Best flannel sheets – top 5 picks out of 72 – 2019 update
The top 5 picks you’re about to see our results of over 1,200 work-hours in the pursuit for the best flannel sheets for your money.
The initial pool of 72 sets was made about 18 month ago by our panel of three experts – all of them Material Technology Engineers.
But theory can only get you so far, so we then proceeded to analyze the statistics of each set. The goal here was to narrow down the search to 25 sets because that was within our budget to actually buy & test.
The ratings are a combination of the expert opinions, testing (by our featured testers and us) and user satisfaction.
Last updated: March 2019
Best flannel sheets – top 5 sets
Pinzon Signature 190-Gram
There are flannel sheets out there that performed similar to this Pinzon set but they cost 400-500% more.
Yes, you read that right, the other flannel sheet sets that performed similarly in the quality categories cost 5-6 times more.
This Pinzon set is unparalleled in terms of the balance between durability, the soft finish and the quality of the napping (manufacturing process used to get that soft flannel finish).
Last but not least, it’s 100% cotton.
- Finish / Softness 92%
- Weave / Fiber 92%
- Colorfast / Dye 94%
- User satisfaction 95%
- Value for money 93%
Who will choose the Pinzon Signature?
The Pinzon will be the choice of the conservative buyers looking for a high-quality product that won’t to break the bank.
It might not be right for you if you’re looking for a thinner, stretchier flannel because it’s made of durable and heavy fabric with a velvet-like finish.
The quality aspects we looked at like pilling, release of lint, shape and softness retention over time were similar or superior to sets that much more.
All of the above made it one of the most popular sets among users, with over 1000s of reviews on Amazon alone.
Shavel Thermee Micro
With the user satisfaction rating of 93, this Shavel is by far the highest-rated micro flannel set.
In rating this set, we had to tweak the formula a bit because the material is different.
Micro fleece is designed to be the sweet spot between the comfort of all-cotton flannel and the smooth finish of fleece.
You can see all its quality ratings below.
Who will choose the Shavel?
If you laid down on these Shavel sheets and somebody asked you to guess the price, there’s no way you’d get it even remotely right.
The softness is unparalleled and, we dare to say, if you can find this set under $100 it’s a steal.
If you’re also the one who will be washing and caring for it, it’s worth mentioning that it’s far easier to maintain than any other set we looked at.
It’s because a well-made micro flannel does not shrink, peel or wrinkle and dries much faster.
The downside is that we’ve seen this set go out of stock in some colors and sizes, so finding the combo that’s just right for you might be tricky.
Malouf Deluxe Portuguese flannel sheets
This Malouf is one of the very few sets we considered in its price range, which is much higher than the two sets above.
The fabric comes from Portugal, which is known to produce the finest flannel in the world. That’s not just something we’re saying, it’s a consensus in the industry.
Compared to other sheets we looked at, the feel of the Malouf is somewhat different – the finish is finely brushed and feels like velvet.
What we initially expected to see with this kind of finish is substantial pilling and we were wrong about that. The surface is so finely brushed that we practically didn’t see any pilling at all.
Who will choose the Malouf?
If you prefer a thick, lofty material of the steel as soft as velvet, this top-tier flannel by Malouf might be right for you.
We don’t know how to plastic lid describe the difference in how it feels against the skin.
The closest we can get is saying that it feels like an extra thin velvet cover.
So, this month’s update brings no significant change at the top, only slight changes in quality ratings that are nothing to write home about.
We are currently working on gathering data of some new arrivals but, based on the volume, it will be at least 6-8 months before these “newbies” become contenders.
Reference info on choosing the best flannel sheets
Before we set out to complete this guide, it was our goal to both make specific recommendations and provide general information on how to shop for flannel sheets.
To be honest, we didn’t expect this guide to turn into so much work because we thought what we know about the materials (mostly learned from our editor Bob, who was one of the Material Technology Engineers who made the initial picks) would be enough.
Little did we know about the intricacies of choosing right. We were especially surprised by all the industry lingo involved and the ways you could be misled, starting from thread count to the yarn.
So let us address that here, if some of the language we used in the analysis above was confusing, it will hopefully be clarified here.
Common misconceptions about flannel
It’s not a pattern
Let’s first debunk the most common myth…that flannel is a pattern. This myth probably stems from the fact that most shirts made of flannel will have a distinctive pattern.
So, to be clear, flannel is a fabric and can come in any solid or patterned color scheme.
Flannel is not just cotton
Today, most flannel sheets are cotton-based but if we’re going to be precise, the definition of flannel is not about the weave. The precise definition would be that flannel is a fabric made by twill or plain-weaving of yarn (typically, the yarn will be loosely spun).
Over to the experts
It turns out that are initially perception of judging the quality of a flannel sheet was relying too much on the simplified idea – the higher the thread count, the better the sheets.
It’s not as simple as that.
We’re not saying that count is not important; we’re just saying that it’s not as conclusive as we initially thought.
So, instead of being the messenger and trying to convey what we learned from our expert panels, we leave you in the competent hands of the material experts to explain the rest.
by Bob Ozment
How should you look at thread count?
Let’s put it like this – if everything else about a flannel sheet is the same (type of cotton, ply, weave) it’s safe to judge the quality based on the thread count.
Before we move on, let’s look at one of the common misconceptions that an average buyer might have.
Apart from the thread count, you’ll probably see the quality of the material described using terms like 80s, 100s, 200s etc. It’s common sense to think that these numbers describe the flannel in terms of threads per square inch.
In our research for this guide we found that eight out of 10 people thinks just that.
For example, a non-expert will jump to the conclusion that 100s simply means that there are 100 threads in 1 inch square and they would be wrong.
These numbers refer to the size of the yard used – for example 100s means that 1 pound of the flannel includes 100 hanks (one hank is approximately equal to 840 yards).
Let’s not complicate things any further – the takeaway should be that when you see a description like this with flannel sheets, just know that it doesn’t directly translate into a thread count.
It is still true that 200s flannel has a higher thread count than 100s and that’s probably all you need to know.
To summarize – we included the analysis above for the people who like to get into the nitty-gritty and truly understand what they’re paying for. Flannel quality can be tricky and hard to judge on touch alone and often scarce information on the label.
But if it boggles your brain to get into it, just know that we’ve covered all this in our analysis and the recommendations that we made above are based on it.
Ply is just as important as the thread count
Let’s try to keep the ply explanation simple.
Ply of flannel is used to describe the number of yarns in a single fabric thread.
Two-ply and three-ply flannel sheets
This one is important to understand because it’s easy to manipulate the terminology and mislead you, so let’s get it right.
Single-ply flannel sheets use fabrics with threads on their own.
Two-ply or double-ply means that two threads are twisted into a single piece.
Why is that important?
Because it ties into the thread count talk that we had above.
It’s simple math – thread count of 1000 could actually be 500 threads of two-ply or double-ply fabric. The same goes for three-ply.
Let us explain what this means for the fabric
If this sounds complicated, it might be because of the fact that it is.
That’s why we’ll do our best to explain all the industry lingo by using examples – everything that we said about ply above comes down to how it all affects the durability/softness of the fabric.
Let’s take the example of a 1000 thread flannel sheet.
If it’s single ply, it will be thinner and softer to the touch. It will also be more delicate to maintain and sensitive to machine-washing.
If it’s a double-ply, the same thread count will feel heavier, more rugged and durable. It will also be better at maintaining shape and less sensitive to machine washing.
Who are flannel sheets for?
The universal appeal of flannel is unparalleled. You’ll find people liking or disliking silk or microfiber sheets, but it’s going to be hard finding one who dislikes flannel.
Our explanation for this is two-fold
First of all, the way flannel feels against the skin is natural and the primary association is cotton (even when the sheets are poly-fiber). A person with a reason not to like flannel would also be the person that doesn’t like cotton. Take a moment here and try to remember someone in your life that fits the description.
Temperature range – some sheets are dedicated to warm/cold sleepers or winter and summer. Flannel doesn’t belong to either.
Because of its breathability it performs well in a wide range of temperatures. Just think about the advertising and labels you might’ve seen for flannel sheets- they range from cold cabins next to a fireplace to contemporary spaces with an open sea view that oozes heat.
There are still subtle differences that come down to the thickness, weight and weave.
Where are the best flannel sheets made?
Perhaps a better wording for this question would be where does the best flannel come from?
Before we offer our opinion on that, let’s make sure that we’re on the same page here.
We already talked about types of cotton used for flannel (like Egyptian or Pima) and that’s not what we talking about here.
We’re referring to the quality of the finished flannel fabric – whether it’s cotton or not.
In those terms, flannel coming from Portugal has a reputation of being superior.
Types of cotton used for flannel sheets
Another important factor – on the high-end, you’ll find Egyptian cotton that’s “famous” for being ultra absorbent and breathable.
Then you have your Pima that’s grown in some of the Southern States of the US (Texas, California, Arizona, Mississippi and Florida) and South America.
The question of Egyptian vs. Pima cotton is a sensitive one. You probably that I’m exaggerating here. That’s because you haven’t tried to bring it up on a cotton manufacturer’s convention.
Here’s my opinion
The debate will never and there will never be a decision made on “better cotton.”
To be completely honest, I don’t think that people in the industry are hoping for it either. I think it comes down to personal interests, or as I call it, “cotton politics.”
I coined the phrase after seeing brands flip-flopping from one site to the other depending on which cotton they use for their products.
The bottom line is – for you, as the buyer, it’s a non-issue.
Let me be blunt here
I believe that the fact that Egyptian cotton is still perceived as superior stems from the perception of Egyptian silk, which is a whole different story.
Egyptian silk is indeed superior and there is scientific data that allows one to make the claim. A while back, we completed the guide on best silk sheets, pillow cases and comforters which you can see here.
“Egyptian” simply sounds better, while Pima sounds more generic. To put that issue to rest, let’s take a second here to address the origin of the word Pima.
This type of cotton used to be called American-Egyptian and the name was changed to honor the Pima tribe of Indians who grew the cotton in Arizona, so there’s nothing generic about it.
It’s my opinion that you should pay more for Egyptian cotton just for the sake of the name – the focus should be on other quality aspect.
The differences are slight
Both Egyptian and Pima cotton used for flannel sheets belong to the group of the ELS cotton (Extra Long Staple), with the staples of the Egyptian type being slightly longer.
As I stressed above, the differences are small – so small in fact that you shouldn’t concern yourself with this.
Acala (Gossypium hirsutum) is a variety of cotton with Mexican origins.
The recorded history of this type of cotton dates back to the beginning of the 20th century. Since then, Acala was introduced to some areas of the US (like the San Joaquin Valley in California) and parts of Israel.
It’s rare to see Acala used for sheets and you typically see it in apparel.
What does the staple length mean for the flannel sheets?
This one is simple – because a flannel sheet made of ELS cotton can fit more staples into a square inch.
This type of close weave makes for softer sheets.
Cotton weave used for the best flannel sheets
What you want to look for is closely woven percale.
You might see a twill weave, which is not really an option for flannel sheets because of the surface is lofty. This type of weave is typically used for covers and throws because of the “fluffy” result you get from it.
The second thing you want to look for is plain stitching (also known as jersey-knit) because it offers a bit of stretch to your sheets without making them feel flimsy.
Finally, you can opt for a satin (sateen) weave – this will look more luxurious because most of the threads are concentrated on the very surface.
The downside of satin weave is that it takes away a bit of that natural cotton feel and many people find that it resembles synthetics.
Normal and compact yarn
I feel that the difference between normal and compact yarns is something that deserves a mention, although it’s not commonly to see it in sheets.
The difference between the two is that compact yarn is superior and smoother than “normal”. This means that fabrics made of compact yarns will feel and look smoother than you would expect from the thread count.
You’ll rarely see compact yarn in flannel sheets, and if you do it will cost way more. If you ask me, the difference doesn’t justify the cost and you should stick with the basics.
Weft vs. Warp – no need to go down that rabbit hole
The two terms are used to describe which way the threads run. Warp threads are the vertical and Weft are horizontal.
This comes into play if different types of threads are used for Weft & Warp, which is not the case with the sets we looked at so there’s no need to go down that rabbit hole.
However, if you have questions about it, feel free to ask, either in the comment section at the end of this guide or by directly emailing us.
Don’t pay for brands or fall for industry lingo
The whole process of research for this guide included many brands that cost much more than the sets we ended up recommending.
We’ve been reviewing sleep-related products for over a decade now and we tweak the formula of our statistical model for each product type.
Most of the time it comes down to deciding on whether to include the value for money category or not.
When we started out the pursuit for the best flannel sheets, we didn’t expect to include the category of value for money in the guide.
We ended up doing so because the price gaps were too significant.
Our initial impression indicated that we might discover that these expensive sheets are be truly superior – enough so as to justify the difference in cost.
We didn’t feel like that’s the case.
The cost gap seems to come down to brands and perception, but we were looking for substance.
The value for money category eliminated many well-known brands
As we dug deeper and the pool of data grew, it became evident that we simply must adjust the ratings to reflect the prices.
That’s when we included the “value for money”, which knocked many well-known brands right out of the top 5.
The bottom line here is that the sets we listed as the best flannel sheets out there are also top value for your money.
Finish as an indicator of quality
First let’s define what napping is – it refers to the process of finishing the fabric once it’s woven to make it softer and gentler to the skin.
Flannel can be napped either on both or one side.
Flannel versus flannelette
Highest-quality flannel will be the same on both sides (napped).
Technically speaking, if only one side is napped, the more precise term for the fabric would be flannelette.
It’s all about the balance
High-end sheets will use smaller yarns. The smaller the yarn, the more sensitive it will be to the napping process.
On the other hand, it’s the napping that gives flannel that soft finish which means that finer flannel made of smaller yarn will have to be treated less aggressively not to damage it in the process.
That’s why most companies go with bigger yarn that can withstand the napping without any threads being pulled out.
The yarn thickness is not listed with the products we looked at, but it’s safe to assume that it’s not small because sheets with finer yarn cost much more.
Frequently asked questions
Available sizes of the best flannel sheets
Typically, flannel sheets are available in the following sizes: Twin, Twin XL (Xlong), full, full XL, Queen, King and California King.
The sets that we chose and the top five are not all available in the listed sizes, for example, our top choice is currently available only in Queen, King and California King.
Some of the sheets listed are also available in split king-size which is meant to be used for adjustable beds.
When it comes to sizing your focus should be on the depth of the pockets (if it’s a fitted sheet) rather than the dimensions because the listed products are true to size.
The bottom line here is to make sure to get deep-pocketed sheets that will be a good fit for the thickness of your mattress.
In the table at the beginning of the guide, we listed the number of colors available for each set, but most of them don’t come close in that category to the Shavel micro-flannel.
We have received dozens of questions about specific colors. People most commonly asked about the following colors of flannel sheets: white, red, black, blue (usually it’s aqua), purple, pink, camo and gray.
Most of our top picks are not available in all those colors and it’s only the Shavel that can meet your specific needs if you’re looking for particular color or pattern like camo.
If you’re choosing an “aggressive” color like red, purple, black or pink make sure that you wash the sheets for a few times on their own because these callers tend to bleed. That’s why most of the brands to choose to go with colorfast tones like whites in the grays.
It’s fun getting very specific questions and we keep the evidence of those. They can get very specific like, “what would you recommend for the winter”, to, “where do I get a 6 or 8 oz Portuguese flannel sheets?”
This type of questions is still in the realm of reasonable and we can often help, but it’s beyond our capabilities to recommend ultra specific products, like sheets with a moose or an owl print or Star-wars themed.
For sharing this for two reasons – to apologize to the people that we can’t help and to bring some fun into the guide.
Finally, it’s a preemptive way to tell our readers that we can’t really help with moose or owl-themed flannel sheets.
Brands & locations
On the other hand, if you’re investing that in the highest quality set with the price to match, it’s probably a good idea by in person so that you can feel how soft it feels, how heavy it is or whatever specific quality you’re looking for.
As we update this guide, we also fall and sales or clearances of flannel sheets and report back here so that you can get them on the cheap.
In the research for this guide, we looked at the ranges of products that stores, brands and chains carry, so let’s list a few of them but often have sales and clearances on flannel sheets: Walmart, Kohl’s, LL Bean, JCPenney, Sears, Bed Bath and Beyond, Costco, Macy’s, Kmart, Garnet Hill (German), Eddie Bauer, Company Store, QVC.
Best flannel sheet brands
Since we have the data collected for the statistical analysis, we don’t it might be a good idea to start the top brands of flannel sheets. You might see some overlap here because some of the stores also have their own products.
The list is based on the brand popularity with the consumers but in no particular order:
Martha Stewart, Cuddl Duds, Eddie Bauer, Kohl’s, Sunbeam, Pinzon, Garnet Hill (German flannel sheets), Tribeca Living, Orvis, Pottery Barn, Pendleton, Supima, Divatex, Cuddletown, Peacock Alley, Home Classic, Laura Ashley, Woolrich, Coyuchi, Tommy Hilfiger, Lodge, Cardinal…
Care & maintenance
One of the important quality aspects of flannel is how well it retains shape over time, especially when machine-washed.
Sub-par fabric tends to shrink, pill and lose shape & softness.
Flannel sheets superior in terms of maintenance
It’s common sense that the less you deviate from the instructions on the label, the longer your sheets will last.
When we say the “last” here, we’re referring to the retention of the feel and shape, because that’s why you get flannel sheets in the first place – for their lofty softness.
Most sets we looked at recommend either cold or warm cycles (if they do list machine washing as an option).
We are aware of the fact that not many people will hand wash their sheets and that’s why we included it as one of the factors will contributing to the fiber rating.
Finally, micro-flannel practically eliminates all those issues and I personally prefer it.
It’s one of the more common argument triggers in the Ozment home.
Practically any set out there will recommend a low tumble dry cycle.
If you invested in a more expensive and luxurious set of flannel sheets, we do recommend that you closely follow the drying instructions (in spite of the fact that we are aware that it can take a long time).
If you have the space, you can always air dry the sheets instead of using a higher heat setting on the machine.
Final thoughts and future updates
This guide is updated on either quarterly or 6-month basis to make sure that the information we present is fresh and relevant at all times.
Each update grows the pool data, making the ratings more reliable.
If we notice a significant drop in user satisfaction with a particular product, we might do an unscheduled update for that specific product to determine what might be going on – whether it’s a statistical fluke or a real issue like change manufacturing practices.
If you have your own experience to share or questions to ask, feel free to do so in the comment section below or through our contact page.
We respond to all correspondence within 24 hours.