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Medical Beds

Hospital Bed Sheets Guide

How to Buy the Right Hospital Bed Sheets for Your Hospital Bed

The linen you choose for your hospital bed can make a big difference to the comfort and health of the patient. Sheets are in contact with the patient’s skin for many hours, so it is essential to buy the right sheets for the patient’s needs.

The sheets you choose will also affect carers and medical professionals. Are they easy to fit and remove? Do they slip off the mattress or bunch up under the patient? And, just as important, do they work well with your adjustable hospital bed and hospital mattress?

There are hundreds of types and brands of sheets to choose from in a multitude of shapes, sizes, and designs. Sheets are made from many different types of fabric, and their quality and cost vary enormously.

In this article, we’re going to talk about what you need to know to choose the perfect sheets for yourself or someone you care for, with a particular focus on selecting sheets for home hospital beds.

A Primer on Hospital Sheet Thread Count

Let’s start with an aspect of buying sheets that many people find confusing — thread count. When you browse sheets in a store or online, they frequently advertise a thread count, a number often written as “T-100” or similar.

Woven sheets are made of crisscrossed threads. Thread count measures the number of threads per inch in both directions. For example, a thread count of 300 means that there are 150 horizontal threads and 150 vertical threads.

As a general rule, sheets with a lower thread count are less expensive than those with a higher thread count. Higher thread-count sheets are more durable and feel softer and more comfortable.

Which thread count is best for hospital sheets? Within the healthcare industry, sheets with thread counts of around 130 are standard. This is a fairly low thread count chosen to keep linen costs to a minimum while ensuring sheets are durable enough to be washed many times.

For your home hospital bed, you may prefer to choose higher thread-count sheets for additional comfort.

Choosing a Fabric for Hospital Bed Sheets

Most hospital sheets are made of cotton or a blend of polyester and cotton (polycotton). Cotton and cotton blends are durable enough to be washed and dried dozens of times at high temperatures. They are soft, comfortable, and breathable.

Synthetic fabrics such as nylon and acrylic are not often used for hospital sheets because they are less resistant to frequent washing and drying, easily pilling or even developing holes.

You can use silk sheets and similar fabrics on hospital beds, but their lack of friction may cause safety and comfort issues for patients with limited mobility who cannot easily change position without help.

More exotic fabrics such as bamboo – often a bamboo and rayon mix – can be used on the home hospital bed. They are typically more expensive than cotton sheets, but the fabric is soft, durable, and as breathable as cotton.

The majority of hospital bed sheets are not waterproof. If they become wet or soiled, they should be removed and washed – one reason durability is such an important consideration. To protect the mattress, it is advisable to use a waterproof mattress cover under the sheet. Our range of hospital mattresses can be purchased with an easily removed waterproof cover.

Woven vs. Knitted Fabrics

There are two main ways to make the fabric of a sheet: weaving and knitting. Weaving interlaces two threads going in different directions. Knitting involves intermeshing loops of thread into rows that make up the fabric.

Woven Fabrics

Whether a sheet is woven or knitted affects how it behaves. Woven fabrics are more stable. They don’t stretch as much and are less likely to develop holes or runs. The typical hospital sheet found in healthcare institutions across the world is a woven muslin cotton or polycotton sheet of a fairly low thread count. These sheets are cheap and durable, although they are not as soft or comfortable as more expensive sheets.

Percale is another woven fabric often used in hospital sheets. It is a higher thread-count fabric – above 180 – and is also made of cotton or a blend of cotton and polyester. Percale sheets are typically softer, more breathable, more comfortable, and more durable than muslin sheets.

Percale sheets are an excellent choice for a home hospital bed sheets, as are other high-quality cotton sheets, including Pima and Egyptian cotton.

Knitted Fabrics

In general, knitted fabrics are softer, thicker, and warmer than woven fabrics. They are also more stretchy. It should be noted that the thread count system is not used for knitted sheets. Instead, they are rated according to the weight of the fabric in ounces. Higher weights mean softer, thicker, more durable sheets.

A downside of knitted fabrics is their tendency to snag and develop runs, something that does not affect woven fabrics.

When should you choose a knitted fabric or a woven fabric? Woven fabrics are excellent for standard hospital beds, but there are some circumstances in which knitted fabrics are preferable.

Knitted fabrics can stretch, which makes them less likely to untuck or come loose when adjustable hospital beds are moved up and down. A fitted knitted sheet is an excellent option in this scenario.

If used correctly, fitted sheets made of a knitted material are also a good choice for patients at risk of skin shear or bedsores.

Selecting the Right Size Sheets for Your Hospital Bed

When choosing a sheet for a home hospital bed, pay careful attention to the size of the bed and the thickness of the mattress. Undersized sheets will easily come loose, especially when raising or lowering adjustable hospital beds. A loose sheet can gather under the patient, causing discomfort and risking excessive friction.

On the other hand, oversized sheets can cause tripping and slipping hazards, and can also gather under the patient. However, it is better to buy a slightly oversized sheet than a sheet that is too small for the bed it will be used on.

Hospital beds may differ in size to standard beds. They may be wider than standard, as is the case with bariatric beds. And they may be longer, as is the case with our extra-long hospital beds. Take the time to compare the size of the hospital bed with the size of the sheet before buying.

Because hospital beds are adjustable, the bottom sheet must be sized to account for the movement of the bed and mattress. As the head or foot of the bed raises, the mattress changes size. Hospital bed sheets are designed to account for the additional length of hospital beds and adjustments. The additional length is indicated with names such as Twin Extra Long, Long Boys, or Twin 80s. 

Because top-sheets are not affected by the adjustment of the bed in the same way as the bottom sheet, it is fine to use standard size sheets for the top sheet. 

Additionally, the thickness of the mattress should be taken into account. Standard hospital mattresses are between 6 and 7 inches thick, but pressure-relief mattresses may be thicker.

Hospital Bed Sheets for Skin Shearing or Bedsores

Skin shearing is caused by repeated friction against vulnerable areas of the body. Bedsores, also known as pressure ulcers or decubitus, are caused by long-term pressure and friction. Both conditions are painful, and bedsores can be extremely dangerous.

The best way to avoid bedsores is to use a purpose-engineered hospital bed mattress. To treat bedsores, a pressure-relief mattress is essential. But sheets also play a role in reducing the incidence of shearing and bed sores.

If a patient is prone to bedsores, choose a breathable fabric such as percale or bamboo. You may also want to consider specialty hospital sheets with anti-friction panels, which make it easier to reposition patients without tearing or shearing their skin.

To learn more about hospital beds, mattresses, and choosing the most suitable hospital bed equipment for yourself or someone you care for, contact us today.

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About Transfer Master

Transfer Master has built electric adjustable hospital beds for the home and medical facility since 1993. We started with a simple goal that hospital beds should allow wheelchair users to transfer independently in and out of bed. Twenty-five years later, our customers are still at the center of everything we do. You’ll feel the difference.