How to pick a set of bed sheets - linen or cotton, thread count, and the best sets of bed linen UK 2021

Thread counts? Linen or cotton? Pricy or cheap? Picking a set of bed sheets doesn’t need to be confusing - we break down the rules for a great, long-lasting set of sheets to suit you

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A great set of bed sheets are the best place to start for a good night’s sleep. Nobody enjoys themselves if they’re tossing and turning because they’re too hot due to flannel bedding, or wrestling to tame scratchy material that doesn’t fit the bed correctly. So what do you need to look for to rest easy? And what sort of price should you be paying?

300-400 thread count is all you need, if the fabric is good

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Thread count (the number of threads woven into a square inch of fabric) is worth taking into account, but it’s not all about big numbers, says Robert Lancaster-Gaye, co-founder of Tielle Love Luxury, which makes high-end bedsheets and cloud-like bedding for prestige hotels, including The Savoy.

“Just as a good meal depends on quality ingredients, good linen relies on the quality of the yarn, processing and finishing – not just the thread count. 300 thread-count or 400 thread-count linens woven from good quality cotton will have all the luxe factor you need,” says Lancaster-Gaye.

And if you tend to overhead and throw the covers off at night, you might prefer a lower thread count in high-quality cotton.

Cotton is best for comfort, linen for temperature regulation

Lancaster-Gaye recommends 100% cotton – particularly “long-staple” cotton, which has longer fibres and tends to give a more luxurious feel – over polycotton or polyester. It’s more expensive, but it should last far longer, and won’t cause you to sweat at night.

The two top-quality weaves to look for are percale, which is cool and crisp, and sateen, which feels soft and smooth.

Don’t want cotton? Linen makes a good alternative for a relaxed, natural look, and sheets that are warm in winter and cool in summer.

In picking the best, we’ve looked for easy fastening, a good, snug fit around bedding (with no spillage), as well as fabric quality - across a range of price points.

Brisa 100% Linen Duvet Cover + 2 Pillowcases Double, Moss Green

Best for: a luxurious linen feeling

The Made Brisa range embodies convenience and luxury, and their gorgeous linen sheets are made in Portugal. With an eco-luxe linen feel and available in numerous colour-ways, we adore the chic moss green set.

We also like that these 100% linen sheets are pre-washed, so they’re extremely soft to the touch. They’re also exactly the size you need them to be when they arrive, and won’t shrink after a couple of washes.

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Christy Sateen Stripe White

Christy Sateen Stripe White

Best for: hotel quality and feel

A classic sheet from heritage brand Christy (best known for their luxury towels). The 300-thread count and sateen weave made for cool-feeling, breathable sheets with a smooth, hotel-like quality.

Our only gripe was the plastic packaging, which left the fabric with a chemical factory smell that needed to be washed out before use – but all was forgotten once we were wrapped up in them.

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Bedfolk Relaxed Cotton

Best for: superb pillowcases, cool sheets

Stylish, comfortable, cool – these are excellent bed sheets, and worth every penny. But where they really distinguish themselves is in the pillowcase design - with an opening in the middle meaning there’s no chance of your pillows peeping out in the night.

The chemical-free, 100% log-staple cotton sheets have a natural, relaxed, linen-like look and feel.

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Rise & Fall: Crisp & Cool Organic

Best for: sustainability

We love the Soft & Smooth sheets from Rise & Fall for doing exactly what they promise (they’re very soft and smooth). But the Crisp & Cool Organic sheets meet the strict ethical criteria for Global Organic Textile Standard certification too (from sustainable sourcing to social responsibility).

With a percale weave, 400 thread count and 100% extra long-staple cotton, they still have a luxurious hotel bed feel to them. And the snug pillowcases and easy-fastening buttons don’t spill your bedding.

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Tom & Dicks Portland Linen Set

Tom & Dicks Portland Linen Set

Best for: great eco credentials

There’s a lot to love about Tom & Dicks. A sleep quiz on the website helps you pick which fabric suits you best, then there’s the plastic-free packaging (the sheets come in a reusable tote bag).

We liked the cool, natural yet high-quality feel of the Portland linen set, made from 100% flax grown in Normandy. Even better is the ethos: 2 percent of each sale goes to mental health and homeless charities in Manchester, and you can (free)post your box back, filled with old sheets and clothes to donate to the homeless.

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Habitat Washed Mustard Duvet Cover Set

Best for: affordability

An affordable, bright option (which also comes in pink, sage green, charcoal, stone grey and white).

The 100% cotton, stonewashed sheets have a lived-in, relaxed look and feel that’s up there with the many similar and more expensive sheets on the market. Good value for money.

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Soak & Sleep

Best for: quality on a budget

While Soak & Sleep offers sheets with thread counts reaching the lofty heights of 1000 (and commensurate price tags), we think the classic 200 thread count 100% Egyptian long-staple cotton sheets in a percale weave are perfectly lovely, and less ruinously priced.

These had the same drawback of needing a good wash after being stored in plastic packaging, but they still win hands-down for quality and value. They’re cool, breathable and feel just luxurious enough.

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Scooms Duo Egyptian Cotton Bundle

Scooms Duo Egyptian Cotton Bundle

Best for: crumpled, stylish joy

Don’t sleep on the Scooms’ bedding bundles (or rather, do, but don’t dally when it comes to purchasing) - they offer terrific value.

An ideal set for offering year-round comfort, these sheets offer restful sleep - they’re so very comfy, managing the trick of being both warm, yet light and airy at the same time (thank you, 600 thread count Egyptian cotton)

With a lightly (deliberately) crumpled appearance, they turn a slovenly bed into something insouciant and chic. Best of all, the texture of these sheets continues to improve wash after wash, both in terms of comfort and appearance.

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