Understanding Thread Count

by Lisa Sturm July 02, 2018

Understanding Thread Count

Naturally, I like to feel confident that I’m getting top quality for the money I spend. Booking a hotel stay? Four stars or higher, please. Picking out a bottle of wine? They say the good stuff starts at $30. Upgrading the sheets on your bed? Look for a high thread count number, right? Actually, wrong. While I can’t vouch for the first two, the last one is just a huge misconception. Brilliant marketing execs have the general public trained to think that a higher thread count equals better quality and comfort. I’m here to tell you why that just simply isn’t true.

In the 1960’s, bed sheets with a 160 thread count were standard, and a thread count of 180 was considered luxury. Motivated by increased profits and fostered by loose regulation, competition between manufacturers has since driven thread counts higher and higher. Today, you see the shelves of the big box stores packed with sheets labeled to have thread counts of 800, 1200, even 1800(!), easily making thread count the biggest deception in the bedding industry.

So what’s the real story? Are sheets today really five-times better than the sheets that our parents grew up sleeping on, as the thread count would imply? Of course not. It’s nothing more than a case of “creative accounting” on the part of greedy manufacturers, invalidating the spirit of the thread count measure, and leaving uninformed consumers to waste their money on a misguided measure of quality. Let me explain further:

Thread count is the number of threads in a square inch of fabric. This is measured by adding together the number of horizontal threads and the number of vertical threads, so weaving 125 threads per inch one way with 125 threads per inch in the other direction would produce a 250 thread count sheet. So imagine squeezing 500 threads into one inch of length to weave a 1000 thread count. Sound impossible? That’s because it is. Instead, in a sneaky attempt to boost their numbers, some manufacturers began counting every single fiber making up each thread. A thread may be made up of four strands of fiber spun together; so what one manufacturer called a single thread, another manufacturer might call four threads, instantly quadrupling his thread count, while (of course) changing nothing about the quality of the fabric.

A few years back, through testing with an independent textile lab, Consumer Reports analyzed various bedding sets touting high thread counts and carrying hefty price tags. In one example, a $280 set of 1200 thread count queen sheets came out to have 416 threads per inch. The Federal Trade Commission has even gotten involved in this subject, and a class-action lawsuit was brought against Bed Bath and Beyond for falsely advertising high thread count sheets (Bed Bath and Beyond entered a settlement, providing refunds, discounts, and store credit to customers, without admitting any wrongdoing.) Source: Washington Post

So with everything you had ever thought to be true about the scale of bed sheet quality being one big lie, how is one to select the right sheets? Here are the simplest pointers that I can give you – things to trust: independent research studies from reputable sources, top quality raw materials, and products backed by strong reviews and a brand that guarantees your satisfaction; things not to trust: thread counts above 500 and the feel of the fabric right out of the box (or those little sample pieces of fabric clipped to the shelves in the sheet aisle of your local retailer).

Here’s what you should know when looking for sheets: when it comes to thread count, according to independent studies from various sources, 250 is the sweet spot for percale weave sheets and 400 is ideal for sateen sheets. But what’s most important is the quality of the raw material; extra-long staple cottons like Egyptian or Pima cotton (like our American-grown, guaranteed authentic, Supima) are best. Don’t ever base your purchasing decision on how the sheets feel at the store; this is because manufacturers often add silicone softeners (full of nasty chemicals) to make the material silky to the touch, but this washes out after the first few rounds of laundering. 

Bed Sheets: Fact and Fiction

Since the bedding industry isn’t likely to abandon the notion of thread count anytime soon, it’s important to understand its flaws and be informed on the true factors to rely on when looking for quality bedding. We’ve thoughtfully crafted our 250 thread count, with a cool and crisp percale weave, made from the world’s best cotton. It’s this perfect combination that gives our sheets just the right amount of comfort, softness, and durability. Give our sheets a try and we’re certain you won’t miss a single thread.




Lisa Sturm
Lisa Sturm

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