by Glyn Sheridan
Cotton comes from the same plant family as the hibiscus, and it provides the material for the majority of bedding in production today. From 100 percent cotton sheets to fabric blends that include silk, polyester, and even bamboo fibers, cotton provides soft, durable bedding in a wide range of quality and price. Here's what you need to know while you shop.
Cotton types: While all cotton used in bed linens comes from a plant, different plants produce fibers with distinct properties that are more or less attractive in bedding material. Egyptian cotton plants and Sea Island cotton plants produce the longest thread staples, which are highly desirable in luxury bed linens. Pima cotton and American Upland cotton offer a slightly shorter staple that is still acceptable in quality linens. Other North American and Asian cotton plants produce a shorter staple, used in less expensive cotton bedding.
Fabric: The labels given to cotton fabric relate to the type of weave used to make the material or the addition of other fibers. Poly-cotton indicates a blend of cotton fibers and polyester fibers, and the percentage of each will appear on the bedding package and on the sewn-on consumer tag. Sateen bed linens have a special weave pattern where one side of the fabric contains more threads than the other, making it silky smooth. Jacquard bedding may feature intricate patterns that are woven into the fabric during production.
Thread count: High-quality bed linens typically have a high thread count, indicating the number of horizontal or vertical threads per square inch. Average-quality bedding may have a thread count of up to 300, but some cotton bed linens, typically those made from Egyptian cotton, may reach a thread count of 1,000 or even higher. Most bed linens with thread counts over 400 are of sound quality and offer a smooth feel.
Bed linen products: Cotton bed linens feature bed sheets in standard bed sizes, including twin, full, queen, king, and California king. They may also include duvets that provide protective covering for comforters.
Durability: Cotton is a durable fiber, and the stronger the cotton thread staple, the more durable the linen. While high thread count linens are luxuriously soft, they require a finer thread staple for the tighter weave, and they may not be as durable as linens with a thread count around 400 and a thicker thread staple.