Does thread count really make a difference?

When shopping for sheets, one of the first things many people look at is the thread count. Thread count refers to the number of threads woven into a one square inch block of fabric. The common belief is that the higher the thread count, the softer and more durable the sheets will be. But is this really true? Here we’ll explore what thread count really means and whether it lives up to the hype.

What is thread count?

Thread count is simply the number of threads woven vertically and horizontally into a square inch of fabric. For example, a 600 thread count sheet has 600 threads woven into one square inch of fabric.

How is thread count calculated?

Thread count is calculated by adding together the number of threads woven vertically (warp threads) and horizontally (weft threads) in a square inch of fabric. For example, if a square inch of fabric has 300 warp threads and 300 weft threads, the total thread count would be 600.

What is considered a high thread count?

Thread counts typically range from 200 to 1000. Sheets with a thread count between 200-400 are considered low, while thread counts between 600-1000 are considered high quality. Here’s a breakdown of different thread count ranges:

– 200-400: Low
– 400-600: Average
– 600-800: Good
– 800-1000: Excellent
– 1000+: Exceptional

So in general, sheets with a thread count of 600 or higher are considered high quality and luxurious.

Does thread count equal quality?

This is where things get tricky. While it’s true that a higher thread count generally indicates a softer, more durable sheet, thread count alone is not always an accurate predictor of sheet quality. Here are a few reasons why:

Thread count inflation

Many manufacturers artificially inflate thread counts to make sheets seem higher quality. They may count individual threads as two or even four threads, doubling or quadrupling the thread count. So a 500 thread count sheet advertised as 1000 thread count likely won’t feel significantly different.

Type of cotton matters

Not all cotton is created equal. Higher end sheets are made from longer cotton fibers like Egyptian or Pima cotton. These longer fibers can be spun into thinner, stronger threads, resulting in softer, more durable sheets. The type of cotton impacts quality more than simple thread count.

Weave impacts feel

How the threads are woven also affects the sheet’s feel and durability. High quality sheets often have a sateen weave, which creates a silky smooth surface. Lower quality sheets may have a looser percale weave, resulting in a rougher texture. The weave can override the impact of thread count.

Single Ply vs. Double Ply

Whether sheets are single ply (one layer) or double ply (two layers woven together) also impacts quality. Double ply sheets are more durable, but single ply sheets with a high thread count can still be quite soft. Ply contributes to the overall durability.

So while a 1000 thread count sheet sounds fantastically luxurious, the actual quality depends on the type of cotton, type of weave, and whether it’s single or double ply. Beware of inflated thread counts.

What thread count is best?

As we’ve seen, highest thread count does not always mean highest quality. When shopping for sheets, here are the optimal thread count ranges to look for based on price point and desired feel:

Budget Shoppers

– 200-400 thread count – Decent quality for lower prices
– Focus on type of weave and cotton over thread count
– Percale weave and single ply is standard

Mid-Range Luxury

– 400-600 thread count – Balance of affordability and quality
– Look for name brand long-staple cotton
– Sateen weave and single ply provides softness

High End Luxury

– 600-800 thread count – Highest quality while still realistic
– Seek brands using Egyptian or Pima extra-long cotton
– Double ply adds durability to sateen weave

Go Anywhere Luxury

– 800-1000 thread count – Top tier, if it’s true count
– Must be genuine double ply, sateen weave
– Requires lengthy fibers like Egyptian or Pima cotton

So focus less on simply maximizing thread count, and more on the type of cotton, weave, and ply that is suitable for your budget. 400-600 is often the sweet spot for maximizing value.

Does thread count impact price?

For the most part, yes – higher thread count sheets come with a higher price tag. Here is an overview of the general pricing based on thread counts:

Thread Count Range Price Range
200-400 $20 – $60
400-600 $60 – $120
600-800 $120 – $250
800-1000 $250+

However, as we learned, thread count alone doesn’t determine a sheet’s performance and feel. You can find great deals on high quality sheets with thread counts in the 400-600 range, while 1000+ sheets are excessive for most people. Focus on finding the right fabrics and weaves you like rather than shooting for the highest thread count.

Does thread count determine softness?

Thread count does play a role in determining a sheet’s softness, but other factors like cotton type and weave technique are just as important, if not more. Here is how thread count impacts softness:

Higher Thread Count Can Mean Softer Sheets

– More threads packed into a square inch results in a denser, tighter weave with smaller holes between threads. This creates a smoother surface and silkier feel.

Too High Can Cause Roughness

– Excessively high thread counts like 1200+ can result in sheets that are too dense with stiff, rigid fibers that lack airflow between threads, losing softness.

Cotton & Weaves Matter Most

– Extra long fibers like Egyptian and Pima cotton, combined with sateen weaves, produce the softest sheets regardless of thread count.

Avoid Inflated Counts

– Double and quadrupled thread counts (counting individual threads multiple times) lacks the density to improve softness.

So while thread count contributes to softness, it does not guarantee it. An ideal range is 400-800, using premium cottons and weaves, to produce soft sheets that breathe.

Does thread count mean more durability?

The thread count – the number of threads woven per square inch – definitely has an impact on a sheet’s durability and longevity. Here are the key ways higher thread counts can improve durability:

More Threads = Stronger Sheets

– With more threads packed into each square inch, the sheets are denser with less space between threads for pulls and tears to develop.

Resists Pilling and Wear

– Higher density provides structural integrity that prevents pilling (balls of fibers), fraying edges, and general wear over time and washing.

True Counts Matter Most

– Inflated thread counts won’t make sheets more durable. Focus on genuine double ply 400-600+ thread counts.

Longer Cotton Fibers

– Extra long staple cotton like Egyptian and Pima also boost durability and resilience against pilling.

So in summary, opt for authentic 400-600+ thread count sheets preferably double ply and woven with longer cotton fibers. This creates the optimal density and strength for enhanced durability and longevity.

Should you buy high thread count sheets?

While 400-600 thread count sheets are recommended for optimal softness, breathability, and durability, here are some pros and cons of buying sheets with very high 700+ thread counts:


– Extremly smooth, silky, and soft to the touch
– Durable construction resists pilling and tearing
– Longer lifespan from stronger weave density
– Provides a luxurious high-end hotel feel


– Much higher prices, sometimes 4X mid-range sheets
– Often inflated thread counts, not true quality
– Excessive density can cause stiffness, reduce airflow
– 1200+ counts are overkill for most people

So in summary, 700-800 thread count sheets can provide a worthwhile boost in softness, durability, and luxury, but focus on authentic thread counts and premium fabrics over the highest numbers. 1200+ counts tend to be excessive and should be viewed with skepticism.

Should you buy low thread count sheets?

While 200-400 thread count sheets can still be soft and comfortable, here are some downsides to buying sheets with lower thread counts:


– Very budget-friendly pricing, often under $50
– Percale weave can be crisp and cooling
– Provides decent softness when new


– Less soft and silky compared to higher counts
– More prone to pilling, fraying, and tears
– Lacks durability, breaks down faster
– Loose weave causes sheets to thin out faster
– Typically no long-staple cotton used

So in summary, 200-400 thread count sheets can be great budget or dorm room options. But they lack the plush softness, longevity, and luxury feel of higher quality 400-600 thread count sheets. You get what you pay for.


While thread count does impact the softness, feel, and durability of bed sheets, it does not act alone in determining sheet quality. Factors like cotton type, ply, and weaving techniques ultimately determine the performance and longevity of sheets.

Optimal thread counts are from 400-600, using premium longer-staple cotton and double ply constructions, to provide the ideal blend of softness, breathability, and durability. 200-400 counts are acceptable for budget buyers, while 800+ is best for luxury. But always look beyond just thread count when sheets shopping and focus on the big picture of overall quality and value.

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