You’re Shopping for Bed Sheets All Wrong!
How to Buy Bed Sheets – Debunking 4 Thread-Count Myths
It’s a story we hear again and again – the search for softer bed sheets sending consumers down a path of buying ever more expensive bed sheets thinking the higher the thread-count, the softer the sheets. Well, it turns out – that’s all wrong.
Most of what we think we know about shopping for bedsheets – especially when it comes to thread-count – is just marketing gimmicks. And because nothing ruins your day like a bad night’s sleep – this is important stuff to know about!
What is thread-count and will it help me buy bed sheets?
Thread-count is the number of threads, or fabric strands, per square inch of fabric, counting the number of horizontal threads and the number of vertical threads which form the weave of the fabric.
Understanding the thread-count of your bed sheets will give you a general idea of the fabric, but it will not tell you anything about the quality or softness of the textile.
What’s far more important is the quality of the actual threads and what material they are made from. This is what makes the difference, not how many. So the old adage “quality, not quantity” is the simple reason why hunting for higher thread-count is all wrong.
Myth #1 – High thread-count equals high quality
The two most important factors when determining the quality of textile are the quality of the thread (yarn) and the quality of the weave. Threadcount should be your last priority as higher thread-count can in fact be achieved easier (and cheaper) with cotton-polyester blends that can have thread-count in the thousands! Even in pure cotton, gimmicky product developers use 2- or 3-ply yarns to double or triple the thread-count, even though a 2-ply yarn simply uses thread made up of two smaller threads twisted together.
Myth #2 – High thread-count equals softer sheets
Again, it’s the quality of the thread and weave that will determine how soft your sheets are. In addition, a very high thread-count will produce a thicker, denser textile so anything above 600 thread-count will not be silky soft and flowy but more compact and dense.
Myth #3 – High thread-count equals better breathability
The breathability of your bedding is everything (especially for hot sleepers) so this is a really important factor when selecting your bedding – meaning this myth is 100% false.
Breathability comes down to material composition. Natural textiles have better breathability than synthetic materials (like polyester) even if they have the same thread-count. Also, a very high thread-count will result in a denser weave meaning air will not circulate well.
Myth #4 – High thread-count equals better sleep
Breathability and softness are key to comfort and a good night’s sleep. But taking a step back from your own bed, climate-conscious consumers may also sleep better knowing their bed sheets are made from eco-friendly materials. And again, the thread-count will definitely not help guide this aspect of how to buy your bed sheets.
If you are concerned about the use of pesticides and water usage, try to avoid cotton if possible as it is one of the thirstiest crops on our planet. Organic cotton is better in terms of pesticide use – but even worse when it comes to water usage. Opt instead for bamboo which is naturally fast-growing without the use of irrigation, fertiliser or pesticides due to its antimicrobial properties. Bamboo forests have a negative carbon footprint, producing even more oxygen than trees.
Climate concerns aside, we are all different in terms of what we look for when buying sheets. Some prefer a crisper material whereas others prefer a softer, more flowy material. So, what do we use as a guide if thread-count isn’t the answer? Look at the material and the weave.
Quality and type of material
The most important thing when choosing bed sheets is to look for 100% natural materials. Avoid any synthetic materials and blends which can make you sweat and overheat, opt instead for cotton, linen or bamboo sheets. All three options are natural, with linen and bamboo scoring the highest in terms of breathability whereas cotton provides the widest range in terms of colours, styles and pricing options. If you prefer a crisper feel, opt for high-quality cotton. If you prefer a smooth soft feel, bamboo sheets are by far the softest, plus they have the added benefit of being eco-friendly.
Quality and type of weave
The type of weave is important as it will impact shrinkage, durability and the look and feel of your sheets. There are three main types of weave: percale, sateen and twill. Percale uses a one thread over, one thread under pattern, which creates a crisp, lightweight fabric with a matte finish that can be prone to wrinkling. Sateen weave is one thread under and four threads over, producing a silky feel and lustrous sheen. It wrinkles less and drapes nicely over your bed. Twill weave has diagonal parallel ribs, like denim, producing a durable material but not as smooth as percale or sateen. In addition, twill can be prone to twisted seams and shrinkage after wash.
So, if you are looking for ultra-soft sheets with maximum breathability and the added benefit of being eco-friendly – forget about expensive high thread-count cotton and look for high-quality 100% bamboo sheets in a silky soft sateen weave.
Find out more tips on how to buy bed sheets in this article in The Spruce.