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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33 Comments

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

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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?

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

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

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

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

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

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

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

  17. 12 great points that make styling a home easy, I have learned so much from this post. Thank you for sharing.

  18. I apologize for off-topic, I’m considering about creating an instructive website as a student, about home design. Would you be interested in guest posting at some point on my site?

  19. 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.

  20. 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!

  21. 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!

  22. 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!

  23. 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.

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