How to choose and care for bedlinen

Housewife Superstar 100 per cent cotton is comfortable, durable and protects your mattress and pillows

There is no shortage of bedlinen to be found in shops in the UAE. The problem is that a lot of it is of very poor quality. What's more, I find it puzzling that, in a country where temperatures regularly top 40°C in summer, the majority of sheets, pillowcases and duvet covers to be found here are made from poly-cotton or, even worse, polyester.

All-polyester sheets are not a good idea. They are harsh and scratchy on the skin and are not very absorbent, which is not what you need on a clammy night. Poly-cotton blends are slightly better, but can still feel harsh on the skin. The main reason that people choose them is that they do not require ironing, but when you live in a place with an ironing shop on every corner - or, quite possibly, you have a housemaid - that should hardly be an issue.

The best all-rounder for bedlinen is 100 per cent cotton. It is absorbent, cool, smooth, strong and hard-wearing. When buying bedlinen, the rule is that for each bed you need three sets (sheets, pillowcases and a duvet cover), one set on the bed, one in the wash and one spare (a spare set means less wear and tear and allows for mishaps). Having dozens of spare sets is no advantage: they will just sit in the cupboard and go yellow through lack of use.

As well as bedlinen, you need something to cover the mattress. Not only is it uncomfortable to sleep directly on top of a mattress, it is unhygienic. While sleeping we produce significant amounts of sweat (about 250ml each night) and shed about 500g of dead skin cells a year, so it makes sense to have something removable and washable between ourselves and an expensive and difficult-to-clean mattress.

I brought my own mattress protector from the UK - it is a quilted cotton version that fits over the top of the mattress. If you can't find one here, use a thick cotton flannel sheet or washable blanket. The same applies to pillows. Again, the idea is to protect the pillow (difficult to wash) with something that is easy to wash. I brought zipped pillow protectors with me from the UK, but a normal pillowcase past the first flush of youth works well, too. When putting on the top pillowcase, make sure the openings of the pillowcases are at opposite ends to prevent slippage.

Bedlinen should be changed and washed once a week, or even more frequently in hot weather. The Housewife's Handbook by Rachel Simhon (Bloomsbury) is available on