While no one's losing sleep over this conundrum, we asked an interior designer to weigh in on preferences.
flat sheet duvet cover
Credit: Pippa Drummond

Flat sheets look neat in a linen closet because they're easy to fold, but do they do anything for a bed or the sleeper? If you've been wondering about this—and maybe even discussed this with friends—check out some pros and cons, according to interior designers.

Why you should use a flat sheet.

First and foremost, proponents point out that a flat sheet saves time. "I prefer washing a flat sheet every week to washing a duvet cover every week," says Sabrina Alfin, owner of Sabrina Alfin Interiors in San Francisco. "You can keep the duvet on the bed longer." A flat sheet keeps the bed fresher—it serves as a sanitary buffer between your body and the comforter. "It's like men who wear a dress shirt and an undershirt, so that they don't sweat through their dress shirt," says Alfin. If you perspire, you can easily throw the flat sheet in the wash.

Plus, a flat sheet feels good. "I like having something between me and the covers," says Alfini. "You may not always have a smooth material on you—it could be like a wool blanket." Unlike a fitted sheet, which is difficult to fold, a flat sheet has no elastic to muck up being neatly folded for its stay in the linen closet. If you put a cover on your comforter or duvet, that cover could take the place of a flat sheet since it essentially is a flat sheet with a button closure or zipper.

Why you shouldn't use a flat sheet.

Non-believers view a flat sheet as a time waster: For those who make their bed every morning, having just one entity—a blanket or comforter—to pull up and straighten out makes the job go faster. They don't miss trying to find the flat sheet in the messy bed of a restless sleeper where the blanket is all scrunched up, twisted, or lying in a heap.

Not having a flat sheet means there's one less item to wash every week. When you barely have enough time to wash your jeans and towels, it's good to not have to even think about washing a flat sheet, too. And if you don't have to buy a flat sheet, you'll save money. You won't be able to get the discount that a full bedding set (flat sheet, fitted, and pillowcases) would offer, but it might work out to be the same monetary output if you're buying one less piece.

The conclusion.

So, who's right? There's no correct answer—it's a matter of personal preference. Depending on the time of year, you might even do both: a light blanket in the spring and summer with a flat sheet; in the fall and winter, a comforter and duvet cover, with or without a blanket. Weigh the pros and cons, make the right choice for your bed, and sleep soundly.

Comments (3)

Martha Stewart Member
March 1, 2020
My brother does not use a flat sheet-so I take it and make curtains for his bedroom.
Martha Stewart Member
February 29, 2020
If you go to bed clean, there shouldn’t be any makeup, hairspray or other foreign matter to muck up your bedding whether you choose to use a flat sheet or not. If you tend to sweat a lot, use lighter bedding and wear pj’s or a nightgown to absorb the perspiration. It’s much easier to change your pj’s as often as needed to be fresh in bed. Personally, I prefer to use a flat sheet. Mainly because my king sized quilt is oversized and I can’t fit it in my washer. I take it to a laundry mat where they have the extra large washers. As those cost more to operate, I only wash my quilts once or twice each season. (I prefer to have more quilt to share with my husband than a smaller quilt that “might” fit in my washer. I don’t like to overstuff my machine. A washer is more efficient at getting fabrics clean if there’s room to agitate in the drum).
Martha Stewart Member
February 29, 2020
Eew! Of course you need a flat sheet! That is, unless you want the edges of your blankets and quilts to have a filthy line of skin oil and cells, makeup, dirt. etc. Most people wouldn't wash their blankets or duvets every week no matter what, so you need that sheet for hygiene purposes, if nothing else.