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Thread Count Is Not Enough: A Better Way to Buy Sheets

Luxury retailers are quick to promote it. High-end hotels list it as an amenity. And bedding aficionados obsess over it. But what does thread count really mean? And more importantly — how much does it really matter?

By definition, thread count is a simple measurement: the total number of horizontal and vertical threads woven into one square inch of a fabric. While it’s commonly used as an indicator of sheet quality, it’s not the only factor — or even the most important one. But that hasn’t stopped some manufacturers from using misleading tricks to drive thread counts (and profits) higher and higher.

Tricks of the trade

In an effort to inflate thread count, some manufacturers will spin low-quality fibers into very thin thread, thereby squeezing more of them into each square inch of fabric. This can actually decrease durability without increasing comfort. Other manufacturers resort to sneakier methods, like using double- or triple-ply threads (threads made of two or three often lower-quality strands twisted together). This allows them to count each of those threads twice or thrice, meaning that 200 thread count sheets made of three-ply threads can be marketed as 600-thread count.

Exaggerated thread counts may seem harmless. However, they can actually lower fabric quality. For example, if cheap, weak fibers are used, the resulting sheet may actually feel coarse and be more prone to wear. If an inflated thread count comes from a tighter weave, less air will be able to pass through, making the fabric less breathable and less comfortable.

A better way to buy sheets

Before you look at thread count, look at the label. This will tell you the most important thing you need to know about quality — the type of material it contains. Look for pure extra-long staple cottons like pima. With its ultra-fine strands, pima cotton can achieve high thread count weaves, resulting in a superior sheet that is synonymous with luxury.

With its ultra-fine strands, pima cotton can achieve high thread count weaves, resulting in a superior sheet that is synonymous with luxury.

Unfortunately, some brands claim they’re made with 100% pima or Egyptian cotton, but are in fact, made with an inferior cotton blend. To ensure you’re getting authentic materials, only buy sheets made with rigorous certification standards. Wamsutta sheets, for example, are made exclusively with PimaCott, the only pima cotton that is verified pure. So you can rest assured you’re getting all the benefits of a true pima cotton product — one that feels softer, stays brighter, and looks newer, longer.

While it’s true that thread count is important, the quality of cotton is significantly more so. By being able to recognize premium materials and trusted brands that guarantee their authenticity, like PimaCott, you can be sure the bedding you’re buying meets a true standard of luxury.