Seeking soft, cool, breathable cotton sheets
October 20, 2015 5:00 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for cotton bed sheets that are soft and remain cool throughout the night. With those characteristics in mind, what type (not brand) of cotton sheets should I be seeking?

I am picky when it comes to sheets. I only want cotton, and the softer the better. I'm also a pillow flipper, always preferring to be a little cooler.

I recently bought a new set of "performance" 400 thread count cotton sheets from Target. While they're fairly comfortable, they're a little too crisp for my liking. They also seem slightly less soft after washing than when I picked them out in the store.

For my next set, should I consider:

-Egyptian cotton? I've heard it can actually be less soft than standard cotton due to its density/texture.
-A higher thread count? It seems thread count is not necessarily indicative of softness.
-Jersey knit? I believe this would have to be a cotton blend, which I'd prefer to avoid
-Modal? Ditto above.

Not seeking suggestions for brands so much as types.

Tips appreciated!
posted by iamisaid to Home & Garden (18 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Modal is not cotton, it's a kind of rayon. Jersey sheets are super soft, but not cool at all. Try bamboo. Maybe a little crispy for you, especially when new, but they are satiny soft and very cool.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:05 PM on October 20, 2015 [4 favorites]

I agree about the jersey sheets. They are super comfy -- like sleeping wrapped in your favorite T, but they absorb sweat and do not leave you feeling cool.
posted by archimago at 5:09 PM on October 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

I love old (but new) sheets from EBay and tag sales. I look for Wamsutta--made 20 years ago but never used.
posted by Ideefixe at 5:10 PM on October 20, 2015 [3 favorites]

Percale. 100 percent cotton percale. Ideally, 300 thread count, but 220 is also really good.
posted by janey47 at 5:14 PM on October 20, 2015 [6 favorites]

Yes percale. Crisp goes with the territory unless you get high thread count. Wash them at least once before using. We have two sets of the Target ones (not sure if it's the same one you have) and now it's all we use.
posted by supercres at 5:25 PM on October 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

-Jersey knit? I believe this would have to be a cotton blend, which I'd prefer to avoid

Untrue, there exist 100% cotton jersey sheets, you just gotta read the label. Jersey knit is how it's made, thus there are also modal jersey knit sheets and bamboo jersey knit sheets. Bamboo is also a type of rayon and I doubt that bamboo jersey is very different from modal jersey but I don't have empirical data.

Martha Stewart's rundown of cotton sheets looks fairly accurate. tl;dr cotton percale is what you want. Linen is also very cool, but will need several washes before it's super soft.
posted by clavicle at 5:30 PM on October 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Get percale and wash the hell out of them, or find vintage ebay maybe. I have a couple of top sheets from my mom's stash from the 60s/70s that are a) beautifully patterned in ways you never see now, b) so heavy-soft and cool. They're so nice I won't use them on the bed where my damn dogs will find a way to destroy them.

One thing though, if you go vintage: I don't know if these pre-date fitted sheets or if the fitted sheets just didn't survive into the 90s when I was handed down mine, but there aren't any in her stash. They may be harder to find.
posted by Lyn Never at 5:43 PM on October 20, 2015

I would highly recommend linen. Purely from a hot sleeper perspective its been a revelation having linen bedding, so cool. The softness was pretty good from the get-go(we bought from Cultiver), but after a couple months of washing every week the softness has really started to come through.
posted by deadwater at 6:05 PM on October 20, 2015 [7 favorites]

I don't know if these pre-date fitted sheets or if the fitted sheets just didn't survive into the 90s when I was handed down mine, but there aren't any in her stash. They may be harder to find.

The thing that happens with fitted sheets is that the elastic wears out long, long before the sheets do. So it very well may be that the fitted ones where tossed because the elastic no longer elasticed. I often buy fitted sheets with ruined elastic at yard sales and such, to quilt with, but I think it might not be super hard to put new elastic in, if you can find them.

Higher thread count probably won't mean cooler sheets. Above a certain range (generally around 600) it actually reduces the life of the sheet, because the individual threads are so fine that they break much easier. So, yeah, 400 - 600 count 100% cotton percale (Egyptian cotton is a variety of the cotton plant, Supima cotton is a brand name for a certain kind of Egyptian cotton) is what you want.

Also, apparently bed cooling systems are a thing.
posted by anastasiav at 6:12 PM on October 20, 2015

Response by poster: Great suggestions! Is Egyptian cotton worth the extra price or might the standard varieties be just as soft or softer?
posted by iamisaid at 6:51 PM on October 20, 2015

I was going to chime in for linen.

But if you're set on cotton, consider seersucker. The puckery weave means that much less of the fabric surface is in contact with your skin, and perspiration can evaporate more efficiently.
posted by wonton endangerment at 6:55 PM on October 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

Egyptian cotton, high-thread count sheets are what you need. You don't have to buy them at full price, either - Ross, TJ Maxx and Marshalls usually sell them at great markdowns. The more you wash these sheets, the softer they get.
posted by Everydayville at 6:56 PM on October 20, 2015

I love sateen sheets. 100% cotton, Thick, cool, awesome, and available at Marshalls, Ross, tj maxx.

I disagree with jersey. I used them when I was single. My husband hates them because they're too warm for him. He was right, they made him sweat more.
posted by Neekee at 7:17 PM on October 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

You dismissed modal, but I'm hear to say give Lyocell/Tencel a try. I bought a set of Tencel sheets a few months ago, and they've become one of my favourite bedding options. They're exceptionally soft, and they get softer with every wash. And they tend to have a cool feeling against the skin, but somehow keep you warm enough while sleeping. They're pretty amazing, and I recommend them to everybody. (FYI, modal and Tencel are cellulose rayon, created with different processes.)
posted by sardonyx at 7:26 PM on October 20, 2015

And be sure to stay away from sheets labeled "wrinkle resistant." They're likely to have a finish that makes them feel hotter.
posted by Corvid at 7:27 PM on October 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Percale cotton sheets.

Specifically, I listened to The Sweethome's suggestion, and splurged on sheets, and have been so happy with them. They're soft, they're cool, and I think they are even getting better through washes. I've remade the bed after getting home from a work trip at 2 am, and finding my wife had been using other sheets while these were being washed.
posted by BevosAngryGhost at 8:21 AM on October 21, 2015

I am a hot sleeper and linen sheets have been a revelation. They do take a while to soften as mentioned above, but there is nothing softer and cooler once they do.
posted by oneirodynia at 8:51 PM on October 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

My favorite sheet is a linen-cotton mix. Second favorite is 400 thread satin weave Egyptian cotton I got for my 40th birthday, but that is just so expensive, and as I said second favorite.
I came in here to write: all Italian housewives know that ironing is the key to softness and coolness*. Maybe there is a shop where you live where they "roll" sheets? I looked on American sites for a household roller ironing machine, but it seems you guys don't really have this.

* actually all European housewives but the Italians take it far more seriously, statistically, than the rest of us...
posted by mumimor at 12:35 PM on October 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

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