Light and airy sheets for summer nights, or warm, snuggly ones while it’s snowing – whatever your favorite happens to be – it’s usually a consensus that most people prefer them soft. When it comes to bedsheets, thread count has largely become revered as the tell-all sign of luxury, quality, and softness. This may leave you wondering – what is the highest thread count for sheets? And does thread count really make that much difference, anyway?
The highest thread count for sheets you will find is generally 800 to 1000, sometimes even higher – at 1200 to 1500. However, this is not necessarily indicative of a higher quality product. A reasonable range to peruse when looking for a quality set of sheets is a thread count between 200 and 600.
In this article, we will go over the ideal thread count for various materials and why those sheets with incredibly high counts may not be any better. We will also cover the different characteristics various materials can provide, in which case thread count can be completely ignored. Finally, for hot sleepers – what type of sheets will best keep you cool.
- What Is Thread Count In Bed Sheets?
- Does Thread Count Really Matter?
- Is Higher Thread Count Better in Sheets?
- What Is the Highest Thread Count for Sheets?
- What is the Best Thread Count for Sheets?
- What Thread Count Sheets do Hotels Use?
- When to Ignore the Thread Count
- What Is the Best Thread Count for Egyptian Cotton Sheets?
- What Thread Count Is Coolest?
What Is Thread Count In Bed Sheets?
When we talk about thread count, or TC, what’s being referred to is the number of vertical and horizontal threads woven into one square inch of material. Essentially, the thread count measures how tightly woven fabric is.
To calculate the TC, the warp (lengthwise) and weft (widthwise) threads are counted and then added together. For example, for a sheet with 200 warp threads and 200 weft threads in the signified space, the thread count listed on the packaging will be 400.
A higher thread count – to a degree – signifies a higher quality sheet that will generally hold up better to wear and sometimes even become softer over time.
Does Thread Count Really Matter?
The simple answer to whether or not the thread count when referring to sheets matters is – yes. But like many things, it’s not all black and white. Thread count is not the end-all, be-all of quality regulation when choosing something comfortable to sleep on. Several other factors come into play. Thread count is always a useful piece of information when purchasing a new set of sheets, but another wise consideration is the concept of quality vs. quantity. This alone will not tell you which set is the better choice because there are many more threads in one sheet’s material rather than another.
An extremely low thread count – generally below 200, means that the sheet will be less soft in most cases – though it is possible to find a decent set at the 180 TC level. For quality and comfort, the ideal range to look for is between 200 and 800 TC. There are, of course, other factors to consider, but within this range is where you will find the widest availability of desirable sheets.
Is Higher Thread Count Better in Sheets?
While the thread count can be used as an indicator of a sheet’s level of quality and softness – and should be noted – in some cases, it has become no more than a marketing ploy. Thread count often leads people to believe that a higher count automatically means a better product. This is not the case. Using the range listed above, 200-800, is a good general rule. Anything listed with a thread count above 800 should be considered carefully.
It is possible to find very high-end sheets with a TC of 800 – and the price tag will reflect this. If you see a set marked as 800 TC or up, and they cost less than the set labeled 400 – walk away now. Generally, when companies market sheets with very high counts, this is an indicator of a lower quality product. The fibers may be cheaply made and thin, where more than one thread is needed to make up for the lack of strength.
Using multi-ply threads of inadequate fibers will lead to sheets that feel rough, are subject to pilling, are less durable and of lower quality overall. So, while the thread count is higher – this is not a sheet you’ll want on your bed. You would be much better off choosing a sheet with a lower thread count – in the 200 to 600 range – in a nice material that will last. Quality over quantity.
What Is the Highest Thread Count for Sheets?
Sheets can be found with thread counts upward of 1500 – sometimes even up to 2000! But, as we now know, marketers often exaggerate their thread counts, so this doesn’t indicate a sheet that will last a lifetime while making you sleep like a baby. Many tests have been done – comparing sheets of differing thread counts – and when the results are in, those sets with thread counts above 800 rarely get recommended over their lower thread count counterparts.
What is the Best Thread Count for Sheets?
There is not one best thread count for all types of sheets. While the general rule remains – thread count should be between 200 and 800 – there is some variation when considering the type of fibers the material is woven from.
Linen – 80 to 140 thread count
Thread count is not always listed on linen sheets, but sometimes this information is included. Linen makes a great sheet because it is durable, hypo-allergenic, has a high rate of moisture-absorbency, and breathable. Linen for sheets should be tightly woven with no gaps between threads. Because of this they should be opaque rather than flimsy or gauze-like. This will lend the material a smooth, flat surface that is soft to the touch.
Linen fibers are thicker than most others – this is why it is the lowest on the list for thread count. Linen is a material that should bypass the thread count rule. Despite having a thread count below the 200 level, linen sheets – if cared for properly – have the potential to last much longer than cotton ones – becoming softer after each wash.
Cotton — 200 to 400 thread count
Cotton is the most classic and popular material for bed sheets – and the only material where thread count truly matters. When utilizing single-ply 100% cotton, you should be able to tell the difference in hand feel when comparing a sheet of 150 TC and one with a TC of 400.
Cotton fibers are moisture-wicking and forgiving with stains; the material is easy to care for. The long staple fibers of cotton produce a sheet that won’t pill but will remain soft and smooth throughout its life. There are many different types of cotton fibers, each with nuances of their own – but they will all still share the same beneficial characteristics.
Percale Weave – 200 to 400 thread count
Percale is a tightly-knit fabric, primarily woven from cotton fibers. A percale weave must have a thread count of at least 180 and ideally up to no more than 400. A percale sheet with a thread count marketed as over 400 will often be made from two-ply threads, and those with 600 TC and up can mean three-ply threads were used. In these instances, the sticker price will generally go up due to the perceived superiority of a higher thread count, but the product won’t be of a higher quality. A percale weave produces a sheet that is breathable, smooth and crisp. An ideal choice for providing a cool sleeping environment.
Egyptian Cotton – 300 to 400 thread count
The material with the most hype – and not for no reason- Egyptian cotton is a variety of cotton with extra-long staples. These naturally longer fibers possess all the same beneficial characteristics as standard cotton but also contribute additional strength and durability. Egyptian cotton threads are also more fine – hence the need for a higher thread count – which is where the added softness comes from.
Bamboo – 300 to 500 thread count
Bamboo sheets are on the upper end of the thread count spectrum because they are woven from long and very fine fibers. Fine fibers mean that there is space for more threads to be woven together. Using bamboo creates a extremely soft, lightweight, moisture-wicking, and breathable sheet.
Thread count is somewhat irrelevant with this material – bamboo can provide a luxuriously soft feel even in a lower count. The added bonus to supporting this textile is that it comes from a renewable resource – as long as it is responsibly sourced and sustainably produced – it can be a great choice for the environment.
Sateen Weave – 300 to 600 thread count
Sateen sheets – generally woven from cotton – are done in a loosely-knit weave. Due to the yarns being woven loosely, a higher thread count is necessary to achieve a textile that will hold together well. The sateen weave produces a sheet that is silky-smooth and warm – thanks to the density of those extra threads – with a soft and lustrous feel. These sheets are a great choice to provide some extra warmth.
What Thread Count is the Softest?
When using thread count as the main softness indicator, make sure that you are considering only 100% cotton sheets. Cotton sheets with a thread count between 200 and 400 will all be acceptable options, but those on the upper end of the spread will be noticeably softer.
Cotton sheets with thread counts over 400 will most likely be more expensive but provide little more in the way of quality. Sometimes even getting into sheets woven from multi-ply yarns, which, generally speaking, are of lower quality. Sateen sheets – with their loose weave, are the exception.
A thread count up to 600 can be used for sateen sheets and not indicate a product of inferior quality. Sateen sheets are warm and very soft but have a silkiness that provides a different feel than cotton in other plain weaves.
What Thread Count Sheets do Hotels Use?
Hotels choose sheets in the 250 to 600 TC range. There’s no doubt that hotels are rough on their bedding. Hotel sheets go through more wash cycles in a given time period than any at-home sheet will – so they tend to opt for sheets with higher thread counts. This helps ensure that the sheets will last, durable and resist pilling – with all the action they see. They will also be soft to the touch, providing the comfort any weary traveler is hoping to find.
Some hotels may boast their astronomically high thread counts as a perk to choosing them for your stay. But, the same caution should be taken with these advertised claims as when purchasing sheets that state their 1500 TC sheets will change your life.
When to Ignore the Thread Count
We’ve gone over the fact that thread count shouldn’t always be a factor when considering what sheets to buy – but there are some instances where it outright doesn’t make any sense. See below for cases when – if listed – thread count should be ignored altogether:
If you see thread count advertised on the packaging for polyester sheets, you should know that it doesn’t mean a thing. Polyester is a synthetic fiber. It is a product manufactured by machine where threads can be produced in many sizes – most importantly, very thin. This means that marketers can list thread counts in the thousands while telling the truth and then use that buzzword to make consumers believe they are buying a superior product. In some instances, polyester can add durability to sheets or make them more wrinkle-resistant, but none of its other properties will ever match that of natural fiber for sheets.
Thread count doesn’t relate to linen the same way that it does for cotton. A similar fiber in many ways – 100% natural and sharing some of the same properties – where linen differs largely is in its size. Linen fibers – and therefore threads – are thick, discounting thread count as a measure of softness or quality. A linen sheet with a 200 TC just isn’t comparable to the same in Egyptian cotton.
Silk is the opposite of linen, though the same in that its thread count cannot be compared to cotton or measure in its quality. Silk fibers are extremely thin – so thin that they are measured by weight. Thread count listed on a set of silk sheets is irrelevant.
If you want a high-quality silk sheet, go by its momme (mm) weight instead. When considering silk sheets, look for a momme between 19 and 25 – this will provide both durability and breathability.
Though often made from cotton – and other times wool – flannel material is composed in an entirely different manner than traditional woven cotton sheets. Therefore rendering thread count an invalid measure of quality. The quality of flannel – like silk – is measured by its weight, but in ounces.
There is a sweet spot for the weight of a good flannel – around 5 oz. indicates a high quality, but like with thread count, more doesn’t always mean better. Too much weight in a flannel sheet can indicate poor quality.
Knit fabrics – often called jersey knits – are another type constructed in an entirely different manner than woven fabrics, so thread count is inapplicable here. Jersey sheets are often made from cotton fibers, but the mode of production gives them a different feel and characteristics than woven cotton sheets. Jersey knit sheets will be soft but stretchy, wrinkle resistant and easy to care for. Knit sheets also tend to trap a lot more heat, making them a poor choice for hotter months.
Multi-ply yarns are used to inflate thread counts advertised on the packaging while not increasing their quality. If you see a set of sheets with a 900 TC that is woven from three-ply yarn, know that this does not indicate a higher quality sheet. In fact, it is the opposite – several smaller yarns have been twisted together, producing a weaker product overall.
What Is the Best Thread Count for Egyptian Cotton Sheets?
The optimal thread count for Egyptian cotton sheets is around 400. The finer, super-long staple fibers allow more space for threads to be woven, creating a beautiful, soft, and durable end product. Egyptian cotton is versatile. Different weaves can be utilized with Egyptian cotton, adding different characteristics and differing hand feels.
Because Egyptian cotton is so fine, some high-end producers can make high-quality sheets at higher thread counts. Superior 600 to 700 TC sheets can be found, but anything over that should be regarded with the same caution discussed above – these numbers may likely be inflated to fetch a higher price.
What Thread Count Is Coolest?
Since thread count measures how tightly woven a given material is, this can be a useful indicator for temperature regulation – when considering 100% cotton. Stick to sheets with a lower thread count if you want to stay cool at night. Percale – a tightly woven fabric – generally has a lower thread count. Made from cotton – which wicks moisture and boasts breathability – a percale sheet between 180 and 280 TC will be light and airy and should keep you cool and comfortable.
Like with quality, though, thread count shouldn’t be the only factor in your decision for the coolest bedding. The material the sheets are made from will also play a big role in this. In addition to cotton – linen and bamboo are two more textiles that offer some of the most breathable options that would be a perfect pick for any hot sleeper.
On the other hand – if you’re looking for warmth – opt for a sheet with a higher thread count. A sateen weave will offer the most density and this heavier weight will help keep warm air in. But of course, what could be more cozy than flannel?
Climbing into a freshly made bed at the end of the day is bliss, and there are sheets for every season that can make it even better. They should all be soft, comfortable, and durable enough to last for some time. Now that you know the best way to discover a high-quality sheet, which type will you choose to keep you comfortably in dreamland all night?