The Thread Count Myth
When shopping for bedding, we have been led to believe that the higher the thread count, the better the sheets will be. But is this actually true?
Thread count is the number of threads woven into a one-inch square of fabric. Add together the number of vertical threads (warp) with the number of horizontal (weft) threads and voila, you have a fabric’s thread count. This seems simple enough right? Wrong.
In reality, there are only so many threads that can be physically squeezed into a 1-inch space and experts say this number reaches a maximum around 400 threads. But if this is the case, then how can some brands state their products have thread counts of 600 – 700 – 800 plus?
Well, as linen expert Nancy Koltes told Huffington Post,
“Its an invention of the American Market”.
As it turns out, there are two common ploys that brands use to achieve their inflated numbers. The first way is by counting a fabric’s plys – rather than its actual threads. Each thread in a piece of fabric is made up of individual strands called plys. Several ply’s can be twisted together to create two, three, or more multi-ply threads. Now if a manufacturer chooses to count each ply in its fabric instead of each thread, then it is possible for them to claim much higher thread counts. For example, a 200-thread count of two-ply thread quickly multiplies into an 800-thread count. In this way, marketers can claim their product to be of superior quality – and therefore worthy of a higher price -- without actually adding anything to its intrinsic qualities.
The second way in which escalated numbers are achieved is by reducing the thickness of the thread being used. While this does make it possible to achieve very high thread counts of say 1000 – the downside is that the thinning of the threads may reduce the longevity of the fabric.
So how and when did thread count become so meaningful? Well according to experts, just as we label foods as low-fat or organic, bedding retailers extended this kind of labeling strategy to luxury bedding in the mid-1990’s. And by the early 2000s, the thread count myth reached new levels with 1000 thread counts being claimed. And just as there have been regulatory challenges to the way some foods have been labeled as low-fat or organic – there have also been challenges to regulate the way that manufacturers have been calculating their thread count.
For example, according to a Good Housekeeping Institute study, researchers found that seven out of eight sheets failed their thread count test with certain sheets claiming to be 1500 thread count when in actuality they were only 300!
So if you can’t rely on thread count, what measures should you look for when selecting your next set of sheets? Your selection should be based on the type, quality, and finishing of the material that is used. Now the most widely utilized bedding fabrication is cotton – which has superior breathability, but you should also look for longer fibers in order to ensure durability. The way a fabric feels – its softness and hand feel -- are also important factors, but like thread count these also can be misleading. This is because some manufacturers add anti-wrinkle or softener ingredients to their sheets—which make them feel great initially, but wear off after a few washes.
At bedface, we have taken the guesswork out of the bedding selection process for you the customer. After testing many fabrications and weaves, we have chosen facetech™ cotton as our proprietary fabric because it is constructed with premium long staple, thicker threads woven in a looser way that makes our sheets not only breathable and soft, but also long lasting. Our sheets come pre-washed, free from added softeners or anti-wrinkle treatments, and are designed to only get better and softer with each wash and use.