Pillow Talk with Bob

Pillow Talk

by Bob Ianson

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Thread Count 411

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The truth about thread count

We are often asked for higher thread count sheets.  There is a BIG misconception in the marketplace around thread counts.  Ready for the truth?

Consumers have been led to believe that the higher the thread count the more likely it will wear better or soften more over time.  This is not the case.

Here is the 411 on thread count:

Thread count is a measure of how many threads, vertical and horizontal, there are in a square inch.  1000 thread count sheets have 1000 threads per square inch.  Trick question: what would be the difference between 1000 thread count and 400 thread count besides 600 threads?

The answer is breathability.  A tighter weave will mean a warmer sheet as air cannot easily get through the threads.  Thread count has nothing to do with the quality or durability of the fabric. 

In our experience, sheets that say they are 600+ thread count are usually either:

  1. A polyester blend sheet
  2. Fabric using a 2-ply or 3-ply thread
  3. Falsely labeled

Polyester Blends

Polyester is a man-made product and a by product of oil.  It is not breathable, but does not wrinkle as much as cotton does.  Polyester may be known as other names such as Microfibre (brushed polyester), Gel (type of polyester), or synthetic (man made fibre).  Now there is also nothing wrong with a polyester sheet or a polyester blend sheet.  They are fairly durable and wash very well repeatedly.

2-Ply or 3-Ply Thread

Some manufacturers get away with higher thread count fabrics, by taking two or three very thin threads and wrapping them around each other to create a single thread.  They will still count this as two or three threads even though they should be counted as one.  So now your 1000 thread count sheets are really a 500 in a 2-ply and your 900 thread count sheet is actually only a 300 thread count in a 3-ply.  But you, the consumer are lead to believe it is a “better quality” product.

Falsely Labeled

Manufacturers know that consumers will never be able to verify the accuracy of thread count, so they are will literally put anything on the package.  Higher thread count usually means more money.  To avoid false labeling avoid purchasing sheets from mass retailers.  They have so many products and cannot possibly monitor labeling.  

So now you ask us what thread count is best?

There is no “best” thread count.  You cannot compare a 400 thread count sheet you had before to any other 400 thread count sheet.  Durability and softness all come down to the type of material used, how the threads are spun, and the weave of the fabric.  We like to recommend a sheet between a 200-500 thread count for optimal breathability.  If you a hot sleeper, then we would recommend a 220 Cotton Percale sheet.  If you are a cooler sleeper, who needs some warmth, then we would recommend a 400-500 Thread count sheet.  

Wait a minute! What is percale?

Percale is a type of weave.  In the weaving process of percale, there is one thread over and one under.  This makes a durable weave called percale.  Percale is always a lower thread count.  These sheets have a crisper feel, almost like your grand-mothers old crunchy sheets, and they soften over time.

Sateen is another type of weave.  In the weaving process of sateen, there is a one thread over and two under.  This usually gives a softer feel to the sheet and a bit of a sheen.  Sateen’s are usually a 300+ thread count. 

Okay so what sheet do we look for?

Every individual is different in what they are looking for.  We always tell customers to check for two things:

Do you like the way it feels?

If the price seems to good to be true, then it probably is.