What makes bed sheets soft?
Sleeping in incredibly soft, luxurious and affordable sheets is now possible… Some of you may have already asked yourselves the question… So where does this softness come from and how do we explain it?
As you know at Kalani, our bed linens are naturally soft because there are made from 100% GOTS and Fairtrade certified organic cotton. The softness comes from the quality and the number of threads used in the making of the sheets. 300 threads (single ply), long staple combed cotton, which corresponds to the luxury quality and 100% organic, without GMO and without harmful substances for the environment and for human beings. We talk about this further down in this article.
We insist on the naturally soft, because too often softness is not natural on the market but comes from artificial and chemical processes.
Natural (mechanical) softness versus chemical softness
We have tested for you sheets from the market, from different brands of bed linen, including French brands with the same direct approach as ours (except for organic / Fairtrade).
After analysis, we were a little surprised to find that the product descriptions of some of these brands do not always correspond to reality. Apart from the number of threads and the number of plies that give the impression of high-end bed linen, the softness can neither come from the cotton, nor from the number of threads, where can it come from?
It is therefore with more amazement that we noticed that this “chemical” softness came from the use of silicone. This is used as a “After” in the finishing phase of fabrics, after dyeing.
Let’s be clear, we are talking about silicone like the one in cartridges that your plumber uses with a gun to seal the contour of your sink for example…
What? Silicone in bed sheets?
Silicone is used in the textile industry much more often than you might think. In fact, when mixed with fabric washers, it serves as a long-lasting softener. In fact, silicone is hydrophobic (like the one used by your plumber), so it is resistant to water, and therefore to several washes (10-20-30-50…. washes depending on the brand and quality). It provides, thus, a false sensation of softness. Well, not quite false, but a chemical softness, as opposed to a natural and mechanical softness.
What happens when the silicone disappears from the sheets?
If it’s bad silicone that goes off very quickly on a very low quality fabric, the sheets will become rougher and rougher.
And if it is a strong silicone softener, this silicone softness will disappear, little by little, after 30-40 or even 50 washes. The base fabric may have started to soften as well if it’s a mid-range fabric, so the silicon softness will only be partially felt.
So how do you know if sheets are “siliconized”?
Well, it’s very simple! There are two methods you can easily use when you buy new sheets and want to check:
- Before washing the sheets for the first time, rub them between your fingers and then rub your fingers together. If the sheets are “siliconized” you will have a heavy silicone residue on your fingertips and an unpleasant, slippery, unnatural softness between those same fingers. It is the silicone that soaks into your skin.
- Another technique is to test the water resistance of your sheets before washing them for the first time. Put a few drops of water on the new fabric. If the water beads up, and the fabric feels waterproof instead of immediately forming a water-soaked halo, it is the silicone that makes the fabric of your sheets slightly water repellent or relatively hydrophobic (water resistant). And if you touch that drop of water and it liquefies and still gets into the fabric, that’s the water repellent versus waterproof principle.
The sheets will therefore not be waterproof like a rain jacket, but they are still fabrics impregnated with silicone softener.
What is the problem with silicone softeners?
Finally, this unnatural softness has an environmental impact. And that’s the point.
Because here’s what’s going to happen: the surface layer will go into your wastewater and therefore into the environment. You see? the washing machine that evacuates into the sewers that arrive in a treatment plant before flowing into the rivers and then into the sea, which feeds the fish and feeds the clouds that sprinkle us with rain and fills the water tables with water that we are going to drink… are you still following us?
And between washes, well, it’s your skin that absorbs some of it little by little and the successive washes the rest…
So the eco-responsibility that most of these brands boast about is much more questionable than hotel quality sheets that last… What do you say?
So what to do after having done these two tests?
It is very simple:
- If the sheets are not siliconised, you can sleep soundly and have pleasant dreams of turquoise seas with beautiful fish, for example.
- If, on the other hand, the sheets are siliconised, then we do a return procedure and send them back to the manufacturer as a matter of urgency, saying “ew, it’s full of silicone”, we wait for a refund and we invest in good sheets with a natural, mechanical softness.
So how do you make soft sheets without silicone then?
It’s very simple, Kalani’s sheets are, since the launch in 2016, naturally and mechanically soft. That is, we do not use any artificial chemicals to soften the cotton and fabrics.
So how do we make the sheets so soft?
Well, it’s a subtle mix of good choices, good materials and craftsmanship knowhow:
- Choose good long staple combed cotton varieties, like the famous Egyptian cotton of the last centuries (because today there is more low quality cotton in Egypt than varieties that used to be called Egyptian cotton (see the article on this subject here)
- Selecting good organic cotton, growing it without GMOs and chemicals
- Work with a spinning mill with Japanese or Swiss machinery for example (machines controlled with a Japanese stethoscope, or regulated like a Swiss watch, does this speak to you?) Even if there are spinning mills with machines from other countries of very good quality too. To spin fine yarns, twisted just right and with long staple cotton so that the yarn never breaks.
- To weave these fine yarns with a density of 300 threads (single ply) per square inch (118.36 threads per cm2) to obtain the best ratio of softness/quality/durability.
- Dyeing the fabrics with GOTS certified inks, which are harmless to the environment, to the production workers and to the users. GOTS, as explained in this article here, is the only organic cotton standard to certify the limitation of processing products and to be much stricter than the European REACH standard or the German Oeko-Tex health certification
How can sheets get softer and softer with washing, use and time?
When you have a natural and mechanical softness and the softness comes from the multiplication of the elements mentioned above, the cotton will not shrink much, just 2-3% maximum to set well. Then this beautiful long-fibre cotton will twist and soften without ever breaking and will give you an unequalled softness in the long term with increasingly soft sheets.
A bit like the sheets of our grandmothers’ wedding trousseaux which could sometimes last for decades. Like the glory days of Egyptian cotton, or the good cottons that were only grown in tropical countries with natural rainfall. And not ‘fast fashion cotton’ grown in desert countries, like many of today’s cottons, to meet the ever-increasing market demand.
As this article is intended to be informative only, we will not name the brands that use these processes. That said, we know that some will read us, and if they do, then hopefully they will stop misleading their customers and the market by using this type of trickery to give a deceptively soft feel while keeping their price point low or their margins high.
If you are looking for naturally soft sheets, we are at your disposal at www.kalani-home.com