College students will be off to campus in the coming weeks and are shopping in earnest to furnish the rooms where they'll be spending the next nine months. Towels? Check. Pillows? Check. Sheets. Not so fast. Before investing in a good set of bed linens, check the size of the dorm bed. Most college dorms have beds that are five inches longer than the standard twin so regular twin sheets won't cover them. The extra-long twin sheets aren't sold everywhere so you may want to shop online in advance. Here's how to find sheets that'll last until graduation.
The longer sheets, known as XL twin or dorm sheets, are often sold in university bookstores but may cost more there. Bed Bath & Beyond, Target and Macy's don't offer a huge variety in their stores, but they do have back-to-school collections on their websites as does Amazon.com. Look for fitted sheets that are 80-inches long (the XL flat sheets are longer). And remember that most twin sets come with one standard pillowcase, which means you'll need to buy an extra pillowcase if you use two pillows.
Look for sales when you shop as the XL twin sheets are often discounted at this time of year. Or use coupons. Some stores, like Bed Bath & Beyond, send coupons via traditional mail as well as e-mail. And you may also find bargains on standard-sized bedding for students who are living off-campus. No matter what size sheets you buy, consider the fabric. According to Pat Slaven, Consumer Reports' textile expert, some sheet fabrics last longer and are more comfortable than others. Here's what you'll find.
- Microfiber. "Skip it," says Slaven. Microfiber is not as breathable as other fabrics and may cause the sleeper to become hot and sweaty.
- Jersey. It's not the most durable fabric. The sheets can stretch out of shape after only a few washings and definitely won't last for four years of college, says Slaven.
- Cotton-poly blend. An Internet search showed that most dorm sheets are made of 60 percent cotton and 40 percent polyester. "Cotton-polyester blends work well, but 100 percent cotton is going to be much more comfortable," says Slaven.
- 100 percent cotton. It's the best choice. "If you look around you'll find 100 percent cotton sheets for a reasonable price," Slaven says, adding that a twin set of cotton sheets should cost between $20 and $30.
And XL sheets aren't the only thing you have to worry about. "The regular comforter is too short, the blanket needs to be longer, the mattress topper has to fit," Slaven says. "And the student needs to know how to do laundry."
Best buy mattresses
Students who are moving off-campus may need a lot more than a set of sheets. In our mattress tests, we named two CR Best Buys but mattresses often go on sale around such holidays as Labor Day so if you're patient you can find one at a good price. And here are three CR Best Buys that did well in Consumer Reports tests.
The Original Mattress Factory Orthopedic Luxury Firm, $540, innerspring mattress scored well for side sleepers but may not be the best choice if you sleep on your back. The Tuft & Needle Ten foam mattress, $500, is a reliable choice and you can have it mailed right to campus because it comes folded in a medium-size box. The adjustable-air Sleep Number c2 Bed, $800, has impressive side support and even better back support. Ikea shoppers may like the Ikea Morgongava, which we recommend, but at $1,000 it costs more than the others.
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