Buying Guide: Bed Linen

Bring comfort and style to your bedroom and discover which bed linen is right for you with the expert advice in the Houseology bed linen buying guide.


Buying Guides

Tucking into a luxuriously comfortable bed is one of life’s great pleasures – there are fewer feelings more satisfying than sliding into crisp, clean sheets and drifting off to sleep.

The perfect bed is all about balance; great pillows, a comfortable mattress and a warm, fluffy duvet may be the essentials, but dressing them properly is what brings it all together. Think of your bed linen as affordable luxury you can feel – the quality of linen you wrap yourself in is essential to a restful night’s sleep and an indulgence you can enjoy every morning when you wake up.

bed linen buying guide - grey sheets

01.Thread counts explained

Thread count is an important mark of quality when choosing bed linen, and in general, the higher the thread count the higher the quality. The thread count itself refers to the number of threads in one square inch of fabric – it applies to the warp and weft of the woven threads.

While the thread count can give some indication about how fine and smooth your linens will feel against the skin, it’s not the only factor in quality bed linen. The fineness and quality of the thread is another hugely important factor – a finer yard with a lower thread count will feel more luxurious than a thicker yarn with a higher thread count, so don’t be blinded by this number.

02.Types of bed linen

The type of fabric you choose for your linen depends on your lifestyle as much as it does on your personal tastes. Whether you want your bed to radiate heat or to feel crisp and cool, the linen fabric you choose is just as important as your style and colour choices. Start with the practical; no matter how lovely your linens are to look at, if it’s not comfortable for you, it won’t help with a peaceful night’s sleep. These are some of the most commonly used fabrics for bed linen:

Cool, absorbent and versatile, cotton is affordable and comes in many different forms. It’s the most widely used fibre for making bed linen as it is naturally breathable, easy to wash and incredibly durable – cotton is a popular choice with families and busy households.

Egyptian cotton
Egyptian cotton is considered one of the most luxurious cottons available. The climate in Egypt is perfect for growing long cotton fibres, which in turn allows them to be spun into very fine yarns that are both soft to the touch yet equally strong and durable. Linens made from Egyptian cotton tend to be more expensive than other types of cotton thanks to their quality.

Supima cotton
Similar to Egyptian cotton, Supima or Pima cotton also comes from long cotton fibres to create a fine and durable finish. Linens made from Supima cotton are strong yet feel soft, smooth and luxurious against the skin.

Flannel is also woven from Supima cotton, but is finely brushed to pull out tiny fibres from the loosely spun yarns. Linens made from flannel are exceptionally warm and feel smooth and velvety against the skin – perfect for winter nights.

bed linen buying guide - types of fabric

Easycare polycotton
Made from a blend of polyester and cotton, this linen is comfortable to the touch, dries quickly and requires minimal ironing. It’s a great solution for families and works well on children’s beds because it requires minimal fuss. Beware of poor quality polycottons, look for a threadcount of at least 180 to help guard against wearing and pulling.

Linen is one of the most beautiful fabrics to sleep in – the cool and absorbent nature of this fabric makes it perfect for hot summers and warmer climates, and is an excellent alternative to cotton because it is non-allergenic.

Naturally hypo-allergenic, silk is versatile enough to provide warmth in winter and still be cooling in summer thanks to its ability to regulate body temperature. It’s also a great choice if you suffer from acne or have sensitive skin; it won’t irritate skin or absorb any lotions or other skin products. Silk also protects hair from tangling or pulling in the night, preventing ‘bed head’, frizz and static. Silk is more delicate than other fabrics however, and requires more careful maintenance and washing.

03.Essential bed linen

bed linen buying guide - essentials

Keep at least two sets of bed linen per bed, so there is always one waiting when it’s time to launder and change your sheets. When buying linens to dress your bed, these are the key pieces you will need:

Top sheet
Use a top sheet if you make your bed with blankets. Fold over the duvet for an additional hint of colour; many come with decorative cuffs perfect for being put on display.

Bottom sheet - fitted or flat
This is the sheet that covers your mattress. It should be deep enough to fit securely over your mattress and stay in place as you move around in sleep.

This is a decorative cover and is useful if your divan base is exposed and doesn’t match your headboard or other stylings around the room.

Duvet cover
This is the linen that covers your duvet. They come in two main styles:
-Bag, the standard covering with an edge-to-edge seamed covering, or
-Oxford, which comes with an extra border between the duvet seam and cover.

Pillowcases are the linens that cover and protect your pillow. They come in a range of styles and shapes depending on purpose – decorative top pillows tend to be more ornate, while the pillows we sleep on are more simply styled. Types of pillowcase include:
-Standard, also known as Housewife, is an edge-to-edge pillowcase designed to fit the contours of your pillow.
-Oxford fits the contours of your pillow and also includes a more decorative outside border.

04.Bed linen sizing

Knowing the size of bed linen you will need, before you go shopping, can save a lot of hassle getting it wrong and making returns. Remember too if you're buying your bed linen online, UK sizes are different to European or US sizes. UK sizes tend to be slightly smaller than the others.

Here's our guide to standard UK bed linen sizes: bed linen buying guide - UK size chart

05.Printed bed linen

Once you’ve made the decision about the style of fabric and the size of linens you need, it’s time to move on to the exciting prospect of style.

This is where the details and finishes of your linens become important – the bed is the focal point of the bedroom, and the colours and finishes you select should complement your design and bring the whole look together. Consider how you can use your bed linens to add subtle texture, create contrast or balance the colour palette in your room. Choose from finishes like:

Bed linen buying guide - printed sheets

Designs are printed directly onto the fabric.

A style of weave where designs are woven directly into the fabric to create a multidimensional finish.

A multidimensional style of slack-tension weave where there are subtle, alternating stripes of smooth and textured fabric.

A weave that creates a textured pattern of waffle-like squares that still feels soft and smooth to the touch.

This intricate weave has a surface made up of vertical threads, giving a smooth, silk-like finish on top and a plain finish on the reverse.

06.Bed linen care

Caring for your linens will help keep them in good shape and ensure you have a clean and hygienic bed to sleep in. We sweat and shed tiny flakes of skin when we sleep so it’s important to protect pillows and mattresses and wash linens regularly to avoid the build-up of bacteria and dust which can lead to health problems like asthma, bronchitis, allergies and eczema.

Wash and air out your duvets, pillows and toppers as the seasons change to help keep them clean and at their best. Your linens should be changed once a week – follow the care instructions to find optimum temperature and recommended cleaning method.