How to Buy Luxurious Bed Sheets — Without Losing Sleep Over the Price Tag

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Store owner talking to a woman about the difference between sheet threads
We talked to an expert about the differences among the bedding options you see in stores. Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder

If you heed the advice of science and society, you might consider your bed a sanctuary.

I sure do.

You spend one-third of your life in bed. Tips for getting quality shut-eye include keeping your bedroom cool and dark, banning electronic devices and restricting tucked-in activities to sleeping and, ahem, intimate moments.

But what about the sheets you’re sleeping between? Do they need to be super-expensive to provide a good night’s sleep?

The best bed sheets don’t come cheap, but we found ways to get around those high price tags.

Here’s our Penny Hoarder guide to buying bed sheets that won’t keep you up at night.

Here’s What All That Bed Sheet Lingo Means

A selection of linens is displayed at Villa Rosa Linens in Tampa, Fla. Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder

There are two main terms to focus on when you purchase sheets: thread and weave.

Thread Type

Thread gets woven into bedsheets. Some of the most frequent types you’ll see include:

Egyptian cotton: This is widely regarded as the best of the best. This cotton variety is long-staple, which means it has long, supple fibers.

Pima or Peruvian cotton: This is another long-staple cotton variety. It comes from Peru.

Cotton: There’s also regular old cotton, which is typically grown in India and China. It costs considerably less than Pima or Egyptian cotton but isn’t quite as durable.

Silk, modal and bamboo: These threads, which are sometimes blended with cotton, became popular in the sheeting world more recently. They’re all-natural fibers — modal is made from the beech tree pulp.

Polyester: It’s synthetic, and it’s the same material your dad’s powder-blue tux from the 1970s was made of. OK, polyester isn’t always that ugly. But while it’s one of the cheaper bedding options, it’s not right for everyone. More on that later.

Weave Method

The weave is the way the threads are stitched together to create the sheets. There are two main methods:

Percale: Percale sheets feel crisp. They’re made from a traditional over-under weaving method.

Sateen: These sheets feel smooth and soft. They’re made using a method that places more threads over the top of the weave, which creates that smoothness.

What about flannel and jersey sheets? These soft, cozy sheets can be made from wool, cotton or synthetic threads. Flannel sheets are woven and typically brushed to pull up the fibers for that softness. Jersey sheets are knit loosely to give them that T-shirt feel. These sheets aren’t as durable as cotton options but will last awhile with proper care.

The Real Skinny on Thread Count

Maruchi Azorin, owner of Villa Rosa Linens in Tampa, Fla., explains thread count and sheeting fabrics to Penny Hoarder writer Lisa Rowan. Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder

Thread count is the number of threads woven together in 1 square inch of fabric.

For many, it’s the one way to measure sheet quality. Higher thread count is always better, right?

It’s a little more complicated than that. Thread count can be scandalous.

In 2016, Target, Walmart and Bed Bath & Beyond all cut ties with India-based bedding manufacturer Welspun after learning its Egyptian cotton sheets were falsely labeled. Bed Bath & Beyond even faced a class-action suit over false advertising, although the case was later dismissed. The unreliability of fabric labels and thread counts in recent years has led manufacturers and retailers to turn to DNA testing to verify cotton quality.

So what’s real? What’s fake?

An advertised thread count between 200 and 400 is reasonable and probably accurate. Anything above 400 gets tricky, because manufacturers may use super-thin yarn or add extra thread in between to inflate that thread count.

“If you’re going to compare thread count, you have to do it for products made by the same company,” said Maruchi Azorin, owner of Villa Rosa Linens in Tampa, Florida.

If you’re not comparing apples to apples, you won’t be able to compare the same crops and manufacturing methods.

“You can really only weave together 350 to 400 threads,” Azorin said. That is, unless you start wrapping threads around others before you weave them. That’s how you get thread counts in the 400 to 1,000 range.

But thread count isn’t the only indicator of quality.

If you have French-made Egyptian cotton percale sheets with a 200 thread count, that’s a really nice set of sheets. It’s not just about the number of threads — it’s about the quality of the threads themselves.

The Best Bed Sheets to Buy When Your Budget Doesn’t Match Your Dreams

A selection of bedding options at Villa Rosa Linens in Tampa, Florida

A selection of bedding options are displayed at Villa Rosa Linens. Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder

Let’s look again at this hypothetical set of French-made Egyptian-cotton 200-thread-count percale sheets.

For a queen-size bed, you can expect to pay $300 for that sheet set. Got a king? That’ll be about $400.

That’s your starting point for the highest-quality sheets.

The good news: If you spend that much on sheets, you can expect them to last a long time. We’re talking 10 years or more — the elastic may give out before the sheets themselves. Azorin says if you’re splurging on high-quality sheets, buy them in white or ecru (that creamy off-white) so they’ll go with whatever bedding and decor you pair them with for years to come.

Not ready for a full set of multi-hundred-dollar sheets? Save up for a set of nice pillowcases.

“They’re the closest to your face,” Azorin said. She found a price of $160 for a 300-thread count set of Egyptian cotton, sateen pillowcases.

Still not in your price range? No problem.

Budget snoozers have two primary options for getting a good night’s sleep for less. If you like to get cozy at night or live in a colder climate, you can buy Egyptian cotton-polyester blend sheets. Expect to pay about $120 for a set of 300-thread-count queen sheets.

But if you run hot — you always end up kicking the covers off around 4 a.m. — you should opt for 100% cotton (not Egyptian or Pima, just regular old cotton). It’ll stay cool to the touch all night long.

Expect to pay about $135 for a queen-sized set of 100% cotton sheets. We compared prices for Macy’s Charter Club-brand sheets to give you an idea of what you’d find at a department store, but you may be able to find a bargain at a discount store or online.

Caring for Your Bed Sheets, No Matter How Much You Spent

Azorin has owned her linen shop for more than 30 years and has fielded so many customer inquiries about care that she created a line of linen washes.

The first thing to do to make sure your sheets last is to stop drying them on high heat.

“It breaks the fabric down, which causes pilling on cotton sheets that turn into holes,” Azorin said.

Plus, that high heat breaks down the elastic on fitted sheets.

Instead, dry your sheets on the normal or delicate setting. If you have time and space, hanging them to dry is even better.

Another way to preserve your bedding is to skip using dryer sheets on anything cotton. Dryer sheets are coated with fabric-softening chemicals, Azorin explains, but underneath they’re just pieces of polyester fabric. That polyester is scratchy and too rough for cotton sheets, causing them to pill after too many tumbles with a dryer sheet.

Using a topical medication like benzoyl peroxide for acne? Medication stains never come out. Skip the quality sheets for now, and go with a cheap set.

One final tip from Azorin: If you can’t help but let your pets sleep in bed with you, get a lower thread count in a percale. Your pet’s claws will create holes in other styles of sheets.

Lisa Rowan is a writer and producer at The Penny Hoarder.