Guide to Buying Sheets

How to choose sheets that are soft, comfortable and long-lasting.

Bedding Basics 01:44

Get expert tips for buying the right bedding for your space.
Similar Topics:
Iron Bed Near Window

Iron Bed Near Window

Trying to settle on a set of sheets? Understanding some basics about the fabrics they're made of will help you compare labels wisely and make a smart choice.

"Cotton is by far the most-loved fabric for sheets," says Jim Symmes, vice president at Revman International, which manufactures sheets for prominent brands such as Tommy Bahama and Laura Ashley. "It's soft, durable, and breathes well. But improvements in the manufacturing process and finishing techniques mean that other fabrics like polyester can be a viable alternative to cotton." What you're looking for is what the industry dubs a nice "hand"-soft and luxe to the touch.

Some fabrics may fit your needs better than others. Here's a guide to choosing the sheet that's right for you:

Price for your skin type

Sheets made of microfiber-fabric composed of extremely fine fibers of polyester-are affordable and soft, and they resist pilling more than traditional polyester fabric does. However, polyester is less breathable than cotton and is probably not the best choice for those with sensitive skin.

Cotton jersey sheets are also reasonably priced and very breathable because they're knit rather than woven. Jersey is basically T-shirt fabric, so jersey sheets may appeal to you if you like sleeping in a soft old shirt.

Microfiber and jersey don't have the cool crispness of woven cotton, so if you like to flip your pillows to the cool side all night long, you're better off looking at an inexpensive cotton percale instead.

Know your cotton

The highest-quality, softest sheets use cotton with extra-long fibers (called long-staple fibers) that can be spun into fine, strong yarns. Certified long-staple cottons include Egyptian, pima, and Supima®. That doesn't mean that other types of cotton don't make nice sheets, Symmes says. A fabric that is finished nicely with a high thread count can be made of a non-certified cotton and still be very comfortable.

Thread count matters, but highest isn't always best

Thread count refers to the number of horizontal and vertical threads per square inch. Generally, the higher the thread count, the softer the sheet, and the more likely it will wear well-or even soften-over time. Good sheets range anywhere from 200 to 800, although you'll occasionally see numbers over 1,000. Astronomical thread counts don't necessarily mean the sheet is better-there are even tricks to inflating the thread count (such as using multiple yarns twisted together) that don't actually improve the hand of the fabric and may even detract from its quality. 

Don't assume a low thread count means low-quality sheets. "There are 200-count cotton sheets out there that are finished very nicely and actually feel like they have a higher thread count," Symmes says. "Fewer chemicals and more mechanical finishings are used these days, giving a nice hand and performance." If you're watching pennies, try a 200-count combed cotton set from a well-known brand; name brands are likely to have high certification standards for their finishing processes.

Symmes says that his ideal sheet is a combed cotton sheet in the 300 to 400 thread count range.

Weaves and other details

Usually, the fabric weave and the manufacturing processes used won't be a big factor in your decision; often they don't even appear on the packaging. But there are a few terms you should know:

  • Sateen is cotton cloth made with a satin weave, a weave that produces a very soft, lustrous feel but can be somewhat less durable than a tighter weave.
  • Percale is the crisp, durable plain weave fabric typically used for sheets; it has a thread count of at least 180.  
  • Combed cotton has been combed to remove the short fibers and leave the long ones, which makes for a strong, soft fabric. 

6 Tips: Selecting Bedding

Go Bold in the Bedroom

Photo By: Jonathan Adler

Layer Patterned Linens

Photo By: John Robshaw

Splurge on Down

Thread Count Matters

Photo By: Jonathan Adler

Make It Comfy

Purchase Bedding That Will Last

See our bedding glossary for more information on fabrics, finishes and styles.

Next Up

Mitering a Sheet

Mitering a sheet bottom keeps it snug and sharp beneath the bed covers.

How to Make a Reversible Bedspread

Step-by-step instructions for a kid-friendly bedcover guaranteed to stay clean twice as long

How to Ombre Dip-Dye a Duvet Cover

Transform a simple set of white bedding into a fresh and modern masterpiece with your favorite color dye and just a few hours.

How to Fold Fitted Sheets

Oh, the dreaded fitted sheets. Follow these four simple steps on how to fold them perfectly to keep your linen closet clutter free.

How to Fold a Fitted Sheet

Learn how to fold fitted sheets with these step-by-step instructions.

Put on a Duvet Cover

Here's how to easily stuff the duvet in and you won't feel as if you've been in a three-way wrestling match!

How-to: Vintage Stamp Coasters

The DIY experts at HGTV Magazine recreated this flea market find. Here’s how you can, too.

11 New Ways to Upgrade a Gallery Wall

Learn how to take your art gallery wall from ho-hum to "Holla!" with our quick, easy changes.

How to Make a Ribboned Window Topper

Adding ribbon to a window topper is easy yet elegant. Follow these step-by-step instructions to make your own.

How to Make a Mica Hurricane Candleholder

These candleholders make great gifts for family and friends.

On TV

Stories We're Following

Shop This Look

Found a living space you love in HGTV's Photo Library? Get the look in your own home with products from Wayfair.

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.