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What Thread Count Really Means

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Some of the greatest pleasures in life are those small but comforting touches when you slip into bed after a long day: a fluffy down comforter, a heated mattress pad or silk pillow cases, for example. Is there anything better than the feeling of high-quality sheets? Considering the fact that you spend nearly one-third of your life in your bed, it makes sense that these seemingly simple joys would be so significant. So when you're investing in sheets, there are a number of factors you should consider - like thread count.

Knowing the difference between 200 and 800 is crucial to picking the right sheets for you. Here's everything you need to know about this number, and the impact it has on your comfort.

What Is Thread Count?
The basic definition is the number of threads per one square inch of fabric. This number depends on both the threads woven horizontally, or "weft," and vertically, or "warp." Extra threads can be added into the weft threads to boost the overall thread count, and these are referred to as "picks." This explains why some sheets can have thread counts well into the thousands.

Is It Important?
A higher number doesn't necessarily guarantee a better product. Joanna Goodman, owner of Au Lit Fine Linens, explained in an interview with Style at Home that the fabric is just as key. In fact, sheets with a lower thread count that are made with a better fiber will often withstand washing far better than sheets with a higher thread count and lower quality fiber.

She recommended looking for 100 percent Egyptian or pima cotton, which tend to be well woven and thus higher quality. Additionally, Goodman noted that percale, which refers to any cotton woven with a 200 thread count or higher, is more durable and less prone to pilling than a cotton satin with the exact same thread count.

What's the Magic Number?
When it comes to thread count, it's best to opt for sheets that are at least 200 - beyond that, it's all a matter of preference. Those with a low thread count tend to have a stiff, crisp feel, while higher thread count sheets are often softer and silkier.

A recent Consumer Reports study tested a wide array of 100 percent cotton percale sheets, and found that those with a thread count of 280 achieved the highest ratings. On the other hand, among the 100 percent cotton sateen and twill weave sets, the products with a thread count of 1,000 got the top score.