Q: When buying sheets, does thread count matter?
I need new bed linens and I'm confused about thread count. Does a higher thread count indicate higher-quality sheets?
A: Not necessarily. Our latest tests of 23 sets of queen-size sheets reconfirmed that higher thread count doesn't guarantee better sheets. Thread count is the number of vertical and horizontal thread per square inch, and some manufacturers boost their numbers by counting plies, or the very thin yarns that make up the thread. Review of Bed Sheets
Among 100-percent-cotton percale sheets in our tests, some had a thread count of 400, but the highest-rated sheet had a thread count of 280. For 100-percent-cotton sateen and twill-weave sets, the top-scoring sheet has a claimed thread count of 1,000, though some 300-thread-count sheets were better than 400- or 600-thread-count models.
The top sheets in our tests were strong, didn't shrink significantly, and fit all the mattress sizes stated on the package, even after they were washed and dried them five times. We also found that pima, Supima, Egyptian, and other long-fiber cottons are typically stronger and less likely to pill than other types of cotton.
Before you shop for new sheets, accurately measure the height of your mattress in at least two spots and away from the corners, and also measure a pad or topper. Look for sheets that are a couple of inches deeper than that measurement to allow for normal shrinkage.
Q: What is Egyptian Cotton?
I see many different types of cotton sheets advertised. What is Egyptian Cotton?
A: Like it's name, Egyptian Cotton is grown in Egypt. Bedding and other linens made from Egyptian cotton is some of the softest you can buy. Cottons grown in Egypt are long staple, long fiber, which always makes for a finer and softer cotton since they are one continuous fiber. Egyptian cotton is also a narrow fiber, small in diameter, which means more strands per square inch and a higher thread count.
Egyptian Cotton has all of the best qualities to create a soft and durable fabric which is light weight, yet stronger than regular cotton fiber. For the shopper, that means a lightweight, soft sheet, that will become softer with each laundering but durable enough to last for many years.
The great thing about Egyptian cotton is that with its burst in popularity, the prices have dropped dramatically. As you can see in the link to the left, Jessica Sanders 1200 Thread Count Sheets for $20+ dollars. You can't beat that price. Check for Egyptian Cotton and you'll never go wrong if you're searching for a soft sheet.
Other types of cotton include Supima Cotton, Combed Cotton, and Mercerized Cotton.
Q: What Should I Look for When Buying Sheets?
It's not just about thread count―learn what words are key when shopping for high-quality sheets.
A: High thread counts can certainly make for better sheets, but it's the thread that matters most. In fact, a sheet of a better-quality fiber with a lower thread count will feel softer and stand up to washing better than a sheet of a lower-quality fiber with a higher thread count. Besides thread count, here's what you pay for when you're buying sheets.
Cotton-polyester blend sheets are wrinkle-resistant, durable (polyester lasts longer than cotton), and relatively inexpensive (up to half the cost of all-cotton). But if you're looking for that cool, soft feel, nothing beats 100 percent cotton. You'll hardly ever wake up clammy on cotton sheets, since the fiber wicks moisture away from your skin. And cotton sheets are less likely to stain than polyester blends; a water-loving fiber, cotton releases dirt easily when wet.
All types of cotton share these wonderful traits, but long-staple (or long-fiber) cotton makes for a noticeably softer sheet, and the surface won't pill and lint like one woven from shorter fibers. The words "Egyptian long-staple," "pima," and "Supima" all denote high-quality long fibers.
The weave affects the way a sheet feels, the way it looks, its longevity, and its price. Basic plain weaves, which are woven from an equal number of vertical and horizontal yarns, are least expensive and may not rate a mention on the label. Percale is an upscale plain weave with a thread count of 180 or higher and is known for its longevity and crisp feel.
Sateen weaves have more vertical than horizontal yarns. The higher proportion of vertical threads results in an extremely soft fabric, but one that is more apt to pill and tear than a plain weave. Intricate weaves, such as jacquards and damasks feel textured, with a pattern alternating from satiny soft to coarser and nubby. They can be as durable as plain weaves, but they are made on special looms and are considerably more expensive.
Most sheets are treated with chemicals (including chlorine, formaldehyde, and silicon) to keep them from shrinking, losing their shape, and wrinkling. Some are treated with alkalis to produce a sheen.