College is a special time in any family’s life. For many students, it’s their first time navigating the world on their own. While they’ll need all the essentials for a successful semester, every college student also needs to think about their sleep—after all, you can’t pay attention in that early morning chemistry lecture if you’re not catching enough zzz’s.
We’ve tested the best bed sheets you can buy, but we know that money can be tight for families footing a tuition bill, and it might not be worth making an investment in premium sheets to use for a relatively short time. With that in mind, we here at Reviewed tested popular twin XL sheets to find the best set for a typical college student. Our winner, the QVC Home Reflections Cotton Sheet Set(available at QVC), surprised us with high scores in our labs, which undertook some special tests for staining, tearing, and flammability to mimic the chaos of college life. The result? These sheets will keep students safe and cozy while far from home, which should help everyone rest easy.
Here are the best twin XL sheets we tested ranked, in order:
QVC Home Reflections Cotton
Threshold Performance Cotton
Bare Home Microfiber
Simply Essential Microfiber
Amazon Basics Microfiber
IKEA Vårvial Cotton
Room Essentials Microfiber
Pointehaven Flannel Cotton
Linen Home Cotton Percale
QVC Home Reflections Cotton Sheet Set
Of the sheets we tested, QVC’s Home Reflections cotton set scored the highest. The sheet set—composed of a fitted sheet, a flat sheet, and two pillowcases—held up well after many cycles of laundry and various stain tests. The material also endured multiple rip-and-burn tests better than any other cotton or microfiber sheet we tested. We were impressed!
After its first wash and dry on high heat, the fabric barely shrank, and nothing that affected the fit on the bed. These were among the only cotton sheets not to come out of the dryer wrinkled, despite our best efforts to emulate the college laundry process with crammed washers and dryers and little detergent. (Who has money to spend on such trivialities?) There was no fabric pilling after multiple washes, either. The material outlasted other cotton sheets in our rip-and-tear test and didn’t catch fire from lit cigarettes or an open flame, either. The only evidence of the abuse we put this set through was a few pulled threads. This had little effect on the overall appearance of the sheet, but it could indicate that the Home Reflections cotton set won’t last forever. Never mind the obvious question: Do you want these sheets to last forever?
In our stain tests, the sheets also performed exceptionally well, showing no evidence of the boxed wine, cheap beer, and pizza grease we poured on the fabric. While other sheets still had remnants of stains, Home Reflections emerged as bright and white as they’d been fresh out of the package.
Beyond laboratory testing, the sheets fit a twin XL bed easily (and kept fitting, because they didn’t shrink). From my experience lying on the made bed, I feel like the sheets offer a great balance of softness and coziness. The pillowcases are also soft to the touch, while other cotton sets felt a little scratchy on my face. Based on my time with the sheets, I believe they’d be a great set for someone who sleeps particularly warm or is going to school in a warmer climate and expects hot nights.
Price-wise, the QVC Home Reflections cotton sheet set lands in the middle of the pack—it’s not the most expensive sheet set or our Best Value. It also doesn’t come in as wide a range of colors or patterns as some others, so style-minded students may be less enthused. But its stellar test scores, good quality, and softness get our highest stamp of approval.
Utopia’s microfiber sheet set not only scored well on our tests, but it’s one of the cheaper sets and appears to be frequently on sale, earning it our Best Value award. These sheets performed well in our tests, especially compared to other microfiber sets.
The Utopia microfiber fabric didn’t shrink, break, or wrinkle after multiple washing and drying cycles. No matter how careless we were with the sheets during our laundry tests, they consistently came out feeling soft and smooth. At one point, we left the set in the dryer for hours after the cycle had finished—that is, of course, a typical aspect of the college laundry experience. After finally taking it out, we were surprised by how little it wrinkled or smelled. Similarly, the sheets handled stains well. Only one wash was needed to remove the splotches of wine, beer, and pizza grease from the material.
Utopia has perhaps the most unfading appearance of any microfiber sheet we tested, which was impressive when compared to other more expensive microfiber sheets. The fabric is excellent at resisting burns from cigarettes or open flames. On a twin XL mattress, I found the Utopia’s microfiber felt like soft cotton. I barely noticed it on my skin, and I never felt like it was abrasive or stiff.
Unfortunately, the sheets ripped somewhat easily—this may suggest that these sheets will continue to look good after multiple washes but do less well if caught on a metal bed frame. Also, as compared to some sets that offer upwards of 50 style options, Utopia has a fine amount of color and pattern options—12 to choose from, at the time of publishing—but not as many as other sheets we tested.
Overall, for the price and ease of care, the sheets seem like a great value purchase for a college student.
At our laboratory in Cambridge, Mass., our team of testers and scientists brainstorm new and innovative techniques for testing products. For this list of twin XL sheets, they modified tests we’ve previously used for sheets to fit the expectations and habits of college students.
To pick the best sheet sets for college kids, we tested a variety of brands, materials, and prices. While we researched customer ratings and feedback to get a sense for what sheets we should include, we also made sure to pick retailers that are accessible online or in-store for almost any shopper.
I’m Chris, Reviewed’s sleep writer. I was charged with selecting our sheet sets, recording data, and compiling this list. I also recently graduated from Tufts University, where I was a dorm residential assistant for three years. That means I’m quite familiar with the ins and outs of both college dorm decoration and, well, how college kids behave.
With the help of Reviewed’s scientists, I put these sheets through the ringer. Our goal was to find and recommend the best sheets for college students—sheets that could withstand just about anything while remaining soft and cozy.
We started by ordering all of the test sheets in white, in order to level the playing field when it came especially to our staining tests. (It also left us pondering if these sheets would work well for togas at a frat party.)
As anyone who went to college knows, it’s both a time of exciting independence and new experiences. For some college students, it’s their first time doing laundry—and rather than reading about how to care for their sheets, college students are more likely to wash and dry everything on whatever setting the last person used. They also typically cram big loads of laundry into small, coin-operated machines. We don’t blame them—those dorm washers and dryers can be expensive!
That’s why, for our tests, we washed and dried the sets on high heat in stuffed machines. It not only emulated the real experience, but gave us data on how the sheets would hold up in the harshest laundry conditions. We then assessed the sheets for shrinkage, wrinkles, pilling, and overall appearance and quality. We defined the latter by comparing how the sheets looked before and after a laundry cycle—we took any noticeable damages, like pulled threads or holes, into consideration.
We also tested how the sheets fit on a twin XL mattress. To do this, we traveled to Tufts University and occupied one of its dorm rooms for the day. We tried each set of sheets on a mattress, made the bed, and laid down to get a feel for how it would feel to sleep with the sheets. This gave us some interesting information about the differences between cotton and microfiber—more on that later—and what may be best for a college student.
Now comes the fun part: staining. For this, our scientists thought about what a college student would be most likely to spill on their bed. Wine and beer were our first picks, and we went with cheaper brands that many college students become all too familiar with. How about a frosty Pabst Blue Ribbon, anyone? Our scientists also decided on pizza grease as another potential stain for dorm bed sheets. We had a productive work day shooting water guns filled with wine and lukewarm beer at the white twin XL sheets—the most professional way to stain them, in our opinion. Then we smeared pepperoni pizza on the sheets, before washing them with one of the best laundry detergents to see which sheets stained the worst.
Finally, we put the sheets through multiple ripping and burning tests. To gauge the sheets’ durability against tearing, we measured the force needed before both the edge and the center of the top sheet showed signs of stress and even rips.
As for flammability, we employed both lit cigarettes and an open flame so that we could adequately determine whether a set of sheets might singe or catch fire. Of course, most college dorms prohibit open flames—but, let’s be real, every college student doesn’t follow the rules.
What You Should Know About Buying Twin XL Sheets
Both online retailers and IRL big-box and home stores are stocked with bedding. Here at Reviewed, we’ve tested so many options to find the best in bed sheets, including cotton sateen sheets and percale sheets, as well as linen sheets to keep you cool in the summer and flannel sheets to keep you toasty warm in winter.
But not all of these fabric options come in the specialty size of twin XL, which at 80 inches in length, is 5 inches longer than a regular twin. Twin XL is also almost exclusively found in college dorm rooms—coeds over 6 feet tall, your feet may not hang off the end! When browsing what you can most commonly buy, we found two common fabric types: natural cotton and synthetic microfiber.
The natural fiber of cotton is typically known for being more breathable and soft than synthetic. It also tends to shrink, wrinkle, and may hold onto stains even after washing. Synthetic fibers, on the other hand, are often made from polyester or nylon, which can mean they may be more resistant to damage and tears but are often less breathable. Microfiber used for sheets is a type of synthetic fiber made from polyester that can feel just as soft and smooth as cotton, though sheets made of this fabric may sleep hotter.
While it’s important to think about what fibers make up dorm-bed sheets, you have other factors to consider. Ask most young adults and they’ll tell you they want their dorm rooms to reflect their personal style, so the available color and style options are important. Many twin XL sheet sets come in a variety of designs to accommodate just about any dorm decor, while others may only come in boring standards like white, beige, and pastels.
Finally, there’s the value equation. Many college students (or their parents) may not want to invest in an expensive set of sheets for a dorm room bed. Part of that may be the rarity of twin XL mattresses outside of college—and if a student doesn’t plan to live on campus for longer than a year, it may be best to buy something cheaper but still functional. It’s also true that many college students are just learning proper laundry care. Take it from me: College may not be the time to buy high-quality sheets when you’re cramming all your laundry together in a high heat washer and dryer to save a few quarters here and there.
Other Twin XL Sheets We Tested
Threshold Solid Performance Sheet Set
The Threshold cotton sheet set did outstandingly well in most of our tests. The fabric didn’t hold in stains from wine, beer, or pizza grease. Multiple laundry cycles revealed little pilling and the fabric didn’t catch fire or show singe marks. After I made the dorm-room bed with the sheets, I felt like they were some of the coolest and softest I tested. Like most of our cotton sheets, they wrinkle somewhat easily, but that was fixed by taking them out of the dryer as soon as the cycle ended and folding them neatly. (Not that many college students will care about sleeping on rumpled sheets.)
Our only problem with the Threshold sheets: They tore more easily than others, which may mean they won’t hold up as well to wear and (literal) tear. They also don’t come in a very wide range of colors—only six, at time of publishing—which could be a bummer for college students trying to create a picturesque dorm room. But if you’re heading to Target on move-in day and haven’t bought sheets online ahead of time, the Threshold sheets are certainly a fine option.
Mellanni’s microfiber sheets are quite popular with over 300,000 reviewers on Amazon, who gave them an average score of 4.5 stars. Many customer reviews claim the sheets are soft like cotton, but still durable like a synthetic fabric—so naturally, we put both to the test.
Indeed, we were surprised by just how well they held up: no shrinkage, wrinkles, or pulled threads from our washing abuse. A closer look showed that Mellanni’s sheets appear to be tightly woven, so we suspect they’ll remain hardy throughout many washes. The sheets also didn’t hold onto stains, took a lot of effort to rip, and didn’t catch fire. Plus their deep pocket size accounts for extra cushioning from a mattress topper, and the sets come in dozens of colors and patterns to choose from.
All of that makes Mellanni a worthy entry on this list, but not as an award winner, as I found myself feeling quite warm when taking a nap on these sheets. The fabric didn’t wick sweat away or keep me as cool as cotton or our Best Value microfiber set from Utopia.
Bare Home's microfiber sheet sets are one of the least expensive options on this list. Like other microfiber sheets, they didn’t shrink or wrinkle. They also didn’t catch fire from either the lit cigarette or open flame. And after I took a short nap on them, I felt cool and refreshed. It was difficult to tell the difference between these microfiber sheets and any given cotton sheet we tested, which makes me confident that they would be a great synthetic fiber alternative.
Bare Home microfiber sheets aren’t perfect, though. They tore easily in our rip tests, which is especially surprising for microfiber. And while the wine and beer stains were removed easily, remnants of the pizza grease stains remained after a laundry cycle. If you go with these and care about visible stains, you may prefer to choose a darker color or a pattern—luckily, there are over 40 style options to choose from.
Simply Essential's Truly Soft microfiber sheet set ties in price for our cheapest sheet set. Despite their low cost, these sheets proved durable in many of our tests. They held up well to our laundering, barely wrinkling and only sustaining a few pulled threads. The material also proved strong—it just would not tear. It took a few tries on the rip tests—more than other cheaper microfiber sheets we tested—to notice some stress in the fabric. Subjectively, I took a pretty good nap on these Simply Essential sheets. Not only did I remain cool, the fabric felt smooth on my skin.
On the negative side, the fabric remained stained, with noticeable wine and pizza grease marks after a wash cycle. What’s more, an open flame is also cause for concern. While these sheets didn’t catch fire, the fabric retained scorch marks. They also come in few color and style options online, but that may vary for in-store shoppers.
Nestl’s microfiber sheets set generally performed quite well in our tests and have some style options. We found no wrinkles or pulled threads after laundry cycles, even after I left the sheets crumpled for hours in the dryer. The fabric proved really durable, too. We had a lot of trouble trying to rip it, and it resisted both the lit cigarette and open flames in our fire tests. The sheets are soft like cotton and come in a good amount of style and color options.
The Nestl sheets weren’t totally stain-resistant, though. They had the most trouble with beer and wine stains, which were still somewhat apparent after a wash and dry. In fact, these were the only microfiber sheets to show the beer stains—which is interesting in general considering we used light beer, not dark.
The Amazon Basics microfiber sheets performed well in most of our tests, especially our laundry abuse. The material is really soft and easy to care for, never wrinkling or showing signs of wear. The sheets felt lightweight and soft. They didn’t really stain, only showing a few remnants of the boxed wine. And they didn’t rip easily—it took a long time to even see threads and elastic start to fray from our yanking.
Those qualities—along with the lower-than-most price tag and 44 color and pattern options—seemed to make Amazon Basics’s sheets a worthy contender. However, one big concern emerged in our fire tests: Namely, the fibers melted together—an effect that none of the other sheets experienced.
IKEA’s Vårial sheet set is made of 100% cotton jersey fabric—a.k.a. T-shirt material—which makes it a warmer and cozier alternative compared to other cotton sheets we tested. The fabric held up especially well in most of our trials, remaining durable through washes despite shrinking a bit after the first wash. It was also the longest and widest sheet set we measured pre-wash, so it’s likely that the generous cut is intentional to make up for any shrinkage. The sheets fit the bed perfectly, and they were the only set that didn’t rip at all in our tests.
The downside of IKEA’s Vårial set is how easily the material stained with beer, wine, and pizza grease. And because not every IKEA product is sold at every IKEA store or online, this white sheet set could be the only color option for some shoppers. Of course, there are a few more sheet options online, but many of them aren’t sold as a set—you’ll have to buy the pillowcases, fitted sheet, and top sheet separately.
Room Essentials microfiber sheets tie for our least expensive set, but price has little to do with quality here. These sheets performed well in most of our tests, remaining unscathed after we tried to rip them and burn them. When I fit them on the twin XL bed and took a nap, I also noticed that they were among the nicest sheets to sleep with. They felt soft like cotton, but kept me cozy.
These sheets stained easily, though. We were especially surprised by how much they held onto the pizza grease splotches. In fact, the stains wouldn’t come out even when I used a stain pretreater on them later at home. Target Room Essentials sheets also come in less than a dozen color options online—while this could vary in store, it’s still a small variety of options for college dorm room decor.
Sold through a couple of retailers like Kohl’s and Amazon, Pointhaven’s flannel sheets were the only ones in this material that we tested. For students going to school somewhere with a cold winter, flannel is an excellent choice for remaining warm and cozy. And Pointhaven’s live up to that—from the moment we opened them, they were consistently soft to the touch and when I laid on them, I found myself warm but never overheated. They also performed well in a couple of our durability tests and come in a dozen of colors and styles.
But washing them proved another matter. Pointhaven’s flannel sheets came out of the dryer quite wrinkly, even when we didn’t leave them in there for hours on end. They also pilled after every wash. These were the hardest sheets to launder, possibly because of the material and thickness. The fabric also stained easily—the wine and pizza grease stains in particular remained apparent. These being the most expensive sheets we tested, we expected better.
Linen Home’s cotton percale sheets feel incredibly breathable, soft, and light. I really enjoyed my nap with this set—it honestly felt like there was barely any bedding on me. They started off well in our wash tests, too. After each laundry cycle, we saw only a small amount of wrinkling and stains were minimal. Their quality can probably be chalked up to the percale cotton material, a popular weaving style that could make the sheets more durable. They also offer a pretty average number of color and style options compared to the other sheets we tested.
Unfortunately, these sheets ripped the easiest of any sheet we tested and their elastic started to split off the fabric after a few rounds in the washer and dryer.
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