cotton sheets lead.jpg

Deals fest exclusive

Brooklinen is part of CNN Underscored’s Deals Fest, our two-day, exclusive sales event featuring steep discounts on 28 of our favorite products — available only to CNN Underscored readers. To see the full list of deals, click here.

A set of great cotton sheets is an essential part of a good night’s sleep. The best options are breathable, capable of keeping you cool on sweltering summer nights while insulating through the winter. Sheets touch your skin more than almost any other type of fabric — so a good set is crucial to feeling and sleeping well.

To find the best cotton sheet sets, we tested 10 options, evaluating them for quality, fit on the bed and variety of size and color options. After extensive testing, we found five sets that are well-made and gave us excellent rest.

Best cotton sheets overall

The L.L.Bean sheets are the nicest feeling sheets we tried: breathable and crisp, they’re great at regulating temperature throughout the night, and the eyelet hem along the top sheet and pillowcases made these sheets feel straight out of a hotel.

Best cooling percale sheets

The crispest set we tested, Casper’s percale sheets were the best we tried for hot sleepers. They are light and airy while wicking away sweat, and feel ultra-smooth to slip into at night.

Deals Fest Exclusive
Best gauzy percale sheets

Brooklinen’s gauzy percale material manages to be softer than others we tried, while still effectively cooling. Available in more fun patterns and colors than any other set we tried, they’re ideal for people tired of neutrals or wanting to take their bedroom decor up a notch.

Best luxury sateen sheets

Our hotel-ready recommendation for sateen lovers, the Boll & Branch Signature sheet set was silky and sumptuous. The sheets were soft to slip into at night, and imparted a sense of luxury we didn’t get from others we tested. Only available in a broad array of tasteful neturals, the Boll & Branch sheets are chic and guaranteed to impress.

Best budget cotton sheets

If you don’t mind somewhat dated colors, JCPenney’s Wrinkle Guard cotton sheets are the silkiest sateen that we tested. They always look crisp, but don’t require ironing, coming out of the laundry completely smooth each time we washed them. With most sizes costing under $100, the JCPenney sheets offer serious quality for the price.

Best cotton sheets overall: L.L.Bean 280-Thread-Count Pima Cotton Percale Sheet Set

From $119 at L.L.Bean

L.L.Bean 280-Thread-Count Pima Cotton Percale Sheet Set

For many years, L.L.Bean has been making the best cotton sheets you can buy online. I’ve bought, tested, and used the L.L.Bean 280-Thread-Count Pima Cotton Percale Sheet Set repeatedly since 2014. And in the intervening years, despite many competitors trying to outshine them, these sheets have remained refined, with a luxury that betrays its affordable price. The L.L.Bean percale sheets are crisp and cool — a delight to slip into on the warmest summer nights. These sheets are also soft out of the bag, and only continue to soften with use. They are largely wrinkle-resistant, remaining one of the crispest sheets out of the wash of any we tested, and they fit well on beds with both deep and narrow profiles.

Sleeping on the L.L.Bean sheets is like visiting a high-end hotel. This bedding is crisp, sleek and cool. It also has a sweet eyelet design along the cuffed decorative edge of the flat sheet that lends an element of refinement to a made bed. While the sheets are light, with a weightlessness on the body, their fabric is substantial and feels notably luxurious, unlike the paper-thin feeling of other sheets from younger companies.

These fit well on a variety of beds, too. Overall, the L.L.Bean’s fitted sheet pocket is deep, measuring 15 inches. This means it fits well on thicker mattresses, upwards of 14 inches. But we had no issues getting a taut fit on a slim-profile 10-inch mattress either. The flat sheet had ample drape over the side of our bed, lending itself nicely to crisp hospital corners. These also shrank less than any other cotton sheet set we tested upon first washing. With Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certification, and a one-year return warranty, there’s hardly anything to dislike about this sheet set.

L.L.Bean offers these in a range of colors and sizes, with nine colors and six sizes to choose from. They also offer prints, windowpane and checked styles, as well as individual sheets (fitted, flat), and a duvet cover. If you like the fabric of these sheets, there are plenty of options to mix and match with for a complete bedding set. Our only issue with L.L.Bean is that their color selection isn’t very modern. These sheets come in an array of pastels, and other somewhat dated colors. Nonetheless, if the color offerings are an issue, they sell standard white and ivory options, which will suit any decor.

Best cooling percale sheets: Casper Percale Sheets

$109 From $55.60 at Casper

Casper Percale Sheets

For sheets that feel lighter and cooler than others, the Casper percale sheet set is the best choice. These sheets are super-breathable, with crisp, cool percale that wicked sweat away from our bodies on warmer nights. They hardly wrinkled in the laundry, looking fresh and ready for our bed directly out of the dryer. With a wider than average elastic around the edge of the fitted sheet, the Casper has a more snug fit on the bed than other sheets we tested.

Casper’s percale sheets are great for people who sleep warm, or those who want very crisp percale. Sleeping with these sheets was slightly less smooth than the L.L.Bean, and their fabric is a bit lightier and airier. The effect is that the Casper sheets feel cooler to the touch, lighter and crisper. While the fabric should soften over time, one of our testers did find these sheets a bit noisy, as a result of the slightly less supple fabric.

These sheets had one of the best fits on our bed of any we tested, thanks to the wide elastic that runs the circumference of its fitted sheet. Although the Casper sheets have a deep 18-inch pocket (one of the deepest we tested), they were still a secure fit on our slim, 10-inch mattress, due to the tension of the strong elastic band around the fitted sheet. The flat sheet was also amply sized, and easily tucked in on three sides of the bed.

Available in ten colors and six sizes, with matching options including a duvet cover and sham set, these sheets offer versatile styling options for any bed. For the price, they’re an equally great choice for the primary bed, a kid’s room or guest options.

Best gauzy percale sheets: Brooklinen Classic Core Sheet Set

From $109 at Brooklinen

Brooklinen Classic Core Sheet Set

If you’re looking for gauzy sheets in fun, trendy patterns, the Brooklinen Classic Core Sheet Set is your best choice. Like the Casper, these sheets are also great for hot sleepers. Their light, airy fabric didn’t trap heat, and kept our tester’s body heat well-regulated night after night. We never felt sweaty sleeping with these the way we did with some sateen options. Brooklinen’s percale is smooth and soft, falling somewhere between the L.L.Bean and Casper in terms of crispness. Our only complaint is that, while gauzy, we could, at times, see our mattress and pillows through the white sheet set we were sent for testing.

These sheets are available in five “essential” colors and seven limited edition colors. Brooklinen has options for every style and taste with those offerings, and if you’re someone who prefers patterned sheets, the Brooklinen set has the most modern designs of any that we considered. They’re super-affordable and available in six sizes, including twin XL, making them a great option for college students.

Best luxury sateen sheets: Boll & Branch Signature Hemmed Sheet Set

From $188 at Boll & Branch

Boll & Branch Signature Hemmed Sheet Set

Next to our top pick, the Boll & Branch Signature Hemmed sheets were the most luxurious we tested. Although a bit less satiny than our recommendation from JCPenney, these sheets were dreamy to slip into after a long day. The sateen weave of the Boll & Branch sheets is smooth and soft, with a sumptuous feel. Sleeping in these was reminiscent of staying at a 5-star hotel, and they’re a set that we will continue to reach for to elevate our bedding experience. These sheets also have a substantial, luxury feel in hand.

The Boll & Branch sheets are well-made, with high-quality stitch work and an attractive, but simple, decorative cuff adorning the flat sheet and pillowcases. The fitted sheet has 17-inch deep pockets — ample space for most mattresses — and the top sheet had plenty of drape over the sides of our mattress for tucking in hospital corners. Although these sheets shrank more in the laundry than others we tested, they are also much larger, resulting in a top sheet that still has greater area than most other brands, regardless of shrinkage.

Despite the price tag, Boll & Branch offers a surprising amount of flexibility with these sheets. They’re available in eight sizes, with options from twin and twin XL up to California king. Boll & Branch even offers an option for a king set with standard-sized pillowcases. The colors, however, are subdued. Although Boll & Branch offers nine choices, the palette consists exclusively of neutral shades, and does not incorporate any patterns or less traditional colors. We don’t find this to be a dealbreaker — you can always get a patterned duvet if you want the bed to look more exciting — because luxury basics often tend to be less trend-driven.

Best budget cotton sheets: JCPenney Wrinkle Guard 400TC Cotton Sheet Set

From $69.99 at JCPenney

JCPenney Wrinkle Guard 400TC Cotton Sheet Set

For around or below $100 (and frequently on sale for less) the JCPenney Wrinkle Guard sheets are a total steal. They offer a bit less flexibility than others we recommend on sizing and colors, but are otherwise an excellent budget option. The JCPenny Wrinkle Guard sheets live up to their name, coming out of the wash looking as if they had been freshly ironed. The sateen is silky smooth but still feels like it’s made from natural 100% cotton fibers, a feat for such shiny fabric. Getting into a bed made from the JCPenney sheets is like butter. We slipped right in, enveloped by the satiny fabric surrounding us. For people who sleep warm, sateen sheets can run hot, and these would not be the choice for you.

The JCPenney sheets stand up to all of our technical criteria, too. With an 18-inch deep pocket, they fit our bed relatively well, if a bit big for our slim mattress. Available in six colors, they aren’t the most modern-looking option we recommend, but JCPenney hits all the right notes with a handful of tasteful neutral tones to choose from. Over the years of reviewing these sheets, we’ve noticed that JCPenney tends to cycle out some of their bolder colors relatively frequently, so if you don’t see what you’re looking for now, try back later. These sheets do not come in twin size, but they are available in five sizes starting with full and including options for split king-size mattresses.

Choosing sateen versus percale

The two most common fabrics for cotton sheets are sateen or percale. There is little difference in quality between the two, and the choice between sateen and percale largely comes down to personal preference.

Percale, or plain weave, sheets are sewn with a straightforward lattice weave (imagine the lattice on top of a pie) with individual threads alternating in an over and under pattern. Sateen, or stain weave, sheets are sewn such that weft (or horizontal) threads “float” or skip over multiple warp (vertical) threads.

Percale sheets, with their one-by-one weave, are lightweight and more breathable than their sateen counterparts. The lattice weave gives percale sheets more texture, and less of a satiny feel than their sateen counterparts. Additionally, since percale fabric can be tightly woven, they generally have lower thread counts and are lighter than sateen. This leads to a more breathable fabric that hot sleepers tend to prefer.

Sateen sheets, with their floating weave, allow more light to bounce off the threads, adding that satiny shine that people look for. Having so many floating threads does make sateen sheets susceptible to snagging, and so these sheets are often more tightly woven, with more threads per square inch, than their percale counterparts. Doing so makes sateen sheets both stronger and smoother than percale, but also makes them warmer, and less breathable.

How we tested

After selecting 10 popular sheet sets to test, we slept with each for multiple nights, comparing performance, quality and durability, as well as the overall buying options. We considered cotton sheet sets across a broad price range from around $30 up to $500. Both sateen and percale sheet sets were equally represented in our tests, and we brought in five options of each style. After extensive testing we evaluated each sheet set on the following criteria to find the best options.

Performance

  • Sleep feel: We noted how each sheet set felt while sleeping, whether the fabric was soft and breathable or stiff and crinkly. We found sheets across the spectrum of comfort levels.
  • Fit: Although all the sheets we tried were queen-sized, each had slightly different dimensions. We evaluated how well top sheets fit, if they had sufficient drape over our mattress to tuck into the sides and if the fitted sheets had any issues with bagginess (or the opposite).

Quality/durability

  • Durability: After washing each sheet set, we assessed for any wear and tear. One set we tested developed holes after only a single wash and was disqualified. Most others fared well in these tests, and we will continue to monitor them over long-term use.
  • Quality: We assessed the quality of each sheet set, checking each for stitch quality, whether they had any pulls or snags and how durable the elastic in each fitted sheet seemed.
  • Shrinkage: All sheets will shrink in their first wash after purchase. We calculated the rate of shrinkage for each set’s flat sheet, and similarly noted whether the flat sheet was still large enough to sufficiently fit onto our mattress during fit tests.

Options

  • Size options: We preferred sets with a broad range of size options.
  • Color options: We noted how many colors and style choices there were for each model.

Other cotton sheets we tested

The Company Store Company Cotton Percale Sheet Set

From $74 at The Company Store

The Company Cotton sheet set was well-constructed and attractive, it had minimal shrinkage in the wash, and barely wrinkled in the dryer. Unfortunately the flat sheet was very small, and barely fit over the edges of our 10-inch-thick mattress. We worry these would not fit on mattresses that are any thicker.

Target Threshold 400-Thread-Count Solid Performance Sheet Set

From $35 at Target

Although these sheets had great potential as a solid budget set, they had a number of issues. We aren’t keen on the unattractive addition of extra elastic in the center of each corner pocket on this fitted sheet; it seems unnecessary, based on the way most fitted sheets are made, and looks unattractive. Worse yet, this set developed a hole in the corner seam of its fitted sheet after one cycle through the laundry, and it had shoddy sewing work throughout.

Brooklinen Luxe Sateen Core Sheet Set

$135 From $121.50 at Brooklinen

We like Brooklinen’s sheets overall a lot. There is technically nothing wrong with the Brooklinen Luxe Sateen Core Sheet Set, but we preferred the percale option from Brooklinen a bit more. These were not as crisp, and didn’t feel quite as elegant to the touch. If you prefer sateen over percale, though, and are brand-loyal to Brooklinen, these are a solid choice.

Parachute Sateen Sheet Set

From $144 at Parachute

Parachute’s sateen sheets have a pleasant, silky weave, but their construction cuts corners that are a dealbreaker for a sheet set at this price. The main issue is the way the Parachute flat sheet is sewn: Instead of the typical folded-over decorative cuff at the top of the sheet, Parachute’s decorative cuff is made from two pieces of fabric that are serged together across the top hem. Not only is this a cost-cutting measure (no need to spend the time pressing and folding during the manufacturing process), the serged raw edge was incredibly unpleasant next to our faces, where it is rough and can rub uncomfortably.

Kassatex 300-Thread-Count Sateen Collection

From $100 at Kassatex

The Kassatex sheets are great value for the price. At just $100, they make a decent budget alternative if the JCPenney sheets are too silky, or the Boll & Branch too expensive. That said, the Kassatex sheets offer relatively few options for buyers, as they’re only available in white, and only come in two sizes.