Sheet Thread Count Differences: Fact or Myth?

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dark gray bedding sheetPay a visit to any bedding store in the U.S. and you’ll quickly discover that there is much ado about sheet thread counts. Ranging from a 200 thread count to a 1200 thread count, most sales representative will swear that there is a world of difference between sheets of one count and another. However, the real question is: can you even tell the difference and if so what exactly is it that makes one set of sheets cost $80 and another $400?

Thread Count

If you’re like many people, you may have no idea what a thread count is other than the higher the number is, the better it is supposed to be. A thread count is simply the number of threads woven over a square inch of fabric, both length-wise and width-wise. This means a sheet with a 500 thread count has 250 threads across its width and 250 threads across its length.


According to several reports, including one conducted by Consumer Reports, most people can actually tell the difference between threads counts. However, this is most true at the lowest thread counts. A muslin or 150 count sheet is downright brutal on the skin and is something few people would want to cozy up to at night. Therefore, the different between this and a 300 thread count sheet –which is considered good-quality by industry standards – is unmistakable. Surprisingly, anything over a 200 thread count is rated high quality.


The higher the thread count, the less likely you are to be able to tell the difference between it and a lower thread count. There is a rather surprising reason for this. While there are technically standards for thread counts, ensuring the quality of your bed sheets is simply not a top priority for the government. Manufacturers know this and some choose to take advantage of the fact. The highest thread count for linen is supposed to be 1200. However, it is simply not possible to fit 600 threads on a single square inch, let both length-wise and width-wise. Therefore, some manufacturers even count the piles that make up an individual thread in order to arrive at the “ultra-lux” high thread counts.


According to Consumer Reports testing, even sheets that claim to have a 300 thread count may actually feel softer than those with 500 or 600 thread counts. How is this possible? Like many things in life, it all comes back to quality. When it comes to bed sheets, the type of fabric and weave used is often more important than the actual thread count. Cotton-polyester blends, which are common and affordably priced, tend to be durable but can pill over time – irritating the skin. Cotton, particularly, Egyptian, Pima and Supima are renowned for their softness, luxury and durability.

The fact is, some folks are very fussy about their sheets and swear they can feel the difference between high quality sheet and those of lesser quality. It is a personal choice and since you spend about half of  your life in bed, take your time and select what feels good to you. Now that you know what to look for when shopping for sheets, you can get the quality you want without focusing quite so much on the thread count. Best of all, you’ll be able to sleep the deep slumber of a savvy consumer surrounded in comfort.