Thread Count 101

Thread Count 101

It’s a great time to talk about the thread count of your sheets. You may hear a lot of talk about thread count, but do you really know what that means?

Today on Ask The Designer, I want to dive into the sheets, so to speak, and really take a closer look at thread count. What that means for you, your comfort, and the longevity of your sheets. 

I have received several questions about sheets and thread count over the past few months. Which immediately takes me back to my college textile class. I think we spent an entire week just talking about sheets. We even toured a local weaving plant to see how they were made, along with other types of fabrics. I got to admit it was pretty cool to see that side of the industry. 

What does thread count refer too?

When you see a thread count on a package of sheets it refers to the number of horizontal and vertical threads per square inch. It is a good rule of thumb that the higher the thread count, the softer the sheet. Also a higher thread count will most likely wear well, wash well, and even soften over time. Industry standard states that “good” sheets range anywhere from 200 to 800. 

Astronomical thread counts of 1,000 counts don’t necessarily mean the sheets are better. Industry tricks to inflating the thread counts by
using multiple yarns twisted together, don’t actually improve the feel of the fabric and may even detract from its quality. 

Does higher thread count make your sheets softer?

Honestly, some of the highest-quality and softest sheets do use cotton. You may have seen them listed as Egyptian, Pima, and Supima. These particular brands utilize extra-long fibers known as long-staple fibers. Which are then spun into super fine, and very strong threads. 

Keep in mind that doesn’t mean that other types of cotton sheets are not nice, a lot of softness comes from the finish. A fabric that is finished nicely like a sateen, with a high thread count can be made of a non-certified cotton and still be considered very comfortable. I personally prefer sateen cotton sheets myself.

Fabric Finishes:

  • Sateen is cotton cloth made with a satin weave. This type of weave produces a very soft, silky almost lustrous feel.  They can be less durable than a tighter weave like a percale.
  • Percale is a very crisp, and durable plain weave. This fabric typically used for only sheets with a thread count of at least 180.  
  • Combed cotton has been combed in order to remove the majority of the short fibers. This leave the long ones, which will make a very strong, but soft fabric. Ideally you would want 300-400 thread count on this type of finish. 

Should I go with something other than cotton? 

Cotton jersey sheets tend to be economically priced and very breathable because they are more of knit rather than a woven. Durability is lower since the density of the weaver is lower, thus the thread count. Jersey sheets are basically made out of T-shirt fabric. So, while they are appealing to you if you like that cozy soft feeling.  The longevity for these are limited, since you are paying for them to feel previously worn. Satin Sheets are made with microfibers and polyester. While it makes them affordable and soft they will tend to sweat you at night.  They do resist pilling more than traditional polyester fabrics but are less breathable than cotton and aggravate sensitive skin. 

While neither of these options have the cool crispness of woven cotton. So, if you are a pillow flipper like me; that likes there pillows to be on the cool side all night long than you’re better off looking at an inexpensive cotton percale instead. My personal recommendation is to stick with a sheet based on comfort rather the ethic design or color. I only buy white sheets as a general rule. It is for the the same reasons I only buy white towels, they are bleach-able, replacement pieces are easy to find and they will match anything.  Also I always think they feel fresher and cleaner, simple because they are white. Oddly, I can not say that I feel the same way about sheets with a pattern or color.  
*Please note that this post may contain affiliate links for your convenience. These involve no extra cost to you, but may result in me receiving a small commission – for which I am very grateful! You can view my full advertising disclosure here.

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Here is a list of some of my favorite sheet sets and what you can find in my Linen Closet, on a regular basis to create the perfect super cozy, all white bed. The prices below are based on a King Size bed. Link over to the specific sites for more sizes, colors, and additional prices:  

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51 Comments

  1. Thread count always kept me confused..I found this article very helpful.

  2. I am so glad that your enjoyed it. I was hoping it would be beneficial to readers, I know I was always confused by it too. Then when I dug in a learned about I just want to share my information with others so it would not be so daunting.

  3. Farmhouse Fixer Upper

    Such a great post, I always have questions about thread count, it is such an elusive concept for me. LOL

  4. I had college textile class too! But forgot a little bit, thanks for the reminder!

  5. Ohhhhhhh I love this post and all the details. Imagine what difference little details could make 🙂

  6. I’m in the midst of upgrading my sheets and this was a really helpful guide. I was curious about the combed cotton and really appreciate you demystifying that one! Super informative Jen, thanks!

  7. Thank my friend I am so glad that you enjoyed it. I was happy to demystify the sub categories myself. LOL

  8. Thanks for the great info! I can never remember what kind of sheets I like and this will help me get what I actually want! 🙂

  9. Thanks for stopping by, I am glad to have been able to help out 🙂

  10. Thread count is so confusing! I’ve found sheets that said they had a high thread count but didn’t feel soft and silky to me. I just want soft yummy sheets!

  11. This is so informative! I had always thought the higher the thread count, the better the sheets. Your article definitely puts things into perspective. Sateen sheets are my go to because the are still easy to wash, but so silky feeling!

  12. I agree I love the softness of a high quality sateen finish sheet. 🙂

  13. I know exactly what you are talking about. While they are more durable they are not necessarily softer. It is the finish of the cotton that makes them softer, so a high thread count with a sateen finish will yield a softer sheet.

  14. My knowledge was zero in the thread count topic before, but now I feel like an expert. Thanks for sharing. Informative post.

  15. Wendy

    Love this post so much great information.

  16. Crosswords & Coffee

    12 great points that make styling a home easy, I have learned so much from this post. Thank you for sharing.

  17. Lizzy Duncan

    OMG, love this post! Something I have always wanted to know more about too! You are such a wealth of knowledge.

  18. Thanks Jennifer for stopping by our site too. We enjoyed reading this post a lot. Have always wondered about thread count, figured I need a secret decoder ring to understand it. Thanks for clearing it up for me.

  19. Kaitlyn @ Newspot

    Thank you for such a knowledgeable look at thread count. I know I am always confused when it comes to those numbers, all I know is I want soft sheets, ha ha ha.

  20. glenda.blavrov

    So informational, and good tips for sheet shopping. Great post.

  21. sunshine and daisies

    Tell me where to find the best sheets? I saw that your recommend Luxor brand in this post. Is that your favorite all time sheet selection? Just wondering, inquiring minds.

  22. Hi there, thanks for stopping by. I also really love Peacock Ally they are fantastic. If you are looking for something you can buy directly off the shelf the hotel brand are pretty nice too. Hope this helps you in your search for sheets.

  23. Very informative post, answers a lot of questions!

  24. Tracy @ Cleland Clan

    Many thanks for sharing with us, I always discover interesting things from your posts.

  25. Sand Deep

    Your blog looks very good. Contents of your blog is quite good.

  26. Mosster

    Скажите мне, где найти инструкцию по изготовлению листов из шерсти. Знаете ли вы об этом?

    Translation: Tell me where to find the instruction for how to make sheets from wool. Do you know of such a thing?

  27. I have no idea where you make find instruction on how to make sheets. I am sure the internet probably has a article about it.

    Translating to Russian: я понятия не имею, где вы наставляете инструкцию о том, как делать листы. Я уверен, что в Интернете, вероятно, есть статья об этом.

  28. Suzie Elmer

    This is such useful post. I have always wondered what the thread count verses the softness meant. You really cleared up a few incorrect ideas I had.

  29. Gabriella Ascher

    I did not know a lot about this before I stared reading and now I feel like a expert. Thank you for posting such useful information and building my confidence in this area.

  30. Liz

    I just learned so much about sheets and thread count. Your site is amazing! A fantastic resource for me I am subscribing and adding your to my reader too.

  31. Kelly

    Hi there, I learned so much from this post. I guess I never used to think about these things until I spent more time being, bed ridden and searching for comfort. Thanks for all the advice and tips.

  32. Kare.Dinning HT

    Good way of explaining, and a very pleasant article to obtain information concerning sheets, linens and the elusive thread count.

  33. Shawn @ Healthy Wealthy Skinny

    I would like to say this is a awesome blog post I learn a lot!

  34. The Marines Wife

    Can you forward this to the military, lol they really do not believe in the quality part of linens, lol. We just use a ton of fabric softener.

  35. Southern Sassyfrass

    This is a very handy post, especially with the holidays getting closer, I need to upgrade the guest room sheets especially after reading your last post on guest room tips. Those were great too!

  36. Amy @ Her Faith

    I was just buying new sheets for the winter, andI was looking at flannel for my boys. I remembered I had seen a post from you about this months ago so I circled back to re-read. Really great information here. Thanks!

  37. Vera Henda

    I have been looking for information about thread count for sometime, thank you so much for such an information packed post.

  38. Sarah Dean

    Great tips for purchasing sheets, which we will being here shortly.

  39. Lexi

    This was a very informational read and perfect with the nEw Year just around the corner.

  40. Brie

    You are right it is that time if year to stock up on sheet sets. Great tips and information.

  41. Sasha Kuilkowski

    Very interesting I really learned a lot about the thread count, which I have always wondered about.

  42. Ingrid

    So much wonderful information here, and I learned a lot about thread count and fabric content.

  43. Our Little Fox Hole

    Perfect post for restocking this time of year, and cleaning out the dreaded linen closets. Teehee

  44. The Delightful Farmhouse

    I really feel like I learn so much by reading this post, thank you for clearing the air.

  45. Elizabeth O.

    So much great information here about thread count and how to get the most out of your sheets.

  46. Veronica Estevez

    So much good information here I need to remember this as a reference guide later down the road.

  47. Addison Wheeler

    So much great information here and answered to questions that I have always wondered about. I love when you do posts like this one.

  48. gigi58

    I’ve always wanted to know more about thread count and how it really makes a difference this is fascinating.

  49. Seun

    These types of posts always interest me and I tend to learn so much that I had no idea about previously. Thank you so much for all the great information.

  50. Ellis

    So much information here, I have to say I learned so much, thank you.

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