You thought that the process of buying bed sheets would be simple, right? I mean, it’s not a central part of the sleeping process like a mattress or pillow. That’s what I thought too, but it turns out to be that bed sheets have its own universe that you could get lost in without the help of experts.
In this guide, I’ll walk you through the bed sheets world and give you the essential knowledge you need to buy bed sheets that can fulfill your desires, so let’s get started…
Bed Sheets Terminology
First, let me explain to you the common terminology used in the textile industry because we are going to need it when shopping for bed sheets.
Fibers are the raw materials that the different textiles are made from it can be made from natural or synthetic material and it is spun into yarns.
Wikipedia’s definition to yarns is: “Yarn is a long continuous length of interlocked fibres, suitable for use in the production of textiles, sewing, crocheting, knitting, weaving, embroidery, or ropemaking.” and yarns are woven, knitted, sewed, etc. into fabrics.
Fabrics are the product of the process of knitting or weaving yarns, it is used to produce the final products that we use which can be clothes, bedding, fabrics used in furniture and any other material.
Weaving is a method of producing textiles in which two sets of yarns are interlaced together at a right angle. Woven fabrics are basically more sturdy because the way the yarns are interlaced together makes the whole fabric tied together and there is no much room for stretching or adjustments.
Like weaving, knitting is a technique for producing a two-dimensional fabric made from a one-dimensional yarn or thread. In weaving, threads are always straight, running parallel either lengthwise (warp threads) or crosswise (weft threads).
By contrast, the yarn in knitted fabrics follows a meandering path (a course), forming symmetric loops (also called bights) symmetrically above and below the mean path of the yarn. These meandering loops can be easily stretched in different directions giving knit fabrics much more elasticity than woven fabrics.
Thread count means the number of threads woven together in a square inch. You count both lengthwise (warp) and widthwise (weft) threads. So 100 lengthwise threads woven with 100 widthwise threads produce a thread count of 200.
This illustration from Textile Technology summarises it all.
So that was a brief introduction to the basic terminology used in the textile industry. Now let’s dig deeper.
Types of Fibers
As we have said earlier fibers are the raw materials that form textiles and they are categorized into natural and synthetic.
Natural fibers include cotton, wool, linen, and silk. The most common synthetic material is microfiber (you can check the full list on Wikipedia).
Each type of fiber has its own unique characteristics.
Cotton is one of the most common fibers we use in many different products, it is harvested in farms and then entered into the processing cycle that ends up as the different products we use such as clothes, furniture, and bedding.
Cotton is a natural fiber and all natural fibers have one thing in common: they are breathable. Breathability is a very important characteristic you should be looking for when buying your sheets because if you sleep hot or you are in hot temperature and your bed sheets aren’t breathable then you are going to go through hard times.
Advantages of Cotton:
- Natural fibers free of chemicals
- Breathable – Great option for hot weather
- Hypoallergenic and does not irritate the skin
- Burns as opposed to melts like polyester
Disadvantages of Cotton:
- Natural fibers wear down faster
- Holds moisture longer (can be an advantage in hot weather)
- Prone to shrinking
Wool is another natural fiber obtained mainly from sheep(there are lots of types of wool other than sheep), it has great characteristics as a moisture-wicking fiber that can be used if you suffer from sweating. Wool has great elasticity because of its molecular coil-spring nature, this means that each fiber acts like a spring when there is stress over the fabric, allowing for more stretch tolerance up to 30%.
Wool is also wrinkle resistant so if you are the type of person who hates doing housekeeping work then wool would be a great choice for you because it is able to sustain its original shape thanks to its natural crimp.
Advantages of Wool:
- Wrinkle resistant
- Retains its shape
- Repels moisture
- Great insulator
Disadvantages of Wool:
- Can be scratchy (not suitable for sensitive skin)
- Easily stained
- Shrinks when washed and dried by machine
Linen is another natural fiber that is produced from the flax plant, linen has two main characteristics that give it the advantage over other fibers. First, it is the best material when it comes to breathability, nothing can beat linen at this characteristic because linen construction is great for this mission.
The other great thing about linen is that it is very durable, it is a lot durable than cotton and can last with you for years to come.
Advantages of Linen:
- Environmentally friendly
- Antibacterial and hypoallergenic
Disadvantages of Linen:
- Wrinkles Easily
Silk for many means luxury and it truly is, silk is produced from silkworms that feed on different types of plants, the most common and best quality of them would be mulberry plants.
Silkworms that feed on mulberry plants produce the highest quality silk that is then processed to the different silk products that consumers can use.
Silk has many great characteristics, it is the softest of all fibers, breathable, hypoallergenic, anti-aging, antimicrobial.
Advantages of Silk:
Disadvantages of Silk:
Microfiber is a synthetic material that has a fine diameter, it is commonly made from polyesters and it has decent characteristics in terms of cost and texture but when it comes to temperature it is considered to be the worst. It has great moisture-wicking characteristics so if you suffer from night sweats microfiber can be the best option to choose, it is also soft so if you are looking for soft bed sheets then you should consider microfiber.
Microfiber is also durable, it can withstand more stretching and wear so you can expect the sheets to last long with you.
Advantages of Microfiber:
Disadvantages of Microfiber:
- Not Breathable
- Can be hard to clean
Purchasing Criteria: What to Look for in Bed Sheets
When people decide to buy bed sheets they take 12 things into consideration:
- Return policy
- Ease of Washing
Each buyer has his own priorities different, so someone might look for a good return policy and make the buying decision based on that, another one can look for wrinkle resistance as a main factor, the options are limitless.
And not every bed sheet product fulfills those 12 factors equally, some products might have a great texture but a very high price, others might be wrinkle-resistant but have a bad return policy, many combinations so you have to choose wisely.
So that was the background knowledge you needed to know before getting to your questions:
How to Buy Bed Sheets
The first step in buying the appropriate bed sheets for you is to identify your needs and wants, what are your priorities? How do you order the 12 factors of buying bed sheets? Do you want a luxurious feeling? Do you care about temperature? Do you have sensitive skin?
According to your answer to those questions and based on the knowledge you have gained from this article you should know what type of sheets should you be looking for.
What are the Softest Bed Sheets
Nothing can compete with silk when it comes to softness, so if you are looking for a luxurious and soft texture and this is the ultimate priority for you then you should definitely go with silk.
Cotton can be woven to become soft too, you should look for sateen weave when you are looking for soft cotton sheets.
Lastly, microfiber is soft too, but it can’t compete against cotton or silk.