Getting a great night’s sleep is down to so many factors, but once you’ve got the perfect mattress and pillow, there’s just one thing left - the perfect bed sheets! Many bedding shoppers mistakenly focus on thread count - the higher the better surely? But the savvy shopper knows that there is so much more to getting the best luxury bedding than picking the highest thread count 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:
What is thread count for bed sheets?
Simply put, bed sheet 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.
Are higher thread count bed sheets better?
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 and smoother to the skin.
So does that mean higher thread count bed sheets are actually better? It depends.
Knowing that consumers are looking at thread count as a guide to buying bed sheets, many bed sheet companies manipulate their bed sheets’ thread count. How do they do that?
What is a cotton fabric’s ply number mean?
A cotton fabric’s marketed thread count for bedding is dependent on one key variable - ply.
To create a yarn that can be woven, cotton fiber shave to be spun to create a single thread - similar to braiding hair.
If working with a strong, soft and durable cotton fiber, the cotton fiber can be twisted around to form a single ply. However, if a weaker or lower quality cotton fiber 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 cotton. Compared to bedding produced from 1-ply cotton, bedding produced from 2- or 3-ply cotton will be denser, heavier, hot to sleep under and will often feel ‘scratchy’ on the skin.
However, 2- or 3-ply cotton is often used, because this type of cotton is more affordable to purchase by a bedding company.
It also allows bed sheet brands and bedding stores to show an artificially high thread count on their bed sheets. We’ll show you how these bedding brands do this in the next section.
How does a cotton fabric’s ply number affect the thread count of my bed sheets?
Let’s assume one square inch of a high-quality bed sheet has 200 horizontal (the weft) and 200 vertical threads (the warp).
200 + 200 = a thread count of 400.
This is at the upper limit of a thread count of a single ply cotton fabric. It means the individual threads in the fabric are so fine and strong the fabric maker can weave 400 threads into one square inch. Such a high thread count cotton bed sheet will produce bedding 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? Because bedding brands are misleading you by using multi-ply cotton!
Take another bed sheet of lower quality 2-ply cotton, as they had to twist two fibres together to make a thread durable and strong enough to weave…..It still has 200 yarns each way, but because each yarns has two strands, the marketers are allowed to include that in their calculation:
(200 + 200) x 2 = 800 thread count
Just like that, the thread count has doubled, leading most consumers to assume it is of better quality. But it’s not! This bed sheet uses lower-quality cotton that will not feel as soft to the skin.
What about bed sheets spun from 3-ply cotton?
(200 + 200) x 3 = 1200 thread count
1200 thread count sheets sound impressive, don’t they? Impressive? Not really. These sheets are going to be hot, uncomfortable, dense, and likely to pill.
Although many stores advertise 600 thread count sheets, 800 thread count sheets, 1000 thread count sheets, and 1200 thread count sheets, now you know the truth about thread count. It’s not the actual thread count that matters. It’s the type of cotton that is used.
Any thread count above 400 thread count suggests they are not using a fiber with a quality high enough to be single ply. Even a 600 thread count bed sheet is likely using at least double ply cotton.
What types of cotton are used for bed sheets?
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 being readiliy available and affordable.
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 softer and is stronger. You have probably heard about Egyptian cotton, considered the creme-de-la-creme of cottons. Egyptian cotton is famous because much of the cotton grown in Egypt is long-staple cotton, so people equate Egyptian cotton with high quality bedding.
It’s true that a lot of Egyptian cotton is very special, but please note it is less about the country of origin, but the species type (in this case, long-staple cotton).Pima and Supima cotton are also long-staple cotton and also very soft and luxurious. Pima and Supima cotton are grown in the US and many customers like this cotton, too.
There are other locations in the world that product very high-quality long-staple cotton. One of our favorite fabric mills is located in Xinjiang. The average staple length of Xinjiang cotton is actually greater than Egyptian cotton, making for some of the softest, silkiest cotton fabrics in the entire world. The long-staple cotton from Xinjiang is hand-picked rather than by machine, so the fibers remain undamaged when harvested, resulting in a stronger and smoother yarn. Due to the difficulty in growing and picking Xinjiang long-staple cotton, this cotton is highly sought after and purchasers should be sure they are getting the real deal before investing in bedding products claiming to me made from them.
What about the weave of my cotton bed sheets?
A bed sheet’s weave, or pattern, many also affect the calculation of thread count. Percale and Sateen are both types of weave that are used with high-quality cotton, undoubtedly the best material to make soft and comfortable sheets from.
- Percale features a traditional weave pattern of one yarn over, one yarn under. This creates a uniform pattern that exposes the maximum surface area of the yarn on both sides producing sheets that are crisp, cool and matt in finish. They are lightweight, breathable, and durable -- a great choice for sleepers who are looking a bedding set on a budget.
- Sateen offers smooth and crease-free bedding. It gives sleepers a satin-like feel without being slippery and costly (like real satin). The sateen weave pattern is one yarn under, three yarns over or one yarn under, four yarns over, which maximises the visible threads on the top side and results in a material that is smooth to the touch with a sheen that radiates luxury - who would have thought cotton could shine? It also means that the reverse side is duller, so the sheets have a definite right and wrong side when making the bed. Sateen is more tightly woven so the resulting sheets may have a higher thread count for sheets. Sateen is the only weave that is used in luxury five-star hotels and has a finer hand feel than percale. It’s generally more expensive and feels softer to the touch. These luxurious-looking and durable sheets are perfect for anyone looking for the best luxury bedding experience.
- Satin is traditionally made from 100% silk, not cotton. Although it gives a very similar look and soft-to-the-touch feel as cotton sateen sheets, some sleepers complain the fabric is too slippery. Because satin is traditionally made from silk, it’s typically more costly than cotton sateen or percale.
So how to choose bed sheets and how do I buy the best bed sheets in Hong Kong?
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 spot for a fine, but strong threads)
- Special Note: Avoid patterns - they are often used to disguise a cheap weave.
If you want to turn your bedroom into a 5-star hotel experience, we definitely recommend all-white bed sheets, just like your favorite hotels. You may browse our Luxury Hotel Sheets for more information.
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 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!