Picture your ideal bed. Is it dressed in pristine, dazzling white sheets, ironed to the impeccable standards of a five-star hotel? Or are rumpled soft linens more of an enticement to climb aboard? Perhaps glamorous smooth silk does it for you?  Whatever your snuggle needs and whichever bed ideas you’re drawn to, quality sheets, comforters and pillowcases can turn a basic boudoir into a superior sleep zone.  Some swear by a comforter, others by sheets and blankets, but if you want to start every day as bright as a button, bed linen needs to look as good as it feels.  Classic white need not be plain. Lines, checks, herringbone designs and patterns can be woven in to complement your bedroom ideas. Waffle and seersucker weaves can create texture.  Love a cozy, country feel? Opt for warm, tactile brushed cotton.  Cording, embroidery and insert trims have a subtle cachet that smacks of quality. For the ultimate luxury, add a monogram to sheets and pillowcases; as well as initials, motifs or drawings, which can be hand or machine-embroidered.  Whatever you choose, here’s how to find out how much to spend on sheets and what thread counts really mean.

How much do a good set of sheets cost?

A good set of sheets for a Queen-size bed should cost around $50/£35 to $150/£105 – assuming they have a thread count between 200 and 400.

Thread counts explained

The thread count is simply the number of warp (length) and weft (width) threads per square inch. So, for example, a cotton sheet with 100 warp threads and 100 weft threads per square inch of fabric has a thread count of 200. The exact number in a thread count does depend on the thickness of the yarns used but is usually around 300 to 400. 

Cotton – a thread count of around 200 to 500 denotes average to good quality.Percale – or ‘plain weave’ bed linen – with a thread count of 200 to 400 will be good quality.  Sateen, which is more tightly woven, would generally need a higher thread count to be of good quality – 300 to 600 would be typical.Egyptian Cotton – look for a thread count between 300 to 500.Bamboo – increasingly popular, bamboo needs a thread count of around 300 to 500 to denote quality.Linen – actually, a lower thread count is more beneficial with this material, so while we will list the thread count between 80 and 140, it is rarely labelled as such.

As the numbers – and the prices – go up, sheets should become smoother and softer to the touch.  It’s a myth though, that higher thread counts always denote better quality. Super-high thread counts, such as 1,600, can be deceptive as the higher numbers come from twisting two threads together.  We tend to look out for the thread count as a guide to buying quality linens, but it’s just one factor. The type of cotton, the quality of the yarn and the way the fabric is finished all go towards making superb bed linen.  Rather than get hung up on the thread count, buy the best you can afford and above all, go for the feel.

What is the best thread count for sheets?

The best thread count for the sheet lies somewhere between 200 and 400. Anything lower than 200 won’t feel soft to the touch.  You can, of course, find sheets with higher thread counts than this but it won’t necessarily denote better quality.  In fact, while higher thread count sheets are often sold as better quality, it is not always the case. So rather than just relying on thread count, these are the other buying factors to consider when shopping for sheets: 

The weave – look for ‘percale’ for cool, crisp bedding or ‘sateen’ for luxurious silkiness.The thread – single ply is more durable and breathable than multi-ply.The cotton – long staple cotton is better than short staple if you’re looking for durability with softness.The manufacturing – look for Oeko-Tex certification (opens in new tab) to ensure your bedding isn’t made with harmful chemicals.

Which cotton is best for sheets?

The best cotton for sheets are those which are made with extra-long fibers (long staple) because these create soft but durable fabrics.  These include high quality Egyptian, Supima (strong and soft, although wrinkles easily) and pima – which is the lowest quality of the three but still good enough quality for sheets. With a range of options to choose from, make sure you pick the best mattress to suit your needs, too. 

Is Egyptian cotton best for sheets?

Egyptian cotton is highly prized for sheets since its long staple (fibers) give a smooth touch and make sheets strong and durable.  Supima, a superior brand of pima cotton grown only in the USA has a fiber length of around 1.5in and qualities similar to Egyptian cotton. 

Are linen sheets worth it?

Are linen sheets worth it? The answer is that those inaugurated into the sacred hall of real linen fast become converts.  The flax fibers are woven into breathable bed linen that’s insulating in winter and that lasts and lasts.  Cool to sleep on, linen is a big plus for anyone with better things to do than ironing. True enough, a pass with the iron makes it look immaculate but the moment you hop in it’ll be gloriously rumpled. Linen will soften and become more supple with each wash.

Are silk sheets worth it?

Sumptuous and with a soft drape, silk is the ultimate choice for bed linen and it certainly feels gorgeous to the touch.  Bear in mind that this natural fiber needs careful attention and should be washed at a cool temperature on a gentle cycle using a silk and wool or ‘delicates’ detergent. Line or air dry, followed by a cool to warm iron.  

What is the best weave for sheets?

Sateen is the best weave for sheets. Judged to be the most luxurious of all bed linens, it is woven with longer threads floated across the surface rather than single crossings, giving it a lustrous look and a silky feel that’s pretty much resistant to wrinkling. Bed linen can also be woven as percale, a tight, close-woven type of weave, with the warp and weft threads crossing over and under each other one at a time, resulting in cloth that’s smooth and comfortable to sleep on. 

What is the best blend for sheets?

The best blend for sheets is, in our opinion, a blend of two natural materials, which enhances the overall effect of sleeping beneath 100% cotton sheets. Look out for cotton blended with Tencel TM, produced from sustainably sourced wood using environmentally responsible processes. Polyester added to cotton bed linen makes it stronger, less prone to shrinkage and less likely to crease. These sheets tend to be cheaper, and while they are popular, don’t have that five-star hotel appeal.