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Testing bed sheets for quality, comfort, fit

August 2, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Buying new sheets can be a real numbers game. You see sheets with thread counts of 400, 600, even 1,000. But do higher counts mean better sheets?More is not necessarily better. In fact, some tore easily while others shrank and then didn't fit.

Shopping for sheets can be overwhelming. You'll see Egyptian, Pima, and combed cotton. Then there are sateen and percale weaves, and thread counts that run the gamut. Consumer Reports just tested 23 sets of sheets.

"They're lots of choices, but there are also lots of problems," said Consumer Reports Deputy Home Editor Celia Kuperszmid Lehrman.

Consumer Reports used a machine to measure how strong sheets are. Many sheets ripped easily.

And some of the seams on the fitted sheets came apart without much force, including the Tommy Hilfiger T-200.

Other problems include fitted sheets that didn't fit. Instead, they popped off the corners. And sizing up flat sheets, testers found some so short, you can't tuck them in.

"We also found wrinkle-free sheets that weren't, and we found sets where the colors were mismatched," said Kuperszmid Lehrman.

Plus, when testers washed and dried the sheets, some shrank badly.

And don't rely on how soft sheets feel at the store. Many have been treated with fabric enhancers and softeners. That's why at Consumer Reports panelists judge softness only after sheets have been washed five times. And the tests show higher thread count does not guarantee softer sheets or stronger ones.

In the end, Consumer Reports did find a few queen-size sheets to recommend, including two "best buys": L. L. Bean's Pima cotton percale for $100; and Target's Home 600 TC for $70. A plus: the Target sheets were among the softest tested.

Consumer Reports says you can keep your sheets lasting longer if you avoid over drying them and go easy on the chlorine bleach.


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