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What are Fitted Sheets?

By J. Beam
Updated May 16, 2024
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Fitted sheets, sometimes called bottom sheets, are the sheets that cover the mattress on a bed. They often have elastic sewn into each of the four corners to help it stay in place over the mattress. Like the other components of bedding, these sheets are either sold individually, called open stock, or as part of a complete set. A complete sheet set includes the fitted sheet; the flat, or top sheet; and either one pillow case for twin-sized beds, or two for all other sizes.

Many people struggle with fitted sheets because they don't always stay in place. While most mattresses have a standard width and length, they don't always have a standard thickness. Thicker, pillow top mattresses should be fitted with a wide or deep pocket bottom sheet. Sometimes, it is easier to find good ones sold open stock rather than in a set. Finding one to match a favorite sheet set or complete bedding set may be difficult, but a coordinating a fitted sheet that stays on the bed is more favorable to a perfect match when it comes to making the bed.

When selecting fitted or flat sheets, the material, whether Egyptian cotton or polyester blend, is of less significance to quality than thread count. The actual material is mostly a matter of personal preference and comfort more than an indicator of quality, though certain fabrics don't wash as well as others. Polyester blends are more likely to pill than 100% cotton and aren't usually as soft, but they don't wrinkle like cotton does. Blended fabrics that are 50% polyester/50% cotton are preferable to the 80%/20% blend.

When it comes to fabric, thread count is the best indicator of the quality of sheets. Thread count refers to the number of threads per square inch in the fabric. A thread count of 200 or higher is pretty good, while a 300 thread count or higher tends to be superior in quality. A thread count less than 200 is often unacceptable and, though cheaper to buy, costs more in the long run because it will wear out much sooner. Fitted sheets wear out sooner than the flat sheet, so investing in quality, coordinating sheets can extend the life of a complete matching bedding set.

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Discussion Comments

By anon282405 — On Jul 29, 2012

Does anyone know where I can purchase a queen sheet set where the bottom fitted sheet has elastic in four corners and not around the entire sheet?

By anon233932 — On Dec 09, 2011

I have been in the business a long time, and I care about quality.

First - Thread count is not the single best determination for quality. You can determine the quality by:

1) Feel the fabric - it should have a smooth feel - not too limp and not too stiff. Thin and limp is bad.

2) Look closely at it. Are the yarns really prominent and rib-like or do they look small and the fabric has an even appearance? Small and smooth is better.

3) Check the blend - 100 percent polyester is not good. If you like cotton, look for the words combed. For premium sheets, look for pima, supima or egyptian. Cotton does wrinkle and wrinkle free cotton is a relative term. If you hate wrinkles, buy a 60 percent cotton, 40 percent poly sheet.

4) Now you can look at the thread count. If it's a percale/plain weave, and you are satisfied with the points above, anything 200 or above is fine. If it's a sateen weave, anything above a 310 should be fine.

5) Look at the price. If the price is less than $10 per 100 threads per inch for a set, it's probably low quality.

Do the above and you greatly increase your chances of buying a quality sheet set.

By anon150054 — On Feb 06, 2011

Manufacturers of sheets seem to think that they can do a one size fits all idea for fitted sheets. Well, one size doesn't fit the normal bed mattress but accommodate the new princess and the pea mattresses with depths up to 22 inches high.

Cost isn't even the factor. Italian fine sheets now also seem to be that horrible one size that on a normal bed is just one big sloppy mess.

Are we, in the 21st century, going to have to make our own fitted sheets? Or are be going back to hospital corner flat sheets. This is so infuriating.

By anon134931 — On Dec 16, 2010

a lot of the time you can solve these problems of the fitted sheet coming off with sheet suspenders

Look up sheet suspenders. They come up first place.

they have been in business over 20 years because they have the best products out. The full sized ones even work with king sheets on a queen size bed! The minis work great for extra tall mattresses as well as the full sized suspenders. Try them out and i think your problems will go away!

By anon126213 — On Nov 11, 2010

I'm a consultant for Lorraine Lea linen in Australia, and we do individual sheets, not sets. Good if you only need a fitted or a flat.

The fitted sheet is designed for a regular mattress as you are describing 'anon124137', but for those that have extra thick mattress' they also have a sheet for these.

These sheets and pillow cases come in 19 different colours are long lasting and awesome condition. Good luck with your search.

By anon124137 — On Nov 04, 2010

Ditto. If this was a voice mail, the voice would be plaintive. Does no one make a fitted (bottom) sheet for what I call a "normal" mattress: around 8 or 9 inches, in the U.S.? Everything I find in the stores is humongous, made for mattresses that are 19" to 20" thick. And also how about single sheets, not sets. Help!

By anon73554 — On Mar 28, 2010

The only sheets I have found good so far are from TJ Maxx. I bought double and super king size. The price was round about £9.99. They just fit perfectly and don't slip.

By anon39987 — On Aug 05, 2009

a company that is available online can supply you with fitted sheets that work. the sheets are made with the shrinkage factor taken into account.

By anon16914 — On Aug 18, 2008

As far as I can tell, fitted sheets (king size, anyway) aren't made to fit *any* mattress - or perhaps they *are* made to fit any mattress, and that's the problem. It's not just the depth. I have trouble finding sheets, even expensive ones, that fit a king size bed corner to corner. It is, apparently, too much trouble to make a sheet designed to fit snugly. Might as well buy two flat sheets and learn to master hospital corners.

By anon15592 — On Jul 15, 2008

I continuously have problems with my fitted sheet coming off the mattress. I have heard of a sheet that has elastic all around the seam, not just in the four corners. The problem is I can't find any sheets like this in the stores. Do these sheets have a special name? Where can I buy them? What do I need to look for when reading the packaging?

By anon1047 — On May 13, 2007

I have to disagree with this statement: "Thicker mattresses pose difficulty when searching for the perfect fitted sheet." Every fitted sheet I have found while shopping for my mother's non-pillow top, regular mattress (what she wants for Mother's Day) is made for thick, pillow top mattresses. Sealy does make a fitted sheet called "Best Fit" with elastic corners that isn't supposed to slip around ... unfortunately, the fabric has a 330 thread count Sateen finish my mother doesn't like. Maybe this information will help someone with my dilemma.

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