Tips for buying sheets

SIT THIS ONE OUT — Shoppers looking for high quality sheets without hurting their budget may want to skip the so-called White Sales at mass retailers.

NEW YORK — A new year calls for sparkly new sheets. But shoppers looking for high-quality linens without hurting their budget may want to skip the so-called white sales at mass retailers.

A new cast of startups, in­cluding Parachute, Brook­linen, and Boll & Branch, are cutting out mid­dle­men and selling dir­ect­ly to customers online at a fraction of the price it would normally cost at high-end stores. Licensing fees and markups at retail eas­ily boost the price of a sheet.

These digital natives are filling a gap between high-end sheets that sell for $500 and up and mass-mar­ket sheets that sell for $100 and below but whose qual­ity could be sub-par. They’re also dispelling myths along the way, like ones related to the inflated high thread counts — the num­ber of threads woven to­geth­er in a square inch of fab­ric. The counts don’t tell the whole story. Many of the startups offer shoppers a clear idea of where the sheets are sourced, too. Sum­mit, New Jersey-based Boll & Branch, which sells bed sheet sets that start at $250, says the organic cot­ton it uses is fair trade. The company, founded in 2014, says its factories are fair trade, too. That means it’s been certified through a fair trade organization that aims to ensure that cotton pro­ducers receive a fair price for their crop.

Here are four guidelines for buying sheets:

n  Know the source: When Scott and Missy Tan­nen, the husband and wife duo behind the Boll & Branch brand, started doing their homework, they met with importers in local sales offices who had no idea where the cotton was sourced. After doing re­search, the Tannens went with the Chetna co­op­er­ative in India. CEO Scott Tan­nen says his sheet sets are on par with $1,000 sheets sold at a high-end boutique. Ariel Kaye, CEO of Los Angeles-based Par­a­chute, says her sheets, whose sets start at just under $200, are sourced in Portugal, and she has spent hours in the factories to make sure the working con­ditions are good and that they don’t use chemicals.

n  Be wary of inflated thread counts: In recent years, discounters have heavily advertised sheets with thread counts as high as 1,500. But the thread count isn’t necessarily a gauge of fabric quality nor does it reflect the softness of a sheet, says NPD Group’s Joe Derochowski. That’s because lots of companies inflate the thread count by using multiple-ply yarn — individual threads are twisted around each other — and then pack them together. In fact, experts say be wary of thread counts of over 600.

n  Buy 100% cotton: Shoppers may be tempted to buy wrinkle-resistant sheets, but if you like cool, soft sheets, that’s not the best option. Best to buy 100% cotton sheets — and stick to long-staple cot­ton, which makes for a soft­er sheet. Shorter fibers can poke out of a weave, re­sult­ing in coarser and weaker fabric, according to Brook­linen. Avoid chemical fin­ishes on sheets, too. After a few washes, that soft­ness wears off. High-qual­ity sheets are the ones that get softer each time you wash.

n  Free returns and other perks: Boll & Branch offers free returns on bedsheets — even if used — though it requires returns be made within 30 days of delivery. Customers get their sheets wrapped in eco-friendly white packaging. Brooklinen says it will accept returns and exchanges within 365 days of purchase. Exchanges are always free, but any returns of washed or used products will be subjected to a $9.99 processing fee upon return. Parachute accepts returns within 60 days.

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