Chemicals make their way into your home every day. They hide in common household products, including your sheets. Organic bed sheets are free from many harmful chemicals and let you sleep with peace of mind.
Independent organizations test the raw materials and ensure the sheets are made organically. Organic bed sheets come with a higher price tag than your average bed sheet. But to many, that higher price tag is worth it.
Sleep is an integral player in our well being. A good night sleep can help us feel rested and contribute to our mental and physical health. There are many factors in accomplishing a restful nighttime.
From physical conditions such as sleep apnea to our surroundings like the level of noise, you can improve your quality of sleep with help from the extensive studies and tools you have at your disposal. One of those tools is choosing the right sheets, comforters, pillows, etc.
It’s simply not enough to have a great story about your product, and it also has to be backed up by facts. SOL Organics sheets are true to their claims and are a true disruptor by being the price leader for Organic Cotton Sheets. Price is important to me because I believe everyone should be able to afford a quality bedding set and if possible, an Organic bedding set that is healthy for their family and the environment.
But what goes on top of a mattress can make or break a good night’s sleep. And for money – competing brands offer products of similar quality for as much as 2x the price – SOL Organics sets a new standard in ethical luxury bedding.
Hopefully, if you’re looking for new bed sheets, you care about their quality, and you especially care about where they came from. What does “where they came from” mean? How the fibre was farmed, how the materials were processed and what chemical additives went into them during manufacturing, and how the workers were treated at each step in the process (many textile workers in other countries are children working in sweatshops). If you care about those issues too, I hope you’ll find this article helpful!
What Are the Key Criteria for Evaluating Organic Bed Sheets?
In order of priority, these are the three things I cared most about in evaluating which bed sheets to buy:
What are the different types of certifications? What do they mean, and are they stringent in their evaluations? There are plenty of games companies play on food labels (for instance, labels like “natural” which means absolutely nothing), so I wanted to make sure any certifications or labels on our new sheets actually carried weight.
What are the different certifications, and what do they mean? Before diving in, you should know that cotton is considered the world’s “dirtiest crop,” due to the quantity and variety of pesticides used to grow it, not to mention all the synthetic nitrogen fertilizer it uses. While cotton is grown on 2.5% of the world’s farmland, it uses a whopping 16% of the world’s pesticides. Even cotton farms, the majority of the common pesticides used on cotton are considered moderately to highly hazardous to human and environmental health by the World Health Organization (WHO)
These things matter to us, so we vote with our dollars. Thankfully, there are certifying agencies out there to help you figure out how the cotton in your bedsheets was grown, and I wanted to be sure to support organic cotton farmers. They focus on things like soil health and using bio-based integrated pest management practices rather than synthetic insecticides. Organic farmers are also not allowed to use synthetic pesticides or fertilizers on their crops.
- Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) Certified – This certification is the most stringent certification on clothing, sheets, and other consumer fabrics. What’s not allowed? Any flame retardants, dyes using heavy metals, formaldehyde, pesticides, phthalates, PVC, PFCs, NPEs, chlorine bleach, and more. I also like that there is a big social responsibility component to the certification as well: employees must have safe working conditions and be paid a fair wage. In my opinion, GOTS is the best certification out there. Pretty much all GOTS certified fabrics will have a logo on the inside of the tag or product label stating it is GOTS certified. An interesting thing to note: you can have GOTS certified organic cotton, but if the final product wasn’t produced in a GOTS certified factory, then that company is not allowed to use the GOTS logo on the final product. We like seeing a certification with teeth and one that pays attention to all stages of the supply chain (we have a USDA certified organic garden seed company, so we have firsthand experience how important this is). When you see the GOTS logo, you can rest assured that the entire product is GOTS certified and that you’re truly getting organic bed sheets, at each stage of the production cycle from farm to factory.
- OEKO-TEX Certified – OEKO-TEX is a certification that doesn’t allow hundreds of toxic chemicals to be used in the manufacture of clothing or sheets. The fabric does NOT need to be certified organic to receive this certification, however. Yes, pesticides are allowed to be present on clothing/sheets to pass this certification. Also, some chemicals, like flame retardants that are deemed to be the least toxic, are allowed to be used. If you are buying OEKO-TEX clothing, sheets, or baby products, check to see if they are using flame retardants as these are increasingly being considered a serious environmental and human health concern–especially for infants and young children.
- Others: There are other certifications you may want to watch for, such as the MADE SAFE® seal and Fair Trade certification. Any product with the MADE SAFE® seal is free of anything harmful to humans or the environment. The Fair Trade certification has to do with human rights, such as no child labour and fair wages for people of all genders. So again, not strictly organic, but it might make a difference in where you spend your dollars.
Thread Count, Cotton Types, Ply
These criteria are probably the most important for picking comfortable sheets. This was such an interesting learning experience for me since I found out there are LOTS of games that bed sheet manufacturers play in order to manipulate their thread count numbers to sell inferior quality sheets at a premium price.
Thread Count – You have heard about threat counts and how they affect the quality, durability and level of comfort. Thread count simply refers to the number of threads per square inch both horizontally and vertically. For example, a 400 threads count sheet should have 200 threads woven horizontally and 200 threads woven vertically per square inch.
The general perception is that the higher the threads count the better quality, but that simply is not the case in many brands. Companies have ways to increase the number of thread count that does not necessarily add to the comfort or quality but allows them to charge a higher price for their product. It’s called Multiplying. Basically, instead of one single-ply yarn, the use multi ply yarns that are three, four or five very thin threads twisted together to create one single yarn.
As a result, they can advertise their product with a higher threads count. For example, a 1200 thread count indicated that there are 600 yarns horizontally and vertically woven together per square inch. But in reality, each yarn could be made out of 3 thin plies which means there actually only 200 yarns, horizontally and vertically, used to weave each square inch of the fabric.
There are good sheets ranging from 200 to 800 thread counts with 600 threads count being the sweet spot for most cotton weaves as a perfect number. In sateen weave, the ideal range is between 300 to 600 threads count, and 400 is a desirable number.
A cotton boll is opening on a plant in our garden. This is a short-staple variety, so it’s not ideal for making into fine clothes and sheets, but is used to make thicker textiles/fabrics like denim. It’s also ideal for stuffing pillows, cotton balls, etc..
Not all cotton is the same. Cotton generally falls into one of three categories depending on the length of the individual fibre, and each type has different uses and attributes:
- Short staple cotton: A short-staple fibre is up to 1 1/8″ long.
- Long-staple cotton: A long-staple fibre is 1 1/8″ – 1 1/4″ long.
- Extra-long staple: An extra-long staple fibre is between 1 3/8″and 2″ long. Egyptian cotton typically has the longest staple length of the ELS cotton, with Pima being the next longest.
As a general rule, long-staple cotton is going to make a better sheet. Why? It can be spun into longer, finer yarns that feel softer against your skin because they have less fibre ends exposed. They are also much less prone to pilling.
“Ply” refers to the number of fibres that are twisted around one another to make a single thread.
- Single-ply yarn: Single-ply means one fibre is used per thread. Longer staple cotton is required to make single-ply yarn. Since it can be spun into a stronger, thinner, finer yarns, quality single-ply sheets have a very smooth, silky feeling.
- Double-ply yarn and multi-ply yarns: Two fibres make a double-ply yarn. Three or more fibres make a multi-ply yarn. These tend to make thicker, courser sheets that won’t last as long as single-ply sheets because each time you use them, wash them, and dry them, the exposed fibres fray a little bit more.
Cooler, warmer, heavier, stiffer, etc. – the weave type influences these characteristics and is really important for different seasons or if you live in a really warm or cool environment.
There are many ways to weave fabrics, and each one provides a specific touch and feel to satisfy consumers’ preferences based on the purpose and use of the woven fabric. One of the most popular weaves in sheets is Percale.
A linen weave is one of the most basic methods of weaving fibres that creates a feeling of airy freshness and dries faster than other fabrics. Linen is a very popular choice but requires higher maintenance with ironing and some linens are better off with dry cleaning rather than a quick wash at home to avoid shrinkage.
Percale sheets are more loosely woven and ideal for the warm months. They’re woven to be lighter and more breathable. Note: they may feel crisp at first until you break them in.
Sateen sheets are more tightly woven and ideal for cooler months. They’re woven to be silky smooth and soft, conforming to your body and keeping you cozy.
Organic Bed Sheet Budget
When you’re looking for organic sets, your budget has to be a major consideration. Inexpensive organic cotton or bamboo sheets start around $50 to $75. These sheets may have a thread count of 200 or lower. They should still have at least one independent certification that guarantees they are truly organic.
The sheets that balance quality with price fall in the $75 to $175 range. Here you’ll find organic cotton, bamboo, and Tencel®. There may be a few organic linen sheets sets at this price point, too. Higher thread counts, long-staple, and ELS cotton are more common, which means these sheets are more likely to be softer and more durable. Sheets in this price range should have one or more certifications that guarantee their quality and production.
High gsm organic linen and some ELS Egyptian cotton sheets cost over $175, with some reaching well over $500. These sheets will have several organic certifications, as well as the highest-quality fibres.
Sleeping Cool and Breathability
Sheets have many purposes. They protect your mattress and comforter from body fluids and oils as well as make your bed softer and more comfortable. Your sheets can also make a big difference in maintaining a neutral temperature while you sleep. Overheating can prematurely trigger the start of the wake-up cycle. Not to mention the fact that it can be incredibly uncomfortable.
Natural fibres like cotton and bamboo are more breathable than synthetic fibres. Natural fibres usually have uneven surfaces, which leave pockets through which heat and air can circulate. Many are also either moisture-absorbing or moisture-wicking to further cool the body.
Organic sheets have to be made of natural fibres, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be highly breathable. Their weave makes a big difference. Organic flannel traps air close to the body, which acts as a natural insulator, while cotton percale sheets allow heat to escape easily. You’ll have to pay attention to both the fabric and the weave to make sure you get the breathability that works best for you.
Why organic bedding?
For the same reason that you choose organic milk, organic carrots, and organic shampoo. Organic bedding is a healthier option manufactured without harmful chemicals, and organic cotton is explicitly healthier for the planet. It takes less water to produce organic cotton compared to conventional, and organic cotton isn’t treated with the toxic chemical pesticides or harsh chemical cleaners and fabric treatments that conventional bedding can be exposed to.
For instance, “wrinkle resistant” sheets are commonly treated with chemicals that release formaldehyde, a chemical we never use in our products. They appeal on a practical level because you don’t have to worry about folding them just right or getting them out of the dryer as soon as they’re done. Still, the long-term chemical exposure of formaldehyde and other chemicals in conventional bedding can pose a possible safety and health risk.
Conventional sheets are also dyed with inks and dyes that may contain heavy metals. If you have sensitive skin, colours and other chemicals may cause a skin rash or other reaction (definitely check on any reactions with your doctor or dermatologist, we aren’t medical professionals). Chemical treatments and dyes can weaken the fibres of conventional bedding, which means a thinner, flimsier feel and less durability.
Organic cotton is also more comfortable and breathable compared to synthetic counterparts, which often leave you feeling hot and sweaty in bed instead of cool and comfortable. The organic wool in our mattresses also helps to wick moisture and help you sleep cool, especially when topped with our organic cotton sheets and waterproof protector pads designed to keep you from getting clammy.