A Guide to Understand the Thread Count Before You Buy a Bed Sheet

Guide to Understand the Thread Count before You Buy a Bed Sheet
What is the meaning of 'thread count'? Does thread count in bed sheets really make a difference? Which factors impact the softness of a bed sheet? This HomeQuicks post provides answers to these questions and explains what to look for when buying sheets.
HomeQuicks Staff
Last Updated: Apr 9, 2018
Did You Know?
Washing cotton sheets in hot water can cause significant shrinkage. Prompt removal of the sheets from the dryer helps minimize wrinkling.
A bedroom is a place where you relax after a long exhausting day. You deserve a restful night's sleep on a wonderfully comfortable bed. Good-quality bed linen assures you a sound sleep. There is nothing more relaxing than sliding into a bed laden with good-quality sheets. Deep restorative sleep relieves your stress, and you wake up naturally to a more energized day.

Usually, large numbers and luxury go hand in hand, for example, a 1500 CC car engine is more powerful than a 1150 CC engine, a 5-star hotel is more luxurious than a 3-star hotel. But this rule does not apply to thread count in bed sheets. People usually get caught up in the lure of high thread count. However, a higher thread count does not necessarily mean a better-quality fabric. While buying a sheet, you should focus more on yarn size, fiber quality, finishing, workmanship, and construction.
Thread Count Meaning
Bed Sheet Having Threads
➺ Thread count is the number of horizontal and vertical threads present in one square inch of a fabric. It tells you how closely woven the fabric is. Thread count does determine the quality of the sheet, but it is not the only factor that is to be taken into consideration while buying a bed sheet. While buying a sheet, look for a minimum of 200 thread count. From there, it's all about what you prefer.
➺ According to the thread count myth, a low thread count means a low-quality sheet. But this is not true. The labeling and thread count terminology in sheet shopping is often misleading. The FTC (The Federal Trade Commission) hasn't announced any specific rules about how to determine the thread count of a fabric. The threads are counted regardless of ply.
The studies conducted by the Good Housekeeping Research Institute have shown that seven out of eight sheets had exaggerated thread counts, often by three to five times the true number.
➺ The ply of the fabric indicates the number of threads that are wrapped together to form one single thread. Double-ply fabrics are made up of two pieces of thread twisted together. A thread count of 800 means either 400 double-ply threads or 800 single-ply threads. Four shorter yarns are combined to make a single longer quad ply yarn, thus making some 1200 thread count sheets a possible 300 thread count product.
Manufacturers are deceiving the consumers when they are using the term '1000 thread count sheets' without mentioning the type of construction, whether the sheet is made up of a double ply (or quad ply) construction. They are not forced to do this by the FTC.
Buying Guide
Quality of Yarn
If a cotton sheet with 200 thread count is made of very fine yarns, it will feel softer. It will be superior to a 400 thread count sheet made from poorer quality cotton of thicker yarns. Thus, apart from the thread count, softness of the sheet depends on the length and fineness of the yarn used. Finer threads allow for higher thread counts. Naturally, sheets made from finer threads are softer. The finest yarns offer more comfort and coolness, and so feel fantastic next to your skin.
Type of Cotton
The smoothness of the sheet depends on the type of fabric used. Cotton is used in a majority of sheets produced throughout the world. There exist different types of cotton, for example, standard, upland, organic, Egyptian, Pima, and Supima.
➺ Cotton grown in Egypt is called Egyptian cotton. It is the best cotton in the world. Usually, it is made of extra-long, strong, high-quality fibers. This highly absorbent cotton is known for its exceptional breathability.
Pima Bed Sheet
➺ Pima refers to extra long staple cotton grown in the U.S., Peru, Israel, and Australia. This type of cotton is light in color and requires less bleaching. It is long-lasting and a staple in large households.

➺ Supima is a trademarked name for products woven from 100% American Pima cotton. Supima cotton sheets are made of extra long staple cotton only.
Weave
Fabric weave also plays an important role in its finish and feel. A sheet can be woven in different ways. Each type of weave has its own benefits. Italian weavers are considered as the master weavers of the world.
Flannel bed sheet
➺ 'Flannel' comes with a napped finish on one or both sides and is used in cooler regions. It is known for its super-soft, cozy feel. With a twill weave, the sheets have a slightly raised surface. They look somewhat fluffy.
➺ Apart from the smooth finish, lightweight and closely woven 'percale' sheets are known for their crisp feel. Percale is tighter than standard weaves. These silk-like cotton sheets are suitable for hot and humid climates. They are firm and medium in weight.
➺ 'Muslin' sheets are less expensive than percale as they have lower thread count. Instead of buying stiff cotton-polyester blends, you may buy wrinkle-resistant cotton sheets. Natural fibers are more breathable than polyester.
Sateen Bed Sheet
➺ 'Sateen' gives you an exceptionally soft feel. This type of construction places most of the threads on the surface. The sheets come with a thread count of 300 or more, and tend to be smooth, lustrous, and luxurious. They are known for their satin-like finish. However, they can be somewhat less durable than a tighter weave.
Ply
As explained above, 'ply' refers to the number of yarns wrapped together in a single thread. Plying helps create thicker threads. The thickness of the thread is one of the factors that impact a sheet's feel and durability. Thicker yarns are used to make heavier but stronger sheets.
➺ Single-ply fabric sheets are thinner, lighter, and more delicate. They have an elegant drape.

➺ Sheets made of double-ply fabric are strong, durable, but relatively heavier.
Chemicals and Dyes
Those who are allergic to certain chemicals (chlorine, formaldehyde, silicon, and alkalies) or dyes may buy bed sheets that are not chemically treated (or if treated, the chemicals are removed before packaging).
Linen Bed Sheet
Although thread count and softness of the sheet are directly related, a high thread count alone cannot be a perfect indicator of a sheet's quality. Linen will always have a lower thread count than cotton, yet it's considered as the finest sheet fabric. If you're looking for a durable linen, pick any percale from thread count 200 to 800. Sheets with high thread count are naturally more expensive. Moreover, they are more difficult to launder because of their silkier finish.
These days, most retailers have some sheet samples in their stores. You can touch them before purchasing the sheet. You should consider only two factors: the way the sheets would look in your bedroom and how they feel against your skin. There is no need to rely on the manufacturer's statement on the label, about how the sheets feel. A sheet that feels soft, crisp, and smooth against your skin is the best sheet for you.