Thread count is a term used to measure how fine a fabric is, and is usually used when talking about cotton bed sheets. It is defined by the number of threads woven together in a square inch counting both lengthwise (warp) and widthwise (weft) threads. So 100 lengthwise threads woven with 100 widthwise threads produce a thread count of 200. Thread count is normally used as a measure of the quality of a fabric, where the higher the thread count the better the quality along with softness and comfort.
It’s best to stick with thread counts of 250–500, boiling down to your preferences and budget. Lower-end options are generally lightweight and cool, while the higher-end sheets out there are more tightly woven, which means they will be warmer and silkier, with a luxurious softness. Anything below 250 might feel a bit rough, but if you are not used to high thread counts – you probably won’t notice the difference. Anything above 500 should be questioned because there are only so much you can fit in a square inch!
People have caught on that the most expensive thread counts are not necessarily worth it. It is more of a marketing term to label a set of sheets at ‘1,000 thread count’ then it being the best on the market. Sure it might be 1,000, but this is determined by how you count it. If you look closely at a piece of thread, you will find that the twisted strand is made from multiple threads. Each of these individual threads is called a ply. This is done to increase the tensile strength of a single piece. The higher the number of ply in a single twisted thread, the the higher the tensile strength. It increases the overall thickness of the thread as well.
In a 4-ply thread, each individual thread is twisted into a pair and then together again to form a single visible thread. Rather than counting that particular thread as one, manufacturers count the ‘hidden’ threads and add it to the final labeling.
So in reality, there may only be visible 250 threads in a bed sheet per square inch. But if you count the hidden threads instead, but with the added hidden threads (250 x 4 ply per thread), the bed sheet is advertised with 1000 thread count.
In short, save yourself the money and stay between 250-500 as we recommended. And for those who have stayed below 250, you will be pleasantly surprised with any option in that range – expect the best sleep!