These days you can find amazing bed sheets made of all kinds of materials — polyester, rayon, linen, silk and blends — but traditional 100% pure cotton is still the most popular bedding fabric on the market. It’s soft, breathable, durable and feels natural against your skin. But with so many options to choose from, it’s hard to know which sets are worth buying. That’s where we come in.
The Good Housekeeping Institute Textiles Lab has tested more than 200 sheet sets in recent years, from cooling sheets to organic sheets, soft sheets, microfiber sheets, flannel sheets and beyond. We evaluate them for factors like fabric strength, pilling resistance, wrinkle resistance and shrinkage from laundering in the Lab, then we then have dozens of testers feel and rate the fabrics in a blind comparison for softness and comfort. Our analysts reviewed over 10,000 data points from testing before recommending these sets.
We most recently reviewed this article in May 2022 and stand by these picks based on our in-depth evaluations. You can read more about how we test and what to look for at the end of this article, but first, here are the best 100% cotton sheets you can buy:
Best Overall Cotton SheetsLuxe Core Sheet Set Brooklinen Read More
Best Value Cotton SheetsCotton Bed Sheet Set Mellanni Read More
Best Cotton Percale SheetsPima Cotton Percale Sheet Set L.L.Bean Read More
Best Cotton Sateen SheetsWrinkle-Resistant Sateen Sheets Garnet Hill Read More
Best Organic Cotton Percale SheetsOrganic Crinkled Percale Sheets Coyuchi Read More
- Quality fabric held up to Lab tests
- Convenient bed-making labels
- Any-reason return policy
- Not as deep for taller mattresses
This set earned the top spot thanks to its overall fabric quality and stress-free features. For starters, the smooth fabric was strong, pill-resistant and laundered well in our wash tests. On top of that, the fitted sheet is labeled with “long side” and “short side” tabs so bed-making is a whole lot easier.
Besides the stellar feedback from our tester panel, this set also has thousands of five-star reviews online from real users who swear by it. And if you're still not convinced, the brand offers an any-reason return policy so you can get a full refund if you don't love it.
- Smooth sateen
- We couldn't validate its organic claims
Most cotton sheet sets cost well over $100, but this one's a fraction of the cost and your best bet if you're looking to save. Besides its 100% cotton fiber content, it also has a sateen weave for smoothness, a 16-inch depth and an elastic band to fit securely on mattresses.
We haven't extensively tested this newer style yet, but Mellanni sheets have typically performed well in our evaluations and surprised our experts with their quality despite the low cost. Plus, this set is already earning rave reviews on Amazon from real users. Just note that although it claims to be GOTS certified organic, we weren't able to verify this through the GOTS database.
- Cool and crisp
- Durable fabric
- Available in solid colors and prints
- Not as smooth as sateen
Percale weaves are for those who prefer a cool and crisp cotton sheet set over one that feels silky smooth. Though they sometimes can feel rough compared to sateen, this L.L.Bean set was rated soft by most testers and outperformed all other percale sheets in our extensive evaluations. One tester even described them as feeling like "quality hotel sheets."
The fabric was strong and durable with hardly any shrinkage or pilling. Plus, percale often looks wrinkled, but this one had a smoother appearance compared to others. There's also something for every style preference with a wide range of solid neutrals, bright colors and pretty prints.
- Soft and smooth
- Items sold individually
- Over $200 when you build a full set
This soft sateen fabric is made with unique manufacturing steps that helped it stand out in our tests: It uses long-staple combed cotton that feels smoother — i.e. there are no short fibers to poke out — and a wrinkle-resistant finish that's Oeko-Tex certified so you don't need to worry about harmful levels of chemicals.
The fabric was durable in our Lab tests and didn't pill at all, which is a big accomplishment because our abrasion machine rubs each swatch 1,000 times with a rough fabric. On top of that, testers loved how luxurious the soft yet sturdy fabric felt. The items are sold individually instead of as a set so you can build your perfect bed.
- GOTS certified organic
- Relaxed look and feel
- Lightweight and breathable
- Wrinkles easily after laundering
- Some pilling in Lab tests
This sheet set checks off the boxes for a variety of preferences: It's made with GOTS-certified cotton for those who prefer organic, the fabric is light and airy for those who prefer breathable and cool, and it's crisp for those who prefer a relaxed look and feel. In fact, the brand uses a special process to achieve its signature crinkled finish.
Besides its organic certification, it's also Fair Trade Certified, which focuses on ethical issues like wages and working conditions. The fabric washed well in Lab evaluations, though it did have some pilling and wrinkles (which is expected for a crinkled fabric). Plus, at-home testers told us loved how the sheets felt soft yet crisp and cool at the same time.
- GOTS certified organic
- Soft sateen
- Costs less than other organic sets
- Some shrinkage and wrinkles from laundering
Truly organic sheets can cost hundreds of dollars, but this set is certified by GOTS and still under $200. The certification is especially important because it shows the entire manufacturing process — not just the growing of the cotton — follows strict standards.
Though it had some shrinkage and wrinkles after we washed it, the sateen fabric outperformed other organic sheets and proved to be both soft and strong. One at-home tester highlighted how it stood out for feeling lightweight and smooth.
- Highest softest rating from testers
- Thick and substantial
- Many options for color and sizes
- Pricier than others
- Some pilling in Lab tests
This luxury sateen set costs more than others in this roundup, but it's certainly worth the splurge thanks to its substantial thickness and incredible softness. Its made with Supima cotton, which is a premium fiber grown in the U.S., and comes in more than 20 colors with the option to mix and match your set.
This set earned the highest softness rating compared to all other cotton sheets in a blind comparison and our reviewers told us they wanted to purchase it for themselves. The fabric was strong and shrink-resistant in our Lab tests, though there was some pilling and wrinkles compared to other sets despite "wrinkle-free" claims.
- Soft and cozy
- Durable fabric
- Optional flat sheet
- Noticeable wrinkles after laundering
This novelty set has a basic percale weave with a brushed surface so you get a unique mix of lightweight and crisp with soft and cozy. The brushed surface is somewhat similar to flannel's construction, yet the fuzziness is much more minimal and not as hot.
Not surprisingly, this was rated softer than all other percales we've tested. Our panel of reviewers loved how it felt and noted its relaxed appearance. And though brushed fabric can often show signs of wear easily, this one stood up well to our durability tests without significant shrinkage or pilling.
- Smooth look and feel
- Washes well with minimal shrinkage
Cotton sheets can look crumpled and messy at times (even when you take them out of the dryer right away), but this set has a wrinkle-resistant finish and looked the smoothest after we washed it. And because it’s certified by Oeko-Tex, you don’t need to worry about unsafe chemical levels from the finish.
The cotton is also combed to remove short, poking fibers and testers gave it top marks for feeling smooth. Though the fabric didn't perform as well in our strength test, it was overall durable in laundering tests with minimal shrinkage.
- Cozy and warm
- Strong fabric
- Reversible colors
- Flannel pills more easily
The perfect solution for cold sleepers, flannel sheets have a brushed surface that trap in air for extra warmth. These sheets feel super soft and are surprisingly durable for flannel, which is otherwise notorious for looking fuzzy.
Testers gave this set high ratings for comfort and especially liked how toasty the sheets felt on their beds. As a bonus, the set is reversible with lighter and darker shades for two looks in one.
Besides validating that the sheets are 100% cotton (as opposed to a blend with synthetics), our fiber scientists rigorously test the sheets in our Textiles Lab and with real consumer testers. Here's how we evaluate the sets:
- Softness: Our panel of testers rate each fabric in a blind comparison. Testing occurs after we wash the sheets to remove any leftover finishes from production. Plus, our product experts and reviewers sleep test the top performers at home for real-life feedback.
- Fabric strength: Our specialized machine (called an Instron, pictured below) pulls swatches of fabric until they break, letting us know how strong each material is.
- Pilling resistance: To mimic tossing, turning, wear and tear, we use our abrasion machine to rub swatches together then visibly score signs of pilling according to textile industry standards.
- Washability: Each sheet is repeatedly laundered and scored for shrinkage and appearance after multiple wash cycles.
- Wrinkle resistance: After laundering, each sheet is taken right out of the dryer to our specialized lighting room and visually assessed for creases according to industry standards.
- Other factors: We also check how well the sheets fit onto a sample mattress and consider any claims, from cooling features to organic labeling.
Once you decide to opt for cotton, it can be overwhelming and confusing with just how many varieties of cotton there are when you shop. Here are the common choices you'll see for cotton:
✔️ First, consider cotton fibers.
- Long staple cotton is considered a luxury fiber because the longer staples mean there are no short fibers to stick out or break off, making the fabric smoother and more durable. Egyptian and pima cotton are both types of extra long staple (ELS) cotton. Just keep in mind: Egyptian cotton claims are hard to prove, and there have been instances of brands mislabeling their sheets when they don't actually contain this luxury fiber.
- Organic cotton is grown without pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. But don't confuse organic cotton fibers with organic cotton sheets — a fully organic product will follow strict standards throughout the supply chain, not just the growing of the cotton. Check to make sure its certified from a trusted source, like the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS).
✔️ Next, consider cotton sheet fabrics.
- Percale is a basic weave that feels light and breathable. It's ideal for anyone that sleeps hot or prefers a crisp feel.
- Sateen is a satin-like weave that feels silky smooth. Our testers tend to prefer this feel because it's softer than percale.
- Flannel is a thick, brushed fabric that feels warm and cozy.
- Jersey is a knit fabric that feels like a T-shirt. It's stretchier and often very soft, but it's not as durable and pills more easily.
✔️ Also look into cotton manufacturing techniques.
- Combed cotton comes from a process that removes shorter cotton fibers, leaving behind the longer ones that feel smoother and are less likely to break.
- Brushed cotton has a surface that's brushed to give it a fuzzy finish. This feels softer and helps trap in air to make it cozier, similar to flannel.
- Wrinkle-resistant cotton has added finishes to make wrinkle-prone cotton look smoother. While this process often uses chemicals, you can check for Oeko-Tex certification to make sure there are no unsafe levels of known harmful chemicals in the finished fabric.
Besides the construction of the fabric, here's what to consider as you pick out your cotton sheets:
- Thread count: This tells you the number of threads per square inch of fabric, and it only matters when the sheets are 100% cotton. Top performers in our test are typically in the 300-500 range, but thread count isn't super important and it's better to focus on the specifications listed above.
- Price: Cotton sheets are more expensive than ones with synthetics, like polyester-cotton blends and microfibers, but you don't need to spend a fortune. Most of our top performing cotton sheets are in the $100-$200 range for a Queen-size sheet set.
- Care instructions: There's usually no special care required because cotton is machine washable, but some sets call for gentle cycles or cold water washing. Warm water is best for cleaning cotton sheets, especially if you're a hot sleeper or don't wash sheets on a regular basis.
Lexie Sachs is the Executive Director of the Textiles, Paper & Apparel Lab at the Good Housekeeping Institute. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Fiber Science from Cornell University and more than 15 years experience in the textiles industry, including merchandising and product development for home products. Lexie joined Good Housekeeping in 2013 and has extensively tested all types of bedding — including mattresses, sheets, pillows, comforters and more — using specialized lab equipment and with hundreds of consumer testers.