For years, if you’ve been shopping for sheets, the insiders’ tip has been to look for the highest possible thread count if you want the best quality. But that’s not just an over-simplification. In fact, it’s inaccurate.
The thread-count number doesn’t reflect the quality of the sheets. The notion that high thread counts translate into higher quality began as an easy way for some manufacturers to present average-quality sheets as luxury.
Sheets have increasingly been promoted with thread counts of 500, 800, 1,000 or more. But the truth is that some of the highest thread-count sheets may in fact be inferior to sheets with thread counts of around 200. Thread-count numbers have no bearing on quality, softness or durability. And, thread counts can be inflated by manipulating the sheet-making process with a low-quality construction or thread. In fact, the quality of sheets depends more upon fiber and weave, and the caliber of the mill that produces them.
Most sheets are made from cotton or a cotton blend. What really makes a difference is the length of the fiber strand.
Longer fibers are stronger, and won’t begin to pill after a few washings. Egyptian cotton deserves its reputation as the ideal, as it consistently has a long fiber. Other fibers to look for are pima and supima, organic cotton, and cotton-poplin. Cotton-polyester blends can be softer-feeling than pure cotton.
After the length of fiber, the weave makes a big difference. The weave of your sheet affects everything about it: the way it looks, how it feels, how long it will last, and how much it costs. Different weaves have different features. A percale weave creates a crisper or cooler feel. A sateen weave is softer and warmer.
Raw material is part of what makes a quality product. How that raw material is made into the final product is equally important.
Mills which produce bedding can range greatly in quality. Some may cut corners to save money, either by starting with cheaper material, artificially manipulating thread count, using machines which are poorly-calibrated and produce inconsistent tension in the weave, or any of countless ways. A trustworthy mill will be choosy about their raw material, and produce a quality product.
When you’re looking for sheets that will feel great and last long, even after years of washing, don’t be distracted by simple thread-count numbers. The truth is that no one can tell the difference between a sheet with a thread-count of 200 and one with a count of 800. What you can feel is the difference between a well-made sheet and a poorly-made one. A mill with a good reputation, which truly cares about the quality of its work, will produce a better sheet, regardless of thread count. A sheet made with quality fiber and a good weave will be both soft and durable, standing up to years of washing while always feeling luxurious.
So, don’t be fooled by threat-count numbers when selecting linens. There are many factors that go into quality bedding. The best way to assure that you’re getting the best quality is to buy from a trusted, reputable source that seeks out and uses top-quality mills. It’s really not so complicated after all.