Guide: Why Thread Count Does Not Matter When Buying Sheets
Last Updated on February 27, 2021
When looking at Egyptian, pima or Supima for the finest of cotton sheets it is important to understand which material will be the best to provide a great sleep. Although they are all cotton fiber materials, each of these fabrics will provide different sleep experiences.
To discover which of these cottons is the finest material, remove the thread count and just purely look at the quality of the fabric. Egyptian, pima or Supima are all higher-end sheets but one easily beats out the others when it comes to providing a wonderful slumber.
I. Thread Count Fallacy
II. What is Thread Count
III. Count Factors Instead of Threads
I. Thread Count Fallacy
The thread-count avenue to find and purchase supposed quality sheets was created by a master marketing mastermind. In 2005 the theory of a higher thread-count means superior bedding was debunked by the Federal Trade Commission.
Before this century people knew about thread count but were not trained to be fixated on it when it came to buying sheets. Italian sheet manufacturers were, at the time, the main suppliers of premium bedding. They produced products that were 300 thread-count for single-ply yarns and 600 for double-ply.
Entering the 2000s Paul Hooker, U.S. linens manufacturer Sferra president, began working with Italian and Switzerland weavers to produce finer cotton yarns. With the refined yarn that, per Hooker, was 50-percent finer than others previously produced, Sferra supposedly could manufacture an exclusive multi-ply constructed sheet with the highest of thread-counts.
In May 2001, the company placed their 1020-thread-count sheets on the market. From that moment on people were hooked on thread-counts and companies competed to see who could sell the highest. Thread-count began as an actual measure of threads per square inch to assure softer sheets. When manufacturers realized that people were simply buying sheets based on the count, unscrupulous companies began simply placing what they wanted to claim for thread-count as a method to sell product. In 2017 the United States International Trade Commission (ITC) stepped in to end the importation into the U.S. of sheets with false labeling.
The ITC order gave Customs and Border Protection agents the authority to test questionable sheets at the border. Any bedding found to have suspicious thread-count classification is now seized at the border before entering the United States.
II. What is Thread Count
Thread count is simply the measure of horizontal (filling threads) and vertical (warp threads) threads that are in one-square-inch. Sheets made generally have a maximum count of 400, even though packaging claims can climb to over 1000.
Some manufacturers have been seen to play with the thread count by twisting several yarns together to create a higher number. Obviously in these cases the inflated higher thread-count does not mean a better fabric. Although it is commonly thought that the higher count means softer sheets – this is not always the case.
More important than thread count is to understand the fabric quality. A lower quality fabric with a higher thread-count is going to produce more uncomfortable sheets than a high-end fabric, such as Supima cotton, with a lower count of threads.
III. Count Factors Instead of Threads
With thread-counts often being over inflated it is important to look at other factors instead of numbers of threads. The fiber and weave of fabrics should be considered when seeking the finest of sheets.
The longer the fiber the better quality of yarn and fabric they will produce. Supima cotton is known for its extra-long staple (ELS) designation of fibers of at least one and three-eighths long. Supima is made from pima 50-percent longer than average cotton fibers.
Average cottons that are commonly 1-inch long construct sheets that are rougher in texture than the softer Supima cotton sheets produced from typical 1.5-inch long fibers. Fibers that are longer allows for spinning yarn that will create a softer more durable fabric that is lighter weight.
The lighter weight allowed by the longer fibers makes for sheets that are more breathable to sleep cooler and more comfortable. This is the perfect example of why fiber is more important than a heavier-dense thread count that creates a less comfortable-inferior sheet.
The fabrics weave can have an impact on how the sheet will feel against the skin. There are various kinds of weaves including blending fabrics together to create an ultimate sheet material.
Sateen: Sateen is a cotton fabric created utilizing spun yarn with a satin weave structure where the vertical yarns are floated over horizontal yarns. This weave creates the sateen fabric showcasing a luscious sheen and softer feel. As a looser weave, sateen can be less durable than a tighter weave.
Percale: Percale is a very common simple weave fabric most used for sheets. With a thread-count of 180 or higher, it is a tighter woven fabric with a medium weight. This is a simpler fabric that has no fancy sheen.
Percale is a weave produced from a mix of carded and combed yarns utilizing one fiber or blending a combination of fibers, such as cotton and polyester. The carded yarn is cheaper as it is made from fibers of different lengths. This saves money when it is mixed with the stronger fiber yarn that has been put through the combing process.
Combed Cotton: Combed cotton is a weave produced through a machine combing process that removes short fibers and impurities, to leave the longer fibers that will produce a stronger fabric. Sheets made from this weave are durable with a nice-soft texture.
3. Made in Location
Location can make the difference between a great quality sheet versus poor quality. Sheets that are 200-thread-count coming to the U.S. from Italy and France are known for their superiority compared to a so-called 1000-thread-count sheet from China.
Supima cotton is the highest of quality cotton fibers strictly policed by the Supima association to be verified for authenticity. The woven fibers and materials that produce the trademark protected Supima come from 100-percent American pima cotton. The strictly controlled quality Supima cotton fiber is guaranteed to be grown in the United States. Bedding, such as GhostSheets, made in the U.S. from Supima cotton are the finest for comfort and durability.
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