Contrary to popular belief, thread count isn't everything! It turns out material can be more important for softness than thread count. To find the best sheets out there, we looked for the best-reviewed brands that offered delightfully soft and well-rounded products, with features like wrinkle-resistant material, washability, and durability. While there are great options for both cotton sheets and polyester, keep in mind that cotton sheets can be divided into sateen and percale - and your preference will depend on how you sleep. For sleepers looking for that soft, silky comfort, a sateen set is ideal, while those who tend to overheat in their sleep will appreciate the breathability and crisp texture of a percale set.
Woven out of 100% long-staple cotton to a 480 thread count for an elegant and smooth sateen weave, these sheets are premium high-end quality. With over 5000 reviews and a five-star average, customers praise the ultra light, soft feel that washes and dries spectacularly and spreads wrinkle-free. These sateen sheets are on the thinner side with just the right level of subtle crispness and a luxuriously smooth finish. The Brooklinen Luxe set comes in a wide variety of colors and patterns, along with a lifetime warranty.
Made from 100% long-staple pima cotton, this percale sheet set offers a super smooth, yet crisp texture. Sleepers who typically have trouble with sheets trapping heat find these sheets pleasantly breathable and light, providing that classic, cool feeling against the skin. This set continues to soften after multiple washings, and is sturdy and resistant to tearing. Reviewers who've used this set for years say the quality holds up well without fading, pilling, or shrinking in the wash. Accommodating mattresses as thick as 15 inches, these sheets are wrinkle-resistant and priced in the medium range. L.L. Bean offers a lifetime guarantee on the quality of craftsmanship, though these sheets come in a more limited range of colors.
A shockingly inexpensive microfiber sheet set, these polyester sheets are woven extremely fine for maximum softness. Breathable, durable, dust-mite resistant, wrinkle-free, and resistant to pilling, Mellanni sheets stretch over mattresses up to 16 inches thick. According to buyers, this set washes and dries amazingly well and will not shrink. The manufacturer guarantees satisfaction as well, offering a 100% refund if the sheets don't meet expectations. They probably will though, being the bestselling sheets on Amazon. With almost 40,000 reviews, these sheets are a hit for those on a budget looking for super soft bedding and come in a wide variety of colors with a few patterned options.
Thread count simply refers to the number of threads woven into a square inch of material. A higher thread count actually does not guarantee maximum softness, and according to textile experts, while some companies may claim thread counts as high as 1000, there is no practical difference in softness between a "1000 thread count" and a thread count of 400. (This is because manufacturers will twist together fine threads into larger threads so they can claim a higher thread count and appeal to consumers who think thread count is the ultimate barometer of softness.)
It turns out the more important factor in determinating softness is as basic as the fabric itself. Longer fibers are preferred since short fibers can poke out from the thread weave which makes for a rougher, coarser material that's not as strong. The absolute best sheet material is Egyptian cotton, since its long fibers are strong and durable. The second best cotton is Pima cotton (known as "Supima"), while an unspecified cotton is typically American upland cotton, which is cheaper and tends to be rougher.
Essentially, cotton is a natural fiber whereas polyester is the result of a chemical reaction involving applying extreme heat to coal, petroleum by-products, alcohol, and carboxyl acid. Polyester tends to be less breathable and has a reputation for sealing in heat and moisture, absorbing stains, and pilling. Polyester is also more susceptible to static and can cause irritation to sensitive skin. Cotton is definitely the tried-and-true winner when it comes to bed sheets, since its naturally hypoallergenic, odor-resistant, breathable, soft, and strong.
Whether you'll prefer percale to sateen comes down to your body and sleep habits. Percale is a one-yard-over and one-yard-under weave that results in a more matte look and a crisp, cool texture. Percale is the sheet type of choice for warmer sleepers who need a material that's lightweight and breathable. Sateen, on the other hand, is closer to a satin feel, woven together using a one-yarn-under and three-yarn-over or four-yarn-over technique that leaves more thread surface exposed for that silky texture and glossier sheen. More tightly woven and wrinkle-resistant, Sateen is a heavier feel but is known to have a buttery, soft texture.
Think you've found the perfect set of sheets, in just the right color or pattern and you're ready to whip out that credit card? There's just a few more tiny details to consider before you make things final! Look into whether the sheets you're buying have a history of washing well, information you can access by looking up product reviews online. You'll want to stay away from brands that have a history of shrinking or drying wrinkly, since there's nothing more annoying than standing over an ironing board ironing king size sheets. Pay special attention to whether reviews mention pilling or patchy cotton, and look for comments on the durability of the material.
Ultimately, your dream sheets will come down to how you prefer to sleep, and what type of bedding you find most comfortable. While some people enjoy a thicker sheet set, others will like a thinner, lighter material. Those with sensitive skin or allergies will naturally opt for cotton rather than polyester, and those looking for great sheets for less can find excellent polyester options without breaking the bank.
You may have to try out many different types to find the material that works best for you. But once you find that perfect set, it's worth the investment and you'll never go back!