Having a hard time deciding what sheets to buy?  Ever thought about what is a high thread count for sheets?  We’ve all heard the saying – ‘The higher the thread count, the nicer the set of sheets.’  But is this really the case?

For as long as we can remember, we’ve been trained to believe that a higher-numbered thread count equates to a more luxurious and comfortable night’s sleep.  But the reality is that most of us don’t know much about the fabric we sleep on and whether it’s possible to differentiate a good set of sheets from a set of bad ones. 

Generally, a higher thread count is considered to represent higher quality bedding. But there are actually a few other factors that need to be considered, especially because many manufacturers use savvy ways to market their sheets to customers without divulging the truth behind it all.

What is thread count?

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.

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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.

But a high thread count by itself can be misleading. Many companies are using artificially high thread counts as a marketing trap to sell their low-quality sheets.  So, let’s break it down for you...

Does thread count really matter?

Yes and No.

A higher thread count doesn’t always mean finer cotton. In fact, a thread count that is higher than 400 can be a sign of coarser cotton and poorer quality sheets. How is that possible? Because many brands don’t use finer cotton to obtain high thread counts. Instead these companies will twist cheaper and shorter cotton threads together to create 2-ply or 3-ply threads, which can create an artificially high thread count, but a poor-quality fabric. These multiple-ply yarns result in a denser, heavier, and less breathable fabric.

That's why many brands never reveal the ply number when you're shopping.  Cheap, coarse, multi-ply threads are woven together to produce an inflated thread count will result in a scratchier, itchier, less comfortable bedding. 

So next time you shop for the best cotton sheets, make sure to ask the ply number. If a brand uses 1-ply superfine yarn, a true thread count ranging from 250 to 400 will offer a comfortable sleep experience.

Just remember -- be suspicious of any thread counts above 400!

Why do luxury brands use long staple cotton?

Of course, there is another way to ensure higher quality bedding: make sure your sheets are made from long staple cotton. Also known as Gossypium barbadense, long staple cotton is used almost exclusively in luxury bedding due to its rarity and high cost. Whereas regular cotton uses shorter fibers with exposed ends, long staple cotton uses longer fibers with fewer exposed ends which means the threads are not only smoother, but 4x stronger and softer than regular cotton.

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Using long staple cotton in a 1-ply thread results in finer cotton, which means sheets that won't pill or wear thin, and will only get softer with every wash.

So, when shopping your next set of sheets, be sure to read the labels carefully and don’t be distracted by deceptive marketing tactics. Look for a company that has nothing to hide and will disclose the fiber type (long-staple cotton) and ply number (1-ply), and you’ll quickly be on your way to sweet dreams.