Demystifying the High Thread Count Myth

When it comes to bed linens, thread count has become the buzz topic marketing professionals use to influence consumers. The notion that high thread count is better, softer and more luxurious has influenced many shoppers to insist it is the only way to go when purchasing sheets for the bedroom. However, practical information is spreading that demystifies this high thread count myth, revealing the fact that a large thread count does not necessarily translate into the best choice in bedding.

infant on white cotton bedsheetsConsumer studies show a significant number of shoppers have misinformation when it comes to determining sheet quality. The high thread count myth that promises the higher the number of threads the better the product is, in fact, a marketing ploy. Reality reveals that there are factors besides thread count that determines the quality and comfort of the sheets.

Understanding Thread Count

In order to comprehend the best way to select high quality sheets for the bedroom, it makes sense to know what thread count actually means. Thread count is the thread number—vertical and horizontal—found in a one-inch fabric square of the product. The thickness and ply of the threads used also play into the smoothness and softness of the material.

The Federal Trade Commission has even issued a warning to consumers, explaining that they could encounter deception and misleading information regarding sheet sets’ overstated thread counts.

Ply is where some thread count confusion lies. The number of threads entwined in a single thread make-up the ply. The two common types of ply found in most sheets are single-ply and two-ply fabrics. Single-ply fabrics use just one thread, while materials with two-ply consist of two threads entwined. The ply of the sheet fabric may mean the difference between a stated 250 and 500 thread count—with the 250 coming from single-ply and the larger 500 coming from two-ply.

However, counting the entwined two-ply yarn as double the thread count is misleading, as it does not mean the threads are finer, it just means they are more twisted together, which does not actual improve the texture and feel of the product. Some production companies even go as far as to use a four-ply technique to produce an outrageously high thread count that makes little difference in the quality of the sheets.

The Federal Trade Commission has even issued a warning to consumers, explaining that they could encounter deception and misleading information regarding sheet sets’ overstated thread counts. With a similar purpose, the National Textile Association has stated that the industry practice they accept is counting each single thread as one, whether the sheet are comprised of one-ply, two-ply or four-ply threads.

threadcount of white sheets on bedIf not thread count, what makes a great sheet?

Thread thickness and quality are some of the major factors determining the ultimate feel or hand of the bedding. Finer threads made of high quality strands typically create a soft, smooth and delicate sheet fabric. In fact, a 250 thread count sheet made of premium thread can be much more luxurious than a 500 count sheet with a lower quality thread.
Thread weave is another contributing factor. Some common weaves found in bed sheets include:

•    Flannel—Typically made of cotton, flannel has a soft, napped finish and is of a medium weight plain or twill woven fabric. Because of its warmth and softness, flannel is a good choice for cooler weather.

•    Jersey—This elastic material is a knitted fabric with a plain stitch and is ideal for every-day wear and draping techniques

•    Percale—Made from cotton that is combed and carded, percale is a plain, closely woven fabric that has a smooth, silky texture and feel.

•    Sateen—With one of the softest hands and a shiny appearance, sateen is made of a weave that provides more yarn surface on the cloth’s face.

It seems the ideal sheet selection may depend greatly on one’s personal preference much more than the thread count number. The type of weave and quality of thread as well as the ply work together to produce the sheet, so it may be a mistake to choose your bedding linens based on thread count alone.
Studies and consumer satisfaction reviews are proving that marketing ploys insisting on the importance of high thread count are not entirely based in truth. It is a better idea to test your own hand on a fabric to find the one that has the feel you desire and to seek out sheet sets made of higher quality threads.