Are Egyptian cotton sheets really the best? A sleep editor investigates

While Egyptian cotton sheets famous, other materials might be more suitable

Egyptian cotton sheets on a bed.
(Image credit: Boll & Branch)

Egyptian cotton sheets are a classic for a reason. They're cool, crisp, and durable, yet are softer and softer with each wash. Egyptian cotton sheets sound pefect, but they aren't the best option for every sort of sleeper.

Linen sheets are stronger and can withstand nightly wear and tear. Sustainably sourced bamboo might appeal to eco-conscious shoppers, while eucalyptus bedding is best for busting bacteria. You could sleep comfortably on any of these sheet materials – but unless you're an expert, it can be hard to split the difference.

That's where I come in. As a sleep editor, I know which bed sheet types are most beneficial for every kind of sleeper and shopper. I've spent hours searching the web to bring you the best Egyptian cotton sheets at the fairest prices. I've also rounded up some of the best alternative bedding, from luxe linen to breathable bamboo.

Whether you sleep hot or cold, on your front, back or side, I've found the sheet set for you.

What is Egyptian cotton?

Egyptian cotton sheets on a bed.

(Image credit: Soak & Sleep)

Before we begin, it's always useful to define our terms. Egyptian cotton comes from a particular species of cotton plant, known as Gossypium Barbadense, which grows on the fertile banks of the River Nile. 

Egyptian cotton plants thrive in warm climates with an abundance of water and produce extra-long-staple cotton fibers, which are tightly woven into yarns. Long fibers make stronger, softer sheets than shorter fibers, which tend to rub against each other, creating friction and causing pilling. 

Choose Egyptian cotton if: you like the look of crisp sheets

Egyptian cotton sheets on an upholstered bed.

(Image credit: The White Company)

One of our sleep experts, Laura, tested some Egyptian cotton sheets a few years ago. She liked them so much that she bought her own set. She's converted her parents and her grandparents, too, so now they all sleep on Egyptian cotton sheets.

When I asked Laura what she liked so much about Egyptian cotton sheets, she gave me a long, long list. It all comes down to this: they look good, and they wash well. Egyptian cotton is strong and smooth. It's one of the best bed sheet materials for making the bed, thanks to its clean lines and neat corners. 

There are Egyptian cotton percale sheets for a crisp finish, as well as Egyptian cotton sateen for silky smoothness. Whether you like your bedding soft or starchy, you can get it in Egyptian cotton.

Choose Egyptian cotton if: you want something that washes well

Brown egyptian cotton sheets on a bed.

(Image credit: Silk & Snow)

Egyptian cotton sheets are woven from long, strong fibers for durability. They can withstand regular wear and tear and hundreds of cycles in your washing machine.

These sheets should stand up to spot cleaning for smaller spills and stains, though you can also throw them in your washing machine for their weekly wash. I'd recommend washing your sheets on their own, cold cycle, away from jagged hooks and zippers, to prevent pilling. 

Egyptian cotton sheets are not only machine-washable, but dryer-safe for quick and convenient cleaning. Take them straight out of the washing machine and give them a good shake to prevent wrinkles, before popping them in the dryer on a warm setting. Word to the wise: avoid using dryer sheets or risk corrupting your cotton with harsh chemicals. You could always use felt wool dryer balls, instead, or hang your sheets out to air dry. 

Choose linen if: you're a hot sleeper

Olive and sage bedding bundle on a bed.

(Image credit: Bed Threads)

Egyptian cotton sheets keep you cool − but not quite as cool as linen. Offering the optimal combination of breathability and durability, linen sheets should keep you just the right side of cool and dry. 

These sheets might feel a little scratchy to start, but they should soon soften up after a few nights' sleep and a good wash. All you need to do is pop your linen sheets in the washing machine on a cold cycle. You could tumble dry on low, but I always like to air dry my bed linen to protect the natural fibers. Linen is a little prone to wrinkling, but it's nothing an iron can't handle. 

Like Egyptian cotton, linen sheets are temperature-regulating and wash well. They're also antibacterial and anti-static to create a cleaner and more comfortable sleeping environment. If you suffer from night sweats, hot flashes, or you simply run a little hot, you might get on better with the best linen bed sheets

Choose bamboo if: you like to shop sustainably

Bamboo bedding on a bed.

(Image credit: Cozy Earth)

If you know where to look for it, you can find a set of organic Egyptian cotton sheets in one of the major sleep stores. But if you're keen to shop sustainably, you might be better off with bamboo bedding. 

Most bamboo bedding is woven into either viscose or lyocell. Viscose is quicker to produce and comes a little cheaper, but it isn't quite as silky and smooth as bamboo lyocell. The difference is in the chemicals: the best bamboo lyocell is grown organically, totally free from toxic solvents, pesticides, and fertilizers. 

Bamboo is the fastest-growing plant on Earth. In fact, it grows three times faster than we can harvest it, and hundreds of times faster than eucalyptus trees or cotton plants. You can rest easy on the best bamboo bed sheets, safe in the knowledge that you aren't depleting natural resources. 

Choose eucalyptus if: you want to bust bacteria

AiryWeight Eucalyptus Sheet Set on a bed.

(Image credit: Sijo)

Egyptian cotton bed sheets might be easy to keep clean, but eucalyptus bedding is better for busting bacteria. Naturally moisture-wicking and antimicrobial, these sheets are designed to kill the bacteria that breeds in hot, damp environments, such as bedrooms. 

Eucalyptus sheets tend to be hypoallergenic, which means they're suitable for sensitive sleepers. Soft on your skin and cool to the touch, I'd also recommend eucalyptus sheets to hot sleepers and anyone who lives in a warmer climate. 

Like all natural fibers, eucalyptus is prone to pilling, but no more than Egyptian cotton. You can protect and preserve your eucalyptus sheets by avoiding bleach and fabric softeners and only washing with soft fabrics.

Choose microfiber if: you're on a budget

Mellanni Bed Sheets on a bed.

(Image credit: Amazon)

Looking through this list got me thinking: whether they're made from Egyptian cotton or durable linen, breathable bamboo or super-smooth eucalyptus, the best bed sheets can be seriously expensive. 

You shouldn't have to drop a few hundred dollars to get a decent night's sleep. When you buy microfiber bedding, you don't have to. Sure, it won't feel as crisp or clean as Egyptian cotton, and it's a far less sustainable option, but it might be the best bet for buyers on a budget. 

The best affordable bed sheets aren't just cheap: they should be supple, soft, and temperature-regulating, too. You can shop for yourself, or choose from my favorites below.