The Best Sheets

We spend up to a third of our lives sleeping, so the comfort and performance of your bed sheets should be just as important as (or greater than) that of the clothes you wear everyday. L.L.Bean’s 280-thread-count Pima Cotton Percale Sheets combine superior sweat wicking, heat retention, and durability to make the best sheets I’ve ever slept on. They’re about $150 for a queen set, but I dare you to find a better set of sheets at this price.

If you prefer the smooth, silky texture of higher thread-count sateen sheets, we recommend Royal Velvet’s 400-thread-count Wrinkle-Guard sheets. They outperformed all the other sateen sheets we looked at when it came to wash testing. And while there’s no such thing as truly wrinkle-free sheets, these come pretty close.

How we picked

We spent over 60 hours researching and testing all of the best-rated sheets on the market…
We spent over 60 hours researching and testing all of the best-rated sheets on the market, a range from department store splurges to big-box budget buys.

After establishing what to look for in a good set of sheets, I focused my efforts on finding sheets made of extra long staple cotton (ELS). It is softer and lasts longer than traditional short staple cotton, and it has a thread count in the 200-500 range (which offers a good compromise between softness and breathability).

Weave was also considered, but we ultimately decided to cover both crisp percale and silky sateen sheets. Despite the fact that percale sheets tend to last longer and be more breathable, some people just prefer the satiny smoothness of high-quality sateen sheets.

Finally, we chose to focus only on solid sheets that offer multiple color options, ignoring striped, patterned, and printed sheets because solids tend to work more easily with any decor. (For definitions on these terms and more, jump down to our section “What makes for great sheets anyway?”.)

With that in mind, I turned to recommendations from reliable sources like Consumer Reports (subscription required) and Sleep Like The Dead. Recommendation lists from sites like Real Simple Magazine and Huffington Post are interesting, but they’re best taken with a grain of salt since there’s no way of telling how much their authors really know about their subject from the short word counts of their pieces.

From there, we checked the top-selling and top-rated items on Amazon, Overstock, Bed Bath and Beyond, and top department stores. While user reviews don’t mean much individually, when taken as a whole, you can get workable data on things like long term durability and feel, which aren’t easy to determine without using them yourself. Sleep Like the Dead is an entire website dedicated to doing just that. User reviews can also alert you to abrupt changes in quality due to revised production methods. For example, Wamsutta’s 1000 and Dream Zone sheets were once good enough to earn first and second place in Consumer Reports’ testing in the sateen weave category. But according to user reviews, they have a nasty habit of pilling and tearing not long after purchase.

After eliminating any sheets with middling or worse user reviews (i.e. 3.5 stars or fewer) or no review or editorial support, we wound up with a list of about 30 viable contenders that fit our criteria7. After debating with our team of researchers and editors over details like how many user reviews is “enough,” what constitutes a useful 1-star review versus a bogus complaint, and how much attention should be given to each price point, we managed to reduce our list down to 13 that showed the most promise:

These sheets spanned the best range of cotton type, thread count, weave, and density within an acceptable price range, which can go from under $50 to nearly $200 a set. We also focused on models that are clearly loved online and by the reviewers who have tested them. They were the best semifinalists we could find, considering our research and existing data.

We put these thirteen sheets under the microscope to analyze their composition and check their thread count. Then we sleep- and stress-tested them with multiple washes to find the best intersection of fiber, construction, density, and overall performance. In the end, the L.L.Bean sheets won. They also happened to be the favorite of Consumer Reports, which has the best compilation of sheet reviews and recommendations on the internet so far.

Our pick for crisp percale

These sheets are a dream to sleep on. They're comfortable, very breathable, easy to care for, and durable, too.
After testing thirteen of the best sheets on the market, L.L.Bean’s 280-thread-count Pima Percale sheets are the ones I’m keeping on my bed. A dream to sleep on, they outpaced every other sheet in all of our tests. They are made of Pima cotton, which is a variety of extra long staple Egyptian cotton commonly grown in the US and Peru; while the thread count may seem low to those of you familiar with sheet shopping, these are quality sheets. I found them to be super comfortable, very breathable, easy to care for, and durable, too. They’re the best all-around sheets I’ve ever owned.

This is what they look like out of the dryer, un-ironed after a blissful night of sleep. Inside those cool percale pillowcases are our top pillow pick.

This is what they look like out of the dryer, un-ironed after a blissful night of sleep. Inside those cool percale pillowcases are our top pillow pick.

Not surprisingly, these sheets are also the Consumer Reports top pick (membership required). Their research cites excellent construction and very good strength, fit, and shrink resistance. User reviews on L.L.Bean’s website frequently refer to their excellent shrink-resistance and breathability, and many reviewers even mention that they have purchased multiple sets of the same sheets over the years, which indicates great longterm satisfaction and quality.

These sheets made a good first impression—there was no chemical smell upon opening the bag, which is alarmingly common in home linens, and the fabric felt similar to the way it did after the first washing. Some user reviews complained that they’re too deep, but it’s more likely that their mattresses are thinner than normal because these sheets are sized to fit most bed configurations. I have a standard spring mattress with a memory foam topper, and these sheets fit wonderfully.

I didn’t wake up with any part of the sheet sticking to any part of my sleep-sweaty body, which may be a first in my eight years living in San Francisco.
Let’s talk about comfort. These sheets are soft out of the bag and only get softer over time. They are also breathable, remaining comfortable to sleep on even when humidity spikes. I never felt too hot or too cold sleeping on these, and, remarkably, I didn’t wake up with any part of the sheet sticking to any part of my sleep-sweaty body, which may be a first in my eight years living in San Francisco.

The sleep test was proof in my book that higher-quality cotton in a lower thread count is the best bet when it comes to sheets. The L.L.Bean sheets were definitely the most breathable sheets I tested, standing up admirably to my body heat, the heat of my cat and that of the 200-pound man I share a bed with. Not only did they breathe well, they also kept me nice and warm all night without feeling heavy or clingy.

Similarly, our tests showed that the simpler percale weave was more durable than sateen as well.

First let’s talk about the awesome finishing job. After five washings, the L.L.Bean sheets had no visible edge damage, none of the stitching came unraveled, and there were no infuriatingly loose threads to throw me into a Joan Crawford-like Mommie Dearest frenzy. Compare that to the denser sateen sheets, which all had various degrees of fuzzing along the hems.

These sheets also did not shrink much. While over two-thirds of the sheets I tested lost from 6% to 13% of their total surface area after laundering, these sheets shrank very minimally, losing only 2.5% of their surface area. That’s impressive, considering that shrinkage is a well-known characteristic in cottons. One of the reasons the percale sheet may have shrunk less is because of its weave. The floating warp threads in sateens are stretched quite tightly to achieve a smooth, satiny finish. With these L.L.Bean sheets, what you see is what you get. Besides their size, the same soft, smooth (but not satiny) hand you feel out of the bag won’t change after multiple washings.

I was also impressed with how little lint these sheets created. These sheets left very little in my lint trap, which is a sign that they’re well made. Loss of mass is another problem that plagues sheets, leading to performance and durability issues, but these sheets only lost 1.6% of their mass over 5 washings, which was the least out of all the sheets we tested regardless of weave.( Compare that to the 3.7% of mass lost by the Pottery Barn Classic Percale sheets.) Because of their extra long staple cotton and snug, even weave, there’s nothing to indicate that the L.L.Bean sheets will lose much more mass over future washings. None of the sheets I tested lost more than 3% of their mass over 5 washings, but over time that loss can add up, leading to weak and threadbare spots.

After five wash cycles, the L.L. Bean sheets exhibited zero signs of pilling or snagging. They didn’t even show any signs of the loosening fibers that might lead to pilling or snagging. Because there were no loose fibers to begin with, we have no reason to believe that these sheets will pill or snag going forward.

Comparatively, all of the sateen sheets all exhibited some level of snagging. Furthermore, the L.L.Bean sheets possessed solid stitching which held up beautifully through the wash test, compared to loose threads in the other sheets, notably the Tribeca Living sheets from Overstock, in which entire rows of stitching came undone.

hemstitching_unraveledAs you can see in the photo above, the handsome hemstitching of the Tribeca Living sheets (still semi-visible on the left) completely unraveled, revealing the unfinished underside of the hem and creating a gaping flap along the entire right side of this sheet.

Our pick is also a cinch to maintain. The sheets excelled at drying without wrinkling. All cottons wrinkle in the dryer to some extent (except those that are marketed as “wrinkle-free” actually have a semi-permanent coating on them to prevent wrinkles, which we discuss in detail later on), but these sheets were perfectly good to go straight on the bed, even after cooling down in the dryer. No bound-to-fade treatments necessary. Of course, you could iron them if you’d like, but that’s not something you have to worry about. And if you do fancy an air fluff, just add a few sprays of water to your dry sheets and tumble them on the lowest setting for a few minutes before making your bed.

Straight out of the dryer, these sheets are smooth enough to put directly on the bed or fold for storage, meaning you’ll never need to iron your sheets again.

Straight out of the dryer, these sheets are smooth enough to put directly on the bed or fold for storage, meaning you’ll never need to iron your sheets again.

Lastly, the sample I tested was light blue, and it took five doses of color safe oxygen bleach with absolutely no problem. What I love most about these sheets is knowing that this one set will do its job well, saving me from buying (and trashing) a new set every year and saving the landfill from unnecessary textile waste.

If it sounds like I love these, it’s because I do. I’m not the only one. Consumer Reports named it their top pick for Percale sheets, giving it a score of 71/100, an “excellent” in build quality, and a “very good” rating for shrinkage, fit, crispness, and strength.

Spending $150 may seem like a lot of money for a set of sheets with a thread count of 280, but these sheets really are The Best. They’re an investment in both comfort and sanity, since they’re easy to care for and made to last. Upon combing through the 67 user reviews, we found reports that if properly taken care of, these sheets should hold up for up to a decade, meaning that they’re really only costing you $15 a year.

Some user reviews of the sheets confirm that they’ll replace sets that develop problems, even when they’re old.
There are some reviews indicating that these can tear from time to time, but this is likely due to receiving a lemon that snuck by quality control as opposed to the sheets being a bad product. We wouldn’t worry about it too much because if you do receive a lemon (or if you just don’t like the feel, which is subjective), L.L.Bean has been honoring their founding satisfaction guarantee policy for over a century. They don’t call it a warranty, but they call it a 100% satisfaction guarantee where you can return anything at any time. Some user reviews of the sheets confirm that they’ll replace sets that develop problems, even when they’re old.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

Of the negative reviews that these sheets have received on L.L.Bean’s website, most are easily addressable. One common complaint is that these sheets are too big (deep, actually), which depends on your mattress. The queen fitted sheet measures exactly 60” x 80” (the standard for queen mattresses) after shrinking because the folks at L.L.Bean presumably allotted for the correct amount of shrinkage.

The issue these folks are complaining about is the depth of the fitted sheet, which is something to consider before buying a set of sheets. These sheets are 15” deep, which is deeper than many old mattresses, but perfect for most new mattresses with either memory foam or pillow tops. As deeper mattresses tend to be the trend these days (many even deeper than 15”, which can make finding sheets harder than usual), this isn’t an issue for most folks. If you’re sleeping on a 7” thick murphy bed or an even thinner sleeper sofa mattress then you should reconsider your sleeping situation before spending $143 on a set of sheets.

Another popular complaint is that these sheets are too soft. Yeah. As it turns out, much of L.L. Bean’s customer base is older and prefer the crispy cool sheets of the good ol’ days. Not only is this not a problem for most people, but you’d actually be hard-pressed to find sheets crisper than these that are anywhere near as durable.

Again, none of these things are dealbreakers for most people.

Our pick for smooth sateen

Also Great
We prefer percale sheets, but sateen sheets are smooth, drapey, and satiny. So if that's your thing, these are the best.
As a sheeting traditionalist, I could wax poetic about our main pick for days, but some people just plain don’t like percale. Percale was long the industry standard, and is by far more snag resistant than sateen, but sateen sheets boast a smoothness (and high thread counts that are easily marketable) that has made them wildly popular. If it’s drapey, satiny smooth sheets you’re after, get a set of Royal Velvet 400-thread-count Wrinkle-Guard sheets, which are available at a handful of retailers, most notably JC Penney, for $120. If you’re feeling thrifty, just wait for one of JC Penney’s semi-annual sales to get a good discount.

…despite my personal preference for crisp percale, I found these sateen sheets to be surprisingly comfortable to sleep in.
These sheets performed similarly to our main pick in technical testing. They lost 1.7% of their mass in the wash and shrunk 2.2% over five washings and dryings, which exceeded the combined shrinkage performance of all other sateen sheets we tested. And despite my personal preference for crisp percale, I found these sateen sheets to be surprisingly comfortable to sleep in. Many sateens can prove clingy because of their smooth drape, but these sheets remained light and breathable throughout the night. They’re also incredibly soft and almost slippery both out of the bag and after washing.

The other perk these sheets offer is a trademarked Wrinkle-Guard feature. Nothing is truly wrinkle-free, but these sheets come surprisingly close. A self professed hippie and lover of all things natural, I was skeptical about this feature at first. Most “no-iron” finishes, including those in cotton dress shirts, are achieved by coating the cotton fibers in a small amount of formaldehyde resin. The resin is absorbed by the cotton molecules, forming a “memory” so that they dry wrinkle free when allowed to lay flat.

This still won’t prevent them from wrinkling if you leave them to languish in the dryer for extended periods of time. But if you can manage to remove these sheets from the dryer and fold them or make your bed right away, it’s pretty impressive. In fact, many user reviews discuss their impressive wrinkle resistance, both out of the dryer and after a night of sleep.

It’s worth noting that formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen when exposed to the skin for prolonged periods of time according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, although the EPA only lists it as “probable,” despite a rather convincing body of evidence. But—and this is important—most of those studies looked at undertakers, who use formaldehyde as an embalming chemical on a regular basis. It’s highly unlikely that there’s a high enough concentration of the chemical in these, or any other sheets, to make a difference. That is, unless you have a skin allergy. Those can be triggered by concentrations as dilute as 30 parts per million (that’s pretty much nothing). So if you buy these sheets and experience itchiness, you should definitely return them.

As far as durability goes, many user reviewers specifically mention how well these sheets wash. One reviewer (BBOwner) even boasts using them at their bed and breakfast all the way in Germany, saying “We have really enjoyed these sheets and just ordered more! We run a small B&B Hotel so these sheets get plenty of use and a lot of laundry time.” Many other reviews cite purchasing more than one set after being so pleased with the first, which is high praise in the sheeting business.

In my own experience, these sheets did show a noticeable-but-acceptable amount of edge wear after wash testing, but all sateens do. They certainly won’t hold up against pilling as well as an extra-long staple cotton percale, but if it’s satin smooth sheets you’re after, these are an attractive and reliable choice. Just wash them alone in cool water to prolong their smooth weave.

A less expensive pick for the kids and guest room

Also Great
The guest room, vacation home, or your child's bedroom are good places to cut down on costs; these sheets are very affordable since you're getting an entire set.
I really recommend our main picks. The cost is mitigated, with proper care, by the longevity of the sheets, and they’re just the best performing sheets I’ve tested.

That being said, there are some reasons to opt for a step down. Cheaper sheets are a good choice for guest rooms, vacation homes, rental properties and the like, where spending $100+ per bed may not be a viable option. If you’re really shopping on the cheap, Overstock’s 400-thread-count Hemstitch Sateen sheets are the way to go.

The main selling point of this sheet set is its affordability: $43 gets you a queen-sized set of 100% cotton sateen sheets with a thread count of 400. Even Amazon, Walmart and Ikea can’t compete with those specs at that value. Plus, they’ve maintained an average rating of over four stars with over 4,000 reviews, which is impressive since people love to lowball product ratings on online shopping sites.

…whatever you do, never wash or dry your sheets on the hottest setting…
The negative reviews of these sheets pretty much all mention pilling or feeling rough, but as one reviewer smartly mentions, “When you wash higher thread count sheets in hot water, they will pill! You have to use cold water if you want quality sheets to last.” I wash my sheets on my washer’s “eco warm” setting, but I still have to agree—whatever you do, never wash or dry your sheets on the hottest setting, as the heat can warp and wear down the materials at a faster rate than lower temperatures. Admittedly, these sheets are not as smooth as any of the extra-long staple cotton sheets I tested, but they are more breathable and sturdier than either of the other budget samples from Target or Ikea.

Despite boasting a higher thread count, they’re lighter than our main pick by 9%. Nevertheless, they performed admirably and provide decent overall value. While they shrunk considerably more at 10%, they’re still roomy enough to fit a standard mattress without slipping up in the night, although I wouldn’t recommend them for extra thick TempurPedic mattresses.

Surprisingly, while some of our more expensive luxury test sets came unstitched, these sheets stayed solid through all five wash cycles. All in all, if you’re looking for the best value in a 100% cotton sheet under $50, these are where it’s at.

How we tested

Anyone can go to Bed Bath and Beyond and feel some sheets, but that really doesn’t give you a complete picture of what it’s like to actually live with and sleep in a set of sheets. To complete the picture, we set up a rigorous series of testing criteria to assess the sheets right out of the bag, after a couple of night’s sleep, and after five wash cycles, simulating a few months of regular use and wear. These tests were designed to evaluate the true hand (feel) of the sheets after any factory finishes were washed off, overall comfort when sleeping with them (including breathability), and durability over time. All tests were conducted on a queen-sized bed with a spring mattress and memory foam topper. In the photo below, you can see that my mattress with memory foam topper clock in just under 13” thick. Held together with a padded mattress topper, 15” deep fitted sheets are just about perfect for my bed. Since most folks use thicker mattresses these days, 15” is a relatively standard fitted sheet depth.

Our matress with memory foam topper was just under 13” thick, though 15″ is more typical and still workable.

After evaluating fit and feel out of the bag, each set of sheets was washed in warm water with ¼ cup of white vinegar to remove any finishes and dried on low heat before the sleep test. Not surprisingly, almost every single sheet felt noticeably different after the first wash compared to how it felt right out of the bag. (Textile factories often coat fabrics with finishes to protect them and enhance their hand.)

Textile factories often coat fabrics with finishes to protect them and enhance their hand.
After the initial sleep test, every set of sheets was washed in warm water with non-toxic oxygen bleach (which is actually a harmless solid form of hydrogen peroxide called sodium percarbonate) and dried on low heat four additional times to simulate the first few months of use. Of course, every sheet manufacturer is going to provide different care instructions, but if your sheets can’t hold up to warm washing with the occasional dose of oxygen bleach and low tumble drying, they’re not worth your money in the first place.

All of the sleep tests were conducted in a house with a nightly temperature between 68-70 degrees Fahrenheit, with an average outdoor humidity of 96% (San Francisco’s fog creates pretty humid evenings and early mornings year round). I’m a hot sleeper, and with San Francisco’s average relative humidity as moderate to high as it is, my sleep tests provided a standard-but-not-overwhelming scenario for wicking and breathability. Furthermore, in an attempt to get the best idea of hand (or body, as the case may be) and to make the test more true to how most people sleep, all tests were done without pajamas (who actually wears them, amiright?).

The durability of the sheets I tested was measured in a number of ways: edge damage, thread damage, shrinkage, weight loss, and pilling and snagging.

Thread damage is about construction at times. One of my biggest pet peeves with regards to quality is when long thread ends are lazily tucked into the hems of an otherwise nice sheet. The long threads begin to slip out of their folded hems after a few washes, and while this may not have any effect on the strength of the hems, it looks crappy and saddles the customer with the task of trimming loose ends that the factory was too lazy to trim.

scrunched_sheetsThose loose overlock thread ends in the photo above will only continue to unravel and tangle as time goes on.

Weight loss was measured during the drying cycle. More lint means looser fibers in the threads, and looser fibers usually means shorter fibers. Pima cotton, like what’s found in our pick, is an extra long staple fiber, which makes for strong, soft threads that are less likely to shed mass in the dryer. Decreased mass leads to threadbare sheets; threadbare sheets lead to tears. We measured this with a scale, and by checking the lint trap after dryings.

Pilling is one of the most frequent complaints I’ve heard from people when talking about sheets. Pilling occurs when loose fibers disengage from the cloth and abrasion causes the loose fibers to form balls of fuzz that are attached to the surface of the fabric. This abrasion can come in the form of agitation from washing and drying, or from bodies rubbing against the sheets in bed. The constant in all cases of pilling is that shorter fibers and looser weaves are more prone to pilling than long staple fibers that are more tightly spun and woven. Because pilling is created by loose fibers, textiles are more likely to pill early on and plateau once the majority of the loose fibers have worked their way out of the fabric. Pilling doesn’t usually diminish the performance characteristics of a fabric outside of negatively affecting its hand, but it is ugly, uncomfortable to sleep on, and a dealbreaker for most folks.

Some fabrics, sateen especially, snag rather than pill. That’s because the long floats that make sateen so smooth also expose it to easier snagging. More evident in traditional satins, this snagging may diminish the fabric’s strength, ruin the hand, or just prove to be a minor annoyance. Either way, it’s not a good quality in a sheet. All of our sateen sheets snagged to some extent after the first five washes. Snagging is diminished by tighter weave, but that makes for a hotter, more stifling sheet.

The sheets were also measured out of the bag. We assessed how closely they matched the manufacturer’s stated sizing and established a base size in square inches in order to measure subsequent shrinkage. After five washes, each sheet was remeasured to establish shrinkage.1 By comparing the measurements and square inch total of each flat sheet, fitted sheet and pillowcase, I was able to calculate shrinkage for each sheet set as a percentage of surface area lost. A little shrinkage is expected, but excessive shrinkage of more than a few percentage points is indicative of lower-quality cotton.

The competition

So what about the other sheets we tested?

Next to L.L.Bean, Garnet Hill was the most talked-about brand in the high quality percale market, so we tested three of Garnet Hill’s top cotton sheets—two percale and one sateen.

The Garnet Hill Fiesta Percale have over 4 out of 5 stars across nearly 300 reviews and similar specs to our L.L.Bean pick at ⅔ of the price. Unfortunately, they just weren’t anywhere near as soft as our pick. The main difference in hand and skin comfort here likely stems from the fact that these sheets are made with shorter staple cottons that are less smooth and more likely to pill. Despite the positive reviews, some users describe these sheets as “stiff and scratchy” while others remark that the fabric seems thinner than it was in the past.

In the search for a better percale pick, we also tested Garnet Hill’s Hemstitch Supima Percale. Made of 100% Supima cotton, just like our top pick, I had high hopes for this sheet. Supima cotton is the trade name of Pima cottons grown in the US, and it possesses the same extra long fiber characteristics as Pima and Egyptian cottons. Despite boasting an average 4-star review across over a hundred users, I found this sheet impossibly stiff and stuffy. The weave of this cotton is so tight that it becomes stiff when wet and doesn’t breathe well at all when dry. It also shrunk an astounding 13.9%—more than any other sheet tested—making the percale even tighter and less breathable. The performance differences between this sheet and our top pick just go to show how different two sheets can be, despite sharing identical materials and similar thread counts.

We also wanted to test a sateen from Garnet Hill, so we chose their Signature Wrinkle-Resistant Solid Sateen. With 4.5 out of 5 stars over a hundred reviews, this sheet shares similar qualities with our Royal Velvet sateen pick: a thread count of 400 and claims of wrinkle resistance. Made of 100% Egyptian cotton, the Garnet Hill sateen clocks in at $174 compared to Royal Velvet’s $120. In testing, these sheets outperformed the other Garnet Hill sets we tested but just slightly underperformed their Royal Velvet counterparts in stitch quality and wicking. Combined with their cost, these sateen sheets just don’t cut it.

For $150 you can do a lot better.
While I avoided testing most high-end department store brands due to inflated prices relative to quality, Pottery Barn is a relentlessly popular purveyor of fine-ish home linens, so I gave their Classic 400-thread-count sheets a whirl. Boy, was I disappointed. Reviewers in online forums with names like Garden Web and Two Peas in a Bucket describe these sheets as “Fabulous… Crisp and cool,” and “super super soft,” but I kind of have to question their judgment because these were sweaty and a little rough, not to mention shoddily put together. Maybe my set slipped by quality control, but these sheets had stitches of uneven length and tension meandering down the flat sheet hems and loose overlocking. For $150 you can do a lot better.

We tested Cuddledown’s 400-thread-count Cotton Sateen because of its excellent reviews and high Good Housekeeping Research Institute rating (A-). (It’s worth noting that its 4.8/5 star average is only based on 13 reviews.) These sheets were incredibly soft but absolutely huge. Like, over a foot longer than almost every other flat sheet with pillowcases 20% longer than average standard cases. Unfortunately, sheeting is not an arena where bigger is better, and I ended up constantly tangled in a sea of sweaty sheets with these.

Amazon’s Pinzon 400-thread-count Egyptian Cotton Sateen were tested because of their ELS cotton and popularity; at $60 with nearly four stars over 1,200 reviews, these 100% Egyptian cotton sheets seemed like a steal. Pinzon’s home linens are generally well-reviewed for their quality cottons, so it seemed logical that these sheets should perform decently. With good reviews and a marginally higher thread count, these seemed like the “affordable luxury” pick of the lot. But they were a little disappointing. They lost 3% of their weight in the wash, the second-highest of any sheet tested, and they were surprisingly clingly and heavy to sleep on. They also shrunk 8%, which is as much as the $35 Ikea sheets. Overall these were a nonstarter, which just goes to show that Egyptian cotton can only get you so far without the right construction.

Amazon’s Pinzon 160-gram flannel was tested despite its different material because of overall popularity and user reviews. Surprisingly enough, these flannel sheets outweigh Pinzon’s Egyptian cotton sateen sheets in customer review popularity with 4.4 stars, although they have under 400 reviews. Maybe it’s a California thing, but I’ve never owned flannel sheets. We just had to see how soft and durable these sheets were in person, and figure out what kind of value they provide at a fairly affordable $80 a set, even though they’re not the best all-purpose sheet.

The Pinzon flannel sheets were remarkably soft out of the bag, but they began to pill within a few washes, as is the nature of napped fabrics like flannel. They also shrunk a considerable 10.5% in surface area, although they lost only 2.5% of their weight, which is surprising given how much lint they shed in the dryer. Now, we were 99.99% sure that flannel sheets were not going to be the best overall pick for most folks, but they’re still one of the online retail giant’s most popular sellers and a surprisingly good buy despite the pilling. Flannels pill. That’s just the way of the world.

If you live somewhere with great seasonal temperature differences, or you’re looking for winter cabin bedding, though, these are a good choice. For $80 they offer a warm, but surprisingly breathable night’s sleep, and the Portuguese cotton construction is soft and durable. I certainly wouldn’t use these sheets regularly in my home, but I took them to Burning Man and was quite happy with their performance throughout a week of cold, dry desert nights.

We also tried the 500-thread-count Egyptian Cotton Sateen because of its ELS cotton and user reviews: These sheets are slightly more expensive than the Pinzon sateen at $80 a set, but they’re also slightly fancier, boasting a 500-thread-count construction. Compared to traditional department store and luxury brand buys, $80 is a great deal for 100% Egyptian cotton sateen of this weight, making this our most luxurious pick, but it was too good to be true.

While they claimed a thread count of 500, I counted closer to 290, which leads me to believe that their reported thread count is based on two-ply threads. While this may seem devious (and it kind of is), these sheets were more breathable as their threads weren’t as densely packed into each square inch of fabric. Even though they boasted a higher thread count than the Pinzon sheets (500 compared to 400), they were actually 14% lighter overall (again, probably because of two-ply thread count). Admirably, they lost only 1% of their mass in the wash, and shrunk only 6.5% (second only to the L.L.Bean sheets). They were actually fairly comfortable to sleep on, and initially my runner up pick, so it’s clear to see why they’ve earned 4.4 out of 5 stars online. Unfortunately, their loose stitching disintegrated in the wash test. It’s unfortunate and really a dealbreaker in the bedding game.

Finally, I tested two other budget picks: Target’s Threshold Ultra Soft 300-thread-count sheets, which will set you back $50 a set, and Ikea’s Gäspa sheets, which are the most affordable set I tested at $35. I’ve always gone to Ikea for cheap sheets in the past, but compared to our Overstock pick, which the company confirms will remain at the handsome price of $43, Ikea’s sheets just don’t compare. They’re noticeably thinner, 8.6% lighter than our budget pick, and they cling like Saran wrap, which left me alternately hot and sweaty or cold and damp.

The Target sheets were alright and would have been my budget pick if not for Overstock’s impressive price on their higher-quality sheets. But in this case, brick and mortar stores just can’t compete with budget prices at the same level of quality. These sheets performed solidly and held up in the wash, but they just weren’t as soft or breathable as our Overstock budget pick and possess weirdly deep pockets with auxiliary fitted sheet elastic that’s kind of bunchy and excessive. Unless you have an unreasonably deep mattress, there’s no reason to get these sheets compared to our budget pick.

The rest

Just as important as the sheets we tested are the sheets we didn’t test and why we didn’t test them. We looked at a lot of microfiber sheets, and I mean a lot of them.

We won’t even discuss the “Egyptian Quality” bit because we both know you’re smarter than that.
Microfiber sheets are the kind that’ll try to sway you with slick marketing phrases like “Luxury Egyptian Quality” and “1500 Thread Count.” These are phrases that mean essentially nothing. Take a deeper look at Amazon’s top seller in sheeting: for 89% off(!) you can get a set of “1500 Thread Count Egyptian Quality” sheets. In actuality, a thread-count of 1500 means nothing when it comes to microfiber, as these synthetic fibers regularly clock in at 1/100th the width of a human hair. We won’t even discuss the “Egyptian Quality” bit because we both know you’re smarter than that. You can definitely spend a couple hundred dollars on microfiber sheets, but considering the fact that they’re regularly selling for a tenth of that price, it’s not hard to deduce their actual value. Plus, at the end of the day, microfiber is synthetic, which is more likely to make you feel sweaty. Microfiber is actually commonly used in cloth diaper pads, and many mothers warn against placing it next to babies’ skin as it causes irritation and rashes compared to cotton or hemp. Now, most of us no longer possess skin as soft and sensitive as a baby’s, but with tried-and-true cotton options with more impressive fiber characteristics we didn’t waste any time testing microfiber sheets here.

Department store sheets are another tough category. Department stores have nice things, and they’re nicely displayed, but does that make them a good value for your money? Before online shopping came and turned the retail game on its head, department stores were often the only resource people had for buying home linens. These days, department stores are trying harder than ever to class up their offerings.

One look inside the bedding department of any Macy’s, Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s, Neiman Marcus, or Saks Fifth Avenue will leave your head swimming with lines about luxury cottons, designer names, and astronomical thread counts (see my earlier tirade about the whole thread count debacle). It’s not that these sheets are bad, per se, but brick and mortar retailers have higher overhead and thus more inflated pricing structures, which means they’re hardly ever the best bang for your buck at regular price. In fact, many department stores don’t even display lower-thread-count sheets, which ended up being our top pick. So while we did consider many extra long staple luxury sheets across a variety of thread counts and weaves, we stayed away for brand names that provide similar products at twice the price.

On a related note, let’s talk about hotel bedding: Did you know that the W Hotel sells their signature 400-thread-count cotton sateen sheets online? They’re comparable to the 400 thread count Egyptian cotton sateen sheets from Pinzon that we tested, but instead of $60 they’ll run you a cool $325. The other thing about why hotel bedding is so damn comfortable? There’s an army of wonderful folks cleaning, pressing, fluffing and remaking the bed in your air-conditioned room everyday.

That said, there were still some sheets we came across that were popular and well-reviewed, but we ended up passing on them for other reasons.

The $169 Wamsutta Dream Zone and 1000 sheets were an unfortunate story—it appears that they were once raved about and even earned Consumer Reports’ top picks in the Sateen weave category, but manufacturing changes have now disappointed many of their former devotees. It’s a considerable issue, putting out a different product under the same name, and online reviews are really the only way to tell if such a thing has happened. We listened to the people and went ahead without these formerly-admired sheets.

Land’s End 400TC Supima Percale sheets came in second place in Consumer Reports’ tests but are sadly no longer available.

Land’s End Solid Oxford Bedding was another contender that was nixed due to the heavy drape of oxford cloth, which is well suited to shirting but a little heavy for bedding.

We also considered a number of rayon from bamboo and tencel (a similar regenerated cellulosic fiber) sheets initially, including sets from Home Source International, Malouf (whose bamboo sheets are also currently out of stock) and Eucalyptus Origins before determining that these fibers simple do not perform as well as cottons.

Our blanket dismissal of rayons from bamboo and tencel across the board is due to the fact that they underperform cottons and are regularly priced at or above our main cotton pick. Regardless of how they are marketed, bamboo from rayon is not bamboo, but a regenerated cellulose fiber made from chemical tree soup that’s less than half as strong as cotton when wet,3 which means it’s almost guaranteed to fall apart faster than a solid set of cotton sheets.

There’s also linen and silk sheets that you can splurge on, but these aren’t even worth considering unless you’re paying over $200, so it’s a bit too cost prohibitive for most people.


As with all textiles, a lot of poor online reviews stem from improper care. It’s akin to buying a high performance sports car, never changing the oil, and complaining when the engine seizes. Everything from shrinkage to wrinkling can be mitigated with proper care, and it can add years of life to your sheets, so it’s worth making a few small changes to extend the life of all of your clothing, sheets, and towels.

First of all: how should you wash your sheets? Every set of sheets comes with manufacturer’s guidelines, but just because the label may say it’s okay to wash them hot with bleach and dry them on high doesn’t mean that you should.

The best way to maintain good-looking white sheets without boiling them in the wash is to wash them every couple of weeks on the lowest possible setting. Sometimes the cool setting will do just fine. The more regularly you wash them, the less likely dirt is to build up over time and become dingy. For an extra whitening boost, wash them on a warmer (but never hot) setting with color safe bleach occasionally. Only use color safe bleach, even on whites, as regular bleach has a tendency of turning whites slightly yellow. Even better, eschew regular bleach for oxygen bleach, which is a non-toxic version of hydrogen peroxide that works wonders on whites. You can also try a bluing agent like Mrs. Stewart’s Liquid Bluing (which I can personally recommend). Liquid bluing is a non-toxic, biodegradable optical brightener that renews the “brand new” bright white effect that textile manufacturers achieve by tinting white linens and garments with a tiny amount of blue. Slightly blue whites reflect more light and appear “whiter” to the naked eye.

If there’s one thing you can do to preserve your clothing, towels, and sheets, it is to dry them on the lowest setting possible.
As for drying, one of the most common ways that people damage (and shorten the lifespan of) their home linens is by overheating them in the dryer. If there’s one thing you can do to preserve your clothing, towels, and sheets, it is to dry them on the lowest setting possible. It’s much better to dry your sheets for 45 minutes on low than it is to scorch them on high for 15. You can literally smell the difference upon pulling them out of the dryer. Hell, if you have the space, hang your sheets outside to dry. There’s something magical about the crisp smell of air-dried sheets, I think, but I digress.

As discussed in the towel guide, fabric softener is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it can make certain fabrics softer and more fragrant, but on the other hand, it does so by leaving a slick residue on the surface that repels water. This is admittedly less of a problem with sheets than towels, but be forewarned that using liquid fabric softener or dryer sheets is likely to give your sheets a slippery coating that will decrease their breathability and wicking characteristics. If you’re trying to break down the factory finishes that most linens are sold with, add ¼ cup of white vinegar to the wash cycle. Not only does it soften fabric without leaving residue, it’ll help kill mildew that can grow in damp washers.

If you have sateen sheets, which are snag happy, the best way to prevent snagging is to make sure that sheets are washed alone, without anything that could snag them in the wash, on the lowest agitation setting. Sitting on your bed with rough clothing on can also snag sheets, so make the bed a pajamas-only zone. It’ll also help keep your sheets cleaner by preventing stains from crocking (dry transfer of colors from one material to another) and reducing the amount of dirt carried into your bed from the outside world (gross, right?).

What makes for great sheets anyway?

Buying guides from places like, and Good Housekeeping’s Research Institute offer semi-helpful advice and are a good place to start, but they’re not terribly detailed. They did all offer consistent advice on what to look for but very little specific guidance as to what works for most people. We took their advice and used research to fill in the blanks.

Materials should be your first consideration; cotton is what you want to look for. More specifically, you want extra long staple cotton, commonly known as Egyptian, Turkish and Pima cotton (or gossypium barbadense for the botanists among us).1 The best way to know that you’re getting ELS cotton is to check the materials tag—you can bet that any sheet with a tag that simply says “100% cotton” is shorter staple American Upland Cotton and that ELS cottons will be listed by name.

Good sheets should be comfortable, durable, easy to care for, and affordable.
Good sheets should be comfortable, durable, easy to care for, and affordable. Cotton excels on all three fronts, especially when compared to the alternatives. Quality cotton breathes well and won’t pill over time, unlike synthetic fibers such as polyester and microfiber.2 It can also be had for under $200 a set, unlike nice linens and silks, which run north of $300. Cotton is also a breeze to launder.

Rayon made from bamboo is your other option (and an increasingly popular one), but it was shown to be inferior by Jennifer Kohler, an Agricultural Systems Technology student at Utah State University who wrote her master’s thesis on exactly that in 2012. Her 85-page thesis found that while cotton and Rayon had similar initial comfort levels, cotton got softer and more comfortable through successive washings whereas Rayon only got worse.3

Thread counts matter as well, but higher is not always better. In fact, it’s mostly a marketing ploy designed to dupe people who don’t know any better.4 “Thread count is a red herring,” says Tricia Rose, proprietress of luxury bedding company Rough Linen, “A high thread count can mean that the fabric feels smooth, but not that it will wear better… [it’s] a bit of a gimmick.” In fact, sheets with too high a thread count can end up feeling slippery instead of soft and comfy.

My research found that between 200 and 500 is ideal for cotton. I also tested the sheets to make sure their claims were accurate by counting threads using a textile loupe.5 But in general, thread counts are misleading and not a good indicator of a sheet’s ability to resist wear and be comfortable to sleep on. Don’t be fooled. There are other factors at play, like the material itself and the type of weave used to construct the sheets.

The type of weave actually affects the feel of your sheets more than the thread count. There are three popular types of weave when it comes to cotton sheets:

  • Percale is a simple one-over weave that results in “plain” sheets. While this weave cannot get as smooth as others, it is very durable and can still be very soft.

  • Sateen is a four-over weave, similar to silk satin, which means that every warp yarn floats over four weft yarns before going under one and repeating. Sateen is notable for its smooth, satiny finish because of the “floats” of exposed thread, but it is also heavier and more prone to snagging and pilling.

  • Flannel isn’t really a weave, but it is made from cotton and many people like it as a bedding material. However, it’s too warm to use year-round, so it’s not the most versatile material.6

Price is also important because it’s a good indicator of quality. Consumer Reports’ top three recommendations (including our pick) average a cool $164 per set, but Amazon has changed the game, and their top ten highest rated cotton picks average less than half that cost at $63 per set. However, for my money, after all of the testing we put our contenders through, I believe that $100-150 is a fair MSRP for quality cotton sheets. I would honestly rather wash and reuse one set of well-constructed sheets made from extra long staple cotton every two weeks  than have two sets of $50 Amazon sheets or even three sets of $35 Ikea sheets. If that still sounds like a lot to you, compare the savings of investing in a couple of good sheet sets over a decade to the cost, hassle, and disappointment of buying a cheap set every other year or so.

Fit is probably a non-issue unless you have an exceptionally tall mattress and mattress topper/pad, but it’s worth checking just in case. Sheets, like mattresses, duvet covers, comforters, towels, and pretty much every other conceivable home linen vary in size, even within standards like “king” and “queen,” so always be sure to check the measurement of your mattress against any sheets you’re planning on buying.

Wrapping it up

L.L.Bean’s 280-thread-count Pima Cotton Percale Sheets pretty much blew every other sheet I tested out of the water. They were the most comfortable, the most durable, and the best combination of fiber and construction for the job. Cared for properly, these sheets should last for years of regular use. Plus, the icing on the cake is that L.L.Bean has a great return policy and quality guarantee. They take returns through the mail or in stores and will replace flawed items, as evidenced by the few poor reviews of these sheets online, where the company has responded and replaced them. Also great is the fact that they sell these sheets separately instead of in sets, which makes it easy to pick up an extra set of pillowcases or forgo the flat sheet if you’re a hot sleeper.


1. More on why we prefer cotton over other materials

i. “100% cottons and linens are best for bedding,” says Leslie Rynhard of Wroolie’s San Francisco Design Center showroom. “They are natural and they wear the best. 100% Egyptian (and other Gossypium barbadense varieties like Pima and Turkish) cotton is the best kind of cotton because it has the longest and strongest staple fibers.”

Cotton is the most popular fiber in the world, hands down. Nearly half of the world’s demand for textile fibers, for end uses from sheets to insulation panels, is met by cotton. On the downside, cotton takes a lot of water to grow, and some growers do use pesticides. Further along the process, it takes a good deal of energy to convert raw cotton to finished fabric. Ultimately, though, the water and energy it takes to produce fine cotton linens pales in comparison to their utility when compared with the textile waste created by cheap, unwanted sheets (not to mention clothes and home accessories). The average American creates nearly 65 pounds of textile waste a year, half of which could be diverted from the waste stream by recycling(!). In comparison, while cottons take a significant amount of energy to process, synthetic fibers are even worse. “The manufacturing of synthetic fibers is an energy intensive process that requires large amounts of crude oil, and also releases emissions including volatile organic compounds, particulate matter, and acid gases such as hydrogen chloride.” Kohler writes in her thesis paper. “While the processing of natural fibers is not without a degree of environmental concern, the effects are minimal compared to those of manufactured fibers.” In the end, the best course of action is to stay informed and buy smart. That water-guzzling cotton really could help you lower your waste output in the long run.

ii. Microfiber sheets are increasingly common these days, claiming to be softer and more durable than Egyptian Cotton, and they are soft, but that’s because microfibers are 1/100th the width of a human hair. They’re also made out of synthetic materials like Polyester, and the combination of their synthetic makeup and super fine weave make them a sweaty sleep trap, likely to pill, prone to static electricity buildup and toxically flammable to boot.

Same goes for regular polyester, which is often blended with cotton in sheets: while it’s very durable, it makes for stifling, sweaty sheets, and it’s just not necessary when there are so many polyester-free sheets out there for the sleeping.

iii. The big fiber battle these days is between cotton and rayon from bamboo. Not bamboo, but “rayon from bamboo,” because in order to be considered bamboo, a fabric would have to be made of yarns spun from crushed bamboo fibers. What nearly every sheet that claims to be bamboo is actually made of is rayon, a regenerated cellulosic fiber often made from tree pulp. This rayon can be made from bamboo pulp, but it’s so far removed from the plant that the FDA has ruled that it must be identified as rayon to avoid rampant greenwashing. Unlike synthetic fibers, rayon is made from cellulose, is more breathable, and therefore better suited for sheeting, but is it better than cotton? That’s a source of dissent amongst many concerned customers.

Some people claim that rayon from bamboo is softer, has better wicking properties, and is naturally antibacterial. Others claim that it pills, warps, and isn’t durable enough. There was very little documented scientific comparison between the performance characteristics of cotton and rayon from bamboo in sheets, until, thank academia, Jennifer Kohler, Agricultural Systems Technology student at Utah State University, wrote her master’s thesis on exactly that in 2012. I’ll spare you the details in case you don’t feel like reading the 85-page paper yourself (I must admit I found it riveting), but while rayon from bamboo does possess some desirable qualities, it is not as well suited to sheeting as good ol’ extra long staple cotton. ELS cotton possesses longer fibers, which create smoother, stronger threads than shorter staple cottons. Cotton’s hydrophilic properties are also a big pro when it comes to bedding.  Cotton can absorb up to 25 times its weight in water. Hopefully your sheets will never have to absorb that much water, but the fact that they can lends itself incredibly well to wicking, the process of absorbing sweat and carrying it away from the body to keep you cool and dry. Jump back.

2. Other nails in the rayon from bamboo coffin: “Rayon loses approximately 30-50% of its strength when wet,” Kohler’s paper found, “while cotton is ten percent stronger when wet. …[Bamboo] has a very low wet modulus strength resulting in a very weak fiber when wet. This may especially manifest itself during laundering,” writes Kohler, which is something sheets are subjected to a lot of. “Similarly, it is relatively weak in dry strength,” she adds, which really doesn’t sound very promising. If you do find yourself with rayon from bamboo in your non-laundered home textiles, watch where you put them. “The elasticity and resilience of the fibers is low resulting in poor shape retention and fabric stability, [and] when untreated it is susceptible to acids, alkalis, mildew, silverfish, and sunlight.” Seriously? Yup. Jump back.

3. Does rayon from bamboo possess any good properties? Well, while bamboo does possess natural antibacterial properties, they are destroyed in the production of rayon. The only reason left that rayon from bamboo would be preferable to cotton is its hand (feel). While not scientific, hand is pretty damn important. “The hand of rayon from bamboo is considered one of the greatest characteristics of the fiber,” remarks Kohler, but “if the hand is not maintained, then it cannot be considered advantageous over cotton.” So, what if rayon from bamboo is just the softest, coziest night’s sleep ever? And how would you even objectively measure that? Kohler’s testing rated the hand of each fabric via blind panel testing after each set of washings, only recording valid ratings if the tester could reliably recreate them. “A recorded invalid response indicated that the evaluator was unable to give the same softness rating at two different test times.” In the end, “there were 26 total invalid responses [for cotton], which account for 39% of the total responses given for cotton, and 34 answers were invalid [for rayon from bamboo] resulting in 52% of the total answers given regarding rayon from bamboo.” So over a third of the cotton ratings were unreliable, but when it came to rayon from bamboo, the ratings were even less reliable with slightly over half invalidated. This means that users couldn’t always reliably decide how soft they thought the fabrics were, but when they did, the results shed some light on the comparison. I averaged the valid responses in Kohler’s paper, and found that while cotton gets slightly softer over time, bamboo ratings were at their softest when the sheets were new. Not only is cotton stronger, it’s also going to keep getting softer over time. Jump back.

4. Thread count matters, but not the way you might think it does. The single largest misconception about sheets is that the higher the thread count is, the better the sheet will perform. This is blatantly untrue. “Thread count is a red herring,” says Rough Linen’s Tricia Rose. “A high thread count can mean that the fabric feels smooth, but not that it will wear better… [it’s] a bit of a gimmick.” To understand how thread count effects sheets, we first need to really think about what it is. Thread count is measured by adding the number of threads per square inch in both the warp and weft directions (warp threads run vertically, weft threads horizontally). Often times, manufacturers boost their reported thread count by counting each two-ply thread as two threads, or each four-ply thread as four. Thread count is meant to indicate the fineness of the weave, not how many threads can be jammed into a single inch of fabric, and this marketing technique is deceptive. Additionally, higher thread count sheets are often heavier, more likely to trap heat, and less likely to breathe well. Believe it or not, we’ve found the butter zone to be a thread count between 200 and 500 (for even more editorial info, read this). Jump back.

5. I independently counted the threads in a square inch to determine how accurate the posted count was and whether two-ply yarns were being used. Now, this is data that should be looked at with a grain of salt, because although I used a magnifying textile loupe and a quilting pin to count the threads, those suckers are small. The results were telling: our top pick’s thread count was exactly as advertised, while both the Pinzon and Ikea picks surpassed their reported thread count (it’s notoriously hard to count sateen threads). This means that they are, if anything, underreporting the count for safe measure, but as previously stated, this doesn’t have a strong bearing on their performance. Jump back.




Claimed thread count

Actual thread count

Cuddledown Sateen


100% Cotton Sateen



Garnet Hill Fiesta Percale


100% Cotton Percale



Garnet Hill Sateen


100% Egyptian Sateen



Garnet Hill Supima Percale


100% Supima Percale



Ikea Gaspa


100% Cotton Sateen



LL Bean Pima Percale


100% Pima Percale



Pinzon 160 Gram Flannel


100% Cotton Flannel



Pinzon Hemstitch


100% Egyptian Sateen



Pottery Barn Classic


100% Cotton (partially Egyptian) Percale

400 (2-ply)


Royal Velvet Wrinkle Guard


100% Cotton Sateen



Target Threshold


100% Cotton Sateen

300 (2-ply?)


Tribeca Living


100% Egyptian Sateen



6. Flannel is labeled by density (generally in grams or ounces per yard) because the threads are impossible to count through the fabric’s characteristic soft nap. Flannel is a polarizing material that people either love or hate. It’s particularly warm, which is great in harsh winters, but many people find it too hot. On top of that, flannels have a tendency of coming in loud plaid patterns, which just aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. One of Amazon’s top sellers in bedding is a cotton flannel set, but it’s just not an appropriate all-purpose pick. Jump back.

7. The thread counts of these sheets range from 280 to 500, including both single and double ply yarns with percale, sateen and flannel weaves. They are made of Upland, Egyptian and Pima cottons made in Turkey, Pakistan, Portugal and China with the heaviest set (400 thread count) weighing in at 42% heavier than the lightest set (310 thread count). Jump back.

8. Relaxation shrinkage occurs when the pressure on these strained threads is relaxed and they revert to their natural shape. It’s similar to the way that curly hair shortens as it dries. Relaxation shrinkage is a killer for two reasons: first of all, shrunken sheets are a pain to put on the bed, but, more importantly, the nice smooth floats that make a sateen look so nice out of the package will end up contracted, which changes the hand and dulls the fabric’s sheen. Jump back.

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  1. Tricia Rose, Rough Linen, Interview
  2. L.L. Bean Pima Cotton Percale, Consumer Reports (Subscription Required)
  3. Coral Nafie, Before You Buy Bed Sheets,
  4. Sheet Buying Guide, Consumer Reports (Subscription Required), June 2013
  5. Top-Rated Bed Sheet Sets, Sleep Like The Dead, December 27, 2013
  6. Maya Kukes, How to Choose the Best Bed Sheets, Real Simple
  7. Dickson Wong, Finding The Best Sheets For Your Budget: A Buying Guide, Huffington Post, November 11, 2012
  • bobchadwick

    Does anyone know if LL Bean regularly has coupons or sales?

    • Michael Zhao

      They do not. And when they do, it’s like 10% off. I wouldn’t hold my breath on this.

    • Christina

      Just checked the site today and there’s 20% off till 2/10!

  • David Joyce

    Did ever come up in your research? They seem to have a lot of educational sweethome/wirecutter level material surrounding thread count and what to look for (and look out for) in sheets. And a lot of brands they have in their store I didn’t see represented in this review, like Echelon, Peacock Alley, Inhabit, Down Right, Dwell. These are positioned as being more premium brands, but the costs for a Queen set can at times be comparable to the LL Bean set.

    • Melissa Tan

      Unfortunately Linen Place’s offerings are by and large too expensive. Echelon’s Egyptian percale is the only set that fits the criteria we established at $79 for a queen set of single-ply 200 thread count egyptian cotton percale. On Amazon, however, they’ve inflated their MSRP to $110 and have poor reviews because their fitted sheets are a few inches too wide:

  • du57in

    I badly needed a cheap fitted sheet just to get me through a couple nights before I could order something better online, so I picked up a salmon colored Threshold Ultra Soft 300 from Target. I am surprised by just how nice it is. Much better fitting and feeling than several more expensive sheets from Bed, Bath and Beyond. In fact, I haven’t bought anything else since. I like to change colors often, and at under $20 for just the fitted sheet, they fit my needs perfectly.

    • Melissa Tan

      If you’re talking about the Target Threshold sheets we tested — I did like them and I was considering them as a budget pick. It was their strange double-elasticized fitted sheet with super deep pockets that made them a poor all-around pick.

  • Alex

    The chart in footnote 5 lists the material of the Target Threshold sheets as “100% Cotton Sateen”, but the linked product page indicates that it’s percale (“100% cotton percale”, “Weave Type: Percale”). Assuming their product page is telling the truth, would that make the Target sheets your budget pick for those prefer percale (since the Overstock sheets are sateen)?

  • Justine

    Any chance you have some recommendations for less deep sheets? I know they are getting less and less common as you say, but I have a standard mattress I am happy with.

    • Melissa Tan

      If a snug fitted sheet is your priority over absolute softness and the lifetime guarantee, the Garnet Hill Fiesta Percale sheets I tested have 12″ deep pockets (the only ones I tested with old school thin mattress depth). For $86 they’re a fine choice for a thinner mattress, they just didn’t perform as well as our main pick.

      • Justine

        Thanks! That really helps.

  • warpinsf

    Any chance this could get updated with Thomas Lee’s product? It’s similar to the top-rated ones here.

    • Melissa Tan

      I’ve checked out Thomas Lee, but their $365 MSRP for a queen set prices them out of the running for an all around best pick.

      • warpinsf

        I’m mostly curious how much or little difference such additional cost makes — even if it’s disqualifying for the best pick.

        • Melissa Tan

          In my experience, single-py 500 thread count percale won’t breathe as well as a 200-300 thread count or a two-ply 500 thread count sheet. It will be very smooth and tightly woven, which is partially why it costs more, but not as breathable.

      • gregvanker

        That set never sells for $365. It’s always at most $199. Also, they’re fantastic.

  • Dean

    Thanks for this. I’m still holding onto a stained LL Bean fitted sheet because it’s held up so well.

    Any thoughts on rotating in linen sheets over the summer? Seems to be that luxury sheets shift that way.

    • Melissa Tan

      I’d love to do linen sheets. They’re not included here because they’re not best for “all around” use considering cost and seasonality, but they could be part of a luxury sheets since there are people like @disqus_fuCWEPI0ws:disqus who are interested in a wider range of price points.

      • Lauran

        Hi Melissa,
        I don’t know why you think linen is seasonal. One of the major benefits of this fiber is that it’s cool in summer and warm in winter which adds to our comfort, of course. Yes, it’s expensive – at least good quality linen is – but another major benefit is that it’s second only to silk as the most durable natural fiber, which makes it longer lasting than cotton or blends. So, it truly is cost effective. If you intend to further explore the pros and cons of various bedding choices, it would be interesting to include linen in your research. Thans for the informative article.

        • Melissa Tan

          I have since gotten a linen duvet cover and pillows which I love. I guess the seasonality aspect is more perceived than practical. Linen is warm and very durable, it just has more of a crisp feeling than something like cotton flannel, and there’s something cozier feeling about flannel to most people. I would definitely love to test linen sheets at some point if there’s enough demand for it.

        • L. Wagner

          I too would appreciate a review of linen sheets, as I find no problem with living through a few “ruff” nights of sleep in order to get the desired softness/seasoning. Especially for a product that last for 30-50 or more years.

  • Leslie D

    Thank you for all your information! I have owed a slew of bad sheets from TJMaxx, never understanding what to look for. I think I dont like the feel of sateen. I recently bought sheets on sale for half price at Crate and Barrel and LOVE them. Nicest sheets I’ve ever owed. So comfortable. 100% cotton percale, 200 tread count from India. Its so hard to describe the feel but they are light and airy and very neutral texture (neither super soft nor rough). Since the sheets are originally $200, how would I find the same feeling sheets again for less? Would the LLBean sheets be similar?

    • Melissa Tan

      Based on what you’re saying, the LLB sheets have similar stats in thread count and weave. A full set is more expensive the the deal you scored with your current sheets, though.

  • RonK13
  • Christina

    L.L. Bean is doing 20% off Bedding and Bath until February 10th!

  • Bryan Tarlowski

    What’s the deal with mattress covers / protectants? I just bought a custom bed and sort of want it to last for a long long time and I’m thinking about investing in one of these.

  • Alex

    Do you have any recommendations for California King size sheets? Apparently LL Bean only carries Eastern King.

  • danar

    This review for the best sheets should be redone or, at least, renamed ‘best sheets that cost under X dollars” because I don’t think you can really review the best sheets without also looking into the Italian sheets.

    Instead, those Italian sheets and other bedding were excluded and not
    even evaulated because they were above an arbirtrary price and thus
    deemed too expensive.

    But, some of those Italian sheets cost just as much as the Miele Twist or the Vitamix, winners in other Sweethome categories.

    If we’re going to exclude the Italian sheets because they’re too
    expensive, then shouldn’t the Vitamix and the Twist have never been
    tested because they’re also too expensive?
    If we’re talking about the same amount of money, I think most people would rather spend it on sheets that’ll use 6-8 hours every day vs a blender.

    • Quiet Desperation

      Giorgio Napolitano chiming in.

    • Michael Zhao

      Hi Danar,
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this subject. This is a complaint we hear from time to time about our reviews, and it’s a fair one, but it doesn’t quite jive with the overall philosophy of the site, which is to help the most people we can. When we say “best,” the implication is always best for most. For some categories, like cameras, it makes sense to segment because a lot of people have different budgets and expectations from their equipment. For some categories, those expectations can only be met at a certain price point, which is why we recommend more expensive items.

      In the case of the Vitamix and Miele Twist, these are appliances that do things that a significant amount of people would want to do that lesser appliances cannot. In the case of blenders, you have green smoothies and actually crushing ice (which can’t be handled reliably by cheaper models). In the case of vacuums, you have adjustable pile height, longer warranties, more suction, and clean exhaust (which, again, can’t be had in a cheaper model).

      When it comes to sheets, on the other hand, the few people looking to spend $200+ on a set of sheets is going to get a good set on their own because you know sheets of that caliber will be good quality whether they’re linen, silk, or Italian cotton. Indeed, we specifically address this fact in the guide, saying that if you want to spend more money, you will get better sheets.

      But it’s very very difficult, as we’ve pointed out, to find really good sheets for under $200, which is more in line with what most of our readers can afford/expect to pay for quality sheets.

      I hope this clears things up a bit.

  • Quiet Desperation

    People iron sheets? What’s the point? It’s like folding underpants or socks before putting them in a drawer- useless activity.

  • randomthoughts

    I bought the recommended sheets and they’re fine… Using them with your recommended best duvet which I love dearly. However I find the 420 Costco cheap sateen sheets more comfortable. Even though they’re not as drapey or as smooth as I thought sateen would be After a vinegar wash, I’m finding I like the feel better than the all bean

  • Sandy Paper

    First, great article! I can’t believe I read over 10,000 words on sheets. That’s a testament to your writing skills! But, I’m quite disappointed in these sheets. They’re rough and thick. It’s not quite like sleeping in a burlap sack, but close. Could LL Bean have changed the product this quickly?

    • Michael Zhao

      I’ve personally found that the Mid Blue color feels softer than Silver Sand… It’s something that confuses me as well.

      • TJ Z

        I just received the Mid Blue. Are they WAY lighter to you than pictured? I expected an almost royal/navy blue. They arrived as “light blue/periwinkle” as you can get. I checked the packaging, and they are labelled as Mid Blue

        • Michael Zhao

          It really depends on your monitor settings. If you have more saturated colors, it would really appear more navy-ish, but my girlfriends’ arrived similar to how they looked online. Maybe a bit lighter, but not periwinkle.

    • Michael Zhao

      Hi, sorry you had a bad experience. We are looking into this. If you don’t mind my asking, did you dry the sheets on high, medium, or low?

      I had a similar initial experience after drying them on high by accident. But subsequent washings where I used low left them feeling soft and smooth.

      Here’s an excerpt from our “Care” subheading about this phenomenon: “As for drying, one of the most common ways that people damage (and shorten the lifespan of) their home linens is by overheating them in the dryer. If there’s one thing you can do to preserve your clothing, towels, and sheets, it is to dry them on the lowest setting possible. It’s much better to dry your sheets for 45 minutes on low than it is to scorch them on high for 15. You can literally smell the difference upon pulling them out of the dryer.”

      • Ariel Oliver

        I also ordered these based on this article and reviews. I had the same experience. I couldn’t even put my face on them, they were so rough. They felt more soft in hand, but my face just couldn’t deal with it for even 1 night. I washed and dried according to your instructions and no change… I am now looking at buying the JCP sheets recommended, but I have seen similar reviews on their site that maybe the construction has changed. I don’t know what sheets to buy for my new bed.

  • monster0413

    four one star reviews in the past month on the LL Bean site – any thoughts ???

    • tony kaye

      Looking into it!

  • Sreeharsha Nanduri

    Is it just me or something wrong, I ordered the L.L bean sheets after seeing the recommendation here and less than a week there’s a small slit torn apart.

    • tony kaye

      Thanks for the feedback.

    • Melissa Tan

      Bummer. The thing about cotton percale is that if it gets a hole it can easily tear. It could have happened before they left the factory and just been a bad luck fluke. I recommend contacting LLB and taking them up on their guarantee, though. They should send you a brand new set for free.

  • Gtrunner

    The top pick needs to be bought new right now and retested. I just picked up the sheets yesterday. They feel like sandpaper. There have been all one start reviews for the past couple of months. It also looks like the company stopped sending any blue colors other than “lake”. The company is telling people that what I’m showing on my ipad and what is on the bed is the same color and that the problem is with the monitor that we are using.

    Edit I can’t post the photo , it showed an option before I logged in.

    • Neil

      I really wanted to like these sheets, but I have to agree with the above comment. I purchased the pale yellow color, which looked the same as on-line, and they seemed smooth to the hand out of the package, but on the bed was a whole other story. After washing with vinegar in the rinse, they were very harsh and abrasive. They really seemed like a much cheaper, lower thread count sheet. Also, the “standard” pillowcases were HUGE (actually, the flat and fitted sheets where super big, too). My standard pillows looked pitifully small and just swam around in them. Had to send the sheets back.

      • Jacqui Cheng

        Hi Neil,

        We are re-visiting this guide and re-testing the LL Bean sheets to see if the manufacturing has changed or if anything is different from when we first did our tests. For what it’s worth, the original author on this piece as well as one of our senior editors have NOT had this issue with their long-term testing, but we’re buying some new ones to test with anyway just to be sure.

      • Michael Zhao

        Hi, sorry you had a bad experience. We are looking into this. If you don’t mind my asking, did you dry the sheets on high, medium, or low?

        I had a similar initial experience after drying them on high by accident. But subsequent washings where I used low left them feeling soft and smooth like they did out of the bag.

        Here’s an excerpt from our “Care” subheading about this: “As for drying, one of the most common ways that people damage (and shorten the lifespan of) their home linens is by overheating them in the dryer. If there’s one thing you can do to preserve your clothing, towels, and sheets, it is to dry them on the lowest setting possible. It’s much better to dry your sheets for 45 minutes on low than it is to scorch them on high for 15. You can literally smell the difference upon pulling them out of the dryer.”

        • Neil

          I believe I did dry them on medium (and they did take 45 minutes to fully dry with other clothes in the machine). They felt the same *to the hand* coming out of the drier as they did from the package. It was only trying to sleep on them when I noticed how rough they felt. If I had used the low setting I’m afraid they would have taken an hour or more, which is not acceptable. If sheets require this much babying, then they are not practical for me anyway. The sheets I have now and have had in the past I’ve dried on high and have not had any issues.

          • Michael Zhao

            That’s definitely a valid complaint, but at the same time, good sheets made of quality materials are an investment that need to be protected and cared for in order to get the most out of them.

            Think of it like this: you could put regular gas in a turbo-charged BMW instead of premium, but that’s going to negatively affect performance, and possibly damage the engine in the long run. Think of drying on low as using premium gas, except instead of paying 20 cents more per gallon, you’re paying 20 minutes more in the dryer.

            When we update this guide, we will definitely do more to make the care instructions clearer and make it more obvious who should get the Sateen pick instead.

          • Lucas Lee

            Any update? Was bout to pull the trigger on these sheets until I noticed the recent negative reviews. Thanks

          • Melissa Tan

            Hi Lucas,

            I ordered another set of the top pick, as did one of our editors, to see if there’s been any change in quality recently. We’ve been using the new sets for the past few weeks and haven’t noticed any differences so far. I think what Michael mentions above about care is crucial to the softness of the hand as well as how well they will hold up. If the negative reviews are what’s holding you back, but you like percale sheets (vs. sateen), I’d say go for it. LLB has a great lifetime guarantee, and they’ll take them back without a fuss if you don’t like them for whatever reason. Re: the recent reviews, I don’t see any difference in quality between the first set they sent me and the new set I ordered.

          • Lucas Lee

            Great, thanks for the info!

    • Michael Zhao

      Hi, sorry you had a bad experience. We are looking into this. If you don’t mind my asking, did you dry the sheets on high, medium, or low?

      I had a similar initial experience after drying them on high by accident. But subsequent washings where I used low left them feeling soft and smooth like they did out of the bag.

      Here’s an excerpt from our “Care” subheading about this phenomenon: “As for drying, one of the most common ways that people damage (and shorten the lifespan of) their home linens is by overheating them in the dryer. If there’s one thing you can do to preserve your clothing, towels, and sheets, it is to dry them on the lowest setting possible. It’s much better to dry your sheets for 45 minutes on low than it is to scorch them on high for 15. You can literally smell the difference upon pulling them out of the dryer.”

      • Gtrunner

        I had it on the lowest setting my dryer has, I didn’t damage them. This was out the the box or rapper “stiffness”. I read the article before buying the sheets, that’s the whole point of using this site.

    • sj


  • Andrea Herling

    Great reviews. I have dust mite allergies and MUST wash and dry bedding at the hottest possible settings. I realize this will affect durability. I also have a problem with deep creases forming at the top edge of the flat sheet and these can’t be ironed out. I assume that the hot dry cycle is to blame. Since so many adults and children have dust mite allergies, do you have any tips for me and my fellow sufferers?

    • Michael Zhao

      I’ve found that drying these sheets on high leads to a rough hand. I’d recommend trying our sateen Wrinkleguard pick. They won’t last as long, but should do better in high heat.

    • Lisa Brewster

      This happened to me with the LL Bean sheets (which I’m in the process of exchanging). According to a forum thread I found, this is the result of a manufacturing defect of not being hemmed straight across the grain of the fabric:

      There are other tips in that thread of how to mitigate, but they didn’t help my situation and I didn’t want to suffer through a few years of washings since my sheets also tore from my cat’s claws, and LL Bean has a great return policy.

      • tony kaye

        Sorry you had to exchange, but glad you figured it out! Might be worth noting too.

  • Lucas Lee

    Did anybody ever figure out if the LL Bean sheets were changed with the recent negative reviews?

  • d quaid

    If you revisit this test next year it would be great if you could add Costco’s Kirkland Signature 540 TC Supima sheets to the list for comparison.

  • susie

    Hi there- my mattress is 18″ deep and the LL Bean sheets are too small. Do you recommend any other brand for the depth I need?

  • chad dierickx

    My wife and I are loving these sheets, which we bought after reading this post. Way better than our old high-thread-count ones. Thanks!

  • Nehal

    Hello! This is a great article, so firstly, thank you!

    So my new mattress is going to be a 9.5″ thick memory foam. Will the LL Bean sheets be way too deep and cause bunching? If so, can you recommend me another set of sheets?

    • tony kaye

      These sheets are 15” deep, so they might be a bit bunchy. After some washing & drying they might fit better, but I’ll see what else might fit better.

  • sj

    You are such an awesome person! I love what you’ve done and have been searching for new sheets and going madd from the pro and con reviews which never seem to narrow down a true winner.

    I recently stayed at The Dean Hotel in Providence RI and their sheets were divine. They purchase them from Matouck but are extremely expensive. I was hoping you had reviewed them too. They use the 350 thread long staple cotton percale I believe called Sierra Hemstich because it looked like what I slept on for 3 nights. They were so comfortable and old fashioned or what I remember as a child, cool and crisp. They don’t change the bed sheets until night 3 I believe, so, these stayed crisp.

    I will buy the LL.Bean based on your findings. I bought their flannel sheets last winter due to the horrid east coast temps but they were very disappointing. They pilled after sleeping on them once. I also bought them for my son and his pilled as well.

    I also can’t find a winner for a non-pill flannel either. But LL Bean’s was not expensive and the bed was definitely warmer once we went flannel. We used a cotton sheet for the top & cotton pillow cases to keep from getting too warm and the combo worked beautifully.

    Thanks again for all the research.

  • TheLievense

    Sad to hear that the Wamsutta line at Bed, Bath & Beyond has gone downhill since those were the sheets I always used to buy and even after years of washing they’ve stayed nice & soft. I would have liked to see a “step up” option for a higher thread count option for a little more money ($200-300).

  • Alex King

    I love my Garnet Hill Supima Percale! Yes, they are stiff, but that’s why i like them. And not thick either. It’s definitely a taste preference, but i am so in love with these sheets.

  • Selena

    Bought the Whale Percale Sheets after reading this. thread count is slightly lower at 220, but the sheets still has a cool crispy feeling to it AND keeps me cool at night especially right now since its so humid in southern california last couple of weeks. Here it is:

    thanks for the recommendation!

  • Josh

    Cariloha makes bamboo sheets. Heaven.

  • Harold Ancell

    Be careful when viewing the feedback on these sheets at LLBean. While we normally buy them in sets, they list each of flat, fitted and pillowcases with the other two conveniently on the same page, and each has its own set of reviews.

    The reviews for 280-Thread-Count Pima Cotton Percale flat sheets aren’t too bad, but the other two detail a steady and significant drop in quality over the years, often with great specificity.

    • tony kaye

      Ahh. Thanks for the heads up!

  • Eric Q.

    This may be the most in depth review topic I have seen on here but as many people noted, there is no option here for Cal King sheets in pima cotton percale. I’m honestly not sure if I will like them but you had such a good case for them and just enough distractors to steer me away from the others you tested that I am at a loss. I am also not as concerned about price but don’t want to cheap out with something you have relegated to extra bedroom duty. Any suggestions?

  • WillC

    Which one is preferable for under 40$ range on queen size???pretty broke from college

  • Dave

    I’ve been using DreamFit sheets. They have a different design to stay fit much better than normal sheets, plus the quality and materials are very good. There are 7 levels (7 is top of the line); I’ve been using level 4. Did you run into these sheets in your research for this review?

    • tony kaye

      I don’t believe we did. If we dismissed it for a particular reason, we most likely would have mentioned it above.

    • Melissa Tan

      Thanks for bringing these to my attention, Dave. After some basic research I can tell you this: level 7 is way too expensive at $399 and levels 6, 5 and 1 are synthetics, so I wouldn’t consider those, but the others may be decent contenders. Basically, we cull potential candidates based construction and user reviews, and DreamFit’s website doesn’t have enough thread count, ply or fabric weight information, and third party sites that sell them just don’t have enough reviews. Now that you’ve brought them up, though, I’ll keep them on my radar in the event that we add more sheet testing in the future.

      • Lisa Brewster

        I’d be interested in something like this, actually. I haaaaaate baggy fitted sheets and dumpy pillowcases, so getting a tight fit is something I look for in reviews. I’ve also had my eye on drawstring sheets that you can easily tighten.

  • Rick

    I would recommend the Pinzon Hemstitch, which is also mentioned on this site. They are extraordinary sheets for a great price.

    Site :

  • Marjorine

    detailed and informative article. but unfortunately the product itself has not approached) My mum bought this linens to her home, and these sheets are great. but in my apatment i use silk linens, don`t know why,but i hate ironing))). silk linens costs more but you can use it for lo-o-ng time. Besides, I found a store with great discounts

  • L. Wagner

    Thank you for this wonderful review of sheets and linen information, it
    is very much appreciated. The comments left by others have also been
    very helpful. I would have dried them on high as well. However, I
    prefer the crisp, clean feel you described with the L.L. Bean. I am
    going to order them. I assume that like washing jeans, they age a
    little with time, and soften a bit more, right?

    I actually have linen sheets which I am considering also. We need
    multiple sets now as we ungraded our full beds to a queen and now the queen sheets we had for one bed, just are not enough.
    Thanks again. Am sending this information to a friend.

  • Betty

    Have you tried Thomas Lee PerfectCale /