What makes bed sheets soft?
Sleeping in incredibly soft, luxurious and affordable sheets is now possible… Some of you may have already asked yourselves this question… So where does this softness come from and how do we explain it?
As you know at Kalani, our bed linen is naturally soft because it is made from 100% GOTS and Fairtrade certified organic cotton. The softness comes from the quality and thread count of the sheets. 300 thread count (single twisted), long staple combed cotton, which is luxury quality and 100% organic, GMO free and free from substances that are harmful to the environment and to humans. We talk about this further down in this article.
We insist on 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 bed linen brands, 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 strands which give the impression of a top-of-the-range bed linen, the softness can neither come from the cotton nor from the number of threads, where can it come from?
It was therefore with more surprise that we noticed that this “chemical” softness came from the use of silicone. This is used as an “after” in the finishing phase of the fabrics, after dyeing.
Let’s be clear, we are talking about silicone such as the one in cartridges that your plumber uses with a gun to seal around your sink for example…
What? Silicone in the sheets?
Silicone is used in the textile industry much more often than one might think. In fact, when mixed with washing machines, it serves as a long-lasting fabric softener. Indeed, silicone is hydrophobic (like the one used by your plumber), so it resists water, and therefore several washes (10-20-30-50…. washes depending on the brand and quality). It thus provides a false sensation of softness. Well, not quite false, but a chemical softness, as opposed to a natural, mechanical softness.
What happens when the silicone disappears from the leaves?
If it is bad silicone that runs off very quickly on a very poor quality fabric, the sheets will become increasingly rough.
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 also have started to soften if it is a mid-range fabric, so the silicone softness will only be partially felt.
So how do you know if the leaves 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 penetrates 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 looks waterproof instead of immediately forming a water-soaked halo, it’s 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 penetrates 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 drains into the sewers that go into a treatment plant before flowing into the rivers and then into the sea, that feeds the fish and feeds the clouds that spray 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 far more questionable than hotel-quality sheets that last… What do you think?
So what to do after having done these two tests?
It is very simple:
- If the sheets are not siliconised, you will be able to sleep soundly and have pleasant dreams of the turquoise sea 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 “uh, it’s full of silicone”, wait for the refund and invest in good sheets with a natural and mechanical softness.
So how do you make soft sheets without silicone then?
It’s very simple, Kalani sheets are, since the launch in 2016, naturally and mechanically soft. In other words, 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:
- Choose good varieties of long staple combed cotton, such as the famous Egyptian cotton of the last centuries (because today there is more low quality cotton in Egypt than the varieties that were once called Egyptian cotton).
- Selecting good organic cotton, growing it without GMOs or chemicals
- Working with a spinning mill with Japanese or Swiss machines for example (machines controlled with a Japanese stethoscope, or set like a Swiss watch, does that speak to you?) Even if there are spinning mills with machines from other countries of very good quality too. To spin fine yarns, well twisted and with long staple cotton so that the yarn never breaks.
- Weave these fine yarns with a density of 300 threads (single ply) per square inch (118.36 threads per square centimetre) to obtain the best softness/quality/resistance ratio.
- The fabrics are dyed with GOTS certified inks, which are harmless to the environment, the production workers and 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 become softer with washing, use and time?
When you have a natural and mechanical softness and the softness comes from the multiplication of the above mentioned elements, the cotton will not shrink much, just 2-3% maximum to set it well. So this beautiful long staple cotton will twist and soften without ever breaking and will give you unparalleled softness over the long term with increasingly soft sheets.
A bit like the sheets in our grandmothers’ wedding trousseaux that 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 for information purposes only, we will not name the brands that use these processes. That said, we know that some will read us, and if they do, let’s hope they stop misleading their customers and the market by using this type of deception to give a deceptively smooth feel while keeping their prices low or their margins high.
If you are looking for naturally soft sheets, we are at your disposal.