Sheets – Conversation on Thread Counts

Last night while in the process of purchasing a new car, I got into a conversation regarding sheets and thread counts.

The gentleman I was speaking with said his wife was into sheets and getting the highest thread counts, and wanted to know if she was actually buying the best products available.

As I told him during our conversation, high thread count does not always correlate into quality sheets.

Basics on Thread Counts

When I started in this business over 30 years ago, thread counts did not exist.  Manufacturers over time developed this buzzword in order to sell more sheets.  In the beginning it was a legitimate factor to consider.

  • Muslin – 120 Thread Count
  • Standard Cotton – 180 Thread Count
  • Percale – 200 or Higher Thread Count

But as more quality cotton flooded the market, ie Egyptian Cotton, the threads were finer and therefore more could be woven into each square inch.  The spinning and milling technologies have improved over the years and therefore counts increased as well.

However, when the counts are above 500, it becomes suspect.  Usually very high thread counts generally entail the use of “plied” yarn – developed by twisting together gossamer-fine threads.  Some marketers will use this “plied” yarn to inflate the thread count of their products, ie, if they use 250 4-ply yarns in a square inch, they will market as a 1000 thread count.

According to the National Textile Association, which cites the standards issued by international group ASTM, each thread is to be counted as one, even if they are spun with two or three ply yarn.  So if a sheet is made using the 250 4-ply yarns in a square inch example, then the sheets are technically 250 thread count.  The Federal Trade Commission agrees and recently issued a warning that consumers “could be deceived or misled” by these inflated thread counts.

What I suggested to him, is that his wife should also look at the type of cotton used in the making of her sheets, and the country it was produced in, when making a decision on her purchase.

What other issues regarding sheets do you want to know about?


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