If you’re looking for a great, reasonably priced set of sheets, we don’t think you’ll do better than the sateen Threshold Performance 400 Thread Count Sheet Set. These sheets are the best we’ve found for under $50 (queen size) after more than 200 hours of researching and testing dozens of sets. Even our main tester, a veteran bed-linen textile designer, agreed that they’re almost as good as sets four times the price.
The Threshold Performance set isn’t as nice as some of our favorite sets that we cover in our main sheet guide, but for the price and performance we think it’s a screaming deal. These sheets proved to be as durable as much more expensive sets we tested at the Fashion Institute of Technology’s textile-testing lab. They’re made from sateen, which is a little heavier and warmer than percale (we go into the difference between the two sheeting fabrics in our main sheet guide). It’s an optimal set for cool weather, or if you prefer particularly soft fabrics.
If you want a percale set that’s of a lighter weight than our main pick, we also like Target’s Threshold 300 Thread Count Ultra Soft Sheets (flat, fitted, and cases). They aren’t as soft feeling as our top pick, and they don’t have the crisp quality of higher-end percale (think nice hotel bedding), but they are the best inexpensive percale sheets we’ve tried. Because they have a dry hand (the opposite of silky or slippery), they feel nicer than our main pick for warm weather. We also like that Target sells them by the piece, so you can replace any pieces (such as the bottom sheet) that wear out over time.
We spoke with a half dozen bedding experts for our main sheet guide, and those interviews informed how we chose lower-priced sets. We also pored over reviews from Consumer Reports (subscription required) and Sleep Like The Dead. We looked to customer-review sections on the sites of Amazon, Costco, JCPenney, Target, Walmart, and many other small and large retailers, and we looked at reader comments on our main sheets guide to determine what people love and hate about sheet sets.
Preethi Gopinath, who tested all of our sheets, has worked for 20 years as a textile designer. Among other things, she has designed bed linens for Spring Industries and Designerie. She has also taught textile science courses in the Textile Development and Marketing department of the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York.
Great sheets at any price should feel soft against the skin, wear well, and be durably constructed. We picked and tested the sheets featured in this guide while we worked on our main sheets guide. We looked for high-quality sheet sets made from 100 percent cotton, which experts say provides the best balance between comfort and value. Cotton sheets feel soft, wick moisture really well, and get softer with multiple washes. Often, lower-priced sheet sets are made of a blend, such as cotton and polyester, which can be notably durable but not quite as breathable as all-cotton fabric.
The main difference you’ll find between the sets we cover in this guide and sets that cost more is that pricier sets generally feel softer and more luxurious against the skin. Inexpensive sets, like the ones we discuss here, are usually made of shorter-staple cotton (and the tag will simply read “100% cotton” rather than something like “Egyptian,” “Turkish,” or “Pima”). In some cases, more expensive sets also have higher thread counts. We go into depth about the qualities that make a great sheet set in our main sheet guide, and those qualities hold true for the less expensive sets included here.
When researching sheets, we looked at a range of sets that cost from $20 to about $250 for a queen set. Keeping budget in mind, we also looked at 90 sets from places such as Bed Bath & Beyond, Costco, IKEA, Kohl’s, Overstock, Target, Walmart, and other large retailers that offer a variety of inexpensive options. We didn’t test budget sheets separately from the rest of the sheets we tried for our main guide, because we wanted to see how they compared against more expensive sets.
We held each budget sheet up to the same rigorous testing criteria we used for our main sheets guide, standards designed to evaluate the hand (feel) of the sheets, the overall comfort during sleep, and durability over time. To eliminate brand bias, we removed tags from the sheets and marked them with numbers. That meant our testers didn’t know which sets were from higher-end retailers like Boll & Branch or Cuddledown and which ones were from big-box stores. As with the sets we tried for our main guide, we tested the sheets’ durability at the Fashion Institute of Technology’s textile-testing lab.
Target’s Threshold Performance 400 Thread Count Sheet Set is the best we’ve tried for under $50 (queen size, including shipping). We found the sheets almost as soft as those that cost four times as much, and they were among the best ones we tested for wrinkle resistance. They performed very well in our FIT durability tests, which leads us to believe that they will hold up better than other cheaper sets we’ve tried in the past. Because the fabric is on the warm side, we think this set is better for use in cooler weather.
The Threshold Performance sheets weren’t as soft as our absolute favorite sateen set from Royal Velvet (the overall winner), but they felt softer than both of the sets we tried from Macy’s (which currently cost $170 and $360 for the queen size). The Threshold Performance set also felt better than the more modestly priced Better Homes and Gardens 400 Thread Count Egyptian Cotton Sheet Set from Walmart and the Gäspa set from IKEA.
The Threshold Performance set also wrinkled less than most of the sheets we tried this round. In our tests at FIT’s textile-testing labs, this set was among the four least wrinkly (right behind our top pick from Royal Velvet and our upgrade pick from Cuddledown). It comes out of the dryer relatively wrinkle-free and looks smooth on a bed. In comparison, our other budget pick, the Threshold Ultra Soft variety, wrinkles quite a bit.
In our durability tests at FIT, the Threshold Performance sheets resisted pilling (scoring between four and five on a scale of five). They were also within an acceptable range for tensile strength, and they weighed about 3.5 ounces per square yard—lighter than the Royal Velvet sheets but similar to most of the percale and sateen sheets we tried. In years past, we’ve found that cheaper sateen sets are prone to snagging, but we haven’t experienced any such issues with this set so far.
We like the three-layered edging detail on the hem of the flat sheet and pillowcases, as well as the excellent, wide band of elastic on the fitted sheet that makes it easy to put on a mattress. The sheets also come in twin XL size (in a few colors), which is why they’re also our favorite set for dorm bedding. For around $50 for a queen set, we really don’t think you can go wrong.
We have noticed that the fabric grabs on to pet hair. You might find a similar issue with lint or other fibers from pajamas or other bedding. But the fabric cleans up nicely once washed and dried.
If you want to buy sheets by the piece, or if you prefer the cooler feel of percale, Target’s Threshold 300 Thread Count Ultra Soft sheets (flat, fitted, and cases) are a good-quality choice and available at a great price (currently a little more than $45 for a queen set, including shipping). They’re not as soft as the Threshold Performance sheets, and they don’t feel quite as smooth as higher-priced percale options (such as our favorite L.L.Bean set), but they are the best of the inexpensive percale sheets we’ve tested. We also like the ability to purchase replacements if the bottom sheet wears out or if the pillowcases stain over time.
Similar to other percale sheets, these have a “dry hand” (the opposite of a slippery or silky feel). Lying on them, you’ll stay put rather than feel like you’re slipping around. The sheets are not as crisp as more expensive percale (they don’t have the crinkly sound of fine hotel bedding), but the fabric does feel better than the sets we tried from IKEA and Walmart. They feel lighter in weight than the sateen Threshold Performance sheets (although both sets came in around 3.5 ounces per square yard in our FIT tests) and cooler against the skin. In our other FIT lab tests, these sheets scored within an acceptable range for tensile strength and showed good resistance to pilling.
In our main sheet guide, we feature both percale and sateen top picks, because people tend to prefer one or the other. But in testing budget sheets, we found that the cheaper percale didn’t impress us as much as the cheaper sateen sets. While our top pick, the Threshold Performance set, compared closely to some of the priciest sateen offerings we tried, the Threshold Ultra Soft sheets were less impressive.
These sheets wrinkle a lot. We didn’t notice a huge amount of wrinkling in our FIT tests, but in home use all of our testers noted that these sheets wrinkle more than other sets. One Sweethome editor owns three sets (in the queen size) and has noted the same thing. She has also noticed inconsistencies with the fitted sheets (one was too big, another a tad small), and one of her flat sheets developed a hole after a year. Overall, however, she’s pleased with the sets.
To see the full list of sheets we’ve tried or considered over the past three years, see our guide to the best sheets. The sheets below are the ones we’ve tried that cost around $50 or less for a queen set.
Walmart’s sateen Better Homes and Gardens 400 Thread Count Egyptian Cotton Sheet Set performed well. After several rounds of laundering, however, these sheets didn’t feel as smooth and soft as the Threshold Performance set. These remain excellent sheets and a fantastic value (around $50 per set currently).
IKEA’s Gäspa sateen sheets are average to good-quality, but not remarkable. In our tests they didn’t feel nearly as nice as the Threshold Performance set.
The Mainstays 250-Thread Count Sheet Set from Walmart didn’t feel as crisp as the Target Threshold Ultra Soft set, although it did feel a little softer. Overall our testers preferred the Target percale sheets, but this is also a decent set for a great price.
Amazon’s Pinzon 400-Thread-Count Hemstitch Egyptian Cotton Sheet Set was surprisingly clingy and heavy.
(Photos by Michael Hession.)
Originally published: July 8, 2016
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