PHOTO: iStock

Known to help keep you cool during warm weather, linen sheets resist humidity and are moisture-wicking as well as antibacterial and anti-static. What sets linen apart is that it’s made from natural fibers of flax that are longer than cotton, which makes them more absorbent. It’s also woven more loosely than cotton, creating a more breathable fabric.

While the appeal of linen sheets is fairly obvious in the warm summer months, linen is — surprise! — also a terrific winter and year-round bedding option. It insulates better than cotton, and it naturally regulates body temperature, so it does keep you warm on colder nights. And because of that breathability, you don’t wake up sweaty or clammy.

Plus, linen sheets have an artisan appeal, something important to a lot of consumers today. The production process of linen is more complicated than regular cotton — many of the high-end linen sheet brands use flax made in Europe on small family farms, where the craft has been passed down over generations. And that craft feels, and looks, lovely. Linen sheets create a creased, worn-in feel and a low-key luxe design aesthetic. Some may not like the wrinkly look of linen after it’s washed, and may favor ironing their sheets, but others like the natural, slightly rumpled look and texture. And it also creates a cooler, more elevated sleeping experience.

Compared to fabrics like cotton, linen sheets are expensive — we’re talking a median price of around $200 — but that high price is commensurate with the quality and craftsmanship of the fabric, which can last several more years than cotton.

With that in mind, we began our quest to find the absolute best linen sheets on the market. We ended up washing, drying, making our bed and conducting plenty more tests (outlined below) over and over again with 10 different linen sheet sets in total. One blanket statement (sorry not sorry!): Every sheet set on this list came in with high marks overall for comfort and quality. None of them pilled or showed damage after multiple wash cycles. All of them provided an upgraded sleep experience compared to basic cotton sheets. So winners came down to nuances like softness, value and, in one case, the ability to order individual sheets. Ultimately, and after many nights of sleep, we found these four sheet sets to be the best:

Best linen sheets 2020

Well made, luxurious to the touch and with the most versatile shopping options (six sizes, nine colors and the ability to order individual sheets), the linen sheets from Parachute were, by a narrow margin, our favorite set. From the satisfying unboxing to a sumptuous sleep, with a la carte availability, Parachute set the gold standard in linen luxury.

Truly the absolute softest, these Brooklinen sheets offered an immersive, delectable sleep experience. Simultaneously high-end and already perfectly worn in, these felt like a second skin from the first touch.

Thick and durable but also breathable and soft, Citizenry sheets are a master class in stylish rest. Woven in a mill in Portugal from French flax and produced in a fair-trade environment, these are a socially conscious buy that feel good in more ways than one.

Around half the price of some of the most expensive sets we tested, the Amazon Simple&Opulence sheets held their own in comfort and design. Straight out of the box, these were soft, snuggly and welcoming.

Best overall linen sheets: Parachute Linen Sheet Set (starting at $149; parachute.com)

Parachute Linen Sheet Set
Parachute Linen Sheet Set
PHOTO: Parachute

Parachute was one of the first sets we tested, and quite an introduction to both luxury and linen bedding. They arrive in a roomy cardboard square with a hinge lid, making you wonder, “Is it my birthday?” Each separate linen is packaged in its own little bag crafted from the same European flax as its contents, made in a family-owned factory in northern Portugal. (A number of the luxury linen brands we tested were made in factories in Portugal, which has a large textiles industry.) Thick twine bounds each individual bag, giving the whole thing a sort of breezy, nautical feel, like you might be sleeping on a small yacht tonight.

Making the bed with these sheets was effortless. We’ve struggled with tight-fitting cotton sheets before, wondering why bed-making must be truly laborious. The Parachute linens were roomy but not baggy. They fit the bed comfortably, like a lovingly worn-in linen button-down. On the summer night we first tested these, the sheets were soft but also firm. If this sounds uncomfortable, it was the converse: cool, light and luxurious. Our first mental note was that we felt like we were sleeping on a cloud.

After a trip through the washing machine and dryer, the Parachute sheets softened a bit and wrinkled — a lot. All of these linens did, by nature of linen as a fabric. Even unironed and left in their natural, wrinkled state, the sheets have a luxurious, upscale feel. They’re also responsibly made, like most of the brands we tested, with Parachute linens being Oeko-Tex-certified, meaning they pass a series of tests for environmental safety in production.

Aside from the clean ease and simplicity of the white Parachute sheets we tested — many of our sets were simple and sophisticated — one factor that pushed these over the top into the winning category was the a la carte shopping factor. “Because 40% of Americans sleep without one, we offer the top sheet separately,” explains the Parachute site. You can buy fitted sheets and pillowcases separately too, and this convenience, giving consumers options, is integral to a superlative user experience. Plus, Parachute sheets come in six sizes (twin; twin XL, which adds four inches of length; full; queen; king; and California king, which also adds four inches of length but reduces width by four inches). That’s more sizes than any other brand we tested, and in a generous nine calming colors.

This level of variety, plus a very elegant and plush sleep offering, elevated the Parachute brand to our top spot.

Runner-up linen sheets: Citizenry (starting at $230; the-citizenry.com)

Citizenry
Citizenry
PHOTO: Citizenry

It’s difficult to label something that brought us so much pleasure as a runner-up. Citizenry’s linen sheets are French flax, woven in a family-run mill in Portugal and produced in a fair-trade environment. And the unboxing was a beautiful thing: The product arrives in a bag of the same fabrication as the sheets themselves, tied with a gray linen pull. Our sheets were sienna in color and, showing up at the tail end of summer, were a reminder of autumn and cooler weather. Plus, the sheets smelled lovely, kind of like when you walk into a boutique home store with a luxe candle burning.

After we opened the box, we noticed there was a delicate perforated hem on the top sheet and the pillow too, which makes the whole bed presentation feel like more of an occasion. These are a sturdier, thicker option than some of the ones we tested, and thus feel like they’ll transition well into colder weather. Without an air conditioner unit blasting directly onto us in the heat of summer, these sheets almost felt heavy. In a more temperature-controlled room, though, they felt so cozy we didn’t want to leave the bed.

After even the first washing, these beauties softened significantly, rendering them even more snuggly. And the Citizenry brand is an appealing one: They travel to each country they source goods from and work with local artisans using local materials to produce a small-batch product, then sell directly to the consumer.

The sheets come in 10 tasteful, muted colors, including charcoal and graphite stripe. They slid in just under the winners pointswise for a couple of reasons: They come in only three sizes (full, queen and king), and you cannot buy sheets individually (but you can buy sets of pillowcases). Also, these were roomier sheets, widthwise, so they bagged a bit on both sides of our queen-size bed. All of that said, though, we wouldn’t be mad to sleep in these sheets all autumn long.

If you want a beautiful, heftier sheet, and one that’s made in partnership with local artisans, Citizenry has excellent options on offer.

Softest linen sheets: Brooklinen (starting at $233.10, originally starting at $259; brooklinen.com)

Brooklinen sheets
Brooklinen sheets
PHOTO: Brooklinen

Brooklinen sheets fell into a different category than many of the other sets, one that can only be described as, well, buttery. Not stiff or starchy like many of the others we tested, Brooklinen arrived already feeling worn in, even brand new. The unboxing is fun, like you’re really getting something memorable. The product comes in a cute striped cardboard box with a plastic handle, opening up to your sheets packaged in a beautiful starched white bag. There’s even a gift with purchase: an adorable cream tote bag with “Brooklinen” printed in different iconic fonts.

Now on to the actual product: These sheets are the definition of soft. So comfortable. So enveloping. So melty. (They’re crafted from 100% French and Belgian linen, made in Portugal, and Oeko-Tex-certified for chemical safety.) We sort of dissolved into them in a very pleasing way. They felt like they had been washed and rewashed dozens of times, already achieving that texture, and from a sleeping experience alone, they were our favorite.

We didn’t rate them as the overall winner for a few minor reasons: You can’t buy individual sheets; they only come in four sizes (full, queen, king and Cali king); and they didn’t fit the bed quite as precisely as some of the others, namely the Parachute. That being said, the fitted sheets are labeled “Short” or “Long” on each side, so you don’t waste time figuring out which end goes where (an exercise we did a lot of during the last two months). And the pillowcases come with “envelope closures” that tidily punctuate your pillow so it’s not exposed beyond the case. A few brands had these envelope closures, a feature we didn’t know we needed.

If you prefer pure softness to a rougher fiber product, Brooklinen is ready to envelop you in comfort. We’d have no complaints sleeping on these every night for years to come.

Best budget-friendly linen sheets: Amazon Simple&Opulence 100% Washed Linen Sheet Set (starting at $114; amazon.com)

Amazon Simple&Opulence 100% Washed Linen Sheet Set
Amazon Simple&Opulence 100% Washed Linen Sheet Set
PHOTO: Amazon

These were less than half the investment of some of the very high-end sheet sets we tested, without feeling the least bit like a consolation prize. They arrive tied up in a bundle with a cotton ribbon, like a little gift package. Once unwrapped, they’re immediately inviting. They were cool and soft, and felt nice against the skin; we kept wanting to roll around in them or schedule extra naps during the day.

They also fit the bed more snugly than most of the other sets, which was helpful during bed-making, and yielded a tidier-looking final product than some of the others. There’s a pretty decorative hem on the top sheet and the pillowcases, and the Simple&Opulence sheets come in four size options (twin, full, queen and king) and seven colors (two whites, four grays and a purple), but you can’t order single replacements of any of the pieces.

For less than $150, this is a very satisfying set of linens. While the sheets were slightly less luxurious-feeling and special than some of the other sets with special details or touches, these rank as high-quality, durable bedding more than worth their weight.

If you don’t need the fanciest packaging or the status a luxury brand can bring, Simple&Opulence is a more than solid option that delivers on comfort.

How we tested

We tested 10 sets of linen sheets using two primary criteria: quality and variety. We observantly and excitedly unboxed each set (and for some of the sets that were more artfully packaged, the unboxing itself was a fun exercise) and made notes, prepared a bed with the sheets, slept on them straight out of the packaging, washed and dried them in the dryer and reapplied them to the same bed and slept on them again, multiple times. We noted how they felt to touch, as well as when tossing, sleeping and waking up, and how they felt after laundering and reusing.

Quality and feel

  • How they feel out of the box: Are they soft or rough? Thick or thin? Luxurious or flimsy? We evaluated the unboxing of each set of sheets on very tactile terms, asking the following questions: How do they feel in your hands? Is this a product you’d want to put on your bed, and against your skin?
  • Comfort level: How do they feel to sleep on? We made notes on each set of sheets as to whether they were soft, stiff, cool, light, heavy or durable. And ultimately, how they affected a night of sleep.
  • How they feel after washing: We evaluated if the sheets softened a great deal after washing and drying, and the wrinkle factor. (Note: The wrinkle factor was high for all of them after being dried without ironing.)
  • Pill factor after sleeping or washing: We assessed if each set felt durable after multiple washing and drying cycles, and if the sheets began to pill or tear or degrade at all. (Note: None of these high-quality brands deteriorated at all during our testing process.)
  • Fit on bed: We made at least one bed with each set of sheets, assessing how well they fit a bed, noting if they were tight or loose, gapping or sagging.

Options

  • Number of sizes: We evaluated how many different size options there were for each sheet brand (they all included at least full, queen and king, and those that offered twin, California king or other specialized sizes were awarded higher scores).
  • Colors: We noted how many colors each sheet set was avaiable in; some were available in only three or four, while others were available in as many as 15.
  • Availability of individual replacements: We assessed whether you can buy individual sheets and pillowcases for each set for those consumers who need replacements, want to mix and match colors or styles, or simply do not want or need a top sheet, for example.

How we rated

Each set of sheets received a score in each subcategory, and the total of those subcategory scores was the total rating of that set. We also factored in the very subtle differences in linen design and package design as well as, of course, the price. Check out how we broke down the points below.

  • Quality/feel had a total of 70 points: comfort level (20 points); how they feel after washing (15 points); pill factor after sleeping or washing (15 points); how they feel out of the box, e.g., soft or rough, thick or thin (10 points); fit on bed (10 points)
  • Options had a total of 30: number of size options (10 points); color options (10 points); availability of individual replacements (10 points)

Other linen sheets we tested

Saphyr Soft Washed Pure Linen Sheet Set (starting at $279; saphyrhome.com)

Saphyr Soft Washed Pure Linen Sheet Set
Saphyr Soft Washed Pure Linen Sheet Set
PHOTO: Saphyr Home

Saphyr is the common name of the flower that blooms on the flax plant that produces linen fibers, and this product, made from 100% French linen, indeed feels fresh.

The sheets are handsomely packaged in zippered individual squares, then wrapped in Saphyr-logoed tissue paper. The colors are subtle and sophisticated, and there’s a frayed hem on the top sheet and the pillowcase that differentiated these from any other set we tested. Sort of the anti-modern iteration of a linen sheet, these transported us to an effortlessly stylish summer chateau in Provence — luxurious without trying too hard. With sheets available in four sizes (full, queen, king and California king) and five colors (Fresh White, Calming Cream, Blissful Blue, Simply Natural and Peaceful Pink), and sold individually, Saphyr is a supremely satisfying small brand to support. Saphyr came in a very close second to our runner-up, save for its slightly higher price point, but if supporting a smaller brand is important to you, we wholeheartedly endorse this one.

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Cultiver Linen Sheet Set With Pillowcases (starting at $325; cultiver.com)

Cultiver Linen Sheet Set With Pillowcases
Cultiver Linen Sheet Set With Pillowcases
PHOTO: Cultiver

When we opened this box, the contents — a gorgeous muted gray linen bag filled with a linen sheet set — somehow strangely smelled like fresh oranges. Who knows if this was intentional or just part of serendipitous shipping magic, but we liked it. The sheets were a pleasure to sleep on. Comfortable. Soft. Cool. Not as buttery as some of the “softer” options, more of a stiff version. They softened a little after washing, as all of these sets did, and these fit the bed nicely.

Cultiver linen sheets come in four sizes and four colors, but you can buy separate flat and top sheets, a plus for a la carte shoppers, and the separates come in 14 — 14! — colors, including the less expected indigo stripe, navy and bluestone, an embarrassment of options (and we love being embarrassed by options). These are crafted from 100% European flax and are clearly a high-quality linen, as the printed material that comes with the sheets notes. These offered a wonderful and memorable user experience, but their over-$300 price tag kept them out of our top three picks.

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Lands’ End Garment Washed Linen Solid Sheets (starting at $224.95; landsend.com)

Lands
Lands' End Garment Washed Linen Solid Sheets
PHOTO: Lands' End

We like Lands’ End apparel, for both style and value, and we liked its linen sheets. We didn’t find them as luxurious or high-end-feeling as some of the more boutique bedding brands — which is one of the very few reasons they didn’t score even higher — but they did hold their own. They come in a plastic wrapper, folded nicely, but without any of the packaging bells and whistles of the more boutique brands.

Out of the box, these linens felt soft, thick and already worn in a bit, like they’d been washed a few times already, and we mean that as a positive. They were very comfortable to sleep in, though less melty-feeling than the ones we ended up ranking higher, and they did get even softer after a few washings.

Lands’ End offers linen sheets in four sizes (twin, full, queen and king) and five colors (light aqua, pewter, white, pale rose and rosette), and for $16 you can get them monogrammed in one of seven different fonts, which, for those who are monogram people, is a fun option (one that no other brand appeared to offer, and for which we awarded a couple extra points).

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Rough Linen Smooth Linen (starting at $280, originally starting at $312; roughlinen.com)

Rough Linen Smooth Linen
Rough Linen Smooth Linen
PHOTO: Rough Linen

We were startled when we first handled these sheets. They felt stiff, almost like a starched shirt, which made them live up to their brand name, and yet the roughness somehow made them feel more sophisticated. They were actually comfortable and not at all rough to sleep on, though they did continue to feel rather firm.

After one washing, though, the Rough Linen sheets softened significantly. These definitely felt like sheets you could sleep in, wash, dry and sleep in again for many years to come, like a favorite shirt.

They come in six sizes: the four standard ones, plus California king and Supersize, a 125-inch-by-125-inch sheet that’s 9 inches deeper than a California king, as well as five colors (sky, light gray, natural, pure white and ivory), and you can order each linen replacement individually as needed. The brand’s relatively smaller variety of color options and its higher starting price were the primary reasons we didn’t rank these sheets among our absolute faves.

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West Elm Belgian Flax Linen Sheet Set (starting at $160, originally starting at $200; westelm.com)

West Elm Belgian Flax Linen Sheet Set
West Elm Belgian Flax Linen Sheet Set
PHOTO: West Elm

Beloved home brand West Elm, like Lands’ End, makes a nice linen sheet set too, woven from Belgian flax in a fair-trade facility. These fall into the stiff/rough category, not unlike Rough Linen, which in this case also makes them feel more high-end. They fit the bed smoothly and tidily, unlike many of the other sets, which gapped around the sides.

However, the texture sometimes felt rigid; during our first sleep on these, and a subsequent one after one laundering cycle, West Elm’s pillowcases felt almost scratchy against our faces. These come in five sizes (twin, full, queen, king and California king) and a whopping nine colors, including lovely earth tones terra cotta, dark amber and sand yellow. You cannot buy individual replacement sheets — one factor that kept these from being scored higher, along with their texture — but you can buy extra pillowcases.

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Snowe Linen Sheet Set (starting at $300; snowehome.com)

Snowe Linen Sheet Set
Snowe Linen Sheet Set
PHOTO: Snowe Home

The Snowe linen set is made with Italian-made linen, woven from Belgian flax, and these sheets certainly feel high-end. They were both soft and cool, helping to deliver a good night’s sleep. However, judged against this superlative group, Snowe lost a few crucial points in the categories of comfort and packaging. The sheets are very pretty but arrived in a spare packaging, wrapped in clear plastic and then wrapped in black tissue paper sealed with a small logo sticker. There is nothing wrong with this, but given that most of the other sets came beautifully wrapped with either an endearing personal note or thoughtful printed material regarding use and care, this omission rendered this set just a touch less special.

During our first night of sleep on the Snowe, we noticed that the material felt a little scratchy on our legs, and after one washing and drying cycle, somehow the sheets felt a little stiffer. Lastly, these only come in three colors — essential white, ash gray and slate blue — all of which are lovely, but compared to some of the brands with up to 15 color offerings, suddenly three just felt limited. They’re available in four sizes (full, queen, king and California king), but you cannot buy separate replacement top or fitted sheets; you can, however, buy two pillowcases for $90.