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Thread Count doesn’t have to be Highest to be Softest

Buying new sheets can be overwhelming. It’s natural to assume a high thread count means better quality, but not always.

There are several elements to consider when choosing sheets.

Thread count does matter because a low thread count means sheets either are woven loosely or too thick, making them feel rough. Sheets with higher thread counts feel softer, but only up to a point.

Thread count measures the fineness of a fabric, usually bedsheets and towels. It includes the total horizontal threads and vertical threads within a square inch of fabric. If it’s multi-ply (two or more layers), the threads in each layer count.

For instance, a single-ply sheet may have 300 thread count. If that same sheet was made from two-ply yarn, the thread count is doubled to 600.

Also, thread count measurement is only useful for single-ply cotton fibers. Noncotton fiber, like polyester, is so thin it can produce thread counts in the thousands without feeling as soft as a lower cotton thread count.

In fact, some linen manufacturers use multi-ply thread to inflate thread count. So a higher thread count can still mean a low-quality fabric. For example, a 1,000 thread-count sheet can actually be a two-ply 500 thread-count.

The best sheets usually have a thread count between 200 and 400. Lower than 180 tends to have a rougher texture and over 400 is most likely inflated with multi-ply thread.

The highest-quality, softest sheets use cotton with extra-long fibers (called long-staple fibers) that can be spun into fine, strong yarns. These include Egyptian, Pima and Supima.

Bamboo is a good cotton sheet alternative that’s pest-resistant, strong and versatile.

Linen is lightweight with a matte finish and is durable, antimicrobial and moisture-wicking. But linen gets softer with time, so don’t expect it right away.

Microfiber, extremely fine fibers of polyester, are soft and resist pilling, but polyester is less breathable and not great for sensitive skin.

Cotton jersey sheets are T-shirt fabric, so if you like sleeping in an old T-shirt it might be just the ticket. But neither microfiber nor jersey have the cool crispness of woven cotton, so if you flip your pillow to the cool side, you’re better off with cotton.

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