How to Choose the Right Thread Count

This content was created by the National Sleep Foundation.

Don’t waste your money on inflated numbers—find out what those digits really mean.

When you’re shopping for sheets, it’s easy to believe that thread count is king—and that anything less than a 1,000 thread count will have you sleeping like a pauper. Yes, thread count does impact how your sheets feel and how they wear. But it’s hardly the only factor—or even the most important one. Plus, those numbers on the package may be inflated. Check out the real deal on thread count.

How It’s Measured.

Thread count (sometimes abbreviated “tc”) is a sum of the number of threads per inch both lengthwise and widthwise. For example, if there are 100 threads per inch horizontally and 100 lengthwise, the fabric will have a thread count of 200. 

Games Manufacturers Play.

Thread counts can range from 60 to 800 and above. If you see anything over 380, though, that's likely an inflated figure. Sometimes manufacturers pad their numbers by counting the “ply” (multiple threads twisted together to create a single thread). Independent tests have revealed that sheets claiming to have a thread count of 1,200 actually have as few as 416.

How High Should You Go?

Good quality sheets have a thread count between 200 and 400. But don’t forget that other factors can have at least as much of an impact on your sheets’ look, feel, and durability—such as the material or the length of the fiber. Sheets made from long-staple or long-fiber cotton are softer and pill less than shorter fibers. (Look for words like “Egyptian long-staple,” “Pima,” and “Supima” on the label). Adding polyester or a special coating may give sheets a sheen or help to keep them wrinkle-free.

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