Understanding Sheet Thread Count

Cotton sheets
Thread Count on Sheets

While people often assume that expensive high thread count sheets are better, many don't really know the difference in sheet thread counts and how it affects the quality of the bedding. In simple terms, a thread count is how many threads are in a square inch of a cotton sheet fabric. This includes horizontal threads and vertical threads. The explanation can be more complicated than that, though.

Sheet Thread Count Explained

Generally speaking, sheets with a high thread count are made from finer threads, which allow more threads to fit in a square inch. Using fine threads tends to make the fabric softer and smoother, which is a pretty desirable feature in sheets. Here are some examples of what you'll get with a few different numbers:

  • 150 Thread Count: A rough fabric, such as muslin, that is more suitable for furniture covers than for bedding
  • 180 Thread Count: The low end of the measure for quality cotton sheets
  • 200 Thread Count: According to Linen Place, the number you want to see for better than average sheets
  • 400 Thread Count: Very soft sheets, but according to Consumer Reports, a 400 count alone doesn't necessarily guarantee the highest quality.

You can find sheets with much higher thread counts, including some with as high as 1,200. You may wonder how that many threads can even fit into a square inch of fabric. That's possible since you have 600 threads running vertical and 600 threads running horizontal. One way sheet manufacturers stretch the rules a bit is by using thread ply in their calculations.

Understanding Ply

Ply can be big factor that's responsible for the difference in sheet thread counts, even among sheets that are virtually identical. Ply refers to how many fibers are used to create each thread. For example, two or more threads can be twisted together to form a thicker and more luxurious thread. Some manufacturers consider each fiber as a separate thread, so a two-ply thread might be counted as two threads, while others would only count it as one thread. This can lead to what some consider quite inflated counts.

Selecting Your Sheets

It's important to take careful consideration when choosing your sheets for two reasons.

  • First, you will be sleeping on them about eight hours every night.
  • Second, if you're going for a high thread count, you're likely to spend quite a bit of money on them.

The best way to choose is not by looking at a product description or ranking sheets by the thread count, but instead to actually go into the store and touch the sheets. That way you'll know exactly how they feel against your skin. If you'd like to buy your sheets online, you should see if they have the same brand and type in a store near you. Otherwise, you could find yourself returning them a few days later or ending up dissatisfied with your purchase.

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Understanding Sheet Thread Count