Why Do Hotel Sheets Feel So Good?

Hotel sheets are just special.

We’ve all been there. You’ll be laying in bed at a nice hotel, and you’ll notice how soft the sheets are. You’ll notice how wonderful they feel against your skin.

You might even feel disappointed in not having comparable sheets at home! So why do hotel sheets – like this set from Standard Textile –  feel so good, and so much better than your sheets at home?

It’s not a simple answer. For one, part of it is psychological. You’re most likely staying in that hotel for vacation purposes – far away from your problems at home.

This also means that you’re in a relaxation type of mind frame. Given that, some of the enjoyment you feel from hotel sheets is probably a bit of a placebo effect.

 

A woman laying on top of hotel sheets in bed

 

Once you get past that, there are some real and tangible differences between sheets that you find in hotels and those which you’ll find at your local department store (or on your bed for that matter).

There is a specific purpose for hotel sheets. Hotel guests use hotel sheets. You don’t have quite the same expectations at home, on your own bed.

Let’s compare the two, and then we’ll also show you how to get hotel sheets on your own bed at home.

 

Hospitality vs Retail

In order to find out why they’re so different, let’s take a look at the construction and purpose of each sheet type.

 

Hotel Sheets

When it comes to hospitality sheeting, durability is the most important factor.

Hotels wash their sheets up to 300 times a year. So the sheets are engineered to go through at least a year of wash cycles before shredding or tearing.

It might take you 10-15 years to reach that 300 wash count at home.

 

a laundry facility in a hotel

 

Limiting maintenance is a huge goal when trying to increase durability.

One of the ways to achieve this is by using different fabrics and weaves that promote better cooling. If you sweat less, your sheets will “smell” cleaner. And you probably won’t ask for a fresh set.

Another way is in the fabric construction.

Sheets for home use commonly use one fabric type. You’ll often find sheets that are 100% cotton, or 100% Viscose, etc.

Hospitality sheets are almost always a blend of fabrics – most commonly a cotton/polyester blend. To help the sheet breathe better, cotton is blended with polyester.

The tighter weave of polyester creates open pockets and gaps in the fabric – and creates a breathable fabric. 

This airflow is what keeps hotel sheets so cool.

 

infographic comparing natural fabric weave compared to synthetic fabric

 

Retail Sheets

Retail sheets, on the other hand, are engineered to fulfill two purposes. First, to feel super soft on the shelf, and second, to feature a high thread count.

Softness is usually the first (and commonly only) priority for sheet buyers.

To satisfy the need for softness, manufacturers use a heavy amount of commercial fabric softener to make the fabric feel as soft as possible.

If “sheet set A” feels softer than “sheet set B”, the average person will choose set A regardless of what features the sets have or don’t have.

 

a store display featuring 800 thread count sheet sets

 

Thread Count

The second priority is obviously the thread count. Retail customers have been conditioned to think that a high thread count is the only way to go. “Luxury” retail sheets have thread counts of 600 or 800.

Sheets used in hotels commonly have a 250 thread count. Higher-end hotels use sheets that have a 300 thread count.

Given those numbers, how is it that hotel sheets still feel softer? It’s because a thread count of 600 or 800 is really just a gimmick.

“True” thread counts top out around 300-400 depending on the fabric and material used. To get to these 600/800/1000 thread count numbers, manufacturers weave thinner strands together.

A “2-ply” or “multi-ply” thread means multiple thin strands spun together.

These 2-ply yarns have the same dimensions as a regular, or 1-ply yarn. But twice the number of “threads” were used because two threads were spun together.

 

 

infographic comparing singly ply vs multi-ply threads in sheets

 

 

What is, in reality, a 300 thread count sheet, is now magically a 600 thread count sheet.

Think of it in terms of money. Imagine having two nickels instead of one dime. Both are equal to 10 cents, but you have twice the amount of coins.

This is why hospitality sheets get an advantage in durability. The thinner threads used in 2-ply yarns break and shred very easily.

 

 

Hotel Use vs Home Use

Hotels have a unique maintenance schedule compared to yours at home. 

You’ve probably noticed that sheets get softer the more you wash them. And hotel sheets get washed a lot.

As mentioned earlier, a single sheet at a hotel might get washed up to 300 times per year. That repetitive washing does soften up the sheets quite a bit.

Washing the sheets has another benefit as well.

Have you ever noticed how freshly laundered sheets feel softer and smoother? Yes, fabric softener plays a part in this, but there is more to it than that.

People sweat while they sleep. Perspiration adds wrinkles to the sheets, making them wrinkled and textured, and almost feeling crusty after a week or so – until the next time they’re washed again.

The daily laundry schedule at a hotel prevents that textured and crusty surface.

 

a wrinkled and worn white flat sheet

 

Detergents and fabric softeners are a factor as well. Hotels use commercial detergents and fabric softeners. These are “commercial use only” products. 

Commercial fabric softeners include certain chemicals – like phosphates – that get laundry remarkably clean and make the sheets feel so smooth and soft.

The detergents and softeners sold in retail stores aren’t allowed to use these chemicals.

 

 

How To Get Hotel Sheets At Home

You’re probably wondering how to get that same hotel feel at home. It’s actually a lot easier than you might think. You just need to act like a hotel.

 

Let’s break it down:

1.) Instead of purchasing sheets from your local department store, buy them from hospitality bedding manufacturers.

For example, Standard Textile is a company that manufactures sheets and pillows for hospitality use. The most commonly found sheet, in U.S. hotels, is their ComforTwill line of sheets.

 

Comfortwill sheet set from Standard Textile

 

If you liked the sheets at a specific hotel, just ask them! Most hotels will share the brand name with you. Chances are that they’re made by Standard Textile.

2.) Consider washing your sheets more often. You don’t have to wash them daily as they do in hotels, but washing even weekly maintenance can have similar effects.

3.) Consider using a better fabric softener. You’ll notice a big difference between the bargain generic stuff and something that has had more research and development.

If you’re picky, as far as the “healthy choice” is concerned, this database offers a ton of information. 

17 thoughts on “Why Do Hotel Sheets Feel So Good?

  1. Thanks for explaining that hospitality sheets have better durability because they don’t use 2-ply yarns. My husband and I want to buy new bedding for all of the rooms in our home. Your article made me excited to shop for wholesale hotel bedding.

  2. My best cotton sheets have a decidedly crunchy feel when they come out of the washing machine and are still damp. When dry they have a very cool and luxuriously smooth feel.
    Others that are soft when damp do not feel anything like the same quality. Why is that?

    1. When cotton absorbs water, it swells like any other fiber. When swollen, the texture is just a magnified version of what it is when dry.

      A good quality sheet set (something around 300 thread count) has a looser weave than a poor quality sheet set (something with a thread count of 500, 600, 700, 800, etc.). Yes – those super high thread count sheets are not actually good quality.

      When that loose weave swells, the “randomness” of the weave is magnified, and so it feels crunchy. When the tighter (and more uniform) weave of the high thread count swells, it feels soft, merely out of the fibers plumping from the water gain.

  3. I wash my sheets every other day .. there is NOTHING like freshly washed sheets.
    I also use quality bedding … now in my 50s I don’t shop Walmart .. I shop Southern Living and Luxury Hotel. I keep an eye out for bargains .. and I LOVE IT.

    For the first time this year (2020) I started buying coverlets .. didn’t even know what it was (a cross between a blanket / top sheet / quilt … lol). I also bought my first mattress pad at Macys … OMG … it tightens up my bottom sheet even further – getting rid of the excess material that was always sliding around. I hated that!! No sliding anymore.

    This article was so helpful and taught me a lot . Thank you!!!!

  4. I have bought 4 brands of pillowcases prior to buying sheets. First set was rough feeling, second set was hot, third set was thick. I want soft, smooth not to thick and cool. These were all expensive. Tried Egyptian Cotton, cotton with Oekeo, not sure what that is.
    Any thoughts? I would like sheets that have elastic all around if possible. I am 80 years old and have trouble putting sheets on. I also change sheets once a week. Thanks

  5. Am I the only person in the world who doesn’t find hotel sheets all that comfortable? I have traveled a lot.. and I don’t remember any hotel sheet I even slept in feeling good. Maybe I am biased the same way a listener might prefer one performance of their favorite song over another. My grandfather was in the navy.. his whole life was navy issue. but I remember his sheets better than anything. They still had the navy markings on them..they were not fitted but they were heavy, thick, cool, smooth, bluish white, cotton sheets that I can’t find anywhere. the only thing I do find are thin, light weight, sometimes scratchy or warm sheets, the kind of sheets that must be strip mined by the hundreds of thousands somewhere in China.. yes, I have purchased sheets from hospitality outlets.. so far I haven’t found anything I like. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s a lost art.. I’ve been looking my whole life and now I’m over 60. I don’t doubt that the sheets described here are better than average. but I’ve spent enough money to have built a time machine and stolen some of my grandfather actual sheets. I don’t want to get my hopes up just to be disappointed again. Is there anything still made like this?

  6. thanks for this, it finally explained the mystery around hotel sheets and why they are so much better than anything i bought for the house. So you don’t even recommend getting 400 thread count, it seems? Do you recommend ironing the flat sheet when it’s slightly damp? How do the hotels get the sheets so flat, surely they have large machines to press them after the wash? I’ve been to trying to duplicate the hotel sheet feel for years. Seems like the bottom line is to get it from a hotel supplier and keep it as a cotton/poly blend of about 300 thread count. Thanks again

    1. Hi Mana,

      Yes, Exactly! Buying sheets from a hotel supplier is definitely the way to go. Just keep in mind that a lot of the hotel suppliers – particularly when you’re talking about cotton/poly blends – don’t advertise a thread count. They’re usually in the 250-300 range anyway, but if you want to know, you can just ask them.

      As far as ironing flat sheets – yeah, you definitely need some professional laundry machinery. But for home use, ironing while damp would be one way to go. Have you ever tried a garment steamer?

      Hanging the sheet from a clothesline (or something similar), and then steaming it also works. You usually end up ironing the edges and corners to get everything straight and even, but it’s definitely easier than pressing the entire sheet.

      Hope to hear from you again!

      Vaheh

  7. Hi. I wanted a nice crispy sheet set. So I went to Macy’s dept store. I ended up purchasing your Sidney. 825 count set. I’ve had them for just a little over 3 months and to my disappointment, they are pilling. You can imagine how disappointed I am. Never paid the amount I paid for these sheets. I can’t return them. Macy’s policy is 90 days or less. What do you suggest?

    1. Jean,

      Assuming Macy’s will not take back the sheets, my advice would be to cut your losses and get a new set. You can find good sheet sets online w/o paying an arm and a leg.

      Just remember to focus on what’s important, and not to dwell too much on thread count. Anything over 400 is going to result in what you experienced with the Sidney sheets. 300-400 thread count is a good sweet spot. Also, avoid anything that implies 2-ply or multi-ply yarns – these are the threads that are most prone to pilling.

      When in doubt, avoid store-bought sheets, and purchase hospitality-grade sheets. They’ll be soft, comfortable, quality-made, and durable. The Comfortwill sheets from Standard Textile are what I personally use, and would recommend.

      Hope to hear from you again,

      Vaheh

    2. I heard even nice hotels use percale sheets and sometimes a cotton blend so they last longer and withstand multiple washing’s.

      1. Meg,

        That’s actually true. Hotels don’t use the types of sheets that you would find at Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, etc.

        The majority of hospitality sheets are made ofsome type of cotton/poly blend, or cotton percale. Hotel sheets are manufactured with a 300 standard – able to withstand 300 washes (or about a year). Regular cotton sheets that you would find in a department store just can’t withstand that type of abuse.

        Hope to hear from you soon!

        Vaheh

    1. Hi Ann,

      It depends on a couple of factors. Cotton sheets will always take a few washes to soften – regardless of manufacturer. Poly and Tencel are usually soft out of the package. Certain manufacturers pre-wash their hotel sheets, which definitely helps. So it all depends.

      If you want a set of hotel sheets, that are soft from the get-go, Standard Textile’s Comfortwill sheets are hard to beat!

      Hope to hear from you soon!

      Vic

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