Think a thread count of 1000 is the best? Think again. Thread counts are easy for manufacturers to inflate. In fact, misleading labels are common in the marketplace.
Here is a look at what to watch out for when it comes to thread counts for your sheets and duvet covers.
Big Retailers Do It
Even the ubiquitous Bed Bath & Beyond got caught inflating the thread count of their brand of sheets. The retailer ended up paying buyers in the New York area $2,5000 to settle a class action lawsuit.
The case started when a New York City resident bought BB&B’s own brand of cotton sheets, labeled with an 800 thread count. The sheets felt scratchy and looked poor quality when she got them home.
Determined to find out the quality of her sheets, she took them to a lab that does highly specialized forensic fabric testing. They discovered that the sheets were actually had a count of around 400 threads per square inch.
With this information in hand, she brought suit against the company, which decided to settle before it went to trial.
Higher thread counts have falsely come to mean higher quality. Consumers spend more for higher thread counts, enriching manufacturers but not benefiting the shopper.
Consumers have been fed the lie that the higher the thread count on a sheet, the better its quality. In a limited way, this has some truth. But there are numerous factors that determine overall quality, and thread count is just one.
Because shoppers have come to associate high thread count with high quality, they are willing to pay substantially more money for sheet sets labeled with 800 thread count, 1000 thread count and even more.
What Does Thread Count Really Mean?
Thread count is a technical term that gives the number of threads that are woven into each square inch of the fabric of the sheet. The vertical threads are called the warp and the horizontal the weft.
Additional threads are often added to the weft to increase the overall thread count. Called picks, these can raise the count over 1000.
Picks and Misleading Labels
But weavers say that no sheet has a count greater than 500 to 600 threads for every square inch. It simply isn’t possible. Since they are the ones who would know, it is safe to assume that 1000-count sheets are using false information on the label. Most likely they were inflated using picks.
Ply and Misleading Labels
Another way that sheet manufacturers inflate the thread count is by using the ply of the thread to double or quadruple the number.
The highest quality Egyptian sheets have extra long fibers that are called Extra-Long Staples, or ELS. These single-ply strands are extra fine, very durable and extremely soft.
However Egyptian cotton makes up just 4% of the world’s supply of cotton, so it is expensive. Sheet makers get around this fact by using lower quality short fibers from Egyptian cotton that are mixed and blended together to make longer strands.
The resulting thread is not as soft, as long lasting or as lustrous as the single ply, ELS cotton. But rather than make this clear on the label, the manufacturers falsify the information and charge higher prices.
For sheets using two-ply thread, they double the thread count. For sheets using four-ply, they quadruple it. This is not just misleading, it is outright lying to the consumer. You end up paying more for lower quality sheets.
Savvy consumers seek out Egyptian cotton for their bedding because it is softer, longer lasting and doesn’t pill easily. But it turns out that what you’ve been buying may actually be falsely labeled. Shoppers are angry at paying high-end prices for low-end sheets and duvet covers.
The problem isn’t just with fly-by-night distributors and manufacturers. Bed Bath & Beyond, the national retailer that also has its own labeled goods, recently settled with a New York woman. She bought expensive sheets from them labeled “800 Natural” that felt scratchy. She got suspicious and decided to do something about it.
Determined to find out the true quality of what she bought, she went had the fabric tested by lab that does textile forensics. Experts at the lab confirmed that the thread count wasn’t 800, but instead 408s.
In her class action suit, the shopper accused BB&B of doubling the thread count and the prices. They were making their sheets with two-ply cotton strands, magnifying it and marking 400 count sheets into 800 count.
The company settled out of court with her and other buyers of the 2-ply sheets, paying each one $2,500 refund or discount for sheets bought between 2000 and 2007.
What Is So Great About Egyptian Cotton?
The reason people are willing to pay more for sheets and duvet covers that are made with true Egyptian cotton is considered the gold standard for bedding. Sheets made with 100% Egyptian cotton are soft, strong, durable and don’t pill easily.
What this means is that real Egyptian cotton is more comfortable to sleep on, looks better and lasts longer. You pay more and you get more.
Confusing Threat Count
Businesses get around the labeling laws by laws by applying different thread count standards to their sheets and duvet covers. Makers in countries like China, Portugal, India and even Egypt are the usual culprits.
They will often use two- or four-ply threads. Then they inflate their thread counts on the label by saying they are correspondingly two- or four-times as high as they really are. This may seem like a minor bit of advertising hype, but the fact is, you can feel the difference.
True 100% Egyptian cotton sheets and duvet covers use a single ply of long yarn of pure cotton fiber. In fact, this is what you are paying extra for. The single ply and the greater length produces sheets that last longer and feel softer to your skin.
When a company exaggerates, you may think you are getting 1000 thread count, but more likely you are buying sheets that are 250 or 500 count. Thread count isn’t the main way to ensure quality, but it is important to understand the controversy so you can spot fakes.
The wording on labels can mislead you into thinking you are buying the highest quality cotton. That’s why it is important to read all the fine print.
Does the label say “feels like Egyptian cotton?” That means it isn’t. In fact it is probably a polyester blend, not cotton at all.
Does the word “ply” appear anywhere on the label? That’s another giveaway that the sheet has been made with short fibers that are threaded together to produce one long thread. The resulting fabric is much lower quality than real Egyptian cotton.
The very best sheets you can buy are both comfortable and durable. But spotting high quality can be hard. Deceptive labels are common, with the result that it is easy for a shopper to spend too much money on lower quality sheets.
Good sheets last years and are priced high. So spend your money wisely by following these guidelines for buying the best sheets.
#1. Choose 100% Egyptian Cotton
The softest, most durable sheets are made with 100% Egyptian cotton. Famous for its extra-long fibers, it can be spun into the strongest, finest yarns.
#2. Choose a thread count between 200 and 400.
Thread count refers to the number of strands in each square inch of fabric used in making the sheet. Extremely high counts like 1000 or more sound like they would be the best buy, but that isn’t the case. These are inflated by the manufacturers and, in fact, indicate a sheet that is lower quality.
The most strands that can be physically fitted on to the loom are about 600. This proves that the higher thread counts are suspect. They most likely indicate that the sheet was made from multi-ply cotton and has extra, unnecessary threads added into the horizontal weave.
Don’t be deceived by the false advertising and hype by sheet makers. The higher thread count isn’t worth the extra money. According to Consumer Reports, sheets with a count of 280 and 400 actually had the highest comfort levels in their tests.
#3. Check Out the Weave
Choose the type of weave used in the manufacture of your sheets that matches your preferences. The two most common are sateen and percale.
Do you like a silky finish to your sheets? Choose sateen with a feel that is both soft and lustrous. Do you like crisp sheets? In that case, you want to buy percale sheets, which have a slightly tighter weave. The feel is comparable to a cotton button-down shirt.
#4. Avoid Multi-Ply Cotton
Check the label of the sheets you are thinking of buying. Does it say multi-ply, two-ply or four-ply anywhere in the description. This is a giveaway to the savvy shopper that shorter strands of cotton have been blended together to produce the longer strand needed for the manufacturing process.
Multi-ply strands are the mark of a lower quality cotton. You will be paying more for less. Be sure that you buy 100% pure Egyptian cotton, which is made with extra-long, single strands. The result is a softer and stronger sheet.
#5. Do the Look and Feel Test
Take a close look at the sheets you want to buy. Actually touch them to get a realistic idea of what they will feel like on your bed.
Does it feel thick? If it feels thin, look for other sheets. You want to choose sheets that have a certain volume when you feel them.
Does it look lustrous? The best sheets have a natural sheen. If the sheets you are considering are dull looking, they are probably made with lower quality threads.
Is the stitching high quality? Don’t buy sheets that show signs of pin tucking around the edges. This means the manufacturer did not use superior methods of making them. These shortcuts will cause them to unravel and develop problems quickly.
It’s no longer a matter of top and bottom sheet, blankets and bedspread. Modern bedding choices give you a variety of choices and configurations. Many people are switching to duvet covers, sometimes called continental quilts.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of duvet covers and more traditional types of bedding.
Every kid who hates the chore of making her bed in the morning loves duvet covers. Just shake out the ridges and pull it up—voila, a perfectly made bed. Ease of use is one of the biggest selling points of duvet and duvet covers. Duvets are most often used over a bottom sheet, simplifying the process of changing, cleaning and making a bed.Duvet covers come in a range of patterns, colors and styles to suit any décor and budget. That means it is simple to buy two or three so you can rotate them. This adds to their lifespan and lets you update the look of your bedroom easily.
Duvet covers act much like pillowcases do for pillows. They protect the duvet itself from too much wear and tear. The duvet, which is stuffed with down, feathers or often synthetics for warmth, is big and cumbersome. But modern covers make it easy to slip the duvet into the casing without a struggle.
The duvet and its cover traps a person’s body warmth using bulky but light materials sewn between two layers of cloth. The fact that they keep a person warm without heaviness is another benefit.
Sheets and Blankets
The traditional way to put together a bed has four parts:
- a bottom sheet over the mattress
- a top sheet that covers the sleeper
- blankets over the top sheet for warmth
- a bedspread for decoration and added warmth
The big advantage is that you can add or subtract blankets according to the temperatures of the seasons. If you like to change the look of your bedroom, it is easy to switch out bedspreads to update your décor.
The downside is the complexity. Pulling off the sheets for washing means removing all your bedding. You need to take off the bedspread and blankets to get to the sheets in order to wash them. Making the bed each day is time consuming: smoothing the bottom sheet, then the top sheet, getting the creases out of the blankets and finally putting the bedspread in place. There are more pieces to clean: the sheets are done weekly, the blankets and bedspread at least once a year.
It can be hard to control the level of warmth with this traditional type of bedding. You need to add blankets in winter. Three or four can add too much weight for comfort. In summer, the blankets need to be removed and stored away.
Quilts are made by stitching two outer fabric layers over an inner layer of batting. The coverings are usually highly decorative, using a patchwork of fabrics arranged in an artistic way.
The big advantage of quilts is how attractive they are. Modern quilts come in geometric, cartoonish, whimsical and traditional looks. Heirloom quilts are often one-of-a-kind, rustic looking and expensive.
There are three main disadvantages with using quilts for your bed:
- they require the traditional setup of sheets, blankets and the quilt as bedspread.
- they can be difficult and expensive to clean properly.
- the design can’t be changed. To get a new look, you need a new quilt.
The level of warmth that a quilt provides depends on the material used for batting and how thick it is. As a rule you will need blankets in addition to the quilt in winter.
You’ve heard about personal identify theft. The new worry: cotton identity theft. In the last decade, the quantity of products labeled Egyptian cotton exceeded twice the actual production of the crop. Manufacturers and distributors are trying to fool shoppers into buying low-quality cotton instead of the superior Egyptian cotton.
Why the false claims? Money. Sheets and other textiles marked as Egyptian cotton cost more, earning business owners a much higher profit.
You can protect yourself: Check labels, feeling the sheets and even asking questions of the manufacturer.
Feel the Sheets and Duvet Covers
Feeling the sheets yourself is one of the best ways to spot products using low-end Egyptian cotton or even polyester blends. There are three things to check.
Stitching. Make sure that the sheets you are thinking of buying have quality stitches. Look for telltale signs of pin-tucking around edges. This means the maker has not done a proper job, instead using shortcuts. This will have a negative impact on the lifespan and the look of your sheets.
Thickness. Your sheets should feel thick. If it is made with long-fiber, 100% Egyptian cotton, it will have a higher thread count and have more volume to the touch. This is what makes them feel so comfortable.
Sheen. Real Egyptian cotton sheets are not dull. They have a sheen that indicates quality. Shorter fibers and lower quality cotton look somewhat faded.
Read the Label
Beside the feel, there are two main ways to check for true Egyptian cotton.
Cost. The first giveaway is price. When you see the term “Egyptian Cotton” on the package of sheets or the duvet cover, check the price. Is the price surprisingly low?
If that’s the case, then the sheets or duvet covers you are looking at probably are made from short fibers of Egyptian cotton. Instead, what you want are made with the superior long fiber cotton. The shorter the fiber, the rougher the material. It also pills easily and shows wear quickly.
“Ply.” To get high quality Egyptian cotton, look for the word ply on the label. If it says multiple-ply, two-ply or four-ply, you know that the product is made with short fibers.
If you still wonder if it is Egyptian cotton, call the manufacturer. Ask about the fiber length of the cotton in use. If they don’t know what you’re talking about, you can assume that the product uses low-end cotton. If they try to tell you that all Egyptian cotton is the same, don’t believe them.
Trust a representative that can explain the differences between in long fiber length and short fibers with multi-ply strands used to make sheets.