What is Thread Count? Unpicking the Myth

We've got to let you in on a little secret. A higher thread count doesn’t always mean higher quality bedding. 

The truth is, thread count has been given hugely exaggerated importance in the world of bedding. Let’s face it, piles of plastic wrapped sheets all look the same. Over time, retailers and manufacturers have increasingly used high thread counts as an indicator of better quality.

However, whilst thread count is a very convenient marketing tool, it really isn’t the determiner of quality that we’ve all been led to believe.

So what is thread count? Let us explain:

What Does Thread Count Mean?

Thread count measures the number of horizontal threads and vertical threads in a square inch of cotton.

In reality, it’s only possible to fit a limited number of threads per square inch of fabric. The exact number depends on the thickness of the yarns, but is normally around 3-400.

With retailers wanting to offer more and more products, at higher and higher prices, they asked manufacturers to produce bedding with a higher number of threads, boosting the perceived value of their bedding.

To produce high thread count bedding above the upper limit at which they would fit, in a square inch of fabric, manufacturers began wrapping individual cotton yarns around each other to create plait-like threads. In the industry we call this using a multi ply yarn.

The Truth Behind Multi Ply Yarn

Whilst multi ply yarns are great for producing sheets with a 600 thread count or higher, the great irony is that a single ply construction can create softer, longer lasting and more breathable cotton bed sheets than using multi ply threads.

It’s not just us saying this, the thread count myth has also been busted by The Huffington Post and Business Insider

Does A Higher Thread Count Mean Better Sheets?

Thread count is one small component in determining the quality of cotton sheets. As a rule, a thread count of 200 or more can be used to make luxury bedding, and you should meet anything over 400 with a healthy dose of scepticism.

Within that range, the quality, softness and durability of your bedding is determined by five other key factors:

1. Quality, not quantity

It’s the quality of the yarn, not the number of threads, that produces good quality sheets. Look for ‘long staple’ cotton, which is derived from the Gossypium barbadense species of cotton plant, and yields unusually long, silky fibres.

2. Single ply only

Single ply threads make the most breathable and durable cotton sheets. To boost thread counts or to utilise poor quality short staple cotton, manufacturers will use multi ply yarns, which produce denser and less durable bedding.

3. Location, location, location

Where the threads are woven can have a huge impact on how your bedding feels. Making luxury sheets is a true craft. The master weavers of the world are based in Italy & Portugal, in mills that have been run by local families for multiple generations. They have exacting standards and unrivalled expertise.

4. No toxins

You’d be surprised how many sheets use bleaches and dyes which are not only harmful to the planet, they are harmful to you too. Look for Oeko-Tex certification, which means your bedding has been made without the use of harmful chemicals at any stage of the manufacturing process.

5. Weaves

Cotton bedding is usually constructed with one of two different weaves, and which you chose will have a huge impact on how your sheets look and feel. A Percale weave produces a cool and crisp fabric, like your favourite white dress shirt. A Sateen weave produces a luxurious silky fabric.

At Bedfolk we exclusive use singly ply yarns made from long staple cotton, and a 300 thread count, to create incredibly soft bedding that gets better with every wash. Everything we make is woven expertly in a third generation run mill in Northern Portugal, and is Oeko-Tex certified.

The Egyptian Cotton Myth

Just like high thread counts, Egyptian cotton is a label that has become synonymous with high quality sheets. And whilst this might be right in some cases, Egyptian Cotton is another buzz word in the bedding industry that’s been over exaggerated and taken advantage of by retailers for years. 

So what is Egyptian cotton? Well historically, Egypt became known as the premier location for growing high quality long staple cotton thanks to its enviable climatic and soil conditions along the bank of the River Nile. But, once retailers latched on to the fact that customers were on the lookout for Egyptian cotton, they looked for ways to stretch the definition to include sub-standard shorter staple cotton grown in Egypt, and Egyptian cotton blended with cotton from other countries. 

These developments have led to an infiltration of lower quality cotton labelled as Egyptian, whilst modern day farming techniques also mean it’s possible to grow premium grade long staple cotton in other parts of the world.

Which Bed Sheets to Buy? 

At Bedfolk you don’t need to worry about (or pay for) marketing gimmicks like high thread counts or Egyptian cotton. We spent more than a year trialling every construction of bedding you can possibly imagine (harder work than it sounds, we promise) before settling on the perfect balance of premium quality and affordable prices.

In the end we didn’t just make any old cotton bedding, we made THE cotton bedding. The only sheets you could ever need, made from the finest quality long staple cotton in a single ply 300 thread count weave, which is Oeko-Tex certified so that you can sleep soundly knowing that no harmful chemicals or synthetics have been used.

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