Home / Blog / The Best Sheets (2023): Linen, Percale, and Budget Bedding

The Best Sheets (2023): Linen, Percale, and Budget Bedding

May 26, 2023May 26, 2023

Nena Farrell

Sweet dreams start with soft sheets. Or, at the very least, great sheets mean I sleep better, whether my dreams are peaceful or a hallucination of failed superpowers and the internet. There's a lot to navigate when buying sheets for your bed, from understanding percale and sateen to thread counts. But the right set of sheets can make your old bed feel like a hotel, or be the perfect pairing with a brand-new mattress (because what's the point in pairing your new mattress with stale sheets?).

We have tested dozens of sheets to find the best of nearly every style of bed sheet. However, there are an innumerable number of sheets out there, so we'll keep updating this guide as we test more. All of the prices shown are for queen-size models. Be sure to read our Best Mattresses and Best Organic Mattresses guides for more bedding recommendations.

Medea Giordano contributed testing for this guide.

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Why buy linen sheets? Linen is a woven fabric made from flax plants. It is a highly breathable material, so it keeps you cool during the summer months as it doesn't trap heat. It's great for people who sleep hot. It's rougher at first than a simple cotton set, but it should soften up the more it's washed. Linen is often expensive, but it's also more durable than cotton, so a good sheet set should last a lot longer. They're not for everyone, but if you love linen clothing, you'll probably love linen sheets.

Photograph: Brooklinen

We weren't sure we'd enjoy sleeping on linen, and we almost quit before testing started. However, consider us converts. WIRED reviewer Medea Giordano says that when she first got into bed, these Brooklinen sheets were itchy, but after a few minutes, she relaxed and that feeling went away. The result was some of the soundest, coolest sleep she's had. Neither she nor her husband woke up sweaty, even during the Texas summer with two cats snuggled into them.

Brooklinen makes a few of our favorite sheets, and all the types are available in pleasant colors and patterns. (There are limited edition options too.) If you're not sure if you'll like linen, Brooklinen accepts returns within a year, but you'll have to pay a $10 return fee.

Photograph: Quince

Quince's linen sheets were initially softer and less itchy than the ones from Brooklinen, and they're almost $130 cheaper. However, they run just slightly warmer. If you don't feel like you're a particularly hot sleeper but you want linen, then these are a safe bet. (Or just try them without worry—you can return them for free within a year.)

You should line dry linen, but if you do use a dryer like we did, expect to clean up a lot of lint. That was the case for Brooklinen too, but with these sheets, the lint trap started to overflow as there was so much.

Why buy percale sheets? Percale is a type of cotton weave, not a type of fabric. It's also referred to as a plain weave. It looks how you might picture a classic weave to look, with an over-under style like a checkerboard. These sheets tend to be crisp, cool, and lightweight. Think of hotel sheets or your favorite button-up shirt. They're a good middle ground if you sleep hot but don't want to spring for linen and its higher prices.

Photograph: Target

Target’s in-house brands make great, affordable sheets, including this Casaluna percale set. WIRED reviewer Medea Giordano has been sleeping on them for several years, and they're her favorite of all the types of percale sheets she’s tried, even those twice the price. They’re crisp without being uncomfortably stiff, and she stays cool all night in them.

These Casaluna sheets have held up through many, many machine washing cycles, and are only getting more lived-in and soft. There are several colors to choose from too. When Giordano upgraded from a queen to a king bed, these were the sheets she repurchased immediately.

Why buy flannel sheets? Flannel sheets are made of cotton, but the cotton fibers are brushed out to create a fuzzy texture. Those fluffed-out fibers also are what make flannel so warm and cozy to sleep on—the teased layers of cotton do a better job of retaining heat than other styles of cotton sheets, so you'll stay much warmer sleeping on these than other sheet styles. They're great for cooler climates.

Photograph: The Company Store

The Company Store's flannel sheets initially threw me off with how pink the cream color looked, especially when placed next to other white sheets. But once I saw past that, these sheets felt the softest to the touch compared to the Coyuchi and L.L. Bean flannels I tried (see below). They're a little stiff initially, but soften up with each wash.

They're cozy to sleep on and definitely warm—these were the warmest I slept on out of the bunch. If you're looking for soft and warm at a reasonable price, these sheets deliver.

Why buy sateen sheets? Sateen is a cotton weave similar to percale, but it uses a three-over-one thread style weave compared to one-over-one. Those extra threads give it a silkier feel even though it's still cotton, and it tends to be both cooler and a little heavier. They're great for summer months if you want something cool to the touch, but they also work for colder months if you aren't looking for something too heat-trapping like flannel but still want to retain some heat.

Photograph: JCPenney

I have a few sets of JCPenney’s Wrinkle Guard sateen sheets in my linen closet thanks to my wedding registry. They’re soft and cool to the touch, with the silky finish sateen is known for without being slippery. They drape well on my bed and don’t keep me too warm, but be careful how you fold them as they aren't completely wrinkle-free.

The craziest thing to me about these sheets is that I can barely tell the difference between them and the Brooklinen Luxe Core Set, which is double the price (and another set courtesy of my wedding registry). They’re similar and both incredibly comfortable to sleep on, but JCPenney’s sheets are just hard to beat on value.

Why buy silk sheets? Silk stays cool and slick when you need it, so you shouldn't heat up and stick to your bed in the middle of the night. But it also is capable of insulating you decently well to keep you warm in the winter months. Silk is also better for your beauty rest and the reason why silk scarves, bonnets, and pillowcases are so popular. It absorbs less moisture from your hair and skin, so you stay hydrated and don't lose all your expensive beauty products to your pillow. It also causes less friction, pulling less at your skin during the night. If you're a side or stomach sleeper where your face makes direct contact with your pillow, silk is a great option to consider.

If you Google silk sheets, you'll see results for things like “eucalyptus silk” or “silky tencel.” These might still be comfortable and soft, but they are not real silk. Real silk sheets are categorized by their density and weight, also called momme. A higher number equals more threads, a higher density, and more durability. For example, 25-momme sheets are a higher quality and more durable, but also more expensive. The 19-momme sheets we recommend here are a perfectly good set. It's worth noting that some people find sleeping on a full silk bed to be annoying, with their pillows slipping around and the corners coming untucked, but we didn't encounter this.

Photograph: Lilysilk

Sleeping on these silk sheets feels like true luxury. It's soft and smooth without being freezing cold. Lilysilk is the only brand of silk sheets we’ve tested, and it's very expensive to get a full set—you're looking at nearly $530 for one flat sheet, one fitted sheet, and two pillowcases—but the brand offers each piece individually. WIRED reviewer Medea Giordano tried the fitted sheet with a regular percale top sheet and found it cooling and comfortable. If you can spend a little more, Lilysilk has 22- and 25-momme sets available. You probably don't need a full set to feel the luxury.

Switching to a silk pillowcase might make a difference for a lot less money. We've used and regularly sleep with Celestial Silk's 25-Momme Pillowcase ($42) and Silken Pure's 22-Momme Pillowcase ($78). We're trying other more affordable options now. Though satin isn't as cool and luxe as silk, a good satin pillowcase gives you many of the same benefits. We like Kitsch's set ($22).

Why buy organic sheets? If you're buying an organic mattress, you probably want to pair it with organic sheets. Otherwise, nonorganic sheets can bring the chemicals and materials you avoided—including anything from formaldehyde and TCEP (a flame retardant) to phthalates—right back into your life. Even if you have a regular mattress, you can still benefit from choosing sheets that are made of natural, organic materials.

Photograph: Brooklinen

WIRED reviewer Scott Gilbertson tests organic bedding, and these are the best organic cotton sheets he's tried. They're soft but not overly silky, which is a feeling he doesn't care for (if you do, check out the Avocado sheets below). The Brooklinen organic cotton sheets are made from Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)-certified organic cotton. They're also Oeko-Tex certified, which means they're tested for and do not contain any known toxic chemicals.

The 300 thread count makes this plenty crisp and soft but not so tight that you end up sleeping hot. These are a great choice for summer or if, like Scott, you sleep on the warm side even in winter.

Why buy bamboo or eucalyptus sheets? Companies are making sheets from other materials now too, like bamboo and eucalyptus. The latter usually takes less water than cotton and less harsh chemicals than bamboo to produce sheets. Because bamboo plants grow so quickly, it's thought to be an eco-friendly resource we can use without depleting the planet. However, it's not a perfect solution. The process of turning bamboo into fabric uses harsh chemicals, which can actually add to air and water pollution. Bamboo viscose is slightly better than bamboo rayon.

Photograph: Buffy

We were already fans of Buffy’s enormous Wiggle Pllow, and now we’re happy to have tried the company's sheets too. They’re light and airy and yet feel warm, like you’re cozy under your favorite blanket, without making you hot and sweaty. WIRED reviewer Medea Giordano says her husband struggles with waking up sweaty on materials like percale, even when they feel cool to the touch, but he commented on how nice he felt sleeping in these. She did, however, note that they slid up the side of her mattress more than some other sheets.

The fabric uses a sateen weave but is actually Tencel lyocell, which is made from sustainable wood sources—in this case, eucalyptus—and it’s biodegradable.

Photograph: Luxome

While WIRED reviewer Medea Giordano says she prefers the crispness of percale, these Luxome sheets made from bamboo viscose are the softest bedding she’s ever slept in. They're silky and drape well, but have deep pockets and elastic straps to keep them on your mattress all night. They’ve held up in the wash too. We were nervous they’d get pilly like some similar cheap soft sheets we’ve tried from Bed Bath and Beyond (RIP) but that hasn't been the case.

On a tight budget? Some of our favorite sheets are surprisingly cheap compared to other similar sets, but they cover a range of sheet styles.

Photograph: Target

When I upgraded my mattress after moving across California, I popped into Target to grab its cheapest queen sheet set off the shelf and promptly left the store. Target's Room Essentials set is made with a plain cotton weave, and I didn't expect them to hold up for long, especially with my claw-happy cat in the house.

It's been four years and I still use these sheets. They're soft and light after years of use and feel a bit like a favorite T-shirt I've worn in the perfect amount. My husband, much to my ire, calls these “the nice sheets” even though we have actual nice sheets. They're affordable and are comfortable to sleep on.

Oh how we wanted $20 sheets to be the unexpected hero of our testing, but alas, this Amazon Basics Microfiber set is a failure. They feel (and sound!) kind of like those paper robes you have to wear at the doctor's office. We hardly lasted a night sleeping on these.

To sleep with a top sheet or not to sleep with a top sheet has been a matter of debate in the past few years, with some opting to speak for a generation. WIRED is divided on this issue, though most of the Gear team seems to go without. I start out the night with a top sheet but usually find it bunched up in the morning. WIRED reviewer Medea Giordano is passionate about always sleeping with one ("This millennial has not killed the top sheet industry," she says).

Do whatever keeps you comfortable. Many companies now offer the option to forgo a top sheet altogether while purchasing a set. If you think you don't like a top sheet because you get too hot, you might just need to find a cooler material.

Thread count is the number of threads you'll find in one square inch of a sheet's fabric. The thread count can range pretty widely on sheets, and some brands like Parachute claim it doesn't matter. You also might see some styles of sheets won't call out thread counts at all—silk uses a different system, called momme, which focuses on the weight of the silk, and flannel sheets usually list the ounces of weight of the flannel.

Ultimately, higher thread counts mean literally more thread—it's a denser weave and weight that can also feel heavy if you're used to lighter weaves and lower thread counts. Some equate thread count with quality or softness, but you shouldn't treat it as the ultimate rule of how good a set of sheets will be. You can use thread count to understand two things: texture (higher thread counts usually mean a smoother feel) and warmth (more threads will retain more heat). If you want lighter sheets, lower thread counts could actually be better for you, but higher thread counts can mean a smoother feel or warmer layers if you're a cold sleeper. Even if you like a toasty bed, you never need as high as 800 and 1,000 thread counts, so don't splurge for super high numbers.

Reid McCarter

Julian Chokkattu

Parker Hall

Medea Giordano

Get WIRED for just $5 ($25 off)Why buy linen sheets?Casaluna Washed Linen Solid Sheet Set for $159:Ikea Dytag Linen Duvet Set for $160:Why buy percale sheets?Riley Percale Sheet Set for $220:Parachute Percale Sheet Set for $229:Why buy flannel sheets?Coyuchi Cloud Brushed Organic Flannel Sheet Set for $268:L.L. Bean's UltraSoft Flannel Sheets for $139:Why buy sateen sheets?Brooklinen Luxe Sateen Core Sheet Set for $189:Quince Luxury Organic Signature Sateen Sheet Set for $90:Why buy silk sheets?Celestial Silk's 25-Momme Pillowcase ($42)Silken Pure's 22-Momme Pillowcase ($78)Kitsch's set ($22)Why buy organic sheets?Avocado Organic Cotton Sheets for $229:Avocado Organic Linen Sheets for $499:Why buy bamboo or eucalyptus sheets?Bedsure Bamboo Cooling Sheet Set for $60:JCPenney’s Wrinkle Guard sateen sheets for $90:Amazon Basics Microfiber set