When cool weather sets in or you want a warmer sleep experience year-round, flannel sheets are a top choice. This flannel sheets buying guide provides all the details you need to make an informed buying decision.
The guide explains what flannel is, how it’s made, and which materials there are to choose from because all flannel isn’t the same. We’ll explain pricing, warranty, returns, and how to care for your flannel sheets. We’ll also look at aesthetic concerns like fabric finishes, color, and pattern options.
What is Flannel?
Flannel fabric was first made in Scotland and Wales in the 1500s. Back then, smooth, heavy, fine wool was the yarn of choice. The wool was carded (brushed and detangled) to make it smoother. Because of the processing, it was softer and able to be more tightly woven.
The tight weave and carding process resulted in fine, soft, heavy fabric that was very warm, an important concern in an age without central heating. Flannel was first used for clothing and then evolved to common usage for bedding including blankets and sheets.
From its origins in Wales and Scotland, flannel gained popularity during the Industrial Revolution with the advent of carding mills to process wool more efficiently. Flannel production spread to the US where cotton became the flannel fiber of choice.
From fisherman to soldiers to lumberjacks, flannel was often made in plaid colors and was a hallmark of the working-class “uniform.” The soft fabric went mainstream in the 1950s with the design of the first upscale flannel men’s suit.
Eventually, synthetic yarn became the third choice for flannel manufacture. Flannel sheets are made from wool, cotton, synthetic or a blend of these. Flannel sheet quality is not based on thread count but on weave, texture, and weight measured in GSM (grams per square meter).
If you’re considering flannel sheets, there are many reasons this can be a great choice for a cozy night’s sleep. Here are some benefits:
- Soft – Most flannel sheets have a one or two-sided brushed nap which makes them soft. Brushing the nap raises surface fibers creating a fine plush feel. If you have sensitive skin or prefer a very soft sleep experience, flannel is an excellent choice.
- Warm – The same brushed nap process that makes flannel sheets so soft also makes it warm. The brushed surface traps and retains body heat. This creates a warm sleep pocket between the fitted and top sheets, so you stay cozy all night long.
- Breathable – A big benefit of all-natural flannel sheets is that they keep you warm without overheating or trapping moisture. Natural fibers absorb and wick moisture away from the body so that you get the warmth without excess heat or dampness.
- Durable – The very tight weave of flannel sheets that creates its warmth also makes these sheets very durable. Well-crafted flannel sheets can last for years if cared for properly according to manufacturer instructions.
Choosing the best flannel sheets is about more than just looking at packages on the shelves of a store. Materials vary widely as does their performance. Some manufacturers produce better products than others, and so reviews from verified buyers are important. Here are some considerations while shopping.
Look Closely at the Material
Not all flannel is created equal. The first thing to look at is the material. Flannel sheets can be wool, cotton, synthetic, or a blend. Knowing how each performs is critical because the materials all sleep differently.
- Wool – Wool flannel sheets are hard to find, costly, and often bespoke (made to order) as it’s gone out of fashion as a material of choice for sheets. If you like wool and want a wool sleep experience, you’ll more easily find wool flannel in blankets, duvet covers, and mattress pads.
- Cotton – Cotton is the most common all-natural flannel sheet material. With 100% cotton flannel sheets, shrinkage on initial washing is common. Always follow manufacturer guidelines when cleaning. Cotton flannel is excellent to wick moisture, retain heat, and ensure comfort.
- Synthetic – Flannel sheets made from synthetics are often labeled “micro flannel” meaning it has very fine fibers. Synthetic flannels are made with tightly woven polyester fibers. These sheets are durable and easy to care for, but don’t feel the same as natural cotton and wool sheets.
- Blend – Many high-performance flannel sheets are a cotton/polyester blend. Using the two materials together offers the soft and warming experience of cotton flannel while allowing greater durability inherent in synthetic materials plus easier care specification.
If you want an all-natural sheet set, be sure to carefully read product specifications. Also, be aware that all-natural cotton doesn’t mean it’s organic. Natural means it’s from a plant while organic means it was grown and processed without pesticides, herbicides, or other toxic chemicals.
Brushed Fabric or No?
Brushed flannel is from a mechanical process where a fine metal brush rubs the fabric to raise fibers from the weave to create a fuzzy nap. Flannel sheets may be unbrushed, brushed on one side, or both. Double napped means it’s brushed on both sides. Brushed flannel is softer to the touch than unbrushed.
Cleaning and Care
Care and cleaning of flannel sheets depends on materials. Bespoke wool sheets and bedding usually require dry cleaning unless it’s specially treated wool that is machine washable. Cotton flannel sheets should be laundered according to manufacturer instructions. Synthetic sheets are low-maintenance.
When you wash flannel sheets for the first time, experts recommend adding a half-cup of white vinegar to the wash to protect against future pilling and to set the dye. Don’t use fabric softener with flannel sheets. It reduces softness over time by stiffening fibers.
For cotton, blended, and synthetic flannel sheets, you should wash in warm or cold water only – never hot. Line drying increases durability but if that’s not practical, dry the sheets longer at a lower dryer temperature. Be sure to read the laundry directions before the first wash cycle.
Warranty and Return Policy
Return policies are about satisfaction while warranties relate to defects and product failure rather than your sleep experience. Review the policies of the manufacturer or sales site (Amazon, for instance), to know what your options are before you buy the sheets.
If you’re uncertain what you want or don’t know if flannel will be to your liking, buying from a brand with a sleep trial is advisable. Some reputable makers allow a sleep trial where you can test the flannel sheets in your home and return them if you’re not satisfied.
Other brands will only accept a return if there’s a defect in the workmanship of the materials (snags, runs, hems that come undone). Do your homework before you purchase!
Pattern and Color
When you think flannel, a lumberjack plaid probably springs to mind. And while you can buy flannel sheets in traditional plaid, there are many patterns and solid color options available. However, you won’t find a rainbow of flannel sheet colors as you do with other sheet materials.
Some brands offer solid color flannels only while some feature plaid, stripe, checks, and florals. Comfort and sleep performance should be your priority. Aesthetics matter but we don’t recommend buying your flannel sheets on looks alone.
Check out performance reviews and brand reputation to ensure you’re getting a well-crafted flannel sheet and not just something pretty. Also, remember that dark sheets have heavier dyes, may fade over time, and may not retain their look as well as neutral palette colors.