Now that the holidays are over, your house is filled with new treasures that you didn’t have on the other side of the holidays. And if you’re lucky, you received a few gifts that have a practical place in your life instead of a decorative one. One example: sheets with a thread count. When you’re married, it’s always safe to expect at least one set of sheets from friends who don’t know what else to buy you. Or maybe you used this holiday season to do a little practical shopping for yourself and walked away from Bed, Bath and Beyond with a new set of sheets and duvet.
But on the cover of every container of sheets is a number that tells you how soft, and ultimately how valuable that package of sheets is. You’ve heard of “thread counts,” and that’s exactly what we’re talking about. Thread count is supposed to tell you how soft your new sheets are, but what does it really mean? The higher the count the better, but do you know why?
What to Know About Your Thread Counts
Thread count is calculated by the number of threads in one square inch of material. For example, 100 lengthwise threads woven with 100 widthwise threads produce a count of 200. The higher the thread count, the finer the threads that have been woven together, and—so the rationale goes—the softer the material produced.
Understandably, merchants look to produce materials with higher thread counts, so they can charge steeper prices. The problem with sky-high thread counts—and the reason you should be wary of buying into the trend—is that north of a thread count of 400, the quality of the material does not improve. Beyond a count of 400, the only thing that increases is usually the price tag.
Thread Count Lies
Worse, not only are you being charged more for higher thread counts that feel the same as counts in the 400 range, but investigations by resources such as ABC News have proven that materials than claim excessive thread counts rarely actually have the advertised thread count. Retailers have begun to use “creative math” to claim a higher thread count than the material actually boasts.
Instead of counting the threads involved in the process, many manufacturers instead count the fibers used to make the thread, and multiply that way, boosting what is actually a 400 thread count into the range of thousands.
Consumer Reports hired its own investigator to test advertised thread counts and found that the overwhelming amount of manufacturers advertising thread counts over 800, were advertising falsely. In 2008, retailer Bed, Bath and Beyond was forced to offer refunds and gift cards to customers who had purchased bedding that had been advertised with higher thread counts than they actually possessed.
The Final Word
What you need to know about thread counts: the higher the thread count, the softer the material—until you reach 400. Materials with thread counts in excess of 400 offer the same quality. Moreover, materials advertised with thread counts in excess of 400 have often “fabricated” their quality.
At the end of the day, your sense of touch is your best indicator for the materials you choose for your bedding.