After you read the title of this Article, what was your first thoughts? Ah, Anna has written another one of her lurid sexual green posts. What could she think of that could top her “10 Green Tips to Have a Red Hot Valentines’ Day?” Well, sorry to disappoint you, but this article is about how to choose organic sheets. But cheer-up, after I have convinced you to buy those luscious organic sheets, perhaps you might want to find out why they are so special? So, why organic sheets?
Ever since I learned what type of chemicals could be lurking in my cotton sheets, I have not been able to buy conventional sheets. Why would I want to sleep with such bed fellows as chlorine used to bleach the cotton, formaldehyde to keep it from wrinkling or caustic dyes for colors? Then, you also have to worry about the amount of pesticides used in growing conventional cotton?
“To combat the weeds and pests, cotton farmers use huge amounts of agrochemicals: up to 25 per cent of the world’s total annual production of pesticides and 10 per cent of all herbicides produced. In some countries, the crop is sprayed 30 or 40 times a season.” 1
I alternate the sheets I use so there is less wear and tear on them. I even make a conscious effort to not over stuff the washing machine. These sheets have to last.
Last year, life threw us a curve ball. My teenage son was diagnosed with Juvenile Diabetes. He will be on insulin forever unless a cure is found. Every cold, flu, or virus compromises his health since it creates havoc with his sugar levels.
We decided to convert his youth bedroom set to an adult one. His T-shirts no longer fit in the 14 inch drawers. My little boy had become a man in the blink of an eye. We were going to purchase an organic cotton mattress like we had purchased for ourselves years ago. However, he opted for a natural latex one instead.
Given his immune issues, and the fact we spent a hunk of change on a natural latex bed, it seemed ridiculous to dress the bed with chemically laden sheets. So, I bit the bullet and starting looking for organic sheets knowing that this was going to be an expensive proposition.
When I started searching for sheets, I felt like I had crawled out from under a rock. All the players were now selling organic sheets: Bed Bath and Beyond, Target, Nordstrom, Bloomingdales and the list goes on. Of course, each store had its different price point and thread count.
Sheets are not like they use to be when I started buying them. I loved combed cotton and could easily buy a 200-250 count sheet. They felt wonderful. Then sateen showed up on the market, as well as higher counts of cotton. The 200-250 count cottons started to feel scratchy, and subsequently, I started looking for 400 plus count cotton to get that nice soft feel that I was used to. To make matter worse, all the sateen sheets that I bought always seemed to fuzz. Perhaps it is the quality that I bought. Now, I see the sateen name on sheets, and don’t even give it a second look.
With all of the different thread counts available up to 1000, how was I was going to figure our what to buy? The Seattle Times’ Nicole Tsong interviewed Linwood Wright, chairman of the National Textile Association’s Bedding Committee in her article, “A peek under the sheets: What’s what in bedding,” about this very question. He has worked in bedding for 50 years. Basically in a nut shell, there are two types of all cotton sheets: long staple (Pima, Egyptian, sea island, which are the premium cottons) and short staple (most common). In addition to the type of threads, there is also thread count.
“Thread count is the number of vertical and horizontal threads in 1 square inch of fabric. Typically, if a sheet is made well, the higher the thread count, the better the sheet and the longer it will last. The thread count for standard sheets ranges from 150 to 400.
Traditionally, the count includes individual threads, but some companies count the thin, twisting yarns that make up a thread, known as plies. Using that math, they can double, triple or even quadruple the thread count with multi-ply thread.”
As result, a consumer is left bewildered as to what is the accurate thread count. To add to the confusion, there are two main weaves: percale and sateen. According to the article each has its pros and cons. “A plain weave won’t fuzz as much as a satin weave, but it is crisper than the soft satin weave.” If you like that soft drape, sateen is for you. It all comes down to how the sheets feel to you.
What about organic sheets? Buying organic sheets adds new issues to the mix. According to the Green Guide’ recent article, Sheets & Sheet Sets, make sure the sheets are 100% organic, do not contain finishing chemicals (i.e. wrinkle free sheets), are not bleached, are free of heavy metals and are vegetable dyed. The article further states that most bamboo sheets are blends containing conventional cotton. 100% bamboo is hard to find. If you do find 100% bamboo, opt for mechanically processed rather than chemically processed.
Check out Green Guide’s product comparison. Some of the sheets listed do not contain complete information, nor does the list delineate thread count. So, it is best to call the company’s customer service before buying if these items matter to you.
So how did I make out? Since I could no longer rely on my 200-250 count theory anymore, I went to feel the sheets. Luckily the stores I went to had zippered packages or were easy to feel. Here were my results:
Target: Retails for $29.99-59.99. 250 count cotton. The feel was okay. I felt they were a little scratchy, but a good buy. Perhaps they might soften up after you wash them a few times.
Anna Sova: Beautiful sheets ranging from 325-600 thread count. I visited ABC Carpet and Home to feel the sheets, and liked the Bella Pura 325TC Organic Cotton Sheet Set the best. Retails for $170 for a queen set. It had a nice crisp feel to it. Some of the sets are on sale on the site.
Gaiam: 220 count to 300 count organic cotton in percale and sateen. I ended up buying the 250 percale sheets. I washed them 3 times. After the third wash, I thought they were a little scratchy, but nicer feeling than Target. I bought a queen set for $109. They have since softened up a bit.
Coyuchi: I visited Organic Nest in New Jersey to feel both their sateen and percale sheets. Both types were 300 count sheets. They felt wonderful. Sheets can be ordered online or at the store. Debbie Foster, the owner of the store is very knowledgeable and can guide you to the right purchase.
If I had to do it all over again, then I would buy organic percale sheets that were 300 plus count. I just liked the way they feel. I urge everyone to feel the sheets before they buy or make sure you can return them if you don’t like the way they feel after the wash. In any event, organic is the way to go. A chemical free sleep is priceless. In addition, for more information on how to buy quality sheets, check out the article entitled ” Cheap Sheets.”
So, tell me which brand of organic sheets would you recommend?
1Pleydell-Bouverie, Jasper “Cotton without chemicals: Fashion designers are making organic cotton a selling point,” New Scientist, September 24, 1994 (accessed April 14, 2008).
Tsung, Nicole, “A peek under the sheets: What’s what in bedding”, Seattle Times, September 2, 2006 (accessed April 14, 2008).
“Sheets and Sheet Sets”, The Green Guide To Go, April 9, 2008, National Geographic (accessed April 14, 2008).
McNatt, Cindy, Cheat Sheets, Orange County Register.com, January 8, 2005 (accessed April 14, 2008)