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How to Buy Sheets

If the thought of selecting sheets makes your head spin, start here.

Photo: Mark Lund

Know your bed size. For the most part, this means just knowing if it’s a twin, a queen, and so on, but it’s also helpful to know your mattress’ exact measurements.

Think about the fabric. Not all cotton is created equal. Certain weaves feel softer and smoother. Ask to feel fabric samples to figure out your favorite.

Know the vocab. There’s thread count, weave, and cotton type to worry about. Who knew?

Types of Cotton
Egyptian: This long-staple cotton is grown in the Nile River Valley. It’s highly absorbent and strong yet breathable.

Pima: Named after the Pima Native American tribe, this high-quality, long-staple cotton is grown in the southwest United States and in South America.

Supima®: An abbreviation for "superior pima," it’s the finest yield of long-staple Pima cotton and is grown exclusively in the United States by certified farmers.

Organic: This type of cotton is grown without pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers. Certified organic products have a United States Government-approved third party certification to ensure authenticity.

The most common blend is cotton/polyester. Blending natural and synthetic fibers results in some seriously easy-to-care-for sheets. But polyester isn’t a very breathable fabric, so they might not be the best choice for those who live in warm climates.

Sateen (no, not satin): Super-soft, though it is slightly less durable than a percale or pinpoint.

Pinpoint: It’s more durable than a regular weave but not as soft as sateen. They’ll soften after repeated washings.

Percale: This weave produces a strong, long-lasting, breathable fabric. Percale can have a crisp feel and will soften after repeated washings.

Twill: You’ll be able to recognize this weave thanks to diagonal lines on one side of the fabric. These sheets hold their shape well, drape well, and tend to be somewhat wrinkle-resistant.

Manufacturing Techniques
Combed: Cotton fibers are combed to create soft and strong yarns by removing short uneven fibers.

Compact: A process that significantly reduces the amount of hairy stray fibers and weak spots in the thread, making fabric resistant to wrinkling and pilling.

Flannel: This medium-weight fabric is soft and fuzzy and usually made of cotton with a napped finish on one or both sides. Napping is a brushing technique that provides a raised surface with a fluffy appearance. Flannel is perfect at providing cozy warmth during the winter.

Jersey: These sheets feel like a T-shirt and have a snug, stretchy fit. They’re knitted, not woven, so you won't find thread count listed on the product packaging.

Thread count
This is the number of threads per square inch of fabric, both vertical and horizontal. Consider thread count, along with cotton type and weave, to find the softest, most durable sheets. Higher thread count means softer, which often means a higher price tag.

Special thanks to Kelly Messman, spokesperson for Bed Bath & Beyond.

-- The Nest Editors

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