What you need to know to make the most of white sales

  • By Mary Beth Breckenridge Akron Beacon Journal
  • Friday, January 20, 2012 4:03pm
  • Life

Ever since Philadelphia retailer John Wanamaker first discounted sheets and other white products early in 1878 to keep textile workers employed during a slow season, January has been the traditional white sale time.

So here’s some guidance to help you choose the best buy. Remember, inexpensive materials have to be replaced more often.


Thread count is only one factor, said Keith Hagood, general merchandise manager for bedding maker The Company Store.

Thread count refers to the number of threads per square inch. The higher the thread count, the finer the threads and the softer the fabric. But a high thread count alone doesn’t indicate a good-quality sheet, Hagood said.

Instead focus on the quality of cotton. Most cotton is either Egyptian, pima, supima or standard.

Egyptian cotton is generally considered the best quality because it’s highly absorbent, and its threads can stand up to the weaving process without breaking, said Mika Swiderski, a spokesperson for Bed Bath &Beyond.

Pima and supima are close behind in quality. The two are essentially the same cotton, except supima is certified to have been grown in the United States.

Egyptian, pima and supima all have long fibers that create strong threads. Standard cotton is a mixed bag, Swiderski said, and may not be as absorbent or durable as the other three.

Polyester has long been blended with cotton to make sheets more wrinkle-resistant, but polyester is less breathable and durable than cotton.

Bamboo has a sheen many people like, as well as good durability, Hagood said.

Consider the type of sheet you prefer: percale or sateen. Percale sheets are crisp and lightweight. Sateen sheets have a silky, luxurious feel.


The type of fiber is paramount, Hagood and Swiderski said. The cotton choices are the same as sheets: Egyptian, pima, supima and standard, along with bamboo.

Also consider construction: combed cotton or ring-spun cotton, Hagood said.

Combed cotton has a short pile and a sheared effect. Ring-spun cotton produces towels that are strong and absorbent.

Quick-drying towels are lighter and a little thinner and are also more absorbent.

In general, beefier towels are less absorbent, but they’re also softer and more velvety, Hagood said.


Considering the time we spend using pillows and their potential to cause or alleviate pain, Hagood believes it pays to invest in the right one.

The industry has been coaching consumers to match their pillows’ firmness to their sleeping styles, but in reality most of us change positions and don’t fit any single profile, Hagood said.

He recommends buying from a company that provides a money-back guarantee, so you can try out a pillow.

Both Hagood and Swiderski agree that 100 percent down, also called natural down, is the best filling. It breathes, minimizes hot spots, and fluffs back up.

Most down pillows are machine-washable, and they’re typically warranted for many years.

Don’t mistake down for feathers. You can buy pillows that contain both, but 100 percent down is superior to a mix. If you buy a pillow containing feathers, make sure the feathers have been cleaned, Swiderski said.

Look for a high thread count in the ticking fabric so down doesn’t escape, and body oils and sweat don’t get in, Swiderski said.

Synthetic down, such as PrimaLoft, is a less expensive option. The polyester clusters have many of the same attributes as down, Swiderski and Hagood said, but they don’t last as long or loft back up as well.

Memory foam pillows are extremely supportive, and their ability to mold to the head tends to discourage moving around, but they also trap heat.

Polyfill or other synthetic fill materials are an inexpensive choice, but don’t expect the life or performance of the other pillow types.

Get the most from your investment by buying a pillow protector. It will keep sweat and body oils away from the pillow and help extend its life.

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