So, you think you know about Thread Count? The higher the number, the higher the quality, right?! WRONG, totally wrong. Even though Lil Dicky said, “low thread, hard with the covers” if you go too high with the thread count, your covers are still going to hard. Thread count is more of a personal preference than a way to be able to tell the quality of a sheet. There are other components that go into determining the quality of the sheet. I have seen a fantastic 400 TC (thread count) that is smooth as butter and magical. I have also seen a 400 TC that felt like cardboard. Let’s dive into why that is.
First, let’s make sure you fully understand what thread count is. Thread count is the number of threads woven into a square inch of fabric. So, if I pack 1000 threads into an inch, what makes you think that will make it softer and luxurious? Makes no sense, right?
What Else Matters?
There are a few components that will be important to understand before you can determine if the sheet is right for you.
1. Fiber Quality
3. Thread Count (notice how this is number 3 in the list)
I can really do a deep dive with fiber quality, but I will do a surface level doggie paddle for now just to give you an idea. Cotton is the OG of sheet fibers. Tried, true and loved for a long time. Cotton makes a reliable, fantastic sheet, but not all cotton is made the same.
Cotton that is grown in Egypt near the Nile River Valley is known as Egyptian Cotton. The textile industry and consumers love some Egyptian Cotton. Sounds exotic and nice right? What makes it so great is the fact that it is a long staple cotton. That means the cotton is strong and soft and fibers are longer than your traditional cotton. But guess what? Cotton grown in India is also long staple and the quality is equally as great. I feel a bit of cotton discrimination, don’t you?
Pima or Supima Cotton
Pima cotton is named after a Native American tribe with the same name. Pima is typically grown in the United States and in South America. It is considered a high-quality cotton that is… you’ll never guess… long staple!
Supima Cotton was made because a group of people felt that Pima was not specific enough and there was money to be made with a more defined brand. Supima literally means Superior Pima. What makes it so superior? Well-being 100% American of course… and being grown by certified farmers who are allowed to call their product superior. In the end, when you buy a Supima Cotton sheet, you might feel good about buying cotton made in America, but I can bet you a good deal of money that the sheet is still being manufactured in another country (India, China, etc.) and all you are really doing is paying for the trademarked branding behind Supima.
In recent years, manufacturers have explored cotton alternatives and a lot of retailers refer to these as specialty fibers. They tend to be pricier than your average cotton sheet as the fibers themselves are costlier.
Modal is a type of semi-synthetic cellulose fiber often made from beech trees. It is considered a type of rayon and was once referred to as “artificial silk”. It feels like silk, hence the mean nickname. It is very smooth, soft and breathable. You probably have a couple of modal shirts or pajamas in your closet you didn’t realize were modal, you just bought them because they were super soft. Modal is resistant to shrinkage and is less likely to pill or fade than cotton.
Tencel is a branded type of lyocell fabric. It is made from wood cellulose from eucalyptus trees and feels similar to modal and bamboo. It is known to be a very sustainable fabric. Tencel overall has fewer wrinkles and is a bit easier to care for. Since it is a breathable fabric, it is also cooler just by its own nature. But essentially you could say that about cotton and modal too.
Microfiber / Polyester
Microfiber is a cool name for polyester sheets, the names are typically interchangeable. Polyester is a man-made fiber and is a great economical fabric for sheets on a budget. They are less breathable than all of the other fibers here and are not the best choice for sensitive skin. I once slept on a polyester sheet and woke up in a puddle of sweat… no bueno. If you are in a financial strain or just want to cover your mattress with a tarp then sure, buy the microfiber sheets. But if you can spend that extra $10, just don’t … don’t do it… just trust me on this one.
The way a fabric is woven is a major component of how the sheet will feel. A percale 400 TC versus a sateen 400 TC will have a different feel even though the thread count is the same.
A sateen weave is woven four threads over one thread. Sateen has more of a silkier feel and has a sheen to it. Some people also call it Satin.
A percale weave is woven one thread over one thread. This makes for a more crisp and cool sheet. I like to refer to this as a hotel type of sheet, crisp and typically hard. I am not personally a percale fan, I enjoy soft sheets, but each person has their own preference.
Thread Count Summary
Thread count is a component of understanding the quality of your sheets, but it is just one part of a bigger picture. A lot of polyester/microfiber sheets will label their sheets 1000, 1500, 2000 but these are just numbers on a package put there to make you think you are getting a great product when in reality you literally could not be buying anything worse when it comes to bedding. Microfiber cannot even be measured in threads due to the way it is manufactured, it is actually measured in grams per square meter. Even more proof that those numbers are literally just pulled from the sky. The sweet spot for most people is around 400-500 thread count sheets. Not too heavy and not too light, just right. If 400 thread count works for Ritz Carlton hotels, well guess what, it can work for you too, just give a try and don’t be duped by big fancy numbers that have nothing to do with the overall quality of the sheet.
(If you don’t believe me about Ritz Carlton, just check out their classic white sheet set, you will have to go the Additional Details to find the thread count because they know if they were to yell it out their clientele would be SHOOKTH.)
Ay, we gon’ save that money
What we do? We gone save that money