Sleep Like You’re on Vacation With the Best Cotton Sheets
It’s all about the material.
Published Jul 12, 2021 2:24 AM
There’s a reason sleeping in hotels feels so luxurious: It’s the cotton sheets. Yes, the room service, views, and minibar help, but it’s the bedding—or, more specifically, the type of bedding—that truly sets a night at a five-star resort apart from a night in your bedroom. “People love hotel sheets because cotton looks crisp and fresh and feels soft,” says Bipin Sivapragasam, assistant director of housekeeping at the Ritz-Carlton San Francisco. Cotton is also more durable than other high-end bedding materials such as linen and silk, he notes, which is important for hotels but also for personal use if you want to invest in quality sheets that will last.
“Luckily a comfortable bed is one of the easiest elements of a hotel stay to re-create at home,” says Dennis Chan, director of retail product at Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts. You can’t bring home the plunge pool or Michelin-starred chef, Chan continues, but you can easily get that sumptuous sleep experience. Read on to discover our best cotton sheet picks so you can sleep in luxury every night, not just when you’re on vacation.
- Best overall: Parachute Brushed Cotton Sheet Set
- Best organic: Coyuchi Organic Crinkled Percale Sheets
- Best value: Mayfair Linen Long Staple Cotton Sheets
- Best Supima: Casper Cool Supima
- Best Egyptian cotton: Silk & Snow Egyptian Cotton Bed Sheets
- Best sateen: Casper Sateen Sheets
- Best colors: Brooklinen Luxe Core Sheet Set
A Few Things to Keep in Mind
Type: Cotton is a natural fiber derived from cotton plants; the fiber is turned into yarn and then woven to create a long-lasting fabric. When it comes to sleep health, cotton is highly regarded because it’s breathable and soft, which means it’s comfortable and great at regulating temperature, according to Logan Foley, managing editor at the Sleep Foundation. It’s also generally hypoallergenic, ideal for people with sensitive skin or allergies who might not be able to tolerate some or all synthetic materials. But not all cotton is created equal, and there are several different factors to consider when shopping for cotton sheets.
First, there are long- and short-fiber (or -staple) cottons. The longer the staple, the more durable and supple the material will be. Short-staple cottons are more likely to pill and attract lint but are less expensive than long-staple varieties.
There are also specific types of cotton, such as regular, pima, and Egyptian. Regular cotton, such as American upland, typically has shorter fibers. Pima is a long-staple cotton that “wicks moisture and is very durable,” says Foley. The term pima is sometimes used interchangeably with Supima cotton, but there’s a difference. Supima is a trademarked name referencing a type of pima cotton that’s only grown in the U.S. It makes up less than 1 percent of cotton produced worldwide and is said to have exceptional strength, softness, and color retention due to its extra-long staple.
Lastly there’s Egytian cotton, the finest of them all, grown solely in Egypt’s Nile Delta region where the soil is famously rich and fertile and the climate is friendly to cotton production. This variety is handpicked to retain its structure and produces a silky smooth, long-staple textile with exceptional color retention that’s hard to match. But there are a lot of gimmicks around this material, warns Foley, so be sure to really inquire about the true origin of the cotton in anything labeled 100 percent Egyptian before you invest.
Thread count: As Jelani Shelton, design manager of Matteo Los Angeles, previously explained to Domino, there’s an easy way to determine or even see thread count: Measure out a square inch of fabric and count the yarns, both horizontal and vertical; that’s literally the thread count. But just because something has more threads doesn’t mean it’s better. Much more important is the quality of the material and the weave that matches your personal preferences and aesthetic. In fact, too high of a thread count (for the most part, anything above 600) can compromise the integrity of a sheet and make it less breathable and less comfortable. So it’s important to be aware of marketing tactics that use a high thread count to justify charging more.
Weave: Cotton sheets are constructed, or woven, in two main styles: sateen and percale. Sateen is a soft, almost silklike material that’s a little heavier but drapes beautifully. It’s also the choice for bedding at both the Ritz-Carlton and Four Seasons. “Sateen adds to the smooth feel of a Four Seasons bed,” says Chan. Percale is made with a crisscross weave; the result is a lighter fabric with the feel of a crisp oxford shirt that’s ideal for hot sleepers.
There are also other options, such as brushed cotton, which has a brushed top layer to create a supersoft feel; flannel, which is rubbed on both sides for a slightly fuzzy feeling; and jersey, which is knit, not woven, and slightly stretchy.
Our Top Picks
Best Overall: Parachute Brushed Cotton Sheet Set
When Ariel Kaye, Parachute’s founder, set out to create her now cult-status company, she visited 15 manufacturers in Europe before settling on a family-owned mill in the Guimarães region of northern Portugal to make her sheets. Seven years later, the brand is known for its high-end bedding at a relatively accessible price point, and its brushed cotton sheets, a newer addition to the lineup, are no exception. Crafted from 100 percent long-staple Egyptian cotton that’s sourced from the Nile River Valley, this sheet set is Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certified—no harmful chemicals or synthetics here!—and perfect for the person who craves luxury and comfort but isn’t too fussy. “We like to compare brushed cotton to your favorite well-worn T-shirt because of its buttery soft texture,” says Kaye.
The fabric, as the name suggests, is brushed with fine-tooth metal brushes and prewashed for that lived-in feel right out of the box. And if you’re having trouble picking one of the three pretty neutral hues, the company offers complimentary styling services. Choose the wrong color or decide brushed cotton isn’t for you? Drop your sheets off at one of the 250-plus Happy Returns locations around the U.S. and rest easy knowing that opened or washed sets are donated to Habitat for Humanity.
Best Organic: Coyuchi Organic Crinkled Percale Sheets
Lightweight, crisp percale is effortlessy elegant and always cool to the touch, and Coyuchi’s crinkled sheets are a slight twist on the classic. This set has a more relaxed look, made by “applying a proprietary spinning and weaving technique to pure organic cotton to create a washed fabric with a slightly crinkled effect all over,” explains Whitney Thornburg, the brand’s design director. “It’s great for the person who wants a casual, unfussy look.”
Out of the bag, the effect is subtle, but when held up against standard percale, it’s a little less rigid and maybe even a bit more inviting. Even better, Coyuchi is Fair Trade Certified, GOTS certified (meaning every step of the supply chain is verified for environmental and social safety) and “made safe” (signifying the sheets are free of toxins). As one reviewer put it: “The only problem with these sheets is that it’s hard to get out of bed in the morning.”
Best Value: Mayfair Linen Long Staple Cotton Sheets
Outfitting your bed doesn’t have to be prohibitively expensive, and Mayfair’s sheets prove this to be true. With more than 14,000 positive reviews, these 100 percent cotton sheets in a sateen weave offer luxury at an extremely accessible price point and promise no pilling or shrinkage. Available in a variety of colors and prints, the sheet set includes a flat sheet; two pillowcases; and a deep, fully elasticized fitted sheet so that your bedding stays put all night long. Not that you’ll be tossing or turning; this breathable set is perfect for all types of sleepers and all seasons. One reviewer raved: “I’m never too hot or too cold.”
Best Supima: Casper Cool Supima
Supima cotton, as we mentioned above, is a kind of pima cotton that’s prized for its durability and softness—and these distinctions are likely why the wildly popular mattress-in-a-box brand Casper sought out this material when it decided to add bedding to its offerings. Designed in the U.S. and manufactured in India from California-grown Supima cotton, this 400-thread-count percale set is Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certified and comes with a one-year limited warranty. In other words, these sheets are strong, safe, and breathable—all the things you want in your bedding.
We particularly appreciate the small details of this set, such as labels to guide you as you make the bed and a gripping double-elastic band around the fitted sheet to keep it firmly in place. The sheets are available in six sizes, from twin and twin XL to California king.
Best Egyptian Cotton: Silk & Snow Egyptian Cotton Bed Sheets
True Egyptian cotton is rare and pricey—and, as noted above, it can be hard to know what you’re getting. The founders of Silk & Snow discovered all of this when researching how to make good bedding and decided to share what they learned with their consumers, fully disclosing every step of how they make their sheets.
First, the company sources Egyptian cotton that’s certified by the Cotton Egypt Association, an organization that ensures you’re getting the real deal. Then it spins the cotton at a family-owned mill in Santo Tirso, Portugal, and dyes the fabric at a textile processing facility in Guimaraes, Portugal, that honors the environment by “minimizing atmospheric emissions and wastewater discharges.” Lastly the brand’s sheets are cut and sewn at a sustainable Portuguese facility.
The lustrous sateen sheets are supple, breathable, and visually appealing in an edited range of muted colors. They’ll also last a long time—good for your wallet and for the environment, too.
Best Sateen: Casper Sateen Sheets
Sateen, as we now know, is the weave of choice for luxury hotels, with its luxe look that drapes richly and hugs the body. Casper’s sateen is no exception, and if you pick this set, you’ll drift off as if you’re snoozing in a presidential suite. Made from 100 percent organic GOTS-certified cotton, this 280-thread-count sheet set comes with a one-year limited warranty and in six sizes, from twin XL to California king. It also comes in 11 rich colorways, from neutrals to jewel tones, that will transform any bed into a sophisticated lounge space.
Best Colors: Brooklinen Luxe Core Sheet Set
More than 18,000 people can’t be wrong about this Brooklinen sheet set featuring a 480-thread-count sateen weave, a slight sheen, and an even finish. These Oeko-Tex certified sheets are made from 100 percent long-staple cotton that’s soft and breathable. The brand also thought of all the small details that take bedding from basic to great, including “long” and “short” side labels on the fitted sheets to make laundry day a little easier, and envelope enclosures on the pillowcases so that your pillows never poke out. But what’s most fun about this pick are the bright colorways and patterns—such as solid rose, black and white windowpane, and blue gingham—that allow you to design the bed of your dreams.
Pro Tips for Caring for Cotton Sheets
- Ditch the fabric softener: Dryer sheets and other forms of fabric softeners coat cotton fibers in a film that makes the material feel softer for a short period but actually breaks down its integrity pretty quickly. They’re also “laden with toxic chemicals and often contain common allergens,” explains Coyuchi’s Thornburg. Instead, opt for wool dryer balls, which not only shorten drying time but “beat your sheets soft,” she explains. If you love the smell of fabric softener, consider adding a few drops of your favorite essential oil to the dryer balls in order to impart a subtle scent.
- The iron is your friend: If you like a pristine aesthetic, consider ironing your cotton sheets right out of the dryer and on your bed. But if you don’t own an iron or that’s too high maintenance, Sivapragasam of the Ritz-Carlton shares this pro tip: “For wrinkled sheets, lightly spray them with water and stretch them for a crisper and newer look.”
- Stick to one color: Pick a single color for all of your bedding—pillowcases, fitted and flat sheets, and duvet—to mimic that high-end luxury hotel look.
What is the best type of cotton for sheets?
If you want smoothness and longevity, true Egyptian cotton will be your best bet, says Foley, but it can be pricey. That’s why it’s important to weigh other factors as well, such as staple length and personal preference.
What’s the best way to keep white sheets crisp and clean?
“Over time, hot water can aggravate and break down the fibers of the sheets,” explains Thornburg, who recommends a cool cycle. “Laundering without heat helps fabrics stay like new, keeps them soft, and ultimately keeps them out of the landfill for longer.”
Most companies do not recommend using bleach because chlorine can react to the proteins in your body sweat and oils, causing yellow spots to appear. If you must, make sure you wash your sheets with regular detergent first.
How often should you replace cotton sheets?
Cotton sheets should last about three to five years, says Foley, and possibly longer if you wash them less than the recommended once per week. And the better the quality, the longer they’ll last. “If you see pilling, fraying, or tearing, you should consider replacing them,” she adds.
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