Sheets and pillowcases protect your mattress and pillows from dirt and dust. A sheet set includes a fitted sheet, a flat or top sheet, and two standard pillowcases. (A twin-size sheet set will include only one pillowcase. A king-size sheet set will include two king size pillowcases.) Bedsheets are available in the same sizes as mattresses: twin, full, queen, king and California king.
The chart below depicts standard bedsheet sizes (in inches). Please note that sizes vary by brand, so consult the manufacturer's guidelines before you purchase. Also, realize that mattress thicknesses vary, due in part to additions like pillow tops. The sheet pocket depth on a fitted sheet must be large enough to accommodate your mattress. Sierra Trading Post provides the pocket depth for many of its sheet sets, so you can compare this measurement to your mattress thickness and be sure to get the right set.
Bed Size Fitted Sheet Flat Sheet Pillowcase Twin 39x76" 66x96" 20x30" Full 54x76" 81x96" 20x30" Queen 60x80" 90x102" 20x32" King 78x80" 108x102" 20x40" California King 72x84" 112x102" 20x40"
Bedsheet Thread Count
One of the most important things to consider when buying sheets is thread count. Thread count is the total combined number of threads woven lengthwise and crosswise into each square inch of fabric. The higher the thread count, the tighter the weave. This close weave creates stronger, softer and more durable linens. Consumer Reports recommends choosing sheets between 200 and 400 thread count for the best quality at a reasonable price, but the highest-quality sheets may exceed 400 thread count.
Sheets come in a variety of fabrics. Each has a different feel and benefits.
- 100% cotton sheets are soft, breathable and generally the most affordable. They are very cool to sleep on, making them perfect for warmer temperatures.
- Egyptian cotton has the longest and strongest fibers and is used predominantly in top-of-the-line linens for comfort and last.
- Pima cotton is an exclusive long-staple fiber grown only in the American southwest and used in high-end linens.
- Flannel is vigorously brushed cotton that produces a soft, fleece-like nap. Flannel sheets are unmatched for warmth. Some sheet manufacturers do not give a thread count for flannel sheets, but instead will give a measure in ounces of flannel per square yard. High-quality flannel sheets will have a measure in excess of 4 oz. per square yard.
- Jersey sheets are a cooler alternative to flannel, being knitted instead of woven which allows for better breathability and a little stretch.
- Cotton/polyester blend sheets provide anti-wrinkle benefits, but lack the softness of pure cotton.
- Polyester sheets are completely wrinkle-free. They also absorb dye much better than cotton for a greater variety of color choices.
- Percale sheets are closely woven for a fabric that's very smooth. They must have a minimum thread count of 180 in order to be classified as percale.
- Sateen sheets are considered the best by many because they are satiny and lustrous with a high thread count.
Comforters are thick, padded bed coverings intended to be used as the main source of warmth during sleep. They are filled with natural or synthetic insulating materials usually made of polyester, cotton batting, down or wool. Comforters are available in standard bed sizes, but their thickness varies among brands and models.
Down comforters, insulated with the soft, light clusters of underfeathers from waterfowl, are perhaps the best bed covers for trapping warm air. Down is the lightest, most effective type of insulation, keeping you exceptionally warm during colder months. High-quality down has a high "fill power". Fill power refers to the volume (number of cubic inches) that one ounce of down will occupy. Down with a higher fill power is made of larger, stronger clusters from mature birds. These clusters fill more space with less weight, providing a roomy air pocket to trap in warmth.
- 500-550 fill power provides light coverage for moderate climates.
- 550-600 fill power is an excellent choice for cool to cold climates.
- 600-650 fill power is the best option for extremely cold climates.
There are two main types of down comforter construction:
- Sewn-through comforters feature two outer layers of fabric stitched together in a quilted pattern that keeps down from shifting. This is the most inexpensive construction method, but it doesn't allow the down to fully "loft" or expand for warmth and allows "cold spots" along the stitching.
- Baffled construction, or "boxed wall" construction, features fabric walls sewn between the top and bottom of the comforter cover, which create uniformly wide cells for the down. This prevents the down from shifting and allows it to fully loft, producing a highly insulated comforter that's free of cold spots.
Down comforters can provide years of warmth with minimal maintenance. Many are machine washable, and if you cover your down comforter with a duvet, you can protect it from daily wear, as well as eliminate the need for frequent cleaning. Note: Not all down products are machine washable. Please check care labels before laundering.
Duvets are slip-on covers for comforters (used mostly for down comforters) that protect against dirt, dust and wear. You can also use a duvet alone if you need only lightweight coverage in the summer. Duvets are thin and manageable, making them easy to store.
Coverlets and Bedspreads
Coverlets and bedspreads are decorative bed covers with little or no padding that must be paired with a blanket in order to provide adequate warmth. Coverlets are normally made of cotton using different weaves such as chenille, corduroy or jacquard. They may also include details like eyelets, fringed edges and embroidery.
Quilts are lightly padded, three-layer bedcovers. The top layer is made of fabric pieces sewn together by hand or machine in a decorative cross-stitch design. The middle layer is one of several types of fill, including polyester, cotton, wool or down. The bottom layer is typically one solid piece of fabric. As with a coverlet, you may have to pair your quilt with a blanket for extra warmth.
Bedding sets are all-in-one packages that include key bedding components in one bag, usually a sheet set, comforter, pillow shams and bed skirt. Bedding sets are convenient and eliminate the need to buy bedding elements separately. However, choosing bedding elements separately does provide more choices, so bedding sets aren’t necessarily ideal for people who enjoy customization.
Approximate Bed Cover Sizes (Comforter/Quilt/Duvet)
The chart below shows standard comforter, quilt and duvet cover sizes in inches. Please note that sizes vary by brand, so consult the manufacturer's guidelines before you make a purchase.
Bed Size Comforter Size Twin 68x86" Full 80x90" Queen 88x94" King 108x94" California King 104x98"
Note: Coverlets are designed to be slightly longer and wider than the dimensions for comforters and other bed covers shown in the table; coverlets should reach down to about the floor.
Blankets can be paired with quilts or coverlets to provide extra warmth, while throw blankets (or "throws") are used to add a decorative touch to your bedroom décor. Blankets, like comforters, are generally sized from twin to king. Throws typically measure about 50x60" and are great for curling up under. Blankets are usually constructed in one of two ways:
- Thermal: A loosely woven construction which allows air to circulate. Thermal blankets are ideal for warmer weather and make a good bed layer for "hot" sleepers.
- Conventional: A tightly woven construction that traps air for exceptional insulation.
Blankets also come in a variety of materials. You may need to keep several blankets on hand in order to switch them out when the seasons change.
- Comfortable in warm weather
- Breathable and lightweight
- Machine washable
- Moisture-wicking in warm temperatures and insulating in cool temperatures
- Tightly woven with heavier yarns for durability
- Flame-retardant and naturally repel dirt
- Resistant to pilling and shedding
- Usually as warm and insulating as wool, with a much softer feel
- Good for year-round use
- Machine washable
- Equipped with a network of wires that provide electric warmth
- Adjustable to control warmth
- Usually made of soft, synthetic fibers
The right pillow is essential for a good night's sleep. If you wake up feeling unrested or with a sore neck, your pillow may be to blame. On average, pillows should be replaced every two years, depending on their quality.
The firmness of your pillow should be based on your sleep position.
- Stomach sleepers should look for flat pillows with soft to medium firmness.
- Back sleepers need pillows that are relatively firm to offer the best neck support. However, pillows should still be soft enough to cradle your head.
- Side sleepers need firm to extra-firm pillows that provide proper spinal alignment.
- Mixed sleepers should invest in a quality pillow with a soft, natural fill that can be fluffed and adjusted when you move.
- Along with firmness, a pillow's fill is another important factor in finding your perfect pillow.
Synthetic Pillow Fills
Synthetic fills are manmade fibers, like polyester or foam. The amount of fill in the pillow determines its firmness.
- Some synthetics mimic the softness of down, but are not as durable.
- Latex or synthetic rubber foam pillows are designed to support your neck, back and spine. They mold to your shape, but are able to quickly bounce back.
- Polyester fills are light, strong and durable. They're often combined with a natural fill (like cotton) for breathability.
Natural Pillow Fills
Natural fills are made using cotton, wool, down or a combination of down and feathers.
- Cotton breathes well and feels firm despite its flat shape.
- Down conforms to your head and neck. As with down comforters, the higher the fill power, the better the quality. Down is long-lasting and retains its shape well over time.
- Down/feather blends are firm and provide a lot of support. However, feathers are not as lofty as down and flatten out easily. Feathers also contain quills that can poke through your pillowcase, causing irritation.
- Wool wicks away moisture and provides good, natural insulation.
The chart below depicts standard pillow sizes in inches. These sizes may vary slightly by manufacturer.
Pillow Size Measurements Standard 20x26" Jumbo 20x28" Queen 20x30" King 26x36"
Pillow shams are decorative pillow covers. They generally only cover regular-sized pillows, but because you won't be sleeping on them, the quality of the pillow doesn't matter much. Pillow shams feature either straight or ruffled edges and come in many styles, colors, fabrics and patterns.
Also known as dust ruffles, bed skirts hide the bed frame and anything that's stored underneath. The one thing to remember when purchasing a bed skirt is its "drop". The standard drop is 15 inches; however, longer drops are available to fit higher beds. Choose a bed skirt made of heavier materials like polyester or poly/cotton blends for better drape and coverage.
Mattress pads are inexpensive and help protect your bigger investment: the mattress. They are removable and machine washable, unlike the mattress itself, and add a little extra comfort.
Proper care is essential in prolonging the life of your linens. The following are general guidelines to follow when laundering your linens. As care instructions vary by brand, please consult the manufacturer's directions before washing.
- Use less soap. Excess soap can make your linens feel scratchy. Use only one-third the amount of detergent you would normally use when washing your bedding.
- Do not use chlorine bleach. It will strip the color and also weaken any natural fibers (like cotton, bamboo, TENCEL®, etc.).
- Remove sheets immediately at the end of the drying cycle. Smooth and fold them right away to prevent wrinkles.
- Avoid fabric softeners. They weaken fibers and cause fabrics to not absorb moisture as effectively as they would otherwise.
- Use the pros. If your washer and dryer aren't large enough to accommodate king-size bedding, take it to a Laundromat or professional dry cleaner with industrial-size machines.
- Dry away dust. To rid pillows of dirt, dust or other allergens, toss them in the dryer on a high-heat setting. Re-fluff them as necessary.