Good dorm bedding should be comfortable, but it isn’t a long-term investment. If your room has a twin XL bed, you’ll probably use the sheets for only a few years, max, so you shouldn’t spend much. After considering 23 sets and testing five, we think the Wamsutta 400 Thread Count Sateen Sheet Set is the best for most dorm beds. It’s one of the softest sets we tested, it comes in great colors, and we think it will be durable enough to last for your entire dorm experience.
Bed Bath & Beyond’s Wamsutta 400 Thread Count Sateen Sheet Set is much softer than most of the other sets we tested, and they’re also a little bit thicker. We think this will make them more durable for dorm life. Because they’re made of 100 percent cotton, they will breathe better than the cotton-polyester sheets offered in a lot of college linen packages. As of publication, the twin XL size is available in a good variety of solid colors. This set, at the time of writing, costs about $45 for the twin XL size (including free shipping). We think these sheets will be comfortable to sleep on, durable for college life, and reliably in stock (a problem we found with a previous top pick for this guide).
If the Wamsutta set sells out, we recommend Kohl’s The Big One Percale Sheets. This set isn’t as soft as our main pick, but it is more wrinkle-resistant. The sheets have a dry hand (the opposite of silky/slippery), which could feel nice in warm weather. But because they’re a cotton-polyester blend, they may not breathe as well as our top pick. We think 100 percent cotton sheets are still the best overall for comfort, softness, and breathability, but we had a hard time finding all-cotton twin XL sets that were in stock. The Big One Percale set comes in cuter prints than the average university bedding program offers, and even though they retail for around $45, you can probably snag them for less during one of Kohl’s frequent sales.
I spoke with a half-dozen bedding experts for our main sheet guide, and those interviews informed how I chose lower-priced sets. I also pored over reviews from Consumer Reports (subscription required) and on Sleep Like The Dead. I looked to customer review sections on websites including Amazon, JCPenney, Target, Walmart, Costco, and many other small and large retailers, and I looked at reader comments on our main sheets guide to determine what people really love and hate about sheet sets.
I co-wrote The Sweethome’s guides to sheets, flannel sheets, and duvet covers. I’m a quilter with a decade of sewing experience (my quilt patterns have appeared in Generation Q magazine, Make Modern magazine, and for Cloud9 Fabrics [PDF]), and I can spot quality construction and good materials. I also lived in dorms for four years in college, two as a resident assistant, so I have done many dorm shopping trips, lived through some pretty awful sets of dorm sheets, and helped many students get settled into their rooms.
Many dorm rooms are furnished with twin extra-long beds, which are five inches longer than a traditional twin. Because of this, standard twin sheets won’t fit. Our sheet recommendations are for those looking for comfortable and inexpensive twin XL sheets (ideally made from 100 percent cotton).
Some universities and colleges offer bed linen programs through which you can purchase twin XL or full XL (another common size for dorm housing) sheets, as well as complete bedding sets. But the sheet sets are often made of a cotton-polyester blend; although they can be very durable and wrinkle-resistant, they breathe less than 100 percent cotton.
Great sheets at any price should feel soft against the skin, wear well, and be durably constructed. We originally picked and tested the sheets for 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 are soft and absorb moisture, allowing the body to stay warm in cold weather and cool in warm weather. Cotton is also easy to clean and gets softer after multiple washes.
For our main sheet guide, we looked at 90 sheet sets from places like Target, Walmart, Bed Bath & Beyond, Costco, IKEA, and other large retailers that offer a variety of inexpensive options. For this guide, we considered an additional 23 sets that came in twin XL. We compared budget sheets to the expensive sets in our feel and durability tests. All of the sheets tested were either cotton sateen or percale (you can read more about the difference here).
We found that many stores sell out of twin XL sheets as summer progresses, and for this update it was especially challenging to find 100 percent cotton sets as it got closer to the start of the school year. Most of what we found in stock was microfiber and jersey. We don’t love those options for breathability, so we opened our search to include some cotton/poly blends.
In the first iteration of this guide, we featured two sheet sets that we had tested for our main sheet guide. We tested those sets with the same rigorous testing criteria used in our main sheets guide, which was designed to evaluate the hand (feel) of the sheets, overall comfort when sleeping with them, and durability over time. Our initial picks went out of stock in the twin XL size, so we looked for replacements, ultimately ordering three new sets to test for this update. We washed and dried each set, inspected the quality of the seams and elastic, and gauged their softness by rubbing the fabric against our cheeks (a common test for determining fabric softness) and between our fingers.
If you want all-cotton twin XL sheets, we recommend the Wamsutta 400 Thread Count Sateen set from Bed Bath & Beyond. It’s softer than the other sets we tested for this update, and it’s the best 100 percent cotton twin XL set we could find that’s widely available (many sets we considered were sold out). The set also comes in a good range of colors. We think it’ll be comfortable and durable enough to get college students through their entire dorm experience.
We tested the Wamsutta 400 Thread Count sheets during our recent update to our main sheets guide. The Wamsutta sheets aren’t as wrinkle-resistant as our runner-up pick, Kohl’s The Big One Percale Sheets, but they were softer than that set and the other one we tested for this update, PB Teen’s Essential Sheet Set. (Both of those sets are cotton/polyester blends.) The Wamsutta sheets came out of the dryer without any significant warping or creasing along the hemstitched top, and they felt even better after one wash than they did out of the packaging. This is typical of cotton sheets, which is one of the reasons we recommend them over blends. We think the more you wash these sheets, the softer they will get. They weren’t as soft as our absolute favorite sateen set from Royal Velvet (one of the top picks in our main sheet guide), but for the price, we think they hold their own against much-more-expensive sateen sets we tried. They’re also one of the few sets we tested for the main sheets guide that are available in twin XL.
We looked at the Wamsutta sheets online, and I looked in my local store. In summer, there was still plenty of availability. Bed Bath & Beyond seems to reliably stocks these sheets in the twin XL size. We still love our prior top pick, the Threshold Performance 400 Thread Count Sheet Set, but Target has had issues keeping the twin XL size in stock. Even when we found other twin XL cotton sets that looked promising, many were sold out of many colors or only came in odd prints.
The Wamsutta sheets also offer a much better selection of colors than the Threshold sheets did when they were available. The available colors give college students a lot of options for their dorm room, and we saw plenty of stocked colors in store while researching for this update, too.
Sateen typically isn’t as cool on the skin as good cotton percale sheets, but many of the reviews on Bed Bath & Beyond noted that the Wamsutta sheets feel more like percale than sateen. We think this set, while a bit pricier, will keep you cooler at night than the less expensive microfiber and jersey options that are so widely available in the twin XL size. These sheets have a 3.9 rating on Bed Bath & Beyond, with more than 800 reviews, which isn’t outstanding compared to our sheets picks in other guides. But the positive reviews note their softness and how well they work for dorm beds compared to the other options available. Many of the negative reviews say the sheets feel rough after a few washes. Since this set feels more like percale than sateen, it may appeal less to people who are very sensitive to the texture of their sheets.
Because this set is a little velvety feeling, we think it could be prone to picking up pet hair. But in a dorm room, where pets usually aren’t allowed, we think the worst things that will cling to it are late night study snacks. So, as always, wash your sheets frequently.
Although we like Bed Bath & Beyond’s Wamsutta 400 Thread Count Sateen set better, Kohl’s The Big One Percale Sheets had fewer wrinkles in our testing, and we like the selection of prints. They’re not as soft or as smooth as the Wamsutta set, or our previous top pick the Target Threshold Performance sheets, but that’s probably because they’re a cotton/polyester blend instead of softer 100 percent cotton. We’ve seen good availability online and in Kohl’s stores. And we think if you can find them on sale, they are a perfectly good set for a dorm bed.
Like other percale sheets, these have what’s considered a dry hand (the opposite of slippery/silky). Laying on them, you’ll stay put rather than feel like you’re slipping around. The sheets are not as crisp as most pricier, 100 percent cotton percale (they don’t have that crinkly sound of fine hotel bedding), but they did feel surprisingly competitive with some of the sheets from the competition section of our main sheets guide. They also feel lighter in weight than the sateen Wamsutta 400 Thread Count sheets.
Percale sheets are typically cooler and better for warm weather than sateen, but because these sheets are a blend instead of 100 percent cotton, they may not be as breathable as our top pick. We still think all cotton sheets are the best option for bedding, but we really struggled to find options that were widely available in twin XL. And this Kohl’s set was much, much softer than the PB Teen Essential Sheet Set we tested, which was also a blend. This set has a very respectable user rating over thousands of reviews. And, similar to our top pick Wamsutta set, a lot of the negative reviews note the roughness of the sheets—which we’ve seen as a pretty common concern with all percale sheets for sleepers who are very sensitive to fabric texture.
You can see all the sheet sets we tried in our guide to the best sheets. Many of the cheaper sets we tried didn’t come in a twin XL size (many of the sets that did were $100 or more, which seems too expensive for dorm sheets that will be used for only one to four years). Beyond those, we also considered the following inexpensive sets that come in twin XL, specifically for this guide:
We really did like our previous top pick, Target’s Threshold Performance 400 Thread Count Sheet Set. But those sheets were sold out in twin XL when we updated this guide with no indication of when they’ll be back in stock. They’d still be our top pick if they were available because they’re soft and less expensive than the Wamsutta set. If you happen to come across a set in your local Target, they are definitely worth a look.
The Threshold 300 Thread Count Ultra Soft Sheet Set from Target was formerly our runner-up pick, but it’s no longer sold in twin XL.
Pottery Barn’s PB Teen Essential Sheet Set was another cotton/polyester blend we tested for this update. The sheets come in pretty colors, but they felt rough and thin in our testing.
Macy’s solid color Martha Stewart Whim sheets were on sale for a great price during our research, but when we were about to test, the price went back up to around $80 for twin XL. We think that retail price is too expensive.
The Camden 100% Cotton 350 Thread Count Sheet Set from Wayfair had a great price and looked promising, but at the time we looked they were almost completely sold out in twin XL.
The Bed Bath & Beyond 330 Thread Count 100% Cotton Sateen Sheet Set also looked great, but they were completely sold out of solid colors online. In the store we visited this set had no twin XL sets left, and we were worried about availability.
The Bed Bath & Beyond 220 Thread Count 100% Cotton Sheet Set only had a few colors left online, so stock issues were again a concern.
The Sheets N Things 300 Thread Count Extra Long sheet set on Amazon had some good colors, but the prices changed depending on the color, and almost all were sold third-party. Because of that, some colors were pricier (depending on the company selling them) than our top pick sheets. And we really just didn’t have a sense of their availability.
Home Bargains 200 Thread Count sheet sets were inexpensive, but they were a cotton/polyester blend with not-so-great color choices.
We also considered Pottery Barn’s PB Teen Classic Organic Sheet Set, but we felt the retail price for some of the colors was too high for a dorm set of sheets.
The Nautica Cotton Percale Sheet Sets at Overstock looked fine, but they had very few solid colors available. We wanted some more variety.
Crescent Bedding’s 100% Cotton Jersey Sheet Set had terrible reviews on Amazon, so we passed.
Bed Bath & Beyond’s 220-Thread-Count 100% Cotton Sheet Set received middling user reviews and didn’t look like they’d compete with our main picks.
Bed Bath & Beyond’s The Seasons Collection Heavyweight Flannel Sheet Set may be good for winter use, but probably too warm for some climates. We passed.
Overstock’s 300 Thread Count Egyptian Cotton Sheet Set comes in some nice, vibrant colors but user reviews are mixed.
Overstock’s 100-percent Cotton Luxury Jersey Sheet Set could be a good, inexpensive pick if you or the student in your life prefer jersey sheets. But we think non-stretch percale or sateen sheets are more appealing to most people.
Overstock’s Solid Wrinkle Resistant 300 Thread Count Cotton Sheet Set also looks like a decent set with pretty strong user reviews. But it was only available in a couple of colors in the twin XL size.
Overstock’s Pima Cotton Extra Deep Pocket 400 Thread Count Sheet Set were out of stock in most of their twin XL colors.
Overstock’s Camden Hemstitch Solid 350 Thread Count Egyptian Cotton 6-piece Sheet Set receives okay user reviews, but it only comes in some odd colors (e.g., chocolate and gold for the twin XL size).
(Photos by Michael Hession.)