When shopping for soft and comfy bed sheets, we often look to the thread count and take it as the leading indicator of the sheets’ quality. Moreover, it is believed by many of us that the higher the thread count is, the better the bedding products will be.
What is thread count? Is it the decisive factor of the sheets’ quality? And what is the best thread count? We will explain them one by one to help you buy sheets that suit you best.
What is thread count?
Thread count is the total number of horizontal threads (weft) and vertical threads (warp) that are woven together in a square inch of fabric—often bed sheets, pillowcases, towels, etc. It is calculated by adding together the numbers weft and warp threads within each square inch of the fabric. For instance, a 200 thread count cotton sheet usually has 100 weft threads and 100 warp threads per square inch.
Thread count, however, is also related to the ply of the fabric. Ply is the measure of the number of yarns(threads) twisted together in one thread. There are single-ply, two-ply and multi-ply yarns. Single-ply yarn is one long thread, which is strong and of high quality. Two-ply and multi-ply yarns refer to those made up of two, three or even more threads, which are, of course, of lower quality.
Therefore, when it comes to a single-ply fabric, we can simply add together the weft and warp threads like the 200 thread count cotton sheet mentioned above. But if the same sheet was made from three-ply yarns, the thread count would be tripled to 600.
Is thread count important for the quality of sheets?
Thread count measures how tightly woven or thick a fabric is, so it is used to indicate the softness and feel of a sheet. Generally, the higher the thread count is, the thinner and softer the fabric will be.
But this only works for single-ply cotton fabric. Non-cotton fibers such as polyester and linen are so thin that they can be made into thread count in the thousands without the same softness of a lower cotton thread count. Unfortunately, some manufactures are using multi-ply yarns made of cheaper cotton, polyester and linen fibers to inflate the thread count numbers of their products. That’s why we will occasionally see sheets tagged 900, 1000, 1800 or even a higher thread count. In this case, a 400-thread-count sheet may feel much softer than an 800-thread-count sheet.
So, compared to the thread count numbers, the quality of the fabric is more important.
What is the best thread count for sheets?
Although the fabric’s quality matters more than the thread count, we can still use the thread count as a rough guide when buying bed sheets. Giving that the fabric’s quality varies, there is no perfect thread count number but only ideal ranges for various quality sheets.
Generally, good bed sheets have a thread count ranging from 200 to 800. Any sheet with a thread count lower than 180 tends to be rough and not soft, so let’s keep the minimum number as 200. Any number higher than 800 is likely to be an inflated figure to make you pay more for what may be of lower quality.
Again, remember that thread count works the best in cotton fabrics such as Egyptian cotton, percale weave and sateen weave. Be wary of polyester and linen sheets of high thread counts
In conclusion, thread count is not the decisive indicator of the overall quality of the bed sheets. Several other factors are involved, including the type of fiber, the weave style of the fabric (like percale and sateen weave), the production process and so on. Therefore, try to make a comprehensive investigation before buying and make the best choice.