Advertising arrives in the newspaper, by email, or even by tweet to encourage you to buy items that are on sale. However, some things still go by the calendar. January’s traditional “white” sales offer the best time of the year to buy linens and bedding. If buying sheets are on your agenda this January, let’s look at some ways to get the most for your money.
Sheets are amazingly durable products. In my linen closet, I recently ran across some sheets that were purchased by my mother in the early ’60s. Though the sheets haven’t been washed every week since then, it is amazing that any product will last that long. If you want to invest in some long-term sheet purchases like these, you need to know what is important to evaluate.
Thread count is the go-to number for most of us. This is the number of threads in 1 square inch of the sheet. The more threads, the smoother the finish and the more durable the product. But there is a limit on the number of thread count the body can distinguish. Experts tell us that most of us can feel the difference up to a 300 thread count, but once that threshold is reached, the difference is negligible. Higher thread counts may not feel much better, but they do result in a more durable product.
There are other factors that can help you choose a high quality sheet, namely fiber, finish and weave.
What is the fiber of the sheet? A cotton/polyester blend sheet is wrinkle resistant. They last a long time, since polyester lasts longer than cotton and will cost you less. If you choose a polyester blend, opt for a sheet with not more than 30 percent polyester. Sheets with a high percentage of synthetics are less comfortable.
All cotton sheets may tend to be a bit more wrinkled (that’s why your grandmother ironed her sheets), but cotton is absorbent, resulting in a sheet that wicks moisture away from your body. If you are a hot sleeper, 100 percent cotton sheets are a must.
If you’ve decided to invest in all cotton sheets, even the type of cotton can make a difference on the way the sheets feel. Egyptian cotton has longer fibers and is very sumptuous and luxurious to the touch. Pima cotton is the most luxurious American cotton, often sold under the name Supima. These high quality sheets don’t come cheap. Egyptian sheets can run as high as $500 a set and the Pima sheets as high as $200. If the sheets say simply 100 percent cotton, you are probably buying one of the less expensive short staple American cottons.
The weave of the fabric affects the way the sheets feel. There are two main types of weaves: percale and sateen. Percale is an even weave with the same number of horizontal as vertical threads. Percale has a crisp, cool feel and is perfect for those people who overheat when they sleep. Sateen has more vertical than horizontal yarns and is heavier and softer than percale. One is not better than the other, the choice here is determined by what you prefer.
Dyes are applied after the sheets are woven, so they may be a little stiff until they have been washed a few times.
A good set of sheets that is taken care of will last you for many years. Make sure you buy sheets that will meet your needs now and in the future.
Roxie Rodgers Dinstel is associate director of Cooperative Extension Service, a part of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, working in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Questions or column requests can be e-mailed to her at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 907-474-7201.