the skin. You also have bamboo, which is antibacterial, antimicrobial, and hypo-allergenic, so it’s perfect for those with allergies.
Steer clear of fabrics like polyester and wool if you have sensitive skin. These are known to irritate the skin.
What is the best material for sheets for durability?
Linen is one of the most durable fabrics to use for sheets, as is cotton. With cotton, you want a long-staple thread because these are less likely to break and weaken the fabric over time. Cotton is known for releasing stains when it is wet, so it will wear well over time.
What is the best material for sheets that are wrinkle-resistant?
Microfiber sheets are at the top of the list for sheets that are wrinkle-resistant. You can find cotton sheets that are also wrinkle-resistant, however, some of these are treated chemically to give them that property and may not be good for those with sensitive skin. Also, look for fabrics that are a blend of polyester microfiber and Bamboo rayon for another wrinkle-free option.
What is the best fabric for crib sheets?
The standard material that parents choose for a crib is cotton for its breathability and its thermoregulating properties. Crib sheets using 100% cotton are also hypo-allergenic and a good choice for all seasons. You also have the option of waterproof sheets. Good quality waterproof bedsheets will be breathable, soft, and hypo-allergenic.
What is the best material for easy maintenance sheets?
Cotton comes out at the top of the list here for being low maintenance. It requires minimal ironing, releases stains well, and doesn’t need special care when it comes to washing and drying.
A Final Note…
There are many choices of materials that can be used for sheets. Which fabric you use will depend a lot on personal preference. However, cotton seems to be the all-around choice for bedding due to its breathability, moisture-wicking, softness, hypo-allergenic, and easy maintenance properties. It can be used in both warm and cool climates and is a good choice for an all-year-round sheet.