How To Choose Sheets & Pillowcases

Sheets and pillowcases can be a surprisingly complicated purchase. You have to make sure they fit your type of bed and pillows. Features like thread count can affect how comfortable the sheets and pillowcases are. Plus, the sheets and pillowcases should ideally match the overall style and color scheme of the bedroom. 

Below we'll cover the ins and outs of sheets and pillowcases. We'll go over the main types and features to help you understand which style, material, size and color work best for your situation

Table of Contents Hide

What Are Some of the Pros and Cons of Different Sheet Materials?

The first and most important part of choosing sheets and pillowcases that you should consider is the materials they come in. Each material has its unique and distinct pros and cons, which we'll cover below.


This is a favored material that usually comes as 100 percent cotton. It's known for being breathable, soft, easy to wash, long-lasting and affordable. 

Some downsides are that cotton is prone to wrinkling very easily and may need a few washes to become softer. Also, as with all cotton products, you have to follow cool water washing instructions so that they don't shrink

Some common types of cotton used for sheets and pillowcases include:

  • Egyptian cotton: This product is known for its extreme softness due to the longer fibers.  It does tend to be on the high-end scale, making it more expensive.

  • Pima cotton: This is another material that is chosen for its softness; however, it also has a stylish sheen to it.

  • Upland cotton: This has shorter fibers, so it's not as soft as the two options above.  However, it tends to be more on the affordable end.

  • Supima: This is a brand of Pima cotton that was made to be soft and absorbent.

  • Organic cotton: This cotton is untreated and woven from cotton plants that are pesticide-free. If you have allergies, are concerned about the environment or have sensitive skin, you will want to look into this option.

Green Egyptian Certified Cotton Sheet Set
100 Natural Cotton Sheet Set
Grey with Dots Egyptian Cotton Sheet Set
Cream Pima Cotton Sheet Set
Aqua Blue Supima Cotton Sheet Set


If you're going for a luxury style in your bedroom and the upscale feel that goes along with it, choose silk.

Silk is actually a product made by silkworms and the fibers are known for their softness. It's also hypoallergenic. Another common feature of this type of material is that it's gentler on skin and hair. If smooth skin and untangled hair are a priority, consider investing in silk.

The most obvious drawback is that silk is very expensive compared to other materials. It also has very specific washing instructions, as it is a very delicate material.


Satin is a man-made material that was produced to mimic silk at a fraction of the price. You might find satin made out of a variety of other materials, like cotton, polyester, wool or even a blend of real silk. Satin sheets are also known for their very cool and soft texture.

Some of the drawbacks are that they can still be on the more expensive side and they tend to be a bit less durable. Satin can tear while being washed. Because it's known for being a cool fabric, you also might not want to use it during winter in cold climates.

Silver Silk Satin Pillowcase
Brown Satin Sheet Set


This is actually a type of cotton bedding that has had the fibers fluffed through combing. You might also find it made of wool or synthetic fibers. What results is an incredibly warm sheet that's great for the winter months. It's also resistant to wrinkling and you can find it on the more affordable end.

A drawback is that it's definitely not a material you want to use in the warmer months or in warm climates. After a while, you might also experience pilling, which is when the material gets those rough little balls of fuzz.

Geometric Grey Flannel Pillowcases
Brown Deer Flannel Sheet Set
Floral Sheet Set with Flannel Weave
Aqua Green Flannel Sheet Set
Yellow Plain Flannel Sheet Set
 Turkish Cotton Flannel Sheet Set


You might see this term used to describe sheets and pillowcases in general, but it also pertains to a specific material. Linen is woven out of flax. It's a thick and durable option that can last even longer than other types with proper care. It's also breathable and absorbs moisture. It stays cool in the summer and warm in the winter, making this a great year-round bedding option.

However, it wrinkles easily and may pill.

Simple White Linen Sheet Set
Rustic Solid Linen Flat Sheet
Cream Linen Pillowcase Set
Simple Soft Linen Sheet Set
Elegant Linen Sheet Set
White Linen Cotton Blend Sheet


You might also see this type referred to as microfiber if it's very finely woven. A synthetic material, it ranges all around the quality levels and price points. The main draw is that it is inexpensive. Microfiber itself can be soft and breathable. Some options are made to be moisture-wicking. On top of that, it's stain-resistant and durable. It also holdscolor better for longer, so choose this type if style is a major consideration. It's also wrinkle-free and hypoallergenic: the tight weaves prevent dust mites from finding a home.

While this material might seem like it can do it all, polyester can often be stiff by itself and you might need to find a blend.

Black Microfiber Polyester Sheet Set
Taupe Geometric Polyester Sheet Set
Grey Silky Polyester Blend Sheet
Grey Geometric Sheet Set with Polyester and Microfiber
Cream Lace Polyester Sheet Set
Polka Dots Sheet Set with Polyester


It's also common to see blends of different fabrics, with cotton and polyester being the most common. These were often made with the idea of getting the best of a certain type of material, but at a more affordable price. They also might be made with certain features in mind, like being wrinkle-resistant or durable.

A drawback is that sometimes blends can get too cheap. Watch out for sheets that are high in synthetic materials, usually over 30 percent. These can start to feel less comfortable.

What is Percale vs. Sateen?

You'll often see the terms percale and sateen thrown around, often with little explanation given. So below we'll outline what each is, as well as the pros and cons of each.

  • Percale: Percale is a type of tightly woven, flat cotton sheet with a crisp finish. When you think of the neat, bright white sheets in a hotel room, that's the look percale is going for. If you want a perfect, put-together bedroom, choose percale.

A major downside is that it tends to be expensive and that crispness might translate to being too rigid for some people. It does help you stay cooler at night. It also may require ironing for the crispest look possible.

  • Sateen: These are made with comfort in mind. They have smooth and heavy finishes with an extreme softness to them. The style comes with a slight sheen, making the sheets great for luxury styles in the bedroom. This type of sheet focuses on helping you stay warmer. There is also no ironing required.

However, sateen tends to be more expensive and may not be the best fit for you if you tend to get warm at night.   

How Do You Find Eco-Friendly Bedding?

As mentioned above, many cotton varieties are eco-friendly. Cotton is a renewable resource to begin with and organic cotton wasn't treated with pesticides. Many brands also focus on harvesting that cotton in sustainable ways. Similarly, you might also find organic hemp or organic linen

Another option is to find other sustainable materials. You can even find sheets made out of bamboo, as an example. Bamboo sheets can be made to be soft, breathable, moisture-wicking, antibacterial, hypoallergenic and durable. It's even known for getting softer the more times it's washed. Bamboo itself is sustainable because it grows back very quickly.  

One drawback is that bamboo sheets & pillowcases can be moreexpensive. You also have to shop carefully to make sure the manufacturing process the company uses is environmentally friendly. Sometimes a lot of harsh processing goes into making sheets.

Another common term you'll come across when looking for organic sheets is Tencel - a material made from the pulp of eucalyptus trees. It's a type of sheet that can take fewer chemicals and other resources to produce. It's durable, soft and antimicrobial. However, Tencel is not as breathable as other options like cotton.

As a general note, not all eco-friendly labels are the same. Make sure the brand is well-recognized as being legitimately organic by doing some online research before you purchase. You also may want to make sure the brand carries some sort of independent verification, like if it's Fair Trade Certified or Rainforest Alliance Certified.

How to get the right size sheet?

Start by measuring the height of your mattress, including the mattress topper. If your mattress if very deep, you might need to look for labels like "deep" or "extra deep." 

Some brands don't give those measurements, however. You may have to buy a sheet from a place with a good return policy and just try them on your bed yourself. The sheet should fit tightly over the bed, fit fully around all corners and not require too much of a struggle to get on the bed.

Also check what size your bed is, such as a twin, king or queen. That will inform the type of sheet fit labels you look for.

What are the best color choices for sheets and pillowcases?

When it comes to color choices, you can boil your options down to a few major categories:


This go-to classic fits into just about any home style. Being neutral and minimalistic, it looks great in sleek, modern and upscale styles, but also adds a fresh, crisp feel to rustic style bedrooms. However, if you tend to eat in bed or are choosing sheets for a children's bedroom, remember that white shows stains, often forever.

Solid colors

Bedsheets and pillowcases come in every color and shade you can imagine. Choose neutral shades such as gray for a timeless, transitional look. Go with bright shades for a colorful artsy area or children's room but remember some colors such as red or orange have a stimulating effect and should not be overused in bedrooms. Any of the myriad blue shades will creates a relaxing feel, and so will all pastel colors. An easy way to choose a color, too, is to match it to the walls or color accents present in a room


A versatile option, geometric shapes look great in a modern, luxury or even classic space. Florals are perfect for traditional and shabby chic arrangements. Leaf motifs bring a natural, organic feel to your beds cape, while themed sheets are a classic favorite for children's rooms.

The choice of a pattern is basically a personal decision as there are no rules carved in stone for that. However, the general recommendation is that bold and busy-looking patterns work best in bedrooms that are otherwise kept neutral and uncluttered.

Classic White Polyester Sheet Set
White Stripped Cotton Sheet Set
Light Pink Sheet Set
Turquoise Plain Microfiber Sheet Set
Blue Stripped Pattern Cotton Sheet Set
Grey Leaves Pattern Sheet Set

How does thread count affect comfort?

Another common term you'll see when shopping for sheets and pillowcases is thread count. With amounts ranging from around 100 to over 1,000, it's easy to start stressing about getting just the right number. 

Thread count simply measures the number of horizontal and vertical threads in every square inch. Higher thread counts generally mean softer sheets. Also, higher thread counts can even mean the sheet will wear better when washed over time and even get softer. 

However, you can rest easy when it comes to thread count numbers. Higher is not automatically better, as some manufactures will inflate the number. Other types, like linen, naturally have lower thread counts because the fibers are thicker. Some lower thread counts also might make up for it with nice finishes. 

Some types of materials will also not have thread counts, such as silk, which measures how much the silk weighs.   

In general, 200-count combed cotton from a well-known brand can work if you're on a budget, and around 300 to 400 is a decent thread count range for cotton sheets, as Jim Symmes, vice president at sheet manufacturing company Revman International, told HGTV.

Quick Tips

That was a lot of information for something as seemingly simple as bedsheets and pillowcases. However, it's important to find the correct material, style and size for your situation. After all, you sleep on every night. To make it easier, here are some key takeaways:

  • Every material has its pros and cons. Decide on your top priorities (like softness, staying warm or allergy concerns) and decide on materials using those focal points.

  • If the environment is a concern, look for sustainable materials like bamboo, Tencel, hemp or organic linen. Look for independent certifications, like Fair Trade Certified or Rainforest Alliance Certified.

  • Make sure to measure your mattress before shopping for sheets & pillowcases, as that will inform you about which dimensions you are looking for.

  • Color choices should fit with the color schemeof the room and personal preference.

  • Thread count isn't a number you need to stress over: 200-400 counts are generally fine.