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 actually refer to?
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.
- 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.