Thread Count vs. Thread Quality: What Really Matters

bed with bedsheets and throw blanket on top

Does thread count actually matter when purchasing bed linen?

If you have ever shopped for bed sheets, you've probably taken the thread count into consideration when deciding on your purchase. For decades, a higher thread count has always been associated with higher-quality bed sheets. But is that actually the case?

At Southshore Fine Linens, we are proud to be a leader of quality crafted bedsheets for all your comfort needs. If you’re looking for the most comfortable sleep of your life, you won’t regret buying our high-quality fine linen sheets.

Today, we'll look at what thread count means and how it impacts the overall quality of your bed sheets. Read on to learn more about thread count vs. thread quality and what it means for getting a better night’s sleep between soft, quality bed sheets.

What is thread count, and why does it matter? 

Duvets, duvet covers, bed sheets, and pillowcases come in all sorts of materials, weaves, and of course, thread counts. But what exactly is a thread count, and why does it matter when you're shopping for bed sheets and bed sets?

A thread count, sometimes referred to as a horizontal thread count, refers to the number of thread fibers woven together in a single square inch of a piece of fabric. This magic number is calculated by counting the warp (or lengthwise threads) and then counting the weft (or with-wise threads). Once these two calculations are made, the numbers are added together to determine the final thread count.

Now that you have a thread count you're working with and you understand how that thread count was calculated, what does it mean for your next bedsheet purchase? Simply put, the number of fibers used in a single square inch of fabric will determine how durable and comfortable the fabric will be. This is where fiber material comes in. Some fibers are thinner and softer than other fibers and, when combined with thread count, will change how that fabric feels. For this reason, it's easy to see why a higher thread count might not always mean a softer bed sheet.

Use these factors to understand bed sheet quality

A high thread count duvet cover, comforter, or bedsheet is important when determining the quality of the material. However, even more so important is the type of material used in that bed sheet. Using natural fibers instead of synthetic fibers always offers a more comfortable feel. Natural fibers have the advantage of being softer, breathable, hypoallergenic, and durable. For this reason, thread count should almost always be the second factor considered when comparing different bed sheets. Let’s dive deeper into the different factors that determine a higher-quality bed sheet.

Know the Fibers In Your Bedsheets

The first factor to take into consideration when shopping for a quality bed sheet set is the fiber used. You'll find bed sheets made with both synthetic and natural materials. Some manufacturers also use a mixture of these materials as well.

Synthetic Fibers include nylon, polyester, and microfiber. They do not provide nearly as high a quality of bed sheets as natural fibers like cotton, bamboo, linen, and of course, silk.

A safe bet when shopping for high quality bed sheets is by shopping for cotton fibers. Cotton is the best fabric for sheets because it is natural, long-lasting, soft, and durable. Plus, because these fibers are natural, they are better for the environment. You won't have microscopic synthetic fibers leaching out of the fabric every time you wash it.

Understand Fabric Weave

The way a fiber is woven also impacts the feel and overall quality of the bed sheet. The most common weave you’ll find is a basic plain weave. This weave uses an equal number of vertical and horizontal yarns weaved together.

Moving up in quality is the percale weave, which offers a crisp and long-lasting effect. Percale weaves follow a one over, one under weave pattern, much like a plain weave, but this weave uses premium fibers with a true thread count of 225. The fabric weaves create a durable, crisp yet soft fabric.

The top tier Sateen weave features more vertical than horizontal weave, usually with a one yarn under, three or four yarns over pattern. This weave creates an extremely soft fabric that drapes nicely and has a very strong luster. However, this weave does have a higher tendency to pill and tear than a basic plain weave.

Because these higher-quality weaves typically require a special loom, they will undoubtedly cost more than your traditional plain weave bedsheet.

Fabric Finish and Dyes

You should also consider the type of fabric finish and dye that goes into your bed sheets, as this will also affect quality. Most bed sheets, especially ones made with synthetic or synthetic mixture fibers, will undergo chemical treatment. This treatment can include silicone,  chlorine, and even a formaldehyde rinse. This chemical finish keeps the bed sheet from losing its shape, wrinkling, or getting distorted overall. While these bed sheets might appear to have better quality, these chemicals might not be ideal for individuals who have sensitive skin or simply want to avoid chemical treatments altogether.

Higher-quality bed sheets made of natural materials will often ditch this chemical treatment altogether and undergo a pure finish instead. This type of finish ensures that all chemicals used during production are removed.

Fabric dye is also important to consider, as this will impact the feel of your bed sheets. Lower-quality bed sheets have dyes added after the yarn is woven together. More premium quality bed sheets will typically be made out of already dyed and treated yarns, helping to eliminate the dying step altogether.

Single Ply vs. Double Ply Thread Count

As the name implies, single-ply bed sheets will have a lower thread count than double-ply bed sheets. Single-ply bed sheets can offer a maximum thread count of 600, are often transparent, and might be an indication that a fabric is not the best quality (however, that is not always the case.)

Assuming that the material used is a natural fiber, single-ply bed sheets within the 400 to 600 range will have a soft, breathable, and lightweight feel to them. These are ideal bed sheets to sleep with during the warmer months.

Double-ply bed sheets, on the other hand, offer a durable construction that allows your sheets to last longer. In addition to being thicker, these sheets do a better job holding heat and also offer a premium feel, assuming that the bed sheets are made out of natural fibers.

What is considered a good thread count in sheets?

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There used to be a time when the higher the thread count, the more premium quality the bed sheets were considered. Today, that's not quite the case anymore.

The first thing you should consider when selecting premium quality bed sheets is the material used. Natural fibers, including bamboo, linen, cotton, and silk, will always be the standard when it comes to comfort, quality, and overall durability.

The material you select will almost always drive the recommended thread count simply because some natural fibers provide better quality when offered within a specific thread count range. Typically, you should aim for the following thread counts when considering these different types of natural fibers:

  • Cotton bed sheets: 300 - 600 thread count
  • Egyptian cotton bed sheets: 200 - 600 thread count
  • Bamboo bed sheets: 300 - 600 thread count
  • Linen bed sheets 100 - 200 thread count

As with a high thread count comforter and duvet, it’s equally important to consider the material used first before considering thread count.

Thread Count and the Softness and Durability of Sheets

Because thread count measures the number of threads per square inch of fabric, the higher the thread count, typically the more expensive the bed sheet will be. Be forewarned, however, just because a bedsheet is expensive does not necessarily mean it's higher quality.

Thread count has a direct impact on how soft and how durable your bed sheets will feel. For example, if a cotton fabric is packed with too many cotton fibers in one square inch, the material might feel stiffer rather than softer. This is especially the case if the fabric is double-ply.

However, because more fibers are used, the bed sheet can typically be a lot more durable than if fewer fibers were used. For this reason, it's best not to shop for overly excessive thread count bed sheets as this could mean a durable yet stiff-feeling fabric. Higher-quality bed sheets will also use premium weaves to help drive softness and durability.

Is a higher thread count always better for sheets?

With the many different fabric materials available these days, it's become a common marketing tactic for manufacturers to advertise higher thread count being synonymous with higher quality. Keep in mind, however, when it comes to bed sheets, quality will always override quantity. For this reason, a high thread count doesn’t matter most of the time.

Consider a bed sheet made of synthetic polyester advertising a 1,200 thread count. A cotton bed sheet with a 400 thread count will most certainly be more comfortable, softer, and undoubtedly more durable than a polyester bed sheet.

When shopping for materials, always consider the materials used first and then take into consideration the thread count.

Turn to Southshore Fine Linens for high-quality bed sheets

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At Southshore Fine Linens, we are proud to offer a luxury selection of premium-quality bed sheets for you and your family. Explore bed sheets, duvet covers, and other luxury bedding sets made of premium materials, including bamboo and cotton.

You deserve the best. Our new selection of high-quality thread-count duvet covers is perfect for any bed. Explore our inventory of other comforters, bed sheets, pillowcases, and more. Visit us online to learn more about our selection of fine linens, and fall in love with a bedding set that was designed to enhance your overall comfort.