Thread count is probably one of the first things you think of when buying new bedding. But what even is it? Does it matter? If so, what’s the best thread count for sheets?
We answer these questions and more in our detailed look at thread count below. Read on to learn everything from what makes a good thread count number to what fabric weave can help you comfortably sleep when you’re hot.
What is Thread Count & Does it Matter?
Thread count is the total number of yarns woven into one square inch of fabric. Simply put, it measures how tightly the fabric is woven.
Thread count is measured by adding the number of vertical threads (warp) and horizontal threads (weft) within a specific area. For example, if a cotton sheet has 150 warp threads and 150 weft threads in each square inch of fabric, the thread count for the sheet is 300.
High thread count is often associated with high quality since the finer yarns are believed to make sheets softer and more durable. While thread count is an important factor, there are many other things to consider (more on this below).
What is a Good Thread Count?
According to bedding experts, good sheets generally have a thread count between 200 and 600, except for linen. But construction — the type of fabric and its weave — also makes a difference in the feel of the sheets.
For example, because linen is naturally thicker than cotton, the average thread count is between 80 and 140. Hence, thread count is often not listed on linen sheets since it’s not a helpful quality indicator. Some materials, like silk, microfiber, flannel, and jersey, aren’t even measured using thread count.
When it comes to weaves, you’ll typically opt for a percale or sateen weave. Percale is a simple grid-like weave that feels light and crisp. Quality percale sheets usually have a thread count of 180-200. Conversely, a sateen weave has a more tightly woven pattern and feels soft and smooth. The average-quality sateen sheet will have a thread count closer to 250-300.
With all that in mind, here are some general guidelines for what’s considered high-quality thread count for common fabric types:
Egyptian Cotton: 300-400
Percale Weave: 200-400
Sateen Weave: 300-600
Factors to Consider When Choosing Thread Count
Besides the actual thread count number, here are a few additional things to consider when buying sheets.
Preferred Sleeping Temperature - If you sleep hot or live in a warmer climate, look for cooling fabrics with a lower thread count, like bamboo and cotton. Percale sheets have a lower thread count because the plain weave has fewer threads in a square inch. This makes them lighter, cooler, and preferable for hot sleepers. If you sleep cold, consider a higher thread count or material like flannel that’s warm but breathable.
Durability and Longevity - Midrange thread counts (400 to 600) are usually more durable and soft. Percale sheets are also known for their longevity, while sateen sheets are more likely to pill or tear.
Budget and Value - Sheets with a high thread count are usually more expensive because they’re marketed as being of the utmost quality. But as we know now, that’s not always the case. Be wary of excessively high thread counts, like 900 or more, as it may be a disguise of the true quality of the sheets. Instead, opt for a thread count between 200-600. Choosing anything higher won’t likely make a difference beyond the price.
Personal Preferences and Sensitivities - If you have allergies or other sensitivities and preferences, choosing the right material for your sheets is more important than thread count. For example, organic cotton, wool, and microfiber all make good hypoallergenic options.
Top Tips for Choosing the Best Thread Count for Your Needs
Taking everything we just learned and compiling it, here are three tips to help you select the best thread count for your sheets.
Tip 1: While thread count can be a factor of quality, it’s important not to get so wrapped up in a number. Instead, decide if you want a percale or sateen weave, then stay within the ranges listed above.
Tip 2: The fiber content and construction are more important than arbitrary thread count numbers. Some popular materials, like microfiber and silk, aren’t even measured by thread count.
Tip 3:The only time thread count is the end-all-be-all when dealing with 100% cotton sheets with single-ply weaves. In this situation, a higher thread count could signify that smooth fine yards were used (not thicker, coarser strands).
Final Thoughts on Thread Counts
While there’s no clear rule on finding the best thread count for sheets, following the general guidelines above can help you find quality bedding and sleep better, and better sleep leads to better overall quality of life.
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Q: Is a higher thread count always better?
A: While a higher thread count can be an indicator of quality, other factors like the fiber content and construction of the sheets are just as important. As a good rule of thumb is to look for a thread count between 200-600. Anything higher likely won’t make too much of a difference in quality.
Q: What is the difference between percale and sateen sheets?
A: Percale sheets have a simple grid-like weave that feels light and crisp. Sateen sheets, on the other hand, have a more tightly woven pattern that feels soft and smooth.
Q: How can I tell if the thread count on a package is accurate?
A: Be wary of excessively high thread counts, like 900 or more. Anything above this number is unnecessary and often lower quality.
Q: What is the ideal thread count for hot sleepers?
A: For cooling cotton sheets, a 300-thread count may offer a good balance of breathability and softness.
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