Cotton is the most popular fabric when it comes to bed sheets. But there’s so much variety when it comes to this plant. In general, cotton is divided into 3 large groups: Egyptian cotton, pima cotton, and upland cotton. This time we’ll focus on the first kind – Egyptian cotton. Best sheets made from Egyptian cotton are considered one of the highest quality sheets available. Let’s find out, why this cotton type gets so much praise and whether it truly lives up to the hype. We also bring out the best Egyptian cotton sheets available on Amazon.
What Is Cotton
I’m absolutely sure if you look around your home you’ll find many products made from cotton. Try towels, t-shirts, socks, sheets, curtains. So you might already know quite a lot about this fabric. But let’s get back to the basics for a moment.
Cotton is harvested from the genus of the flowering plant called Gossypium. The plant is a shurb and grows in tropical and subtropical parts of the world. Gossypium needs plenty of sunshine, a long frost-free period, and moderate rainfall. In areas that are lacking in rain, the necessary water is obtained from irrigation. Although there are around 50 species of Gossypium, only a handful are used for commercial purposes.
- Gossypium hirsutum aka upland cotton, which includes >90% of worldwide cotton production,
- Gossypium barbadense aka extra-long staple cotton, giving 3-4% of world production,
- Gossypium arboreum and Gossypium herbaceum, together amounting to around 2%.
The biggest producers of cotton are China, India, the United States, Pakistan, and Brazil.
What Is Egyptian Cotton
Egyptian cotton belongs to the Gossypium barbadense group. The G. barbadense species also contains other varieties, such as American pima, Indian Suvin, Chinese Xinjiang, and Sea Island cotton. What distinguishes them from other cottons, is the length of the cotton fiber. Egyptian cotton has either long staple (LS) or extra-long staple (ELS) fibers. But more about than a bit later.
The Gossypium barbadense flower is a delicate yellow color, while cotton itself starts forming in the bracts that remain after the fertilized flower falls off. This bract is what we call a cotton boll. A boll is home to 27 to 45 seeds and each seed grows around 10,000 to 20,000 fibers. So overall each cotton boll contains hundreds of thousands of fibers.
At first Egyptian cotton was true to its name – it referred only to cotton grown in Egypt. The delta of the Nile river was an especially fertile ground for the cotton plant to prosper. This cotton was a synonym for luxury. Over time, others also wanted a piece of the luxury pie and today, the Egyptian cotton label is used more loosely. Not all cotton products that carry the label Egyptian cotton, actually come from cotton grown in Egypt. And since there is quite a lot of cotton grown in Egypt in general, not all of that cotton is actual extra-long or long staple cotton.
With time, the meaning however changed. It now covers all long staple cottons, even if the origin is not Egypt. True Egyptian cotton is thought to be superior to other types of cotton sheets available, such as Pima (or Supima) cotton.
Qualities of Egyptian Cotton
There are numerous reasons why cotton is considered a great fabric and Egyptian cotton takes it a notch higher. Cotton is widely know as a fabric that breathes well. This is great for people who tend to run hot during the night. A breathable fabric lets air move more freely between the threads. As a result, the sheets will remain cool and will keep you cool as well.
Another great quality of cotton is that it loves water and has great moisture-wicking qualities. This, coupled with the great breathability, makes cotton one of the best options for sweaty sleepers.
Cotton sheets become softer with every wash. It may happen that when you buy a new bed set, the sheets seem a bit rough. Don’t let yourself get discouraged – this is perfectly normal. You can give your new sheets a wash or two, or even more, before laying them on your bed.
What is special about Egyptian cotton is it’s staple length. Egyptian cotton has either long or extra-long staple fiber. This makes for higher quality sheets that are softer and last longer. Egyptian cotton is also hand-picked. This puts less pressure on the fibers and they remain intact and straight.
If you’re looking for an extra touch of softness, keep a lookout for combed cotton. The cotton boll naturally includes fibers of various lengths. Egyptian cotton has long or extra-long staple fibers but these also have slight differences between them. So to ensure that the sheet set does not contain shorter fibers, manufacturers remove them by means of combing the fibers before they are spun into yarns. As a result, the sheet receives extra touches of softness.
What Is Staple and Why Is It So Important?
Staple is a key term when it comes to cotton sheets. It expresses the length of the cotton fiber, which determines much of its qualities. Products from short staple fiber are the lowest on the quality scale. As the fiber length increases, so does the quality of the cotton. If you’re wondering about the exact measurements, extra-long fibers are at least 1.3/8 inches long (35mm).
There are quite a few ways that fiber length influences the quality of the sheet. Fibers first need to be spun into yarns and the shorter the staple, the more fibers you need. And consequently, the more fiber ends will be sticking out from the yarn. The difference is something that is hard to detect with the naked eye but you can definitely feel it when touching the sheet. A bed sheet made from long or extra-long staple Egyptian cotton is much smoother than a sheet for which short staple cotton is used.
Another reason why you should prefer long and extra-long staple cotton is because they are less prone to pilling. Pilling is when fibers start exiting the fabric, as a result of washing and the wearing of the fabric. Since it’s so much more work to get long and extra-long fibers out of a fabric, pilling isn’t something that you’ll come across with these staples. But if you have a short or medium staple cotton sheet, you’ll be guaranteed to see pilling pretty soon after you start using it.
Last but not least, long and extra-long staple fibers are simply stronger. So you will have a more durable sheet that does not need replacing after a short while.
Best Egyptian Cotton Sheets
As we saw above, Egyptian cotton is a label that is too easily thrown around these days. So if you want to make sure that you get the right thing, here are three golden rules to follow.
- Always check whether you can find long staple or LS, or extra-long staple or ELS on the label or item description. Otherwise you might just be purchasing short or medium staple cotton and this will greatly influence the quality of the sheet. And not in a good way.
- Be sure that only long or extra-long staple cotton is used in the fabric. Keep an eye on something along the lines of 100% Egyptian cotton. There are manufacturers who add a tiny bit of ELS Egyptian cotton into the mix and market the sheet under the Egyptian cotton label. While in reality, most of the fibers are low quality short of medium staple cotton.
- See whether the label mentions where the cotton was grown. If it says Egypt – great! You’ve hit the jackpot, provided that the above two boxes are also ticked. In case the label does not mention anything about the origin of the cotton, you can always get in touch with the manufacturer and inquire about this. And don’t confuse the origin of the cotton with the manufacturing country. These are not necessarily the same.
Keep in mind that 100% Egyptian cotton sheets from long or extra-long staple cotton, that actually come from Egypt, can cost a real fortune. If you’re budget is a little tighter, you may also consider ELS cotton that is grown in another country. We definitely suggest to keep a more keen eye on the first and second rule, as that will have a bigger effect on the actual quality of the sheet. That being said, here are our picks for the best Egyptian cotton sheets.
Bluemoon’s 100% Egyptian cotton sheets are made from long staple cotton. They’re manufactured in India, although it’s not clear where the cotton itself originates from. However, the long staple already guarantees you a good quality sheet, so the origin country is not too important. The sheets are more on the heavy side with a thread count of 1000. Their sateen weave makes them extremely soft to the touch. Machine wash them in cold water and they will become even softer and more comfortable.
Sizes: California King, King, Queen, Full, Twin
Colors: White, Ivory, Sky Blue, Elephant Grey, Silver Grey
Price: Starting at $95
Another beautiful sheet set comes from Minor Monkey. Their Egyptian Cotton sheets are made from single ply threads that are really fine. The end result is a lightweight fabric with excellent softness. The material is durable and breathes well, even though the thread count is as high as 1000.
Sizes: California King, King, Queen, Full, Twin
Colors: White, Ivory, Sky Blue, Chocolate, Elephant Grey, Silver Grey
Dreamfit has a 400 thread count 100% Egyptian cotton sheet set with a sateen weave. The sheets are super soft thanks to the long staple cotton, and the weave. They’re perfect if your looking for something that is manufactured in the US. They have really put effort into making sure that the fitted sheet stays nicely in place, no matter how much you may toss and turn during the night. The corner bands secure the sheet to the mattress and the elastic is 20x stronger than the industry standard. In addition to that, their flat sheet is extra large, so you’ll be able to nicely tuck it in.
Sizes: California King, Split Cal King, King, Split King, Queen, Full, Full XL, Twin, Twin XL
Colors: Champagne, Snowflake, Truffle, Twilight, White
Price: Starting at $120
These Thread Spread’s 100% Egyptian cotton sheets with 1000 thread count only get softer with every wash. They’re durable, soft to the touch and will stay at a neutral temperature throughout the night. Not too hot, not too cold, just perfect.
Sizes: California King, King, Split King, Queen
Colors: White, Cream, Light Blue, Red, Burgundy, Taupe, Silver, Dark Brown, Dark Grey, Deep Blue, Black, Sage, Navy, Lilac, Plum, Teal, Blush, Royal Egyptian Blue, Diamond Maze White
Price: Starting at $115
In addition to having a great name, Gotcha Covered also has a wonderful Egyptian cotton sheet set. It’s 100% combed Egyptian cotton with long fiber length. The sheet set has a thread count of 300, which means they breathe extremely well. In turn, they will let your body breathe during the night. Even if you tend to be a hot sleeper, they will cool you down nicely. Gotcha covered is perfect for people with sensitive skin, as the sheet has not been dyed, nor treated with any harsh chemicals. We love the fact they have also thought of the packaging. The set comes in a hemp and corn film and it’s biodegradable. The slight downside is that it only fits mattresses up to 13”. But if your mattress isn’t thicker, this is an absolute favorite.
Sizes: Split Head California King, Split Head King, Split Head Queen, Full
Price: Starting at $120
If you’ve been waiting for a sheet set with extra-long staple cotton, this is it. eLuxurySupply has a 100% Egyptian cotton set with a 1000 thread count. As a result, the sheets are thick and soft. The manufacturer stands fully behind their sheets. And they should, for such a quality product. However, in case there is an issue with your sheet, you have a 30 day window during which to request a full refund or exchange.
Sizes: California King, King, Queen, Full
Colors: White, Ivory, Sage, Burgundy, Gold, Taupe, Medium Blue
Price: Starting at $139
These Get It On sheets tick 2 of the golden rule boxes. They are made of 100% long staple Egyptian cotton. This means that there’s no lesser quality cotton cunningly hidden away in the sheet. Get It On does not specify where their cotton actually comes from. So it’s likely that it doesn’t come from Egypt. But this is not an important shortcoming. What is important is the quality of the fiber and this is guaranteed thanks to the long staple fibers. A 400 thread count is considered one of the best for cotton sheets in general. It allows air to move freely through the fibers, leaving you with breathable sheets that will remain cool during the night. The sateen weave makes them extra soft to the touch and one of the best things about them are the deep pockets that will keep them nicely in place. As an extra touch, Get It On marks the top right corner of the sheet, so you will always know which way to put it on your mattress.
Sizes: California King, King, Queen
Price: Starting at $150
Sferra is a manufacturer that does their work extremely well. Their 100% Egyptian cotton sheets are made in Italy, from long staple cotton fibers, with a thread count of 200. This thread count is perfect for airy and cool sheets, so if you’re a sweaty sleeper, this is a great choice. This sheet set was inspired by the style that you may see in some of the finest five-star hotels. And even if you don’t often, or ever check in at such hotels, you do have the option to get a similarly luxurious sleeping experience. Not one night, or two nights, but every night. That is something many of us cannot afford. If you can, it’s worth pampering yourself.
Sizes: California King, Full, King, Queen, Full, Twin
Price: Starting at $290