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A Complete Guide to Pillowcases

Pillowcases on bed

We put plenty of thought into our pillows – which are too soft, too firm, or just right. But how much do we think about how we protect them? Pillowcases are often overlooked, but they’re an essential part of a bedding set, protecting both the pillow itself and your skin. Finding the right pillowcase and caring for it properly can not only help extend the life of your pillows, but they also may help you get a better night’s sleep as well. We’ve rounded up three things to consider when looking for your next pillowcases.

Fabric First

Just like sheets, pillowcases are made of all different types of fabrics, both natural and synthetic. When it comes to buying new pillowcases, it’s best to start by picking your fabric first. Fabric will be the most important factor in determining both the comfort and longevity of your new pillowcases. For the best possible option that offers both superior sleep and softness that lasts, we always recommend choosing a high-quality all-natural fabric.

The initial softness of satin or other polyesters can be tempting at first, but that silky quality is the result of synthetic materials that are less breathable, more prone to wear, and difficult to maintain. By selecting high-quality cotton pillowcases, you’re picking a breathable, luxurious, and natural material that’s easy to maintain and will stay soft for years to come. And because cotton is such a versatile material, there are all different cotton weaves. From smooth sateen to crisp percale to cozy flannel, you’re sure to be able to find a cotton fabric that suits your sleep style.

Sizes Matters

Once you’ve settled on the fabric for your pillowcases, you’ll want to think about size. Of course, if you’ve already purchased pillows, you’ll want to be sure to choose the size that fits them. And believe us, it can get confusing, so it’s always worth double checking. But if you’re doing a bedding revamp – which should include regular pillow refreshes – it’s a great time to think about which size pillows you’re choosing for your bed. There are four typical sizes of pillows used here in the United States. The Euro pillow is square, usually 26 inches by 26 inches, and when making the bed, these are the taller pillows that typically go up against the headboard. The Standard pillow is a rectangular pillow, 20 inches by 26 inches, and is recommended for twin, full, and queen beds. The King pillow, designed for king beds, is also 20 inches high, but much longer at 36 inches long. Finally, the Boudoir pillow is significantly smaller, and often used for neck support or decorative purposes.

Shams and Closures

Now that you know your pillow size and fabric, it’s time to consider the details. People often get confused about the difference between pillowcases and shams, and in the simplest terms, they both do the same job of covering your pillows. But pillowcases typically have an opening on one side and no extra fabric around the edges, while shams are usually finished on all four sides, open in the back, and are used more often for decorative pillows like Euros or Boudoirs. When it comes to closures, there are several types for both pillowcases and shams. Pillowcases typically provide easy access with a full or envelope opening on one side. Sham closures can include decorative ties, back fabric overlaps, zippers, or ties. It’s important to think carefully about your pillow arrangement, how you sleep, and your pillowcase maintenance routine to figure out which types of closures are best for you.