How to Buy Sheets by the Thread Count

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Consumers shopping for sheets may become confused or overwhelmed by the many terms and numbers included on bedsheet labels.Several factors determine bedding quality, including the thread count, fabric fiber and fabric weave. To ensure that you purchase high quality sheets, educate yourself regarding thread count before you buy.

  • Understand how thread count works before you make any purchasing decisions. Thread count numbers denote the number of threads running horizontally and vertically across each square inch of the fabric. According to Cotton Incorporated, thread count numbers can, unfortunately, be misleading. While thread count tells you how many thread strands cross each inch of fabric, the thread strands themselves may be of varying thicknesses. If a thread has a single strand, it is one-ply thread. If a thread has two strands, it is two-ply thread. Some manufacturers count two-ply thread as two strands for each thread in the thread count (effectively doubling a thread count number). Another factor is the thickness of the thread used to make the fabric. Thinner threads will create a higher thread count (and smoother fabric) and thicker threads will create a lower thread count (and a heavier fabric).

  • Look for sheets with a higher thread count to purchase higher quality sheets. Although the thread count number can be deceiving, sheets with a thread count between 180 and 220 are generally of reasonable quality. Sheets with thread counts of more than 300 are of superior quality.

  • Shop at stores that provide samples so you can feel the sheets before you purchase them. Many retailers now provide this option for consumers who want to feel the differences between thread counts and weaves before they purchase sheets. According to the University of Kentucky's Buying Sheets information page, differences in thread counts of more than 300 are undetectable by the average consumer (meaning that purchasing the more expensive sheets with a thread count of 600 is not necessary because you won't feel the difference between these sheets and less expensive 300-thread count sheets).

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