For many years, it has been commonly thought that the higher the thread count, the better the quality of sheets and bedding. We interviewed Vicki Fulop, founder of startup Brooklinen, to get her thoughts.
CL: We’ve always heard that high thread count means better sheets and bedding. A lot of brands charge hundreds for bedding with this claim. As you did research to create the sheets and duvet covers for Brooklinen, what did your team find?
VF: I’d entirely disagree – higher thread count does not always equal higher quality. I would go one step further and say, not only should one not focus so much on thread count, but that one should actively avoid sheets that advertise super-high thread counts. Generally speaking, for well made sheets that use high quality cotton, there is a very limited benefit to thread counts over 300. Companies that advertise thread counts of 800, 100, 1500, are either using creative math to inflate their thread counts or using sub-par materials like polyester.
CL: So, what is thread count, and why has it been used to promote luxury for so long?
VF: Technically, thread count means the number of threads woven together in a square inch. You count both lengthwise (warp) and widthwise (weft) threads. So 100 lengthwise threads woven with 100 widthwise threads produce a thread count of 200. The idea is simple: higher thread counts (all things equal) require finer threads and the finer the threads you use, the softer and finer the fabric should be. Where this goes wrong in our market is that many manufacturers use “creative math” to inflate thread counts, leading consumers to believe they are getting a luxury product when they aren’t.
CL: In what way?
VF: Here’s the facts about thread count. There is a finite amount of thread that you can weave into a square inch [source: Consumer Reports]. If bedding has an 800 or 1,200 thread count, which some manufacturers claim to have, that’s physically impossible, particularly if you’re using a single-pick, single-ply construction with 100% cotton. Thus, to achieve that number, certain manufacturers count not just each thread, but each ply spun together to make the thread. For example, a single thread might be four plies twisted together; a reputable company would call that one thread, while one that is trying to cut corners would instead call it four.
UPDATE: We had a chance to field test Brooklinen’s sheets in person. After a month’s worth of washing, they stay crisp and soft, and barely wrinkle. When our AC died, they kept us cool, not hot. Which was saying something! Six months later, they haven’t thinned or worn-quite a contrast to the $300 set of Italian satin weave sheets we bought from a local bedding retailer.
In fact, to untangle this inconsistency, Consumer Reports hired an independent textile lab to count threads in a $280 queen sheet set with a manufacturer-stated thread count of 1,200. The lab counted 416 threads per inch, demonstrating that it was just 35 percent of what was. A lawsuit for misrepresenting thread count followed, and was subsequently settled, although unfortunately, this practice still persists, including at big box retailers.
Basically, a higher thread count (which generally maxes out at 400), will only lead to a higher quality sheets if the other characteristics of the sheet are also high quality, e.g., the cotton staple length, the pick count, the ply count, the cotton count and the steps taken to finish the fabric. High-end sheet retailers often avoid listing thread counts on their sites for this reason.
VF: We use a 270-thread count, 100% Long Staple Cotton Percale weave. The reason why our sheets feel so great is because we use only combed, long-staple cotton in a single pick, single ply, 60-count cotton construction, and work with a leading finishing factory to ensure consistent quality. A single pick, singly-ply weave is considered in the textiles industry to be the “ideal” weave for achieving high quality sheets.
CL: What’s your best advice for someone that wants to get a great set of sheets, regardless of price?
VF: What we’ve found is this. When shopping for sheets, you should look for sheets made from the right materials (cotton offers maximum breathability), and choose one that feels great to the touch. Ultimately, you’re the one who has to sleep on it and it should feel good to you – that’s way more important than any advertised number of the package.
To get more information on how to choose a great set of sheets, visit www.Brooklinen.com.
Reposted from an earlier interview and product test.