Bed Sheet Shopping 101

What to look for when shopping for the perfect sheets.

We’ve all been there — shopping for new sheets as part of a much-needed bedroom makeover. My husband and I were in the midst of a renovation when we realized we had never given much thought to the quality of our bedding before. While shopping, no one could tell us where the sheets came from, how they were made, or the difference between a $500 set and a $50 set. We felt frustrated by this lack of transparency, and upon finding how widespread the ethical and environmental issues in textiles are, we thought we could build a better, more honest linens company. After a ton of trial, error, research, and taking a few risks, we proudly launched Boll & Branch. Along the way, we learned that one of the most misleading aspects of shopping for bed linens is understanding what thread count means. Turns out, it’s not the accurate measure of quality that most of us think. So what does matter when shopping for bed linens? All you need to remember are these two simple truths:

1. When it comes to thread count, bigger isn’t always better. By definition, thread count is simply a count of the number of threads in each square inch of fabric. So, while it is fair to say that thread count is a measure of fabric density, it actually has very little to do with the quality and softness of the end product.
One of the ways manufacturers inflate the thread count of their product is by spinning multi-ply yarns. As a result, they’ll often count the number of plies versus the number of threads to achieve a higher “thread count.” For instance, a 600-thread-count sheet could actually be achieved with creative counting of 300 two-ply or 200 three-ply threads. Point being, you should look for bedding made from single-ply threads and focus much more on the quality of cotton versus a thread count as an indicator of quality.

2. You may not eat your bedding, but organic is very important. To ensure a healthy home for you and your loved ones, look no further than products made from 100 percent organic cotton that carry the GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standards) certification. Non-organic textiles may be coated with chemicals (some manufacturers do this to prevent fires), which our skin absorbs while we sleep (the chemicals can actually be emitted into the air over time). Organic bedding is not only made without those harmful chemicals, but it’s hypoallergenic, free of dust mites and supports the organic farming industry.
But it’s especially important to like the way your sheets feel. Always purchase from a seller with a very fair return policy so you can give sheets a test night or two. Or, in our case, 30. At Boll & Branch customers can sleep on our sheets for a month to make sure they feel great.

How to Care for Your Bed Linens. Here are five super-simple tricks for washing your linens so they really last.
1. Always wash your sheets before you use them for the first time. We cut ours to be a bit oversized, so they shrink to a snug fit after a wash.
2. Liquid, biodegradable detergent is ideal.
Not only does it prevent early fiber breakdown, but a positive laundry-to-landscape impact. If you prefer powder, dissolve it in wash water before adding linens.
3. Avoid using bleach. The harsh chemical weakens cotton fibers and fades natural brightness. (If it’s absolutely necessary, you can use non-chlorine bleach on white linens.)
4. Skip fabric softener and dryer sheets.
Both formulas leave a coating behind which reduces breathability and towel performance.
5. Always wash towels and sheets separately
to avoid lint.

After your sheets are washed, you can prevent wrinkles by shaking linens out before popping them in the dryer. For an easy smoothing solution, remove still-warm sheets from the dryer immediately and lay them flat on a bed. Run a warm iron over wrinkles for an even crisper look, or in a hurry, you can even use a clothing steamer to touch up visible wrinkles on a made bed.

Missy Tannen is the co-founder and president of Boll & Branch, the world’s only home brand that uses end-to-end ethical practices to offer luxury organic cotton bath and bedding products. Missy spent the first part of her career as a third-grade teacher in New Jersey until 2014, when she founded Boll & Branch with her husband, Scott. When she’s not leading the company’s product design and development teams, she spends time with her three daughters.