The higher the thread count, the higher the quality of your sheets, right? The answer isn’t as straightforward as you’d think. “When all factors are equal—such as the quality of the cotton, the yarn construction, the way the fabric is woven, and the way it is finished—a higher thread count will lead to a smoother and silkier fabric,” says George Matouk Jr., CEO of heritage linens brand Matouk. But there’s a catch: According to Matouk, “The most important element leading to more luxurious fabric is the quality of the yarn.” With so many variables in the mix, Matouk couldn’t recommend one thread count over another on its own. “Some 1,000 thread count fabrics are sublime and others are lousy,” he notes. Let’s break down what is a good thread count for sheets even further.
What Does Thread Count Even Mean?
Simply put, thread count measures the number of threads, both horizontal and vertical, that a fabric contains per each square inch. The higher the number of threads, the tighter the yarns are woven together—and the more velvety they’ll be to the touch. Oftentimes you’ll see sheets’ thread count range anywhere from 200 to 600, though occasionally numbers tip over 1,000.
Pro tip: Check whether the sheets you are considering are single or multi-ply—in the latter case, the thread count is the total of all the fabric layers together. For example, a single-ply sheet with a 300 thread count would be considered a 600 thread count if it were double-ply, which is nothing more than a misleading marketing ploy.
Is It True That the Higher Thread Count, the Better?
Much like sunscreen SPF, once you reach a certain thread count—500, to be exact—you’re not getting that much more bang for your buck. Single-ply sheets ranging anywhere between 300 to 500 are the sweet spot, with numbers below 300 tending to be a bit coarse or scratchy and anything above 500 likely inflated due to that multi-ply trick. P.S., hot sleepers should be especially wary of too high of a thread count, since that could also mean the fabric is denser and air won’t flow through it as well.
Aside From Thread Count, What Should You Look For in Good Sheets?
Matouk’s ultimate advice: “Buy what feels right to you and from brands that you trust.” Egyptian, pima, and supima cotton are often considered your best options. Some people like a lighter, breathable weave, such as percale (which has a matte finish), while others prefer a heavier fabric like sateen (a shinier look) or flannel (like your favorite button-down). Linen, made of flax rather than cotton, is also having a moment lately. One perk: it gets softer with every wash. But no matter what you choose, be sure to consider the length of the fiber. The longer it is, the softer the feel.
Three Designers’ Takes on Thread Counts
We asked three design professionals—interior designers Leanne Ford and Robert McKinley and Hill House Home founder Nell Diamond—what they look for when buying bedding.
Focus on Fabric
Ignore thread count—that’s old news. It’s all about the feel of the material you choose for your sheets! Cotton sheets are the definition of ‘rest easy.’ They’re super soft, like you’ve had them forever, 100-percent sleepable, and even cozier when you get them in a palette of modern neutrals.
Linen sheets are beyond light and incredibly airy. They look best a little rumpled. Let me rephrase that: They look best very rumpled! They’re 100 percent comfortable, and again they are most relaxing when in a palette of modern neutrals. —Leanne Ford, interior designer
Check All the Boxes
Thread count is typically an unreliable metric for determining the value of bedding, and in my experience, the way thread count is reported varies across brands. I like to focus on design, style, and fabric type. If I was looking for something crisp and cool I would go with Hill House Home’s Chancery Lane sheets, which are made from 100-percent cotton percale. Alternatively, if I was looking for something with a more soft and luxurious feel, I would go with our Savile sheets that are made from 100-percent brushed cotton sateen. —Nell Diamond, founder and CEO of Hill House Home
I’ve used bedding from Wright in all of my Bungalow projects. They are a perfect example of high quality and comfort. Their cotton and linen sheets are 100-percent American-made and the brand works with small mills to source their materials. I always try to source locally when I can, so I love working with a company that supports smaller makers.
For cotton sheets, I recommend a 250 thread count for a cool, crisp, hotel feel. It’s important to pay attention to the type of cotton as well; Wright uses American Supima cotton which gives the sheets greater durability, resulting in less pilling or fading.
I love using linen sheets for our projects in Montauk, New York. The material is naturally soft and cool, which is great for the summer months. Good linen bedding should have a weave to a full eight ounce per square yard in order to get the perfect combination of softness and texture. —Robert McKinley, interior designer