Home Decorating Debunking the Myth of Dorm Bedding

Debunking the Myth of Dorm Bedding

During the rush—physical and emotional—of back-to-school shopping, every year, thousands of parents and their kids are fed one of the most persistent half-truths about dorm bedding: that they must purchase specially made (though not especially well-made) twin XL sheets to fit those pesky oversize dorm beds. That got us thinking. Why do colleges and many boarding schools use twin XL beds, and do you really need special bedding to fit them?

Universities used to offer the same twin-size beds found in most homes, but with the wave of mega-popularity in college sports—think supertall basketball players—they added extralong mattresses to the list of dorm options. Then, to prevent school staff from having to schlep the mattresses around campus, depending on which dorms the tall kids were living in, most colleges switched out all of their traditional twins for twin XL.

While the standard twin mattress is 75 inches long, the twin XL is typically 80 inches long. But the twin XL mattress is also not as tall as the traditional twin. What does this mean? Most deep-pocket sheet sets —those with a 15-inch or taller pocket—stretch to compensate for the extra mattress length. And since sheet sets with 15-inch pockets are pretty common and come in a much greater variety of styles than twin XL sheeting, you can easily find dorm bedding that is made to last and doesn’t look like a sad, broke-down old T-shirt.

That said, here are a couple of notes (get it? Notes?):

For the love of chocolate chip cookies, don’t be tricked into buying bedding, deep-pocket or otherwise, through your child’s school; quality control on these products is suspect at best. (Don’t believe us? Check out what Good Housekeeping found.) And if you plan to use a mattress pad in the dorm, measure the overall height of the mattress and topper together; if the mattress pad adds 1 inch or less in depth, a fitted sheet with a 15-inch pocket should still fit nicely. Any taller, and you may need specially sized sheets. Womp-womp.

One final tip: educate (get it? Educate?) your student to wash cotton sheets in cold water only, and tumble dry on low. Since even preshrunk cottons can experience additional shrinkage at higher temperatures, a cold wash/low dry routine will minimize it. For a boost of germ-blasting power in those icky public laundry machines, have your student add ½ cup of white vinegar and 10 drops tea tree essential oil to the fabric softener compartment. Works like a charm, and keeps the sheets smelling fresh, too.

Now take a peek at Annie’s favorite dorm-friendly sheet, sham, and quilt or duvet combos:


Clockwise, from top left:

Boyfriend Agean Matelasse Coverlet and Shams 

Paisley Lace Aquamarine Throw 

Embroidered Hem Dusty Blue Sheet Set

Lima Orange Decorative Pillow 


Clockwise, from top left:

Esha Sheet Set

Cardigan Platinum Throw

Kerala Java Matelasse Coverlet and Shams

Candlewick Dove Grey Decorative Pillow


Clockwise, from top left:

Marina Coral Quilt and Shams

Laundered Linen Citrus Throw

Watercolor Dots Sheet Set

Laundered Linen Citrus Decorative Pillow


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Rachel July 24, 2017 at 2:39 pm

Did you look into Ikea bedding?

Liza Kay August 11, 2017 at 5:38 pm

You can’t possibly use the mattress without a topper and you can’t use the topper with regular twin sheets, so…


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