Why Do Hotel Sheets Feel So Good?

This post was most recently updated on July 29th, 2021

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.

Which 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.

 

 

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).

How the sheets get used also plays a role. Hotel bedding gets treated differently than your linens.

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, it’s important to know which features that the sheets are built to have.

When it comes to hospitality sheeting, durability is the most important factor. Hotel sheets are washed up to 300 times a year, and so they’re engineered to go through at least a year of wash cycles before shredding or tearing. Depending on how often you wash your sheets, it might take you 10-15 years to reach that 300 count.

 

 

With that in mind, hotel sheets are engineered in a way to limit the number of washings needed. One of the ways to achieve this is by using different fabrics and weaves, to promote better cooling.

The less you sweat, the cleaner your sheets will stay. The cleaner the sheets are, the less likely you will be to ask to have them washed.

The other way in which hospitality sheets are engineered for durability is in their thread count. We’ll discuss this more in detail in a minute.

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

Hospitality sheets are almost always a blend of fabrics – most commonly a cotton/polyester blend. By twisting strands of cotton with polyester, small pockets are created, helping the sheet breathe better.

This airflow is what keeps hotel sheets so cool.

 

 

Retail sheets, on the other hand, are engineered towards two purposes – to feel super soft on the shelf, and 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 softeners 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.

 

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.

This is what is referred to as “2-ply”. These 2-ply yarns have the same dimensions as a regular, or 1-ply yarn, but since two threads were spun together, technically twice the number of threads were used.

 

What is, in reality, a 300 thread count sheet, is now magically a 600 thread count sheet. This is why hospitality sheets get an advantage in durability. The thinner threads used in 2-ply yarns break and shred very easily.

Now let’s take a look into how sheets are used plays a role:

 

Hotel use vs Home use

Sheets are used in pretty much the same way in hotels as you do at home, but as with most anything else in life, there are small details that make a huge difference.

As you have probably come to find out, sheets get softer the more you wash them, and hotel sheets get washed a lot – almost, if not, daily. 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 your sheets feel softer and smoother right after being washed? 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. Since hotel sheets are washed daily, they never develop that textured and crusty surface.

 

 

How they are washed factors in as well. Hotels use commercial detergents and fabric softeners that we don’t have access to. These are the same fabric softeners that are used for the sheets that you buy in retail stores.

Commercial fabric softeners include certain chemicals – like phosphates – that get laundry remarkably clean and make the sheets feel so smooth and soft. These chemicals are not allowed in retail products for environmental reasons.

 

 

How to get hotel sheets at home

If you’ve come this far, you might be 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, purchase them from hospitality bedding manufacturers.

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

We provided a link to their store at the top of this article.

 

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

3.) Consider using a better fabric softener. You’ll notice a big difference in switching from the bargain generic stuff, to something like Downy Ultra Liquid Fabric Conditioner.

11 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

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