Best Cotton Bed Sheets

Updated August 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

30 Models Considered
8 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
280 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Buying guide for best cotton bed sheets

Last Updated August 2019

Everyone knows that a good night’s sleep is beneficial for your health, your mood, and your general well-being. But did you also know that research shows sleeping in cotton sheets gives you a better night’s sleep than sleeping on synthetic fibers? Cotton, a natural fiber, is extremely breathable and doesn’t trap heat. With a smooth, soft feel that you’ll want to sink into as your drift off, cotton sheets wick away sweat and moisture, allowing for a comfortable, cool night’s sleep.

But not all cotton bed sheets are created equal. For starters, it’s important to make sure that they’re labeled 100% cotton. Some are softer than others, which — despite popular belief — has to do with more than just its thread count. Other cotton bed sheets are made with chemicals which is certainly something to take into account, considering that we spend a third of our life sleeping. Appearance also matters, and cotton sheets come with different finishes. And naturally you’ll want sheets that fit your particular mattress.

To learn more about finding the right size and all the decisions you’ll have to make when selecting cotton bed sheets, keep reading our shopping guide. For a quick selection that’ll fit into your budget, check out our top five picks.

The higher the thread count, the more cotton yarns fit into a square inch of cotton, resulting in smoother, more durable, and softer fabric.

Key considerations

Sets

Generally, cotton bed sheets come in a four-piece set, which includes a bottom sheet fitted with elastic, a flat sheet, and two standard-sized (20” x 30”) pillow cases. Some may come with a bonus pair of pillowcases. If you only need, for example, the top sheet, you should look for individual pieces.

Size

Probably the most important consideration when purchasing bed sheets is to get the right size. The fitted sheet, which goes over your mattress, is especially important to get right (see “pocket depth” below). Bed sheet sets are sold according to mattress size: twin, twin XL (extra-long), full, queen, king, and California king. Also RV/short queens and split kings are available, though not all sets offer these specialty sizes. Select a set that’s commensurate with your mattress size.

Pocket depth

Fitted sheets come with a “pocket” measurement, usually in inches. This is not an actual pocket but the height of the mattress that the bottom sheet will fit. We recommend subtracting two inches from the pocket depth to determine if the fitted sheet will indeed fit your mattress. For example, a pocket depth of 14 inches will fit a mattress 12 inches high or less. “Deep pocket” sheets are usually for mattresses that are 15 to 22 inches deep.

Thread count

Thread count measures the number of horizontal and vertical cotton threads the sheet has per square inch. The higher the thread count, the softer the bed sheets usually feel. Thread count also affects density; for example, a 400 thread count will be light and airy whereas an 800 thread count will be denser and heavier.

Good sheets generally have a thread count ranging from 200 to 600. Thread counts as high as 1,000 or more may be misleading because manufacturers use multiple-ply (threads twisted together), low-quality yarn. Sheets made of high quality fibers may in reality be softer than those with super high thread counts.

Weave

The weave of your sheet will determine its finish.

  • A sateen weave will have a shinier sheen and a smooth, slick feel. The thread count for an average-quality sateen weave is 250 to 300. Good-quality sateen sheets range from 300 to 600.

  • A percale weave will give you a matte finish that is crisp and cool to the touch. Percale weaves tend to be more durable and last longer through multiple washes than a sateen weave, which may lose its luster after washing. The thread count for an average-quality percale weave hovers around 180. Two to three hundred is the optimal thread count for this type of weave.

Colors

There’s a wide range of cotton sheet sets available, from variations on white to bolder selections like black or polka dots. Select a color or pattern to match your bedroom décor or comforter.

Luxury Pima cotton

A high-end bed sheet set made from the softest cotton out there, 100% Peruvian Pima cotton offers extra-long staples (ELS) for ultra-softness and durability, providing a luxury-hotel night’s sleep every night in the comfort of your own bed.

Cotton bed sheet features

Type of cotton

The single most important feature that differentiates one cotton bed sheet from another is the type of cotton itself. Here are the most common types:

  • Egyptian cotton is a species of cotton plant that is touted for its strong, long “staples” (a.k.a. fibers). The fibers produce thinner threads that are softer and last longer than regular cotton.

  • Pima or supima cotton is another species of cotton plant known for its extra-long staples (ELS) and supreme softness, as well as strength and color retention.

  • Organic cotton is grown without the use of harmful chemical agents, such as fertilizers and pesticides, and from non-genetically modified plants. For the highest standards of nontoxic bedding, choose sheets that are GOTS or Oeko-Tex certified.

  • Combed cotton is another feature for added softness, smoothness, and durability. This is when the manufacturer combs out debris and too-short fibers before spinning the cotton into yarn.

Smart head/foot tag

Beyond the material itself, keep a look out for sets that include a smart head/foot tag on the bottom/fitted sheet, which indicates the width side for easier placement on the mattress.

Cleaning/care

When it comes to cleaning and care, cotton is generally low maintenance. It doesn’t retain odors as easily as oil-based fabrics. Cotton sheets can be easily thrown in the washing machine and dryer. Depending on the individual product, washing instructions vary from cold water to delicate cycle to tumble-dry on a low setting. One benefit of cotton bed sheets is that they soften over time with washing and wear.

EXPERT TIP

Because cotton is a natural fiber, it is hypoallergenic. Wash cotton bed sheets regularly to deter dust mites and mold.


Staff  | BestReviews
EXPERT TIP

A higher thread count is more important for sateen cotton sheets than for matte ones with a percale weave.


Staff  | BestReviews
EXPERT TIP

Conventional cotton is grown with more pesticides than any other crop. To reduce harm to yourself and everyone involved in your bed sheets’ production, opt for organic cotton sheets.


Staff  | BestReviews

Cotton bed sheet prices

Inexpensive

For quality cotton bed sheets that won’t break the bank, expect to pay $30 to $40. Sheets in this price range typically have a 300 to 400 thread count.

Mid-range

The next step up, $50 to $70, includes organic and Egyptian cotton selections, as well as some high thread count options.

Expensive

For top-of-the-line cotton bed sheets, expect to pay upwards of $80. These tend to have high thread counts (400–1,000) or are made from luxury cotton like Pima and Supima.

Inexpensive, eco-friendly sheets

This low-priced, sateen-weave cotton bed sheet set is both ethically produced and OEKO-TEX tested for harmful substances. The set comes in a variety of colors, patterns, and designs. The fitted sheet includes a smart tag, extra-strong elastic, and a deep pocket. If you’ve got an RV, you’re in luck — this brand carries a queen-short size to fit your camper’s bed.

Tips

  • Cotton sheets wrinkle, so try shaking them before putting them in the dryer. Immediately after removing them from the dryer, smooth the sheets by hand or with an iron.

  • A percale weave is recommended during summer months or if you tend to run hot as a sleeper. Percale is typically lighter in weight and more breathable, depending on the thread count.

  • Make sure the pocket measurement of the fitted sheet is equal to or greater than your mattress height.

  • If you love the luxurious feel of silk, opt for cotton bed sheets with a sateen weave, which will also keep you warmer at night.

  • To reduce pilling, wash your sheets separately from towels and clothing with zippers or other fasteners.

Other products we considered

Buying organic is known to be more expensive, but not necessarily. If you’re in the market for organic sheets at an entry-level price, the Pinzon 300 Count Organic Cotton Sheet Set is GOTS-certified organic — and you can rest assured that no harmful chemicals were involved in its making. Made from 100% non-GMO cotton, this percale weave has a soft, peach-like finish with a crisp, cool feel.

If you’re searching for organic cotton bed sheets with a sateen finish, look no further than the Whisper Organics 100% Organic Cotton Sheet Set. This 300 count, mid-priced set comes soft out of the package, and it gets even softer with each wash. Lightweight and breathable, these GOTS-certified organic sheets are available is a variety of beautiful colors with a nice sheen.

For ultimate softness, choose cotton bed sheets made from cotton with long- or extra-long staples.

FAQ

Q. Do cotton sheets shrink?
A.
Cotton does shrink, so you should wash and dry your cotton bed sheets with care. Washing your sheets in warm or hot water will shrink them a little, so we recommend washing them in cold water, on a gentle cycle. Tumble-drying your cotton bed sheets also runs the risk of shrinking them, so always dry your sheets at the lowest setting for the shortest period of time. Ideally, line drying is the best option. Shrinkage mostly causes problems where the fitted sheet is concerned. The bottom sheet should be easy to get over your mattress but tight enough so that it doesn’t pull off or bunch up under you while you sleep. Heat can also weaken the elastic in the bottom sheet.

Q. How important is thread count in determining the softness of my cotton bed sheets?
A.
Thread count is really the measure of fabric density. But just because a sheet has a high thread count doesn’t necessarily mean it will be softer. A sheet with a lower thread count woven with single-ply yarn is actually softer than a sheet with a higher thread count woven from three-ply yarn. A single-ply yarn is more pliable and thinner — and thus softer — than multiple-ply yarns. The quality of yarn used is often an overlooked factor when it comes to sheet softness. Sateen weaves have a higher thread count, making for a smoother and denser finish, and are often softer than percale weaves. But if you’re a hot sleeper, you might be better off with percale’s lower thread count.

Q. How often should I wash my bed sheets?
A.
Wash your cotton bed sheets weekly to extend their life. Body oils and fluids, skin cells, dust, and dirt all put stress on your sheets’ fibers. Dust mites, which can cause allergic reactions in people with mite sensitivities, feed on flakes of skin that our bodies naturally shed. If you have acne-prone skin, consider washing your bed sheets, especially your pillowcases, even more frequently. A build-up of dirt, sweat, and bacteria can exacerbate your skin condition.

The team that worked on this review
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