has anyone bought wholesale/bulk hotel sheets?

kristin_cJune 16, 2013

I like white sheets but I've had the hardest time finding sheets that hold up to the bleaching required to KEEP them white. In the past I have spent $$ on some very soft 100% cotton with excellent reviews, and then had them fall apart in a couple years. I am cheap thrifty and that burns my toast.

I got to thinking that I usually like hotel sheets and the sheets at my inlaws' timeshare condos. These aren't expensive places so I must have plebian tastes in bedding but I like them crisp and a little rough and I'm even okay with some poly content.

I noticed you can buy "hospitality" wholesale sheets online, usually white, made to stand up to hotel laundering, by the dozen. A dozen queen flats ranges from $100 to $300. Mind you it's not a dozen SETS, it's a dozen of one thing, but I was thinking that if I bought 12 flats I could add elastic to some to make them fitted, and sew pillowcases out of some others, and come out with easily 3 or 4 sets of sturdy white sheets at the price. Which sounds pretty good to me. I could even make two of them into a duvet cover if I wanted.

Anyone buy from wholesale hotel suppliers, either for business or home use? Advice, dire cautions, experiences?

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My husband has a massage therapist working for him at his office and we order sheets from: http://speedysuppliers.com/massage-table-sheet-set-white-imported.aspx for the massage room.

They also have other non-massage sheets.

The ones for his office are washed a lot as you can imagine and are reasonably comfortable enough. Not like the high thread-count ones we have at home but when I got a massage they were comfy enough and they feel reasonable. They are not super thick either but again, that's not really a big issue if you use a top blanket.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2013 at 3:26AM
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High thread count sheets are not the same as high quality sheets, despite the absurdly amped-up marketing of them. Since you can buy high TC sheets at WalMart these days, the silly arms race over TC has ceased to be a meaningful measure of quality.

Way back in the olden days (i.e. before the1970s), a higher thread count, say 200-250, was a sign of higher quality percale, vs lower quality, and sturdier muslin that had 140-180.

But high thread counts are not the same as the number and twist-type of the plied cotton fibers that make up the threads (those are what drives long wear and true quality), nor the grade of the cotton iself which can have longer (better) or shorter (less good) fibers.

There are also specific named varieties (cultivars or growing locales) of the cotton plant which yield a finer, silkier, or smoother feel the fabric (Sea Island and Egyptian are two well-known ones, though not necessarily for sheet fabrics.)

And then there's the weave pattern of the fabric itself.

If you want sheets for larger beds , you are somewhat limited because these sizes didn't exist until recently.

The very best sheets, to my mind, are the older 1920 - @ 1960 vintage, 200/240 TC percales from Wamsutta. (Pequot is another good brand of percale.) They are still available as new old stock (NOS) on eBay (usually in twin and full, sometimes in a queen-ish extra-large full, though that is less common), and generally for prices that are very attractive compared to the much-ballyhooed high TC sheets.

Vintage Wamsutta Supercales (before Supercale became the trade name for poly/cotton mongrels in the 1970s) will give you 100-150 washes before showing significant wear. (Commercial sheets are rated by # of washes, not years of service.) They can withstand a moderate amount of bleaching satisfactorily, but in general for household use (as opposed to commercial sanitizing use) bleach is not really necessasry, however very HOT water is. I routinely wash my sheets in 180 F (or more) degree water . I also always hang them dry them in the sunlight.

(As an aside, the US energy standards that have mandated reduced wash temps have required an increase in the need for chemical additives in wash to get the same cleanliness, or the appearance of it. Which is worse for the environment, efficient heating to very hot of plain water, or a chemical stew in the machine?The biggest energy cost in most laundry work, is actually the dryer, which is something that can be done, better and for free with a line.)

The hanging to dry part is one of the key components of what people are missing when they complain that sheets aren't as nice as they remember. Commercial sheets are not - nor were since well before WWII - line-dried, however.

Really white sheets in commercial service are also washed in very hot water, with commercial equipment which allows for addtional chemical additive stages that household machines don't have. But there are household machines with beefy internal heaters that will start with tap cold water and heat it in steps (the so-called profile wash pattern) that dislodges stains, removes body soil, and whitens fabric very effectively, without chlorine bleach.

The slightly thicker and coarser sheets usually seen in commercial service in hotels and hospitals are often muslin - a somewhat different fabric than percale. You can still buy those all-cotton muslin sheets (NOS) on eBay, as well, but usually not in anything larger than a full size. They are commonly mis-labeled as percale, so you have to know your labels to discern what's in the packages as sellers often have no idea of the differences. (Pequot is a good brand of 140 TC- "Type 140" - of very sturdy, long-wearing muslin.)

Queens (and larger) beds present a problem in both percale and muslin in NOS since those sizes are too new for there to be a large stock of sheets tucked away in the linen closets of houses across the country.

But you can seam seam smaller sizes together, easily. Just use a fully contained seam (look at the seam on the inside legs of your jeans for an example of a contained-type seam, or the arm-scythe seam in a good quality man's dress shirt). You can seam them in the middle, or with two strips added along the sides.

Actually, " sides-to-middle-ing" is an old fashioned thrift practice which involved cutting well-worn, but not worn-out, sheets vertically down the middle and re-sewing them with the less-worn sides seamed together. This allows you to get the most wear from the fabric at the cost of a middle seam, which isn't objectionable if seamed correctly.

The other tried and true thrift practice is exchanging the the top and bottom hems to equalize the wear at the vulnerable turn-over edges. I try to do this before I've washed the sheets 50 times.

And, of course, not using fitted sheets allows you to rotate tops and bottoms to get the most wear out of every sheet. (But the convenience of fitted sheets outweighs this in my mind. YMMV)

You can make fitted sheets (assuming you can find commercial-grade elastic) generally from a sheet of the size smaller than the nominal size of the bed, i.e. full sheets can be made into queen fitteds,. Unless you have a very thick mattress., Then sometimes you have to piece together the part that tucks under the mattress.

Take an old, well-fitting, fitted sheet apart at the corner seams to see the shape to cut the corner; it's more complicated than you may think, but easily duplicate-able once you see it apart. There are several patterns for fitted corners, use one that fits your mattress, and is easy for you to pull on when you change the sheets. I haven't yet settled on my fave for the only queen-sized mattress in my household. My least favorite is just a simple, very elastic-gathered, box. It seems to get loose more easily than the trickier, multi-angled ones I prefer on my full-sized beds, with thinner latex mattresses. I like to stretch them over the corners and have them snap back, tight and smooth, not all bunched-up along the side like the waistband of a full skirt.

And a standard twin flat, with the hems carefully unpicked to use it all up, will make four and a half standard cases. (Two twins make nine cases, one of which is seamed on three sides, and of course hemmed on the fourth, open side.) I only use standard cases, so I have no idea about how to make cases for the larger pillows.

The only other point is that sheets wear out first at places where they are folded. It is not uncommon for sheets to acquire little folded-over ridges along the edges, and the hem (especially if the top hem is slightly crooked, or off-grain). I exmaine all new sheets for grain and proper hemming before using them and take the hem out and straighten it if it is not right. Even a few washes when mis-hemmed will create long-term problems, so I bite bullet right at the start. If they are dried in a dryer, and not ironed flat regularly the folds will wear out prematurely. I finger press the edges flat when they are wet as I am hanging them on the line. I don't always iron my sheets (only about half the time) because I find taut line drying works just fine after about a dozen or so washes. I do iron all the cases, though, as I like a super-smooth feel for them. I prefer the slightly stiffer and rougher feel of line-dried sheets to line dried and ironed sheets, but this is very personal. I use an Ironrite mangle, or a large flat ironing platform, depending on how much ironing I have to do at any one time.

I also change sheets about every three days, more often in hot weather. One of the reason hotel sheets feel they way they do is they are changed daily.

I confess to being a white-sheet fanatic/snob, but it's a rare event in my laundry pratice which requires any chlorine bleach, for any reason. I use plain Cheer powder (about 1.5 tablespoons per load), a jot of powdered STPP (sodium tri-polyphosphate) for whites like sheets and table linens and never, ever, any fabric softener. I find the carrier oils in FS, either tallow - yeah that's beef fat - or silicone oils make the sheets gradually acquire a grey or yellow-ish look as the chemical oxidizes. And I use very HOT water. I occasionally use sodium perborate as an addtional bleaching agent. My sheets are also old enough that they were never treated with optical brighteners "on the bolt", meaning before they were made up. Most modern light colored or white fabrics are these days. OB chemicals are a type of flourescent dye that makes fabrics seem brighter, even when they are not. Many detergents have OB additives in them to replace the ones washed out, bit-by-bit in every wash. However when OB-detergents are used on non-OB treated fabric a blotchiness can occur, as they don't cover the fabric in home washer evenly. As far as I know, Cheer powder does not have OBs. Though you should always read the labels, to be sure.

The other option you might consider is buying all linen sheets. These have a wonderful texture to them, and a crispy-but-drapey feel on your bed. But they do need ironing for most people, and they can't be bleached regularly with chlorine, it causes them to yellow slightly, as well as wear out prematurely. I have some inherited linen sheets that are more than 75 years old and in excellent shape despite beng in ordinary use for many decades. In the hottest months I use them exclusively, and change them daily. They make my un-A/C'd bedrooms comfortable, no matter what. I have never bought modern linen sheets because they are too pricey for me ($100-175 ++ per sheet ). Though lately I have seen high TC sheets cotton sheets in that range. It boggles my mind, who but the super-rich or the Queen of England pays that much for sheets? Yet, I get mail-order bedding catalogues offering them, regularly, so there must be a market for them.

A few years ago I decided eBay would eventually run out of the NOS Wamsutta percales I dote on, so I stocked up. But I rareIy paid even $20 per sheet, mostly less. The prices are higher now as other people have discovered the joys of these old sheets.

Modern commercial sheets are often polyester-rich, so be sure to ask about that if it matters to you. It wears better than full cotton, and lowers ironing costs which are substantial in a commercial laundry. It feels awful, in my opinion, and the sheets always seem flimsy as the cotton wears away gradually because of abrasion against the "sharper" synthetic fibers. They are also un-breathable, only being meant to be used in A/C'd environments.

You'd think because of breadth and intensity of people's desire for old-fashioned sheets that some manufacturer would twig to the un-met need. And figure out how to do it right. But maybe it's just easier to keep the conversation on TC, and keep charging big prices, for cheap Chinese-made fabrics. Virtually none of the orginal cotton mills in the US are still in business.

That's a great pity as they made fantastic, durable, luxurious sheets that were once commonplace household staples.



    Bookmark   June 16, 2013 at 8:49AM
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Oh my gosh, a treatise on bed sheets! That was fascinating! Thank you, liriodendron. The knowledge held by this collective never ceases to amaze me.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2013 at 10:00AM
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liriodendron - who ARE you???!!! I've marveled at the depth of your knowledge on any number of topics over the years to the point that I'm certain you've lived multiple lives and just keep adding to your knowledge base ;-)

The next time someone posts the ubiquitous 'what person, living or dead would you like to have dinner with' question, I'm saying liriodendron. The conversations would be fascinating.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2013 at 10:48AM
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Thank you, dlm, but you'd probably find me awkward and too shy for easy dinner chat. I need a severe amount editing and revising to make my prolix ideas tolerable, or even slightly useful when served up anywhere outside of my brain.

When I used to write for money, my editors were frequently in despair. Probably drove them to drink.
In reality, I'm just an opinionated old crone with many, many years of wanting to know how, why, what, etc. My Mother swore that my first speech was a question.

(But laundry topics and, particularly, linens are my extra-special preoccupations.)


    Bookmark   June 16, 2013 at 4:40PM
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Wow, that is an astonishing amount of bedsheet information.

I like white sheets that feel nice but I don't think I have that level of devotion to them, LOL. I would just really like plain sturdy sheets that don't require me to search all over for, worry that they will be discontinued, or cost enough that I have to sweat a stain or pull on them.

Having a linen cabinet full of identical white sheets that are cheap and easy to replace sounds like heaven to me. I appreciate that I'm odd though.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2013 at 8:30PM
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liriodendron I think that message just answered the question I have had about sheets for years. I may just like muslin sheets thick and heavy but crisp and smooth. I will have to search now.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2013 at 11:04PM
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So, as for some of liriodendron's specific points: At the amount that wholesale sheets would cost me and the ease of obtaining them, I don't think I would have to worry much about them wearing at the edges or getting polyester-y. I don't sleep in AC at the timeshare condo in August and the sheets are fine. I sew a lot and making fitted sheets + pillowcases would be trivial for me.

You know, I have to admit that part of my motivation for switching to wholesale hotel supply sheets would be that I am sick of the retail sheet industry and would love to stick it to them in my own small way.

A sheet is a plain, basic staple of bedding. Everyone I know buys and uses them. They're not inherently a specialty or luxury good.

Now, I know that sheets *can* be indulged in as specialty and luxury goods. I know that people *do* make a hobby of learning about bedding fibers and collecting their favorite types. In no way do I have anything against people who want to do those things, but my point is, it shouldn't be necessary for someone who just wants to buy a household staple that won't fall apart or cost them an absurdly inflated price.

In order to do this, no one should HAVE to collect esoteric fiber information. Nobody should HAVE to pass along clues by word of mouth as to who makes a decent product this month or year. Nobody should HAVE to scour eBay or find specialty stores to buy a plain, staple household item!

The retail sheet industry seems to have done its best to twist and obfuscate facts in order to sell millions of poorly made products with planned obsolescence and few real alternatives. I would love to opt out of their marketing horsepoo and intentionally shoddy goods, and simply never worry about it again.

$125 or so every handful of years, even if the sheets wear out faster than I would hope (and I think that rotating between 3-4 sets would do much to extend their lifespans), seems to me like a very small price to pay for that freedom.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2013 at 11:39PM
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Well said, Kristin_c. Delete the word sheet from your statement and you could apply that to many, many industries:

The retail [ ........ ] industry seems to have done its best to twist and obfuscate facts in order to sell millions of poorly made products with planned obsolescence and few real alternatives. I would love to opt out of their marketing horsepoo and intentionally shoddy goods, and simply never worry about it again.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 9:53AM
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My mother still has the crappy "kiddie" sheets that were on my (1970's) childhood bed. They feel great. Crisp but soft. Nary a hole or pill (but a fair amount of tiny blood stains from me being the most popular mosquito target as a child!). They are on a daybed that my daughter sleeps on when she visits there.

We can't manage to keep a set of sheets longer than 6 months around here before they start looking dingy or they've shrunk or whatever else. So frustrating.

I'd like to opt out too and just get some basic bedsheets that can stand up to weekly washing in the hottest water my washer spits out!

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 3:33PM
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I used the same sheets as a kid for as long as I can remember. I literally do not ever remember actually shopping for sheets (not counting the zomg lavender unicorn! set I got as a gift). We were poor, too, so they would have been cheap sheets or handmedowns.

I don't remember any holes ever.

These days a $90 set of sheets gets little holes the first year. I have cats now, but we had cats when I was a kid too. What gives?

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 3:40PM
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liriodendron's advice and information about washing in hot water intrigues me, by the way, because I've always avoided hot water out of fear it would permanently "set" the stains, grunge or general dirt that sheets pick up (one of the reason I avoid the dryer too).

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 5:07PM
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liriodendron, I was organizing my messy linen closet this afternoon, throwing out many crummy sheets, thinking about all the money I've wasted on linens that don't last, thinking about investing in really good quality sheets that do last, & not quite knowing what to look for...and there you are, expounding on your encyclopedic knowledge on sheets! Thanks so much for the detailed post. You have been most helpful!

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 6:03PM
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Great information!

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 11:07PM
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Liriodendron's advice to use very hot water is the first time I've heard that. (Although, from a health point of view, it probably would be better to use hot water).

But, I've always read you should use warm water. Otherwise, your bedding will shrink too much as well as damage the elastic lining.

Maybe, the temperature to wash bedding depends on the bedding? I know the expensive Italian bedding specifically says to only use warm water.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2014 at 1:54AM
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I'm with Liriodendron: I buy only vintage cotton sheets on eBay, and if the outdoor temp is above 40 degrees and it's sunny, they get hung on the line to dry. Climbing into bed with fresh, line-and-sun-dried all-cotton vintage sheets is luxury at its finest. Best, and only way to go.

And yes, it saves on the whopping dry electric bills. (I almost never use the dryer between April and mid-October. My electric bill goes down to @ $20/mo. In the summer, when I rent my house out to vacationers, they run the dryer endlessly, and my electric bill skyrockets; it was almost $200 for August. That is mostly the dryer).

    Bookmark   February 28, 2014 at 8:42AM
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I have either of two washing machines I can move into my new place, a Miele that can heat the wash water up to 190°F and a Bosch that heats up to 160°F but has somewhat larger capacity (both run on 240V power, so the heating is *fast* even from a cold water fill). Will the 190°F make enough of a difference to notice?

Also, hotels used to have heated dryers (with any of several heat sources) where the sheets were hung on roll-out racks that were opened to hang the sheets and then closed to heat and dry. There would be maybe 20 side by side roll-out racks, each capable of holding one sheet or one set of sheets. Not sure what these were called, so can't find a picture. Much faster than simple line drying, but inflicted less wear than modern tumble dryers.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2014 at 6:08AM
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