Do you know how to choose Egyptian cotton bed sheets or linens based on thread count, weave, and other fabric specifications?Getting a great night’s sleep is down to so many factors, but once you’ve got the perfect mattress, the perfect surroundings and the perfect duvet and pillow combo, there’s just one thing left - the perfect bed sheets. Some will go with the colour, some with the brand and some with the feel. And some will go with the thread count - the higher the better surely?
But the savvy shopper knows that there is so much more to getting luxury-feeling bedding than picking the highest thread count for sheets you can find. Knowing the industry tricks and asking a few more questions - such as “What is the best bed sheet thread count?” and “Is a higher thread count better?” - is the best way to that sleep experience of your dreams. Read on to find out more:
Simply put, thread count is the number of threads woven horizontally (the weft) and vertically (the warp) into one square inch of fabric. It is a unit of textile measurement applied to sheets and other types of fabric such as shirts and shawls. A fabric’s marketed thread count for bedding is dependent on two variables - weave and ply
The actual thread count differs dependent on the type of weave, or pattern that is made when making the sheet. Percale and Sateen are both types of high-quality cotton, undoubtedly the best material to make soft and comfortable sheets from, but the way they are woven changes the thread count.
To create a yarn that can be woven, fibers of any given material have to be spun to create a single thread - similar to braiding hair.
If working with a strong, soft and durable fibre, a fibres can be twisted around each other to form a single ply. However, if a weaker or lower quality fibre is used, then two or three strands will be twisted together to form a single yarn that is strong enough to be woven… resulting in 2-or 3-ply. Fabrics produced from this yarn will be dense, heavy, hot to sleep under and often feel ‘scratchy’ on the skin.
Even if you overlook the lesser quality, which ply yarn is used plays an important part in thread count for bedding.
Many consumers believe a higher thread count automatically represents higher quality sheets. Why is that? Because theoretically, the more cotton threads a manufacturer can weave into one square inch of fabric, the finer each individual cotton thread must be. And finer cotton feels softer to the skin. In reality, you can only fit so many threads on a loom, so the marketers can’t pull the wool over your eyes surely? Let’s look at the math:
Let’s assume a high-quality sheet has 20 horizontal and 20 vertical threads:
20 x 20 = a thread count of 400.
This is at the upper limit of a thread count of a single ply sheet, but will produce a sheet that is crisp yet soft to touch, breathable and durable. It is unlikely to tear or pill and will get more comfy after each wash.
But I’m sure you have seen much higher thread counts for fitted sheets when you’ve been out shopping. How can than be? Ah, the trickery that is multi-ply….
Take another sheet of lower quality, as they had to twist two fibres together to make a thread durable and strong enough to weave…..It still has 20 threads each way, but because each thread has two strands, the marketers are allowed to include that in their calculation:
20 x 20 x 2 = 800 thread count
Just like that, the thread count has doubled, leading most consumers to assume it is of better quality……. Tempted by a 3 ply?....
20 x 20 x 3 = 1200 thread count
Seriously 1200? Impressive? Not really. These sheets are going to be hot, uncomfortable and likely to rip or tear.
Ok, 1200 is the upper limit of what you would see in the shops, but any thread count above 400 suggests they are not using a fiber with a quality high enough to be single ply. Even a 600 thread count is going to be at least double ply.
Although it is not possible, necessary or desirable to manipulate thread counts lower, there are a few things you should know about a sheet with a count below 180. These sheets are likely to made from muslin and be of low quality with little insulation and rough to the touch. Thread counts this low are normally seen in children's character or novelty bedding.
Imagine a cotton plant and you probably are thinking of cotton balls sat on a stick. You are not far from the truth, although those ‘balls’ are actually called ‘bolls’ and each one contains cotton fibers of different lengths or ‘staples’ that determine their quality and therefore use.
Short staple cotton is considered ‘traditional’ and is used in everyday fabrics - from denim to flannels - thanks to its strong, soft and durable nature.
Long staple cotton is the preferred fiber for bedding and towels as the staples get softer and silkier the longer they get. Once spun into a yarn, these fibers produce thread that has less joins in it and therefore feels soft and is stronger. You have probably heard about Egyptian cotton, considered the creme-de-la-creme of cottons, and it’s extra-long staple means it is indeed a superior material. But did you know that Pima and Supima are just as luxurious, but it is simply its geographical location that changes the name. Due to the difficulty in growing these cottons, they are highly sought after and purchasers should be sure they are getting the real deal before investing in products claiming to me made from them.
There is however one more long-staple worth mentioning. Hailing from Xinjiang, this cotton is hand-picked rather than mechanically, so the fibers remain undamaged when harvested, resulting in a stronger and smoother yarn.
Like many things in life - freshly baked bread or your favorite pair of jeans, bed sheets are only as good as the raw ingredient - in this case, the cotton. So what’s the perfect recipe for the best bed sheet in Hong Kong?
Material: Long Staple Cotton (for comfort and softness over time)
Ply: Single (for breathability and durability)
Weave: Sateen (crease-free and luxurious look and feel)
Thread Count : 400 (the sweet-stop between weight and insulation)
*Special Note: Avoid patterns - they are often used to disguise a cheap weave.
Everyone chases that 5-star hotel bedding experience and few manage it! So if you want to be ahead of the game, consider what those hotels choose: long staple Egyptian or Pima cotton, sateen or percale weave plain colored bedsheets and pillow cases with thread counts of 400.
Each element is chosen for a reason, to provide comfort, softness, lack of pilling, durability, breathability and coolness to the one person who matters - the customer. So why not follow their lead and make your bed’s customer happy night after night!