Interpreting bedding lingo can be a challenge for even the most seasoned shoppers, but it is a necessary component of comparing your choices and picking the best option for you.
Thread count is one of the most common terms you will come across if you’re in the market for new sheets. This measurement indicates how many threads run through a square inch of the material. A higher thread count is often associated with superior quality and a softer feel, but it’s a little more complicated than just choosing the highest number.
To help you understand thread count, we’ll break down what it means and how you can use this information to choose the best sheets for you.
What Is Thread Count?
Thread count is a unit of textile measurement that indicates the number of threads in one square inch of the fabric. The thread count is calculated by adding the vertical (warp) and horizontal (weft) threads in a small area of the fabric. Thread counts typically range from 200 to 800, though they can be higher or lower.
While thread count can often be used to estimate a product’s durability and feel, some manufacturers artificially inflate this number by using special techniques, such as twisting thinner individual yarns together. They do this to make their product appear higher quality than it is. Therefore, shoppers must also consider other factors to analyze the feel and quality of bedding.
How to Choose the Best Thread Count for Sheets
Many quality sheets have thread counts between 200 and 800. Generally speaking, fabrics with a thread count below 200 may feel rougher and less comfortable.
That said, thread count varies between sheet sets, and there is no perfect number. Additionally, the ideal thread count depends partially on the materials and weave, as some need a higher or lower thread count to achieve the same level of softness or quality.
As a guideline, here are some common materials and weaves along with generally accepted ranges for their optimal thread counts:
- Cotton: 200-400
- Egyptian Cotton: 300-400
- Pima Cotton: 200-400
- Rayon or Viscose From Bamboo: 300-500
- Linen: 80-140*
- Percale Weave: 200-400
- Sateen Weave: 300-600
*While thread count may appear low for linen sheets, it is not reflective of poor quality since linen fibers are thicker. Linen can also be measured in grams per square meter (GSM).
Not all materials regularly use thread count as a unit of measurement. However, similar to thread count, these numbers may not always be the best way to predict the quality or feel of a product, so it is crucial to consider multiple factors when assessing the fabric.
- Microfiber: 90-120 GSM
- Flannel: 170 GSM or more
- Jersey: Around 150 GSM
- Linen: 170-190 GSM
- Silk: 17-22 momme (pounds per 45 inches by 100 yards)
Is a Higher Thread Count Better?
People often assume that a higher thread count equates to better fabric, but this is not always the case. Manufacturers can manipulate thread counts to make sheets appear higher quality.
One common way that manufacturers exaggerate thread counts is by using double- or triple-ply threads, which technically contain more fibers and can be counted two or three times. However, these threads are often lower quality than their advertised thread counts imply.
Shoppers should generally investigate a sheet set further if it is purported to have a thread count above 900. While there are some truly high-quality options in this range, many affordably priced sets with extremely high thread counts inflate their numbers for marketing purposes.
Other Factors to Consider
Alongside thread count, several other key criteria can help you determine the quality of bedding.
Quality of Materials
High-quality materials often result in soft, durable, and breathable sheets. To determine the quality of the materials, shoppers may want to consider the type of fibers, the weave, and the staple length.
Reputable certifications, such as GREENGUARD Gold, CertiPUR-US, GOTS, and OEKO-TEX, can also be indications of quality since they verify the product has passed independent standards tests.
While personal opinions may vary, looking at previous customer reviews and shopping guides can help you assess the quality, feel, and overall performance of sheets. Reading through the manufacturer’s website can also give you insight into how its bedding is produced, though it is important to take marketing claims with a grain of salt.