If you’ve always equated quality bedding with thread count, then you have been duped. According to prevailing wisdom, the higher the number the better and more luxurious the sheets. We have unquestioningly accepted this as a way of determining quality… if only it were true.
Textile expert Julian Tomchin told the New York Times “Once you get beyond 400 threads per square inch, be suspicious”. The reason is that there is a limit to how many threads can fit in a square inch, and that number is usually 400 or less. Fifty years ago, a sheet with thread count of 180 was considered luxury. So what to make of the 1000+ thread counts prevalent today?
First, let’s define thread count. It’s simple – it’s the number of vertical (warp) threads and horizontal (weft) threads in a square inch of fabric. Theoretically, a higher number should mean softer, better quality sheets. But many manufacturers use creative counting methods to give you sheets with up to 1200 thread count on the label.
This is done by using multi-ply threads. When manufacturers use poor quality, shorter and weaker fibres, they have to ply the strands together to give strength, resulting in a coarser, thicker thread. When two strands are twisted into a thread, it is called two-ply, when it’s three strands, it’s three-ply and so on. To get the high thread counts, some manufacturers count each strand within a plied thread as a separate thread. So a 1200 thread count sheet made from three-ply fabric should truthfully be labelled as 400 thread count. But as there is no industry standard or regulation covering this practice, it is buyer beware.
Additionally, although we refer to thread count as measured in a square inch of fabric, this can and does vary across countries and manufacturers making comparisons tricky. In Australia it is more common to measure thread count in a 10 sq cm of fabric. This is important because you can have two sheets with the same thread count, but depending on the method used, one could be labelled 300 thread count and the other 400.
So not only is much of the practice surrounding thread count misleading and deceptive, it serves no useful purpose anyway – because according to experts such as Choice, thread count contributes very little to the overall quality of a sheet. Tests by Consumer Reports in the US have confirmed that “a higher thread count doesn’t guarantee better sheets”.
Identifying quality sheets
What matters when choosing a quality set of sheets, is the quality of the fabric they are made from. Look for long-staple cottons such as combed cotton, Egyptian cotton or Pima cotton. Choose Percale sheets if you prefer a smooth and crisp feel, or Sateen sheets if you prefer softer and silkier sheets. Don’t rely on the feel in the store as manufacturers use enhancers which wash out quickly. Good quality sheets should feel better after every wash, and they won’t pill.
At The Good Sheet we only offer high quality fabrics – because we think a good sleep is the key to everything. Our cotton sheets will only get better and better – sleep on them for 60 nights and if you don’t love them, we’ll take them back.