The Real “Skinny” on Thread Count: Is it that important? Does it really increase the value of what I am buying?

By Clay Spivey

When shopping for bedding, whether a mattress, sheets or blankets, we are presented with a multitude of features and benefits to each brand. One of these features is “thread count.” We are led to believe that the higher the thread count, the softer the sheet. Not necessarily. Fabric manufacturing experts and Consumer Reports have a different take on this. Thread count is the number of vertical and horizontal threads per square inch. Not long ago, sheets typically had thread counts of 120 with 60 horizontal and 60 vertical threads. In the 1960s, a sheet with a 180 thread count was considered a luxury. “Now you see 1,000 thread count sheets, but you just can’t get that many threads on a loom,” says Pat Slaven, a textile expert at Consumer Reports. To get that higher number, manufacturers use thinner strands of fabric twisted together as if they were one. Then they double, triple or even quadruple the thread count to make the number more attractive to the consumer. “It ups the count but doesn’t give you a better sheet,” says Slaven. “The sweet spot is 400.”

When shopping for sheets here are the most important things to keep in mind:

FEEL: Don’t rely solely on numbers! Touch it and feel it!

WEAVE: Twill weaves, identified by a diagonal rib or twill line similar to denim, are used to produce strong bedding fabric that can have a softer “drape” than a plain weave and is very breathable. Sateen sheets are woven to create a silky smooth surface with a luminous sheen and wrinkles tend to quickly fall out. Percale sheets are plain in weave, characterized by a matte, crisp finish, but have the most wrinkles.

MATERIAL: Synthetic fabrics/micro fibers, while lightweight and often initially smooth, are the ones most likely to rip, pill and NOT be BREATHABLE. Go with Cotton or Bamboo.

Cotton is naturally soft, breathable and absorptive. Egyptian cotton, a longer, thinner fiber is used in bedding touting higher thread counts. We are all familiar with the production of cotton, but keep in mind that cotton is the most pesticide-intensive crop on the planet, making it exceptionally toxic for the environment and for those sleeping on the finished cotton sheets.

Bamboo, often called viscose, is soft, cool, clean, green and healthy and is considered naturally more breathable than cotton. Bamboo fibers are longer than Egyptian cotton so naturally softer. It has the ability to absorb sweat and does not adhere to the human body, even in the hottest temperatures. Bamboo sheets have special natural anti-bacterial properties, and are preferred by those suffering from asthma and other lung related problems. Moreover, bamboo sheets are defiant to dust mites and pathogens and keep bugs away from the bed.

About this writer

  • Clay Spivey

    Clay Spivey

    Clay Spivey is the General Manager of CARILOHA of Myrtle Beach. CARILOHA is a national brand, based in Utah, with a 10 year history of developing and promoting “the Softest Bedding on the Planet.” They have 2 locations in Myrtle Beach, Barefoot Landing and Broadway at the Beach and online at www.cariloha.com.

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