Anyone who’s worked with me, reads my blog, or follows me on social quickly realizes I’m all about texture and high-quality linens! Knowing how to choose linens for your home is a vital skill for your comfort and wellbeing.
Think about it—linens, towels, and sheets are the fabric that’s closest to our skin. We’re intimately acquainted with these textiles daily. We spend about a third of our day sleeping in our bedding—wrapped in our sheets. Our skin is the largest organ in the body, and how we treat our skin is a significant part of self-care.
So wrap yourself in something sumptuous and luxurious. Just say no to rough towels, cheap sheets, and scratchy pillowcases! Splurge on that ultra-lux duvet cover, that super delicious throw blanket, or those oh-so-worth-it sheets. Here’s how to choose linens for the home.
Photography: Caroline Sharpnack
How to Choose Linens for the Bedroom
Most of us function best on 7-8 hours of sleep—that’s a lot of time to spend in linens that aren’t high quality and healthy. As I’ve discussed before, many textiles and fabrics are treated with chemicals to help them stay wrinkle-free or anti-static. Some bedding is even treated with flame-retardant chemicals.
While, in theory, this may sound like a positive thing, the truth is that these chemicals can cause long-term health concerns. Cotton, one of the primary materials used to make sheets, is also one of the most chemically treated crops.
Other fabrics used as bed linen like satin, rayon, “microfiber,” and other blends may also contain plastics and other human-made components that are far less than ideal. They can also generate more static electricity, which can be disruptive to sleep and uncomfortable. It's essential to choose natural and organic materials whenever possible.
The other factor to consider when choosing linens is the human toll in processing materials. Cotton workers are often subject to very low wages, child labor, and exposure to chemicals. Many of the materials also have a steep environmental impact thanks to cleaning, drying, and processing. By learning how to choose linens that are organic, fair trade, and healthy, you'll sleep easier knowing your bedding isn't having a negative impact on you, your family, or the earth.
How to Choose the Best Bed Sheets
If you're wondering how to choose bed linens, look at the quality, the fabric type, and the manufacturer's claims. Seek out the best bed sheets that are certified organic, fair-trade, and made of natural materials like linen (made from less-chemically treated flax), silk, or cotton. Also, look for sheets with natural, organic dyes.
Sheets made from natural materials add texture and warmth to your sleep. They give you that "found in nature" feel. Even better, high-quality, natural fabrics are often tightly woven, making them a healthy choice for allergy sufferers. The tighter weave helps deter dust mites. Materials such as cotton, silk, linen, and even bamboo are resistant to mold as well as mites.
I recommend seeking bed sheets with temperature regulating properties. Lightweight fabrics "breathe" and help to wick away moisture while you sleep. Linen is always an excellent temperature regulating choice, but bamboo and even eucalyptus are lovely choices for hot sleepers.
When it comes to learning how to choose bed linens, you’ll probably hear about thread count. The term describes how many threads are in each square inch of fabric. In theory, the higher the thread count, the better quality the sheet. However, it’s important to know that there are certain ways some manufacturers work around the “thread count” by using multi-ply thread and then boast about a higher thread count as a selling point. While thread count sounds like a significant number, the materials, quality, and other factors are actually more important.
Photography: Caroline Sharpnack
So, where can you find high-quality sheets? I recommend exploring the following options:
One of my favorite spots for linens of all types, but especially for the best bed sheets. Their organic sheet sets are high-quality, super soft, beautiful, and only get better with time. The percale sheets are wonderfully cooling for hot sleepers.
Linoto’s 100% linen sheet sets are sourced through Belgium and Italy, then manufactured in the U.S. (in New York). If you love linen sheets, Linoto’s are some of the best bed sheets, eco-friendly, and come pre-washed with easy care.
If you’re a flannel sheet lover, upgrade to cotton cashmere. The Brooklinen sheets are ultra-soft and breathable while still cozy. Their 100% long-staple cotton sheets are also a fan favorite.
West Elm is another excellent resource for high-quality bed sheets of all types. The hemp and cotton blend is particularly nice, with naturally dyed fibers that look better and better after each wash.
I've heard a lot of buzz about Avocado sheets lately, particularly the superfine Indian Suvin cotton. The company focuses on eco-friendly, fair-trade practices meeting the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) and are Made-Safe certified, climate neutral, and vegan.
Sol offers sateen, percale, and linen sheets made from 100% organic material. They are also GOTS certified and are an affordably priced choice that you can feel really good about.
The cheekily named Sheets & Giggles sells sustainable eucalyptus lyocell sheets. Their sheets are soft, breathable, cooling, and moisture-wicking. They're committed to only harvesting non-endangered Eucalyptus, plant a tree for each sheet set sold, and offer a 10% discount when you donate old bedsheets.
Moving on to pillowcases, the big question that often comes up is silk versus satin pillowcases. You may have heard that sleeping on a silk or satin pillowcase is better for your skin and hair. But what's the difference and how do you choose the best?
Satin is a human-made weave that features a shiny side and a dull side. It's typically made from polyesters and human-made materials like nylon or rayon (sometimes blended with silk). You may see it promoted as charmeuse or polyester.
Silk, on the other hand, is a natural fiber. Silk is much more expensive than satin because it is produced from silkworms, and it's an involved process. Nothing beats the feel and luxury of silk. Silk has natural antibacterial properties, and the ancient fabric is flame-retardant. However, silk can still be problematic for several reasons.
People who follow a vegan lifestyle may prefer not to use silk products because it's made from an animal product (and the silkworms don't survive the harvest process). Chemicals may also be used in the extraction process, so it's important to seek 100% naturally dyed or unbleached silk. There are also some human rights concerns in the Indian silk industry.
If you’re seeking the benefits of silk pillowcases, explore the offerings at The Ethical Silk Company. Their pillowcases are created from 100% mulberry silk, and the company is committed to sustainability, ethical tailoring, and low-impact processing.
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Combatting Allergies with Healthy Bed Linens
For allergy sufferers, knowing how to choose bed linens is essential. Generally speaking, the tighter the weave, the less chance there will be of allergens getting through. Dust mites are often a top source of allergies, and as you lay on your pillow, you'll want to protect yourself from these invisible irritants.
Choose bedding you can wash often. I love the look of vintage and antique pieces, especially textiles, but when it comes to sheets, bedding, and especially pillowcases, the best bed sheets for allergy sufferers are easy to wash. Look for inexpensive, hypoallergenic 100% cotton pillow covers to protect you as you sleep and act as another barrier between your pillowcase, pillow, and face.
Microfiber, memory foam, and other pillow materials may claim to be allergen-reducing. Still, it's important to understand that there may be additional hazards and irritants in these human-made materials. Choose the most natural option. Latex is made of rubber and can be a safe alternative to down or human-made materials (but keep in mind there is a lot of synthetic latex on the market).
For non-toxic, allergen-friendly pillows, look at:
· Saatva’s Talalay Latex Pillow
· Boll & Branch’s Down Pillow with 100% Cotton Down-proof Shell
Choosing Bedding: Comforters or Duvets?
What about your duvet or comforter? There’s nothing that adds to the luxury and comfort of a bedroom like a cozy, lofty duvet.
Typically, a duvet refers to a blanket that's filled with down or an alternative. Most people sleep with the duvet on their bed throughout the night. If you use a duvet, you will need a cover that protects the duvet and can be washed or cleaned.
A comforter or “bedspread” is a blanket that goes on top of your bed to complete the look. Some people prefer to remove the comforter when they sleep, while others use them as a blanket for warmth.
Although the duvet or comforter doesn't usually touch your skin like sheets, it's still important to choose a bed covering that's sustainable and made of safe materials. A down duvet is an excellent choice for many reasons—it wicks moisture away from your body, keeps your temperature regulated, and has a nice weight and fill.
Some people prefer not to use down, however. Both duvets and comforters are available in synthetic and non-synthetic choices. Again, look for less toxic, eco-friendly filling if you choose a down alternative.
The options for duvet covers are endless. You can choose from practically any style, color, or material you like. I suggest linen, high-quality cotton, or even bamboo.
For beautiful comforters, duvets, and covers, explore:
Photography: Jennifer Lavelle
How to Choose Linens for the Home
The term “linens” has become quite synonymous with bedding, but linens can also refer to towels, tablecloths, and other textiles you use throughout your home. So, how to choose linens for the home to use in those other spaces?
In many ways, the guidelines for sheets and comforters are an excellent way to choose linens for the bath, kitchen, and throughout the rest of your house. When seeking the best towels, look for natural fibers—cotton, linens, hemp, bamboo, silk, wool, and eucalyptus. Choose organic, whenever possible, and look for the most sustainable and minimally treated choices.
Like sheets, you will find many synthetic choices out there. Some towels claim high absorbency and may be made from microfiber or be chemically treated. When in doubt, always look at the source.
For truly spa-worthy towels, look for large, soft bath sheets in plush Turkish Cotton. The classic towels at Brooklinen are some of the best towels out there. Architectural Digest featured 100% organic cotton Weezie bath towels as "life-changing," and they also have rave reviews.
If you prefer lighter-weight bath linen, I suggest exploring Turkish or Hammam towels. These are lightweight but super absorbent, and once people convert to Turkish towels, they often proclaim them the best towels ever. They're made from Turkish cotton on looms. You may also hear them referred to as foutas or peshtemals. Watch for towels that say 100% Turkish cotton to know they’re authentic quality. The Fouta stripe towels at Parachute Home are a nice option, as well as these from Olive & Linen.
No matter the room, when you're choosing linens for your home, remember that it's essential to select quality, natural materials. We often focus on the fabric and quality of our clothing but forget that towels and bedding come in contact with our skin almost as frequently.
Nothing feels quite as comforting and luxurious as high-quality linens. It’s another way you can make your home truly a sanctuary and a space of wellness and renewal.
Let me know about your favorite home linens in the comments below.