What is Bed Sheet Thread Count and Why Does It Matter?

folded blue sheets on a couch

When it comes to your bedroom, you want the best. The best sheets, the best mattress, the best pillows — they all matter! And while you’re probably used to thinking about materials and patterns when it comes to finding the perfect sheets, have you ever considered thread count?

If not, you may be missing out on a critical component of the sheets-shopping process. Thread count is a rating that is used when shopping for sheets.

In the sleep industry, thread count is the standard measurement of fabric density used to gauge the quality of sheets. It’s important to understand what thread count means, how it will affect your sheets, and what you can do to get the best sheets for your needs.

If you’ve ever shopped for sheets, you’ve probably heard that a higher thread count is better. That might sound counter-intuitive, but it’s true – in general, fabrics with a higher thread count will be softer, smoother, and more durable. Of course, a high thread count doesn’t guarantee luxury bedding, but the results can be incredible if you find the suitable fabric and weave.

What does thread count mean? Does it matter? If so, what is the best thread count for sheets? We’ll break down each of these topics and more.

Thread count is generally considered a key factor when it comes to determining the quality of sheets. This thread count guide will answer all critical questions and help you pick the proper bed sheets to suit your needs.

white bed sheet

Bed Sheets 101: Understanding Sheet Thread Counts 

Sheets are a deeply personal choice. Of course, you want them to be soft and breathable, but what makes a sheet good can also vary depending on your preferences.

Thread count is defined as the number of threads woven into a square inch of fabric. The fabric’s thread count indicates the number of threads (warp and weft) per inch or centimeter. You can use it to determine the quality and durability of sheets. A high thread count is desirable because the fabric is tightly woven. But there are limits to this! High thread counts can cause problems in the manufacturing process and lead to stiff sheets.

So if your set has an incredibly high thread count—like 1000 or above—you may want to pay a little more attention to how they feel before buying them!

While cotton is still the most popular fabric for sheets, you can also find sheets made of flannel,silk, rayon,satin, and polyester. The best material for you will depend on how much time you spend in bed and what kind of feel or aesthetic you’re looking for in bed.

There are plenty of options for picking out a set of sheets. Some people prefer high thread counts, while others like the softness and breathability of the cotton.

The first part of understanding sheet thread counts is understanding the fabrics they’re made of—and what those fabrics mean for your comfort.

Cotton is the most common material used in sheets, and it’s a popular choice because it’s soft, durable, and breathable. But improvements to the manufacturing process mean that other fabrics, like polyester, can be just as good as cotton at creating a soft, luxurious feel.

Other materials, like silk and linen, are also famous for bedsheets. However, they have their advantages and disadvantages compared to cotton.

Silk is incredibly luxurious and smooth, but it tends to slide around when you sleep on it. Silk is also more delicate than cotton, so it may not last as long.

Linen is very sturdy and durable, but it can take a little while to get used to sleeping on since it has a coarser texture than cotton or silk.

folded white sheets on a bed

High Thread Count Vs. Low Thread Count. 

When looking for sheets, the first thing to look at is the thread count. Thread count is the number of horizontal and vertical threads per square inch. It used to be that a higher thread count was associated with higher-quality bedding. But, these days, that isn’t always the case.

High Thread Count Sheets We Love

If you see a sheet set with a thread count over 600, it’s probably made of fibers that have been twisted together artificially, which can make them rougher and more likely to ball up or pill in the wash.

Thread count is one of those things people tend to think of as the be-all and end-all of sheet quality. But that’s not exactly true. The truth is, thread count was once a very accurate measure of sheet quality. A high thread count meant a higher quality thread, which meant higher-quality sheets.

Nowadays, most manufacturers use low-quality fiber for their sheets, but they double and triple the threads to reach high thread counts. A 200-thread count sheet from a century ago would have had better quality than a 1,000-thread count sheet today.

High thread counts can make for lower-quality sheets—the more threads you fit into a square inch of fabric, the thinner they have to be to fit, which means they’re less durable and more likely to tear or wear out over time.

Low Thread Count Sheets We Love

Remember, thread count measures the number of threads woven into one square inch of the fabric. It doesn’t mean the sheets are more robust or more durable, and it doesn’t even mean they will feel softer—it just means there are more threads per square inch, which can make for a denser weave.

The quality of your sheets is determined by the type of fiber used to create them. And while you may assume that higher thread counts automatically mean higher quality, you would be wrong. For example, if lower-quality fibers are used, they might be tightly woven together to achieve a higher thread count, but they will never feel as soft as sheets made from high-quality fibers with a lower thread count.

striped white sheets on a bed

When Does Thread Count Matter?

You hear a lot about thread count when you’re looking for bedding. And that’s a good thing—thread count is an essential metric for determining how comfortable your sheets will be.

For a long time, thread count was the factor that determined if sheets were good or not—but that’s not the case. There are some cases where thread count doesn’t matter, and you should ignore it.

The only time thread count matters for high-quality sheets is for 100% cotton, single ply weaves. It’s an essential measurement for fabrics made from 100% cotton and single-ply yarn because it indicates the density and strength of that material. For instance, a 200 thread count fabric will be lighter, softer, and more porous than a 400 thread count.

Otherwise, thread count can be a misleading industry gimmick that makes you think your sheets will be softer than they are. Here’s when you should ignore thread count.

First, ignore the thread count of multiple-ply yarns. These are made of multiple threads twisted together, making them thicker than single-ply yarns.

Next is polyester or blends. You can still get some great sheets with polyester and combinations, but the thread count won’t give you an insight into how nice they’ll feel or perform.

And finally, flannel and knit fabrics. These sheets have a different weave that doesn’t allow high thread counts anyway.

Thread count doesn’t matter at all with these materials!

gray bed sheets and pillows

The Benefits of High Thread Count 

It’s not a perfect way to measure quality, but thread count does give you an idea about how the sheets will feel against your skin.

A bed sheet set with a higher thread count will feel better against your skin, and this is the primary reason most people seek out higher-thread-count sheets.

The idea behind higher thread counts is that there will be fewer gaps between each piece of thread, which means your sheets will feel smoother and softer on your skin. This usually is true.

Generally speaking, you can expect a sheet set with a thread count of 200 to be less comfortable than a set with a thread count of 400. The difference will be more noticeable if the fabric is cotton

In general, sheets with a thread count of 200-600 are considered excellent. However, if you go any higher than that, you may encounter problems. Some manufacturers take advantage of the fact that people assume a high thread count equals high quality to produce sheets that feel soft on the outside but have lower-quality materials inside.

It’s important to note that the thread count listed on the package does not necessarily indicate the quality of materials used when shopping for sheets.

High-quality linens may have a lower thread count than cheap synthetic blends—that’s because other factors affect how soft and durable a sheet will be. And there are also ways to cheat when it comes to calculating thread count, so don’t assume that just because a sheet set has a high number printed on its packaging, it must be high quality.

white folded sheets in front of a blue background

The Risks of High Thread Count 

We’ve all been there before: you’re shopping for your new perfect sheets, and you see them. The 800-thread-count sheets look like a dream come true. But beware! You might not be getting what you think you are.

It may be tempting to opt for a set with an extremely high thread count when buying sheets, thinking that the higher the number, the better. But in reality, this isn’t always the case.

Indeed, thread count can significantly impact the feel and performance. However, when it comes to sheets, higher isn’t always better—at least when it comes to thread count. And while the consensus is that a high thread count means a better product, the truth is a little more complicated.

Low Thread Count Sheets We Love 

A high thread count of 300 to 600 usually indicates a higher quality fabric. However, there are some caveats to this rule. First, excessive thread counts (800 – 1000) likely won’t change much.

The problem is that thread count isn’t a good indication of quality on its own because the length and thickness of each thread matters as much as—if not more than—the number itself.

Many sheet manufacturers inflate their thread counts through ‘plying,’ or double- or triple-counting each fiber in the fabric. This means that a 300-thread count sheet that’s made with single-ply fibers could be of higher quality than a 900-thread count sheet that’s made with double-ply threads.

close up image of red satin sheets

What Is The Best Thread Count for Different Sheet Materials? 

Quality bedding can be found at many different price points, but there are specific standards to look for to ensure you’re getting a good value. A minimum standard is a 200 thread count, but that is just the most basic level of quality. Many people prefer sheets with a higher thread count because they are softer and more comfortable.

Sheet thread count affects the feel of sheets, their durability, and their ability to wick away moisture from your body. And the type of fabric also makes a difference in softness and durability.

If you are looking for sheets made from cotton, you want at least a 300 thread count.

If you’re looking for an inexpensive, breathable fabric with a crisp feel, percale sheets are the way to go. Percale has a tight weave that’s durable and lightweight-it’s 100% cotton that feels cool and crisp, even on hot nights.

Opt for sateen weave sheets for a soft feel with a bit more body than percale has to offer. Sateen sheets often considered more luxurious because of their tight weave, can have an average thread count of 250 to 300.

Flannel sheets are fuzzy and soft, with a brushed texture that makes them incredibly cozy in cold weather. They’re typically made from 100% cotton fiber that’s been combed before it’s spun into yarn; this process removes short fibers to make the cloth softer and smoother. With these sheets, thread count is less relevant.

The best way to find a high-quality sheet is to test it out. For example, sateen sheets are often considered smoother than percale because they are tighter weave. But there’s no single number that makes one sheet higher in quality than another. So instead, it’s essential to feel the sheets yourself and decide which ones are most comfortable for you.

According to the sleep foundation, the best thread counts are as follows: “Cotton: 200-400, Egyptian Cotton: 300-400, Percale Weave: 200-400, Sateen Weave: 300-600, and Bamboo: 300-500.”

blue and white folded sheets

What Is Essential When Buying Sheets?

When shopping for bedding, it’s easy to focus on thread count. And why not? The number of threads woven per square inch is an excellent way to gauge how soft your sheets will feel once you’ve washed and dried them. But other factors affect the quality of sheets, like fiber content and weave.

Generally, cotton is the most-loved fabric, and for a good reason—it’s soft, durable, and breathes well. But what you’re looking for when choosing sheets is an excellent “hand”—a soft and luxurious weave that feels like a dream on your skin.

In that case, you might consider a fabric blend like cotton/polyester or cotton/viscose. These fabrics have been pre-treated with a wrinkle-free finish to give you the benefits of natural cotton without the need to iron your sheets every week. 

If you’d like the benefits of natural cotton but don’t love the idea of ironing your sheets every week, you might choose a fabric that has been pre-treated with a wrinkle-free finish. If you select an actual 100% cotton sheet set, they will wrinkle as washed and dried.

If you’re looking for something even softer than 100% cotton but don’t mind wrinkling, you might choose linen or silk, or silk/cotton. These fabrics are usually more expensive than your standard sheet set, but their softness makes them worth the investment if you want to treat yourself!

If you’re looking for crispness, think about percale. This smooth weave offers an excellent, matte finish and good breathability. The threads, made of cotton or cotton-polyester blends, are woven closely together, with one thread over and one thread under tightly. A higher thread count percale has more threads woven into each square inch of fabric, resulting in a softer feel.

No matter which type of fabric you choose, there are plenty of options to fit your needs!

High Thread Count Sheets We Love

Is a Higher Thread Count Better?

Higher thread count sheets are just better, right? They feel better and last longer, so why not get the best and most expensive? Well, you could do that, but often it’s not necessary. Sometimes, you can get more for less.

Thread counts are often inflated — as a means of exaggerating quality in marketing — and there’s no industry-wide standard for making those calculations, so it’s hard to be sure what you’re getting.

So, in many cases, a higher thread count doesn’t mean better. As you can see, it is not a simple yes or no answer. When it comes to thread count, finding the right count and weave is essential when it comes to finding the perfect set of sheets for your bed. Doing your research is necessary and testing out the feel of the sheet will guarantee that it’s exactly what you want and need.

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