Bedding Thread Counts Demystified
Read any high end hotel website and they’ll inevitably mention the thread count of their sheets and pillow cases. But does that mean they’re actually better?
The short answer is: it depends. On what? On your needs and preferences. However, considering that the average adult spends about a third of their life sleeping, comfort matters!
The following is a breakdown on what thread counts mean and why sometimes more IS better.
What is a Thread Count?
A thread count is a number that tells you how many threads have been woven into one square inch of fabric. The figure is arrived at by adding the vertical threads, known as warp, with the horizontal threads, known as weft threads.
For example: 200 warp threads plus 200 weft threads means you’re looking at 400 thread count bedding.
When you are shopping for sheets, they will always indicate the thread count on the packaging, along with the materials the sheets are made from.
When It Comes to Bed Sheets, What Determines the Quality?
The higher the thread count, the softer the fabric and the better it will wear over time. But you need to consider more than thread count when choosing your bedding: materials matter too.
Bedding is made from a variety of products these days including cotton, Egyptian cotton, polyester, microfibre and jersey cotton. Here are some of the differences to be aware of:
Cotton fabric is woven and is the most common fabric for bed sheets as it is durable and breathable. It gives that crisp, cool feel that many people enjoy, particularly when it comes to pillow cases and top sheets. Flip a jersey cotton covered pillow to get the ‘cool side’ and you’ll likely be disappointed!
Egyptian cotton is different in that the strands of fibre are longer and stronger than standard cotton, resulting in bed sheets that are softer and more durable. These are more expensive as the manufacturing process includes extra steps.
For example, the threads are put through a process called ‘carding’, which removes shorter threads, leaving behind the longer, stronger fibres that are desired for this weave.
Polyester is being used more, as manufacturing techniques can create a silken feel with this fibre.
However, the fabric isn’t nearly as breathable as cotton, which isn’t ideal if you prefer cool sheets. A cotton-polyester blend can be a good option as it is relatively wrinkle free and resistant to stretching and tearing.
Microfibre is a subset of polyester, in which very fine polyester fibres are woven to create a comfortable fabric; they pill less than standard polyester and are low maintenance.
Jersey cotton, otherwise known as t-shirt sheets, are a nice option in a cold climate, but as they are not a woven fabric in the same way as standard cotton, they too don’t have a lot of breathability.
There are also sheets made from linen, silk and even bamboo, but these are less common for the average household.
Focusing on woven products, such as cotton, Egyptian cotton and microfibre, the thread count is the next factor that makes a difference in the quality of your bed sheets.
A low-quality thread count will produce a lower quality bedding, in terms of how it feels to you.
For example, 150 thread count made from inexpensive short thread cotton will feel rougher, more like a piece of muslin, than a 400 thread count Egyptian cotton bed sheet, which will have a much softer, silkier feel.
Which Thread Count Should You Choose?
When buying a new set of bed sheets, you should definitely consider the fabric and the thread count in the context of your needs and preferences.
A low quality fibre with a high thread count won’t be better than a high quality fibre with a lower thread count.
A good quality thread count will range from 200 to 800; anything less will be much rougher against your skin and any more doesn’t necessarily yield a better sheet, but will yield a higher price point.
Caring for Bedding to Maximize Durability
If you’ve invested in some quality bedding, you’ll want it to last and remain in good condition.
Here are a few tips to ensure you can keep them for many sleeps:
- Wash bedding separately from other clothes: they need more room in the washer and can get snagged by zippers on pants and sweaters.
- Wash them weekly in warm, not hot, water to extend their life: this might seem counterintuitive but because of skin cells, dust, dirt and oils that we leave behind on bedding, a more frequent cleaning will help them last longer.
- Pre-treat any stains and avoid bleach if you don’t want to weaken the fabric fibres.
- To avoid wrinkling, don’t leave bed sheets and pillow cases sitting in the washer or dryer after their cycles are complete; a quick removal and folding will ensure they retain their crisp quality.
Of course, it’s no easier to fold a 1500 count fitted sheet than a 200 count one, but immediate folding and placing sets together will make it easier for you to find a complete set in the closet.
Whatever you choose, remember that with the amount of time we all spend sleeping, quality beds and bedding can make all the difference.