Thursday, January 30, 2014

Best black bed sheets

Answer:  The best ones I've found to date are the Wamsutta Perfect Pinpoint 360 Thread Count sheets which are available at Bed Bath and Beyond, Amazon, and other common retailers.
They look like this.    
However, a lot of buyers do not agree with my conclusion, so read on.
Oops... that doesn't look too promising.  Those are Amazon reviews.  I'll explain why they're so variable in the sections below.  
First, let me stress the phrase "best ones I've found to date".  The problem with black bed sheets is that they are far less commonly manufactured than other colors.  We happen to prefer our sheets to be black for a number of reasons:

  1. They fit our decor scheme, which is transitional to contemporary.
  2. I'm a light sleeper, and I like a very dark room.  We have black-out drapery and I find that black sheets are more calming.  I don't want bright reflectance or patterns in my face when I'm trying to sleep.  I find that black sheets help to reduce mild insomnia.  
  3. Pardon the potential for indelicacy here, but black sheets don't show stains like lighter-colored sheets do.  You can spill your glass of Cabernet Sauvignon on them and even if some time passes before you get them into the laundry, the stain probably won't show.  Why in the hell the market insists in continuing to supply an overabundance of light-colored sheets is a complete mystery to me - other than to suspect that what those manufacturers are really hoping is that we'll all ruin our sheets with staining and therefore we'll be quicker to purchase new ones:  ca-ching!  More money in their pockets, less in ours.  Not my idea of a marketing ruse that I want to get sucked into.  

Very often when I'm looking for a product like this, I go straight to Consumer Reports because they've already done the head-work and testing.  I did that a few weeks ago when I was re-evaluating the available products, and sadly, none of the top-rated choices were available in black.

So instead of relying on a third-party rating, I had to go trolling the internet myself, a pursuit which is complicated by the fact that product information is widely misleading where bed sheets are concerned.
Tap to expand.  This is someone's eBay rant about thread count deceptions.  
My trolling took me right back to the same simple brand I had last purchased about 6.5 years ago.  One thing I've learned the hard way over the years:  Avoid anything but a standard weave in a sheet.  Manufacturers make all kinds of funky weaves these days, partly to increase the apparent thread count, but most of them lead to fabric pilling, in my experience.  And once fabric pills develop on bed sheets, there's not much you can do with them except recycle them, if you're the least bit interested in comfort.
Close-up of the Wamsutta.  Standard flat weave.  None of that criss-cross patterning stuff.  These are also 100% cotton.  Polyester blends are also out of the question for me.  They may last longer, but they feel worse, in my opinion.    
There are complaints in the review forums alleging that this brand of sheet is not the quality that it used to be.  And maybe there's some truth to that, but you have to take the price into consideration.  These are not expensive sheets.
Historically, the quality has been very good.  That clump on the left is the set I bought 6.5 years ago, versus the newly-bought sheets on the right for comparison.  The degree to which the older ones have stood up is remarkable when you take into account how much use they've gotten.  We do something else with sheets that most people don't - we only use one pair at a time.  Each week we take the sheets off the bed, launder them, and put the same sheets right back on.  Why on earth would I use more than one set?  That would require me to do a whole lot of unnecessary folding, which is a waste of my time.  Folding sheets is a pain in the butt, and they get stale sitting on a linen closet shelf.  I want them fresh out of the dryer each week.

What this means is that we used that same set of sheets on the left every day for 6.5 years.  In other words, two adults slept on them for about 2,200 nights.  They were washed and dried at least 340 times.  That's a hell of a lot of wear, and they still look that good.  Hardly any fading, and what fading did occur turned them a nice charcoal color.  
If they still look that good, you may wonder why I bothered to get new ones at this point.  Well, what happens when 100% cotton sheets get very old is that the fabric becomes weaker.  Eventually it will simply fail and tear, usually catastrophically (e.g., right down the middle when you're sleeping on them).  We don't exactly know when that point will come, but after 6.5 years of daily use, we can bet that these ones were getting close to the end of their lives.

The other common complaint on the internet is that this brand of sheet is not as soft as people want them to be.  Some reviewers describe them as being like fine sandpaper.  This is probably true, but what we've found by buying successive sets of Wamsutta over the years is that they "break in".  They definitely get softer with age and repeated washings.
This may be TMI, but we like stiffer sheets.  They definitely have a mild exfoliating effect, as this photo suggests!  It's a view as I was taking them off the bed for their weekly wash.  Like it or not, we all naturally shed vast numbers of skin cells - up to one million per day according to this Discovery Health article.  I'd rather shed the majority of them this way and in the shower than while out in public. I like rougher bath towels also for the same reason of exfoliation, but that's definitely a personal preference.  
This is one of my one-off blog posts which will only appeal to only a tiny, tiny fraction of readers.  But with three hundred million people in America and each one of them having a bed, "tiny, tiny fraction" will amount to a constant stream of highly-specific and quirky traffic.  I'll have fun watching your search terms, and you have fun sheet-shopping.

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