The Best Linen Sheets for People Who Like Their Bedding Relaxed and Unfussy
These sets get softer with every wash.
Updated Oct 20, 2021 8:08 AM
There are good reasons that we’re obsessed with linen sheets: They’ll keep you cool in the summer and warm in the winter, they’re moisture wicking, and they get softer with each wash; plus, they’re twice as strong as cotton sheets, hypoallergenic, dirt- and lint-resistant, and eco-friendly (since flax, the crop linen is made from, requires little water and few pesticides to grow and is renewable). The best linen sheets have an almost indescribable tactile feel and embody a laid-back aesthetic. After all, people have been using the material for bedding since the time of ancient Egypt.
But why are linen sheets generally more expensive than cotton ones? And how do you know which bedding brand is the right one to invest in? Read on for answers to these and every other question you’ve ever had about linen—plus the best picks, from a swoon-worthy budget option to a set finished with elegant eyelash trim.
- Best overall: Matteo Vintage Linen
- Best organic: Coyuchi Organic Relaxed Linen Sheets
- Best splurge: Dea Linens Nuvola Lace
- Best value: Bedsure Linen Sheets Set
- Best lightweight linen: Brooklinen Linen Core Sheet Set
- Best heavyweight linen: Linoto Linen Sheet Set
- Best colors: Bed Threads Flax Linen Sheet Set
A Few Things to Keep in Mind
Weave: Linen sheets are made from the flax plant, which grows best along moving bodies of water, such as rivers or streams, explains Logan Foley, managing editor of Sleep Foundation. “The best-quality linen is said to come from Belgium, specifically along the River Lys,” says Foley. Irish and French linen is also highly prized, and China, too, is a major textile manufacturer and exporter.
Once the crop is harvested, the flax plant fibers are spun into yarn, which is then woven into linen fabric. A lot of times, high-quality linen is harvested by hand, which adds to the price as this can be a time-intensive process, says Foley. At the same time, however, flax requires little irrigation or water to grow and few pesticides, so it’s naturally more environmentally friendly than cotton. It’s also renewable (it can be replanted over and over again) and is very strong due to the high tensile strength of the flax plant’s fibers, explains Dr. Erum Ilyas of Schweiger Dermatology Group. Linen fabric also absorbs 20 percent of its water weight before feeling damp, which means it’s a great option if you sleep hot, perspire at night, or live in a warm environment.
Unlike cotton sheets, linen doesn’t come in various weaves, such as percale, sateen, or flannel. “You can get linen from different places around the world, with different weights and characteristics, but for the most part they’re all of the same [weave],” says Foley. Indeed, the biggest difference we found between different linen materials was the quality of the flax, the craftsmanship, and the weight.
Thread count: Weight when talking about linen sheets is akin to thread count when talking about cotton sheets. It’s a key—but not the only—metric to characterize the material. “Linen is a thicker and bulkier yarn; thus, it simply can’t have a high thread count,” says Dr. Ilyas.
Instead, linen is quantified by grams per square meter (GSM). And just as thread count is calculated by cutting one square inch of the fabric and counting the threads present, GSM is measured as the weight (in grams) of a square meter of the fabric. The heavier the weight, the denser and warmer the fabric will feel. The lighter the weight, the lighter and cooler it’ll feel. Most bedding experts agree that a good medium-weight linen is anything from 170 to 190 GSM, says Foley, which means that it weighs about 170 to 190 grams per square meter.
We tried linen sheets that had both lower and higher GSMs and were not disappointed. Ultimately, it’s about personal preference. Our only forewarning is that a lighter weight might not last as long, so if you do opt for a lower GSM or a lightweight option, be very gentle with the bedding when laundering.
Softness and feel: As mentioned above, the feel of linen is almost ineffable. “For some reason it’s hard to describe,” says interior stylist and author Emily Henderson. “It’s soft but not silky and slightly rough, but in a textured way.”
True, pure linen sheets are not soft at first, but they do soften substantially with use, especially after a year or two. “They’re made in a way that ages well,” adds interior designer Colin King. That’s why you hear of linen being passed down over generations: It’s incredibly durable and stable if cared for correctly.
Care: Always read the care instructions to be sure, but generally, linen sheets should be cared for the same way as all sheets: washing in cold or warm water and drying on a low heat setting or on a line. “I honestly toss them in the wash and the dryer,” says King. As with all textiles, you should also steer clear of fabric softeners and dryer sheets, which will coat your bedding with chemicals that can irritate your skin and break down the fabric’s integrity over time. Instead, opt for dryer balls to speed up drying time. If you love laundry that has a slight scent once it’s done, you can even add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to the dryer balls. As for trying to iron out the creases that linen is known for, Henderson says don’t bother. “Linen is meant to have some character, so don’t worry about some wrinkling,” she says.
Our Top Picks
Best Overall: Matteo Vintage Linen
Matteo started when founder Matt Lenoci was strolling through a flea market in Europe and noticed vintage linen sheets for sale. When he went home to Los Angeles, he thought about how to recreate this luxury stateside, and so the brand was born. Now, top interior designers—from Jessica Helgerson to King—cite Matteo’s linen offerings amongst their favorites. The brand, which had a partnership with Restoration Hardware, has become a cult favorite for those in the know (and those who prioritize good sleep). “Matteo is premium quality,” says King—think comfy and lived-in.
When our bedding arrived, folded and in a cloth bag, we admired the feel: soft but textured and the perfect medium weight for any type of sleeper or weather. Matteo takes great care to achieve this: The high-quality flax is sourced from all over the world, and the linens are hand-cut and -sewn in the brand’s LA factory. When you purchase a sheet set, the size is pulled from inventory and then batch-dyed to maintain color consistency across the set. The sheets are washed multiple times, sometimes with abrasive agents like pumice stones, in order to break down the fibers for maximum color absorbency and an addictively sumptuous feel. Sleeping on the sheets is as great as everyone told us it would be, and when we awoke we felt as if we had just slept in a five-star hotel: rested, refreshed, and lucky.
Available in six sizes (including twin XL and California king) and seven neutral hues (with more on the way before the end of the year), each set comes with a fitted and flat sheet and two pillowcases. The brand also offers variations on its vintage linen sheets (like ruffles and lace) and has coordinating duvets, shams, tablecloths and even napkins. Trust us: Once you try Matteo, you’ll want to get your hands on every type of vintage linen they offer—it’s just that good.
Best Organic: Coyuchi Organic Relaxed Linen Sheets
If you’re looking for a heavier weight linen from a company that’s completely committed to sustainability, check out Coyuchi’s Organic Relaxed Linen Sheets, another designer favorite. In fact, we first spotted these in Athena Calderone’s master bedroom and immediately went down the rabbit hole of the Northern California brand’s extensive literature on organic materials, including why they’re GOTS and Fair Trade certified as well as Made Safe.
Their organic linen bedding, however, is extra special as organic flax makes up only 1 percent of the crop’s already small market, according to the brand. The flax is sourced from the Saint-Pierre-le-Viger region of Normandy in northern France, and the sheets are woven in Portugal and have a heavier weight at 185 GSM. “We researched vintage linen to create a heirloom weight,” explains Whitney Thornburg, Coyuchi’s design director.
And it shows. On our bed and against our skin, the material felt sturdy, soft, and comforting and had an elegance to it that draped beautifully. “It has a great natural look,” says interior designer Chiara deRege, who favors Coyuchi’s linens for her more relaxed interiors.
Best Splurge: Dea Linens Nuvola Lace
The Nuvola Lace collection by this female-owned brand is one of the prettiest takes on linen we’ve seen. Made with flax sourced from Belgium and pre-washed, the 170 GSM set features fabrics in different but complementary neutral tones—beige with ivory or white with silver, for example—that are then embroidered together and finished with a subtly fringed eyelash edging. All of this is done by hand by artisans in the Tuscan countryside who are renowned for their skill and attention to detail.
On our skin, the bedding felt silky smooth—almost like cotton sateen—but still had a little bit of pull to it in order to remind us that it was actually linen.
Yes, it’s pricey, but if you know you love linen and want to treat yourself to something extra special and really different, we highly recommend this set. The only downside? Once it’s on your bed, it’ll be hard to switch to any other sheet set.
Best Value: Bedsure Linen Sheets Set
Yes, fine linen is expensive, but there are high-quality and long-lasting picks out there if you’re on a budget or want to test out the feel before splurging. Bedsure’s linen set is one of those options. The flax is sourced from France, and the sheets are Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certified and processed using non-toxic and natural dyes. They’re also stonewashed (exactly what it sounds like) for supreme softness and will only continue to get more supple with each wash. We found that the material has an excellent drape, similar to some of the pricier brands. And, as with all linen, it has excellent breathability and moisture-wicking properties to make sure you stay comfortable all night.
Each set comes with a flat sheet, a fitted sheet, and two pillowcases and is available in four colors and sizes. Bedsure’s collection is an excellent way to sample great linen at a friendly price point—and comes recommended with over 400 positive reviews. With that, we’d even suggest getting two colors so you can curate your bedscape—perhaps “pure white” and “grey blue.”
Best Lightweight Linen: Brooklinen Linen Core Sheet Set
With its almost gauze-like feel, Brooklinen’s Linen Core Sheet Set is the perfect choice if you like “light” bedding. The 145 GSM fabric is stonewashed (which by now you know means it’ll be super soft right out of the bag), and our set arrived in cotton cases with pretty envelope closures. Made from Belgian and French flax and washed and dyed in small batches, the sheets are Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certified and grazed our skin in the most comfortable way due to their light weight.
We particularly like the limited-edition “caramel stripe” colorway, a departure from solid colors that instantly elevates an otherwise neutral bedroom. We tried ours under three different duvets in ivory, beige, and dusty pink, and the thick taupe stripes looked equally regal under all, lending the flexibility to mix and match.
Available in four sizes, five core colors, and six limited-edition hues—including an oversized blue gingham print—and praised by thousands of happy customers, these sheets offer an airy update on a classic.
Best Heavyweight Linen: Linoto 100 Percent Linen Sheet Set
When Jason Evege, the founder of Linoto, shared that the uniquely heavy weight of these ivory sheets reminds him of the heirloom linen that you’re more likely to find in Europe, we immediately got excited. Ours arrived in an uncharacteristically big box for bed sheets, and we were unprepared for the small workout of carrying it up the stairs. These sheets were heavy. Our sheet set was neatly folded, laundered, pressed, wrapped in brown paper and tied with twine — a service they do for all of their customers so you don’t have to wash your sheets before using them. “Linoto is wonderful for their high-quality selection,” says Henderson.
The sheets are a weighty 210 GSM, made with flax sourced from Italy, and hand-finished in Westchester, New York. Sleeping in them was a luxurious and simultaneously therapeutic experience: They almost felt like a weighted blanket. Smooth and stiff—which Evege told us is common in new, high-quality linen—wrinkled significantly less than lower GSM linen and hugged our bed, as well as our bodies, perfectly. While we did test these in the summer (and had no overheating issues), we couldn’t help but dream about how cozy and cocooning they’d feel in the wintertime. “Linen enthusiasts often love heavier weights,” says Evege. But he acknowledges that his customers live in all sorts of climates, and the brand also offers lighter weights.
Linoto offers a wide variety of colors, such as “copper plum,” a deep purple, and “Malbec,” a deep berry. And they have an astonishing 10 sizes, from twin XL to Olympic queen, European king, and split king. Plus, a bonus: Our king sheet set came with four pillowcases instead of the typical two.
Best Colors: Bed Threads 100 Percent Flax Linen Sheet Set
A favorite among Domino editors, Bed Threads’ linen sheet set is made from French flax and comes in 23 colorways, including chic “olive stripe” and a pretty light pink called “rosewater.” Domino’s commerce content director, Sophie Miura, reports these sheets “get softer with each wash, drape and layer nicely, and are slightly thicker than a lot of the other popular brands.” She also says that after owning them for about a year, the color hasn’t faded at all— “which is important to me because I chose the color based on the palette in my bedroom,” she adds.
But the best part of Bed Threads’ offerings is that you can build a custom sheet set. “Their Build Your Own Bundle tool is so smart,” says Miura. “It lets you play around with different pairings and shows you what the final set will look like via a 3D rotating mockup.” This isn’t a feature we’ve seen from other brands, and it allows anyone design-minded to create something completely bespoke with ease. But like a lot of good things, there’s a downside, as so many options and possible combinations can make it hard to decide—or to stop shopping! “I’m still torn between ‘pink clay’ with ‘terracotta’ and ‘petrol’ with ‘mineral’ for my next set,” says Miura.
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