Welcome to Best of the Test, a thoroughly tested, expertly vetted, only semi-serious product recommendation series. Join us as we sleep with a dozen different bed sheets, make gallons of ice, air fry all the wings, and more in pursuit of the very best things to buy.
It’s ironic to think that I’ve lost sleep over testing, and writing about, the best bed sheets, but here we are—one year, a dozen sheet sets, and several thousand words later.
If there's one lesson I've learned from my past life as a beauty editor, it’s that there’s no one best thing for anyone. For instance, a retinol cream for someone with combination skin is going to work differently for someone with sensitive skin. Turns out, it's not too different with bed sheets: There's no single set of sheets that will work for everyone, every situation, and every budget. This is why I've tested a dozen of the best-selling bed sheets, from the most popular brands, in search of the best options for a range of sleepers—and budgets.
In the pursuit of scientific inquiry, I also spoke with Professor Preeti Gopinath, director of the MFA Textiles program and an associate professor at the School of Fashion at Parsons, The New School, who has decades of experience in the textiles and fabrics space, and especially in bedding.
So how did I arrive at our final sample set? Well, I researched the top-selling bedding brands in the U.S. as well as the most popular brands on the internet from direct-to-consumer start-ups, heritage brands, and big-box online retailers. I also checked in with Food52 Shop buyer Shareen Singh on her favorite and polled our community. (Yes, you!)
Ultimately, I tested a dozen sheet sets that each included a flat sheet, fitted sheet, duvet cover, and set of pillow cases over the course of a year. Even though I don’t normally use a flat sheet, I used it in place of a duvet cover for sets that didn’t come with one and also as my control group for color. It also helped decrease the number of variables that could affect factors like breathability and comfort. Testing bed sheets isn't rocket science, but I’ve tried to get as close to it as possible.
With each set, I noted first impressions and prices, as well as:
Washability: When I first received the sheets, I washed and dried each set three consecutive times in its own load to avoid color transferring—and only with cold tap water. Then when I rotated through the sheet sets, I washed them every three to four weeks, and compared pieces to the sets’ flat sheet and looked out for pilling, stretching, wrinkling, and shedding.
Color: I compared each set to its respective control group and noted if there was any fading, and whether it was pervasive or concentrated in a single spot. I also noted the range of colors and patterns available.
Ease of making the bed: When making my bed with each set of sheets, I noted how easy (or hard) it was to stretch the elastic over the corners; whether the elastic got tighter or stretched out over time; if the fitted sheet fit my mattress well; and if the flat sheet accommodated my duvet easily. For reference, I have a 10-inch king-size Saatva mattress and a Quince comforter in King/Cal King. For pillowcases, I noted how well they fit my Marlow pillow and my husband’s Coop pillow (both king-size), and whether or not they had any standout features such as envelope closures and decorative stitching.
Comfort: The most subjective test of all: I slept with each set of sheets for several consecutive weeks at a time and rotated through all 12 sheet sets several times over the year, noting breathability, how they felt overnight, whether they caused me to overheat, and more.
For the short and sweet version of our test results, here's how the bed sheets stacked up. Not every set I tested made it in, so for all the deets, including the runners-up in each category, keep reading.
Price: Starting at $228 for a twin set
Material & weave: 100 percent organic cotton sateen
Color range: 7 soft, neutral shades
Hot—not just merely warm—sleepers will appreciate how cool these Boll & Branch sateen sheets are right out of the box, and how they stay that way through the night. In fact, they’re so crisp even after multiple washings that when I shifted in bed to put my phone down after taking notes long after my husband had fallen asleep, I was instantly detected—heads up that they make a sound!
Sateen sheets feel like a crisp button-down shirt, so my bed always looked sharp—not unlike what you’d find at a nice hotel. The decorative thin stitching by the pillowcase opening and the sides of the flat sheet brought the hotel vibes home, as did the slight sheen that came from the sateen weaving. Note that the classic white sheets will look slightly more matte than the deeper shades of gray and blue, and depending on how often you change out your sheets, be wary of a slight yellowing due to your body oils—nothing that the next wash couldn't get out. For those who want an even sharper look, there’s a version of the sheets with embroidered stitching.
According to the brand, the sheets and pillowcases are initially oversize to account for natural shrinkage when washing and drying. The sheets shrunk a little through multiple washings, but still stayed crisp and mostly wrinkle-free—those who like a lived-in look won’t find it here. The pillowcases also shrunk as my testing went on, but still wound up being an inch longer than most of the other cases I tested. They didn’t have an envelope closure, so my Marlow pillow shifted a bit throughout testing, but the oversize case kept it from ever fully peeking out. The crispness of the fabric also kept the general shape of the pillow and didn’t look droopy on the open end, unlike the ones I tested from Mellanni.
Starting at $228 for a twin set, these are an investment—they’ve also increased in price since I started testing them this time last year (no) thanks to inflation. But for icy-cool sheets with zero lint or pilling, and a curated color palette that makes mismatched bedding look intentional, these are the best I’ve tested.
Brooklinen's Luxe Sateen Sheets gave Boll & Branch a run for its money, and they were very close, but ultimately, I slept cooler with the latter. The two are quite similar, and should you be in the market for a more drapey, lived-in set of sateen sheets, I’d go with Brooklinen. It also has the advantage of more colors, including fun seasonal shades and prints, and a lower starting price, with regular sales throughout the year, too.
Price: Starting at $248 for a twin set
Material & weave: 100 percent organic brushed cotton
Color range: 11 shades, ranging from neutral solids to stripes and plaids
Imagine sleeping in your most well-worn flannel from college: the one with a missing button and permanent crease in the crooks of the elbows. Now, what if I told you that sleeping on Boll & Branch’s flannel sheets beats that comfort? Technically, these aren’t the brand’s best-selling sheets, but they're still very popular, and after testing them against fan-favorite L.L.Bean, I’d argue that these should be among the biggest draws.
Those who sleep cold will rarely want to sleep on anything else, and this is one of those times when I count myself lucky to have freezing limbs. The sheets are brushed on both sides, so they’re true flannel, and are incredibly soft, cozy, and breathable. They’re not heavy per se but have a good heft; the brand notes that the sheets weigh more than 5 ounces. (Flannel is measured by ounces per square yard of fabric, and 5 ounces is the benchmark for quality flannel.)
While there aren’t any labels to denote the different sides, once I figured out that the care tag was along the short side, making the bed was easy—well, as long as I remembered it for the next time.
The sheets left some soft blue fibers in the lint trap of my dryer, though considerably less than Brooklinen's linen sheets, but it decreased as my testing went on. According to Gopinath, “Flannel sheets have brushed fibers on the surface that shed faster. When smaller fibers break and fall off due to abrasion or friction in the washing machine and dryer, we see them collect in the lint trap.” Thankfully, the shedding stopped at the lint trap. While there wasn’t any pilling during the initial testing period, some developed over time, especially toward the bottom of the sheets where my feet are.
There are 11 solids and patterns to choose from, from classic white to grey plaid, although there’s more of the latter. Nonetheless, I appreciated that the plaids, buffalo checks, and stripes came in neutral shades, with the one exception of a smoky red. Just because you love flannel doesn’t mean you have to shout it from the bedroom.
The sheets arrived in a canvas bag tucked inside a sturdy white gift box that I employed to organize my linen closet. It feels extravagant for bed sheets and more like what you’d expect for a high-end bag, but when prices start at $248 for a set, pomp and circumstance only seems right.
Runner-up: L.L.Bean’s Ultrasoft Comfort Flannel came in a close second for the best sheets for cold sleepers, but the mid-weight fabric didn’t feel as thick as Boll & Branch’s. It’s brushed on both sides for maximum coziness as well, but feels thinner and less dense, so it's better for year-round use than cold weather specifically. However, it's still super soft—and is friendlier on the wallet, too.
Price: Starting at $159 for a twin set
Material & weave: 100 percent cotton sateen
Color range: 14 shades, from neutrals to bold, punchy colors
At first touch, Brooklinen’s sateen sheets feel like butter that’s been resting on the countertop for hours, and somehow they became even softer after laundering. The Bluestone shade I tested was rich and deep, and remained that way throughout multiple wash cycles. The luminous finish of the weaving also gave the sheets a certain level of depth and richness that you can’t really get from matte percale and microfiber.
They came out of the dryer with a few surface wrinkles that smoothed out once I made the bed. Like all of Brooklinen’s other bed sheets, these have labels indicating the sides of the fitted sheet. The corners slipped over my 10-inch mattress snugly (with room to fit 15-inch mattresses) and never popped off throughout testing.
Made with 100 percent long-staple cotton, the sheets were breathable and didn’t cause me to become hot or uncomfortable through the night, especially during the multiple heat waves the Northeast has seen this summer. I'm a pretty cold sleeper, and at one point in the middle of winter last year, these felt almost too cold against my skin.
The pillowcases have envelope closures that hugged my Marlow pillow perfectly (which is made by the same folks at Brooklinen), but considering how finished the sateen sheets made my bed look, I would’ve appreciated decorative trim or stitching to dress up the pillows.
The sateen sheets come in 14 shades across the brand’s mainstay shades and limited-edition releases, and just like with the linen sheets, there are several sheet sets, depending on your bedding needs.
I liked Riley’s sateen sheets a lot, but the combed cotton makes them feel and drape more like percale. They have a luxurious sheen that made the colors pop, but also looked more like silk. These aren’t negatives, but if you’re in the market for sateen, you’re in the market for something a bit more structured and sharp.
Price: Starting at $120 for a twin set Material & weave: 100 percent long-staple combed cotton percale Color range: 15 rich, saturated shades
Right out of the bag, Riley’s percale sheets are cool, crisp, and saturated in color. It felt wrong to shove such pristine sheets into the washer and dryer, so I was relieved to see that the olive green shade I tested remained richly hued, and that wrinkles were barely noticeable once I made my bed.
Made in Portugal with 100 percent long-staple cotton and a basic crisscross weave of one-over, one-under, the sheets stayed cool overnight. As someone who starts to glisten during a brisk walk, I never once felt uncomfortable sleeping with these sheets—not even during a heat wave. There was no lint to speak of during any of the drying cycles, or any pilling or balls of fabric to be seen either—a welcome respite after testing linen sheets that left a trail everywhere they went.
The crispness of the percale weave and matte cotton fabric made my bed look smart and grown-up, but not in a stuffy way. The material wasn’t as stiff as sateen or fluid like microfiber, just a perfect weight and drape that made my bedroom look pulled together.
Riley nails all the big stuff—the sheets are cool to the touch, breathable, and sharp—but it also excels at the little details. Like the generously sized envelope closure that ensures my pillow doesn’t slide around. And the thin baratta stitching on the pillowcases and flat sheet that add just enough decoration.
As far as prices go, Riley’s are reasonable. A basic bundle with a fitted sheet and two standard or king pillowcases starts at $120 for a twin, and can go up to $160 for a California king. As someone who doesn’t normally use a flat sheet (but tested them begrudgingly), I appreciated that it was an add-on and not a standard part of the package. But as someone who also likes matching bedding, I wish the duvet cover was included in the basic set instead of being an extra cost.
Riley’s percale sheet set arrived in a plastic bag with button closure, which is fine for storage in theory, but in practice, the rigidity of the bag is inconvenient because you can never fold the sheets as nicely as how they arrived.
If you have the budget, Boll & Branch’s Percale Hemmed Sheet Set is an investment you can cash in on every night. Similar to Riley’s percale sheets, they’re smooth and buttery, and have a similar stitching on the hem, pillow, and flat sheet for hotel-inspired sharpness. They’re also made with 100 percent organic cotton, and the fitted sheet has elastic on all four sides, so they’ll never pop off your mattress. However, they start at $228 for a twin set.
The sheets were super soft to begin with and somehow got softer during the testing process. They also got increasingly wrinkly and rumpled—an inverse relationship, if you will—but it’s all part of the fabric’s charm. The wrinkled hems didn’t help with bed-making, but thankfully, the fitted sheet had labels for the long and short sides and the duvet cover had ties so the duvet wouldn’t slip around. The look is an acquired taste, so if you prefer smooth sheets, you’d want to stay as far away from linen in general as you can.
The sheets washed well, but averaged two drying cycles because the loose, drapey fabric would wind itself up into a large ball and not actually dry. And the lint—oh, the lint... The compartment was stuffed about an inch thick with terra-cotta fibers, and my FiveTwo Wool Dryer Balls were so covered I had to use my Steamery fabric shaver to remove the fuzzies before the next load. In the first few weeks of testing, I’d find little balls of linen everywhere—on the sheets (especially around the foot of the bed), my clothes, my hair, and the floor. This eventually tapered off, but I'm still finding balls of fluff on the floor to this day. On the flip side, the colors are super saturated and gorgeous; the burnt terra-cotta shade has stayed true to color throughout the year, reminding me of fall even on incredibly stuffy summer nights.
Brooklinen’s linen is an investment, but there are various sets that make it easy to get only what you want for your bed. The Hardcore set is fully stocked with a flat sheet, fitted sheet, four pillowcases, and a duvet cover, but if you just need the basics, the Starter Set has just a fitted sheet and two pillowcases. However, note that there’s a limited number of colors for the Starter Set, so your options are more neutral colors like cream, white, and grey.
The Brooklinen sheets came in canvas bags, which are great for storing perfectly pressed and folded sheets. I’m more a shover than a folder, so I stored all the sheets in the pillowcase instead.
Since linen can be divisive, it’s not a best-seller for many brands based on our testing criteria, which limited my testing pool for linen sheets. That said, I think Saatva’s linen sheets are a good second. They're incredibly soft and breathable, and fit mattresses up to 16 inches, but they’re also a bigger investment, starting at $245 for a twin. There's usually a sale on certain colors, but the selection is generally much more limited, so fans of neutral bedding might find their new fave here.
Price: Starting at $109 for a twin set
Material & weave: 100 percent brushed cotton flannel
Color range: 14 cool shades, with a handful of solids, stripes, and plaids
There’s not a flannel fan who doesn’t rave about L.L.Bean’s flannel sheets, and I can finally see why. While not incredibly thick, these have a lighter weight than Boll & Branch’s flannel set, so they would be great for year-round use—especially for those who sleep cool and don't like how crisp sateen or percale feels against their skin. I tested these in the winter and summer to compare against Boll & Branch and Riley, and I didn’t feel too hot or too cold either time. While I preferred Boll & Branch’s flannel as a very cold sleeper, L.L.Bean’s lighter flannel is better suited for those who are middle-of-the-road cool or warm sleepers, and the lower price is easier to stomach, too.
As to be expected from brushed cotton flannel, there was a good amount of lint in the dryer and a few fuzzies at the bottom end of the sheets, though not as much as you'd see with linen sheets, and they tapered off as testing went on.
There are eight shades of solids, stripes, and a classic checked pattern, and most are cool, dusty tones, save for a saturated marine blue. I wish the colors were a bit more exciting, but I can see how they fit within L.L.Bean’s ecosystem; for fans of the brand's look, they're easy to mix and match into your existing sets.
Riley’s Brushed Cotton sheets are just as soft, cozy, and lightweight as L.L.Bean’s flannel, but thinner; those who prefer sheets that are more room temp, and not cool like sateen or percale, would fare well with these. However, there are only two striped patterns, and a higher price tag to start. Like its percale cousin, there’s an option to add a flat sheet.
Price: Starting at $46.97 for a twin set
Material & weave: 100 percent polyester
Color range: 42 (yes, 42) shades that range from solids to prints and florals
Amazon buys can be hit or miss, but this budget-friendly best-seller was a surprisingly good hit. The sheets come in more than 40 colors; solids run the gamut from your usual whites and greys to teal and orange, and prints vary from stripes to vibrant florals. They also start at under $50 for a twin set and go on sale often, so you’re bound to come across a good deal, but it won’t be without some small compromises.
The sheets are made with 100 percent polyester, a synthetic material used in a lot of clothing and hailed for its wrinkle-resistant properties. Gopinath explains that the material also has great wicking properties but is less breathable, and can pill after multiple washes.
The microfiber sheets felt like silk without any of the glossiness, and they maintained that fluidity through multiple wash and dry cycles. These are the kinds of sheets that you want to sleep on after shaving your legs—it’s just got that silky-smooth feel that you can’t help but run your fingers (or legs) across. They’re not cool to the touch like percale or sateen, but they stayed cool overnight—kinda like activewear wicking away heat and sweat rather than letting air flow through.
However, the material is quite thin and tangled up the most in the dryer, although they came out wrinkle-free and smoothed out over the bed. That thinness also resulted in very sheer sheets: I was able to clearly see the Saatva logo on my mattress, but I’d imagine that layering a flat sheet would create more opacity. Maybe there’s use for a flat sheet after all…
The pillow cases were about half an inch longer than Boll & Branch’s Signature sateen sheets (the largest of what I tested) and had a very shallow envelope closure. Those two factors combined with the drapey material made my beloved Marlow pillow look a bit droopy.
If you’re not big on presentation or picture-perfect storage, you’ll be satisfied with Mellanni’s plastic zippered pouch. It serves its purpose for storage and organization, though mine broke along the seams—still, nothing that a little tape couldn’t fix.
Our community really loves Target’s budget-friendly cotton sateen sheets, which also have the advantage of being naturally breathable (unlike synthetic polyester). The prices start at $35, so they’re comparable to Mellanni’s, and there are slightly more solids and patterns to choose from.
Price: Starting at $35 for a twin set
Material & weave: 100 percent cotton sateen
Color range: 49 shades (!!!), ranging from classic solids to seasonal prints
When we polled our Instagram community about their favorite bed sheets, the responses were clear: You really, really love Target’s Threshold sateen sheets. We can see why! They’re soft as can be, and are available in a whopping 49 shades, ranging from solids and patterns to seasonal prints, plus they max out at $65 for a California king set. Extra pillowcases and duvet covers are sold separately, also at budget-friendly prices.
The sheets are made with 100 percent cotton but aren’t organic or long-staple, so they might be less durable than others made with longer fibers. However, they do meet the Standard 100 by OEKO-TEX guidelines, like many of the other sheets we tested, which means they exclude more than 350 harmful substances, like formaldehyde and nickel.
Price: Starting at $78 for separates in Queen
Material & weave: 100 percent Belgian linen
Color range: 18 rich shades that run the gamut
Food52 Shop Buyer Shareen Singh couldn’t stop raving about her favorite linen sheets from Hawkins New York. The sheets are made of 100 percent Belgian linen, so they’re super soft and full of charming wrinkles that get better with age. There’s an impressive shade range to choose from—18 to be exact—and like most other sheet sheets I tested, these come in sets and à la carte, so you can mix and match your bedding however you’d like. Singh loves how the fabric keeps her cool overnight, and that the sheets look welcoming and perfectly lived-in.
Percale and sateen refer to the construction, or weaving, of a fabric. Percale is a traditional crisscross, with a one thread under, one thread over weave; sateen is one under, three or four over. “Generally speaking, sateen weave creates a smoother, denser, and heavier fabric as compared to the plain weave in a percale fabric,” says Gopinath.
What are considered “breathable” materials?
“Breathability depends more on the fiber content of the fabric,” says Gopinath. Fibers like cotton and linen are naturally breathable, while synthetic fibers like polyester are not. However, they do have the advantage of being better at wicking moisture away from the body, which results in "comfort cooling."
What’s long-staple cotton?
Long-staple cotton just means long cotton fibers as opposed to short. This results in finer yarns, better durability, and less shedding.
Is thread count important when shopping for bed sheets?
In two words: yes, but…! And it’s a big but, too.
Thread count refers to the number of yarns or threads per square inch of fabric, which usually indicates how fine the threads are. The more threads you can pack in, the softer and smoother the sheets will be. But Gopinath says that a high thread count is not the single determinant of high-quality sheets, because fiber content and fabric structure also play important roles, maybe even more important ones; for example, a sateen weave naturally is denser than percale and therefore has more yarns per square inch and a higher thread count. You can read all about thread count over here.
How often should you wash your bed sheets?
Personally, I stretch it to every three or four weeks, so having to swap sheets every week for this guide was…a lot. But depending on your lifestyle, allergies, and your personal hygiene habits, Gopinath says you might need to wash your sheets weekly or every two weeks.
What are the best materials for bed sheets?
This is a tricky one, and there’s no straightforward answer—even Gopinath herself says there are so many nuances. But some general tips to keep in mind:
For soft, cool sheets with a luxurious drape, try cotton sateen sheets with a thread count between 400 and 600.
For crisp, lightweight sheets with a bit of texture, try percale sheets with a 250 to 300 thread count.
For texture, heft, and drape—and if you don’t mind the natural wrinkly “charm,” as Gopinath calls it—try linen.
For cozy sheets that won’t feel cool even during the winter, try flannel.
This post was updated in August 2022 after eight more months of testing bed sheets.
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