Which No-Iron Sheets Are the Softest?
Help Home Feel Like a Five-Star Hotel
Slipping into freshly ironed bed sheets is one of the most wonderful, luxurious feelings there is. Ironed sheets are one reason why beds at luxury hotels feel so good. Even rough or stiff sheets feel loads softer if they have been ironed.
But who has time, or a linen press, to iron their bed sheets at home? If you have a full-time maid who irons your sheets for you, well then, lucky you. I am not that fortunate. But I do love the way ironed sheets feel. I wanted to know how to get that soft, crisp feel of ironed sheets at home without actually having to pull out an iron or ironing board.
Is the secret no-iron sheets? Are soft sheets really all about thread count—the higher the better? Or does the softness of sheets come from Egyptian cotton, or Supima cotton, or percale?
Here is what I have learned.
For my money, the best sheets for both softness and for not wrinkling is 100% Egyptian combed-cotton percale with a high thread count—over 600 if you can afford it, but under no circumstances under 250.
And remember, your sheets will get softer with every washing.
Why Egyptian Cotton?
Egyptian cotton has extra-long cotton fibers, which helps to make it the highest quality, softest cotton there is. This long-fiber cotton must be grown near the Nile to be called "Egyptian cotton." Egyptian cotton isn't the only high-quality, long-fibered cotton out there; it's simply the kind that grows in Egypt. "Pima" and "Supima" cotton also have long fibers, and they also can be very soft.
One challenge with Egyptian cotton is that it wrinkles pretty badly. If you are going for that soft sheets feel, wrinkles will get in your way.
How to Achieve Softness
So, is there a way to get high-quality, soft sheets that don't wrinkle?
There is—one through science, one through craft.
The science option is to buy no-wrinkle sheets or wrinkle-free sheets. These wrinkle-resistant bed linens use nanotechnology whereby the cotton fibers are coated with a treatment that helps reduce and control wrinkles for around 50 washes.
Not into nanotechnology for a bedfellow? There's another way to get soft sheets using fine Supima or Egyptian cotton, and that is percale.
"Percale" actually refers to the weave of the fabric; it is a flat weave that makes sheets particularly crisp. That, coupled with a high thread count and top-quality cotton is your best to achieve soft bed sheets without having to iron them.
Another tip to make your sheets softer is to remove them from your clothes dryer immediately when the cycle ends and to put them directly on the bed or else fold them and put them away. You might also want to try a slower spin cycle in your clothes washer when you wash sheets. This will tangle them less.
Other Thoughts and Terminology About Bed Linens
Thread count is important when you buy thread sheets. "Thread count" refers to how many threads there are per square inch, so in other words, how tight the weave is. The tighter it is, the more durable and finer quality it is. I recommend always buying sheets with a thread count of 250 or higher. The higher you go, the softer the sheets do get.
Sateen sheets are made of cotton and have a sheen to them. They are very soft, but they do wrinkle, and sateen sheets are apt to pill, which makes them not last as long. Cotton sateen is achieved with a specific weaving technique.
Percale is a weave, not a kind of sheet or a kind of cotton. Percale can be 100% cotton or 50% cotton and 50% polyester. I recommend going with 100% cotton. Yes, polyester is softer, but it is not a natural fiber and does not breathe as well. So look specifically for 100% cotton percale.
Jacquard sheets are pretty but pricey. Jacquard weaves are made on a special loom, and they usually have a subtle pattern woven into the fabric. These and damask are lovely, but not your softest choices.