Thread Count Doesn’t Always Matter: Things To Look For When Buying Sheets

Standard

Thread counts have been inching up on bedding packages in the past
decade. Nowadays, it’s common to see upwards of 1,000 thread count on
cotton bedding, and with it comes the promise of luxury, comfort, and a
good night’s sleep. Yes, thread count can make a difference, but it’s
not the only indicator of softness or quality…

Here are the major factors to take into account when shopping for sheets.

Material: First you need to decide what you want your
sheets made of. Cotton is the most common and basic, but there’s also
linen, silk, bamboo, microfiber, etc… (I won’t even get into all the
blends out there.) Every material has its pros and cons: Linen is
softer, more breathable ,and textured than cotton, but tends to wrinkle
more. Silk is soft but more slippery. Microfiber is manmade versus
natural. The list goes on, so you have to decide what feel you’d like.

Thread Count: This number is determined by the number
of threads running both horizontally and vertically in a square inch.
The higher the thread count, as the theory goes, the softer the sheets. A
few considerations to keep in mind:

  • You can only have so many threads per square inch, and with cotton,
    400 seems to be a good number to look for. Once you hit a certain
    threshold, it really doesn’t matter and you won’t notice the difference.
    (It’s almost like SPF ratings on sunblock or camera pixels.)
  • There are ways for manufacturers to “increase thread count” without actually increasing the quality.
  • It stands to reason that the number of threads you can squeeze into
    a specified area is dependent on the fiber that’s used. The thinner the
    fibers, the higher the thread count. Bamboo and silk have thinner
    fibers, so thread count can’t be compared to that of cotton.

Fiber Quality: The best sheets are made from longer
fibers that are stronger when made into thread. Egyptian, Sea Island,
and Prima cottons are recognized as the best with the longest fibers,
and sheets made with them are usually labeled as such. If the packaging
simply says 100% cotton, chances are good they were made from shorter
fibers.

  • If the sheets are made from shorter fibers, thread count won’t
    really matter that much. Over time those short fibers will break,
    produce lint and pilling, and become less soft to the hand.

Weave: How the threads are woven together has a big
influence on how sheets feel on the bed. The most common are percale,
sateen, satin, microfiber and jersey, for starters. Percale sheets, for
example, are a simple weave and usually on the crisper side. Sateen
sheets are softer, and have a shiny quality. Jersey sheets are
stretchier, etc… and so forth. Price will go up depending on the
complexity of the weave pattern used, with jacquard sheets being on the
pricier end of the scale. Get to know what you like, and buy what you
can afford.

Chemicals & Dyes: Many, many sheets are
chemically treated after they are woven, to increase their strength and
decrease wrinkling. If you want to avoid this (and the use of chemicals
in general), look into treatment-free organic sheets.

To sum up, there are other factors than go into making quality
sheets, and you can achieve softness a variety of ways. Don’t let
promises of high thread count sway you into ignoring those other
elements.

 | Apartment Therapy

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