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Reviewers, too, seem to love the Riley percale sheets. So, when I received my set and on first touch thought they felt like regular, decent bed sheets, it seemed as if I was missing something. But after a month of using and testing the sheets, I think they’re just that: sheets. They’re better than my average, old sheets, but they’re also not something to write home about. Still, I shall do my best.
What are Riley sheets?
Riley is one of a handful of direct-to-consumer companies that focus on sheets and bedding. This means that rather than a manufacturer selling to Bed, Bath, and Beyond and you buying from the retailer, the middleman is cut out. The company claims this makes it possible to provide high quality products at a lower price—in this case, directly from “Portugal’s finest textile mills.”
Riley sells a variety of bedding products, from duvets to bath linens and, of course, sheets. I tested its most popular sheets, the Percale Sheet Set, in white. The $129 queen-size set is made of cotton percale (“percale” is a specific style of fabric weaving that produces durable and smooth bedding fabric). Curiously, the "set" is incomplete, consisting only of a flat sheet and two pillowcases. You have to pay $70 more if you want to add in a flat sheet.
What I like about the Riley percale sheets
The sad reality of my sleep that I’ll admit for all the internet to read: I drool. I can’t help it. I wake up with my cheek resting in a cold puddle many mornings. Fortunately, you stand to benefit from my less-than-ideal sleeping habits, because drool has stained many of my sheets. The Riley sheets impressed me in that my drool permeated the white fabric but dried practically invisible. I was shocked that they still looked clean, just prior to washing, after a week and a half of use.
The sheets have labels that indicate which elasticated edge goes along the sides (something I’ve seen with multiple brands, like Threshold from Target, and always appreciate). However, the labels are so tiny that they crinkle into the seams of the sheets, making them hard to spot. But it’s not a huge deal—when I located a label, I just stretched the elastic to read it.
The percale fabric is quite soft. I prefer sheets that feel really crisp, though I grew to enjoy and appreciate the sensation of the Riley Percale sheet set. The material is not so soft that the sheets lack structure and shape, but not so crisp that they grate on your skin or make noise every time you move throughout the night. A lot of online reviewers also mention this aspect of the Percale cotton set, so I think it’s a major plus for most people.
In terms of making the bed, the pillowcase design made tucking my pillows away a breeze. I have a thick gusseted pillow and a flimsy soft one, which I use for side sleeping and stomach sleeping, respectively. The soft pillow is never an issue to “dress”—though often pillowcases are too big and leave a little to be desired—but the gusseted pillow has been a challenge time and time again. The perfectly cut Riley pillowcases fit this lofty pillow easily. I didn’t struggle to shove it through the envelope opening, or to pull the lip from the inside over the edge.
One neutral aspect of these sheets is that they never seemed too hot or too cold. I felt they were just comfortable, temperature-wise. They didn’t provide the cool feel desired by those who sleep hot, but they also weren’t too warm. They just toe the line on that front.
What I didn’t like about the Riley percale sheets
I didn’t notice many downsides, other than one: significant wrinkling. Of course, wrinkling preferences are individual. I don’t mind wrinkles because they don’t impact function. I can sleep on crinkled sheets just as well as on sleek, smooth ones. Nonetheless, the Riley Percale sheets were so wrinkly I was almost bothered by their appearance and that says a lot.
My British grandmother would find my ironing-free lifestyle atrocious. She would also hate these sheets, because let me tell you, ironing out all the fine crinkles would be a real pain. They’re not like sheets that have a few big creases, even fresh out of the dryer—there were many, many tiny wrinkles in the fabric. And it was a consistent problem, with each wash and dry cycle. After the second laundering, I made my bed and it looked like my mattress was wrapped in crumpled Tyvek. (If you’ve ever had or seen a used Mighty Wallet, that about embodies the sheets’ appearance.) I was really bothered by the wrinkles on the pillowcases, which are more visible than on the fitted and flat sheet. They just look unkempt.
As a hybrid stomach and side sleeper, there was one other issue I had with the Riley pillowcases. When I slept on my stomach, with the pillow right side up (as in, the envelope opening was on the top), the seam pressed into my cheek at times during the night. This was in part due to the overlap of the top layer and bottom layer, which creates two edges in the same area. It's not anything major, especially as I could just shift my head or the pillow, but it was a small downside of the pillowcase design.
Another oddity: After washing, the sheets came out of the machine feeling remarkably stiff. I pulled out a pillowcase and was able to stand it up into a pyramid shape on my hand—and it held the peak. My other bed linens just don’t do that. In addition, when still damp from the washer, they were almost see-through, which made me concerned about the overall quality. But water can do weird things to fabrics, so initially I wrote it off. And drying them brought things back to center. The sheets felt nice and crisp when I pulled them out of the dryer. Maybe it’s the structure that they retain that makes them feel fresh, unlike my regular sheets which come out of the dryer droopy and flat. I liked the feel of the fabric more once it was dried and ready to go.
After making the bed, I found the tendency towards sheerness carried beyond the washing machine. I could see the tags of my pillow through the pillowcase, for example. I’m all about function—as long as something isn’t horrendously ugly, I’m pretty chill. So while the tag visibility isn’t scandalous, I recognize it also isn’t stellar.
Are Riley Sheets worth it?
The sheets are pleasantly soft, but the price tag of $129-plus-$70 to get a complete set is steep. For me, $200 is too much money to spend on sheets that are not practically perfect.
While I can’t speak to their long-term durability, I think the Riley sheets are an acceptable option for many people, that will perform fine in most scenarios, as long as you don’t mind wrinkles (and you’re not devoted to ironing out every crinkle from your sheets, because these will drive you nuts). If you like sheets on the softer side and have the cash to spare, these might just be your match—but I think there are better, cheaper options out there. For example, the percale sheet set from L.L. Bean, which rings in at $109 (and includes a flat sheet), is an equally good bet, based on our tests—at nearly half the price.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.