Let’s talk about sheet quality and thread count. Many of us assume the highest-thread count sheets are the highest quality. Turns out, we’re wrong.
True, thread count is one measure of quality, but manufacturers are adept at manipulating it to mislead customers. Confusion about thread count is pervasive—and learning about it tends to be sleep inducing, thus the opportunity for a marketing gotcha.
Thread count is literally the number of threads in one square inch (in the European standard—there’s no international standard, so even this basic measure can be a bit dicey). Some manufacturers inflate their thread counts by counting each multi-plied thread or strands, using low quality fiber and applying waxes or polish that create softer feel but wear off after a couple washes. Truth About Thread Count, a website devoted to FAQs about sheet quality (run by Abode, a high-end sheet seller), untangles much more about fiber and thread counts.
Perhaps more important is the type of cotton—Egyptian is considered the best because of the strength and length of its fibers. Which leads us to another buyer beware: Check labels carefully. A brand may claim it is Egyptian cotton, but contain only 10 percent. Make sure it says 100 percent Egyptian cotton.
You won’t even find thread counts advertised by most of the luxury linens—Sferra, Matouk, Busatti—at Wayzata retailer Highcroft Fine Linens & Home. Instead, says partner Ann Seehof, Highcroft ranks three factors that determine quality: Most important is the type of cotton (Egyptian, with extra-long fibers); second, where the sheets are woven (Italian mills are the experts); and third, thread count. “If it’s not a quality fiber, more isn’t better,” she says—which is why a 220-thread-count sheet can feel softer than a 500-thread-count sheet that uses an inferior grade of cotton or a twisted yarn.
Always feel sheets, Seehof recommends. “Touch, feel, open packages, rather than buying based on the number on a package.” That said, her rule of thumb: Any sheet over a 250-thread count will be breathable, soft, easy to care for, and long lasting.