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The Truth About Thread Count

February 10, 2015

It is a common misconception that thread count is everything when it comes to the comfort and durability of sheets. But what consumers often don’t know is that a 250–350 thread count sheet may be just as good as an 800 thread count sheet if the right cotton is used. Below we’ll expose some truths to explain why.

Why More Threads Feel Softer

When thinner threads are used to make sheets, more threads can be woven tightly together. Thinner threads will feel softer to the touch than thick threads, which means that higher thread counts can mean more luxurious-feeling sheets. This is why thread count—the number of threads woven together in a square inch of sheet—is often touted as an important factor in sheet quality.

However, because of this, marketers of “high-end” bed sheets often put a great deal of emphasis on thread count because it’s an easy number to inflate—manufacturers have been using two-ply or even three-ply threads to artificially double and triple the actual thread count. What this means is that while you can technically have a 800-thread count sheet, it’s likely that it’s actually a 400-thread count sheet that uses two-ply threads.

These bloated thread counts means that not only are those sheets not necessarily the softest you can find, but that they also aren’t necessarily the most durable or comfortable, since thread count is only one factor in the quality of a set of sheets. Not so high-end anymore, huh?

Organic Matters, Not Thread Count

So how can you guarantee you’ll be getting the best sheets? What matters the most when it comes to the softness and durability of sheets is the kind of cotton being used, the weave of the sheets and the quality of the thread.

Organic cotton, in particular, is known for its luxurious softness without necessitating a higher-thread count. Like most organic materials, organic cotton is grown without chemicals, which can also help those with allergies and skin irritation. Organic cotton is also extremely soft and naturally less wrinkle-prone. Because of this, you can rest easy when it comes to organic sheets—a thread count of around 250–350 can feel like an 800 thread count sheet just because of the cotton itself.

Another factor to consider is the weave. Sateen-weave sheets are woven so that for every one thread that goes from top to bottom, four go left to right—in contrast, percale weaves are one-to-one. Sateen weaves create a directionality in the fabric that feel smoother to the touch, and they can be made very lightweight, which makes them perfect for those who tend to get hot at night. The smooth fabric is also very durable due to the satin weave structure.

When searching for the perfect sheets, it’s important to consider much more than thread count. Although some high thread count sheets can be outstanding quality, you can get amazing, soft sleep from a sheet that has a true thread count of 300 if it’s made from organic, high-quality cotton. Be sure to research the type of fabric, thread count and weave of sheets before making an investment for comfort.