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Thread count is one of those terms that practically everyone has heard, but far fewer people really understand. In fact, many people believe that thread count is simply a marketing ploy used to sell sheets or other fabrics and make it sound more desirable. However, there is such a thing as a counting of threads and each product must meet federal standards in terms of how they are counted and what they actually mean.
Basically, this means the number of threads that are woven together inside a square inch of fabric. You can count the warp is the length and the weft which is the width. For example, 100 warp threads and 100 weft threads located in a square inch of fabric is a thread count of 200. Obviously, the greater the thread count, the higher quality the sheet or fabric supposedly is in terms of its durability and comfort.
However, there is a lot more to thread count sheets for example than just how many threads are found per square inch. In fact, there are several different factors that weigh into the overall quality of sheets and fabrics in terms of their overall construction. More than just having the thread count explained, it pays to understand how it all works together to create a high quality product.
There is no doubt that many marketers love to use the terms when it comes to selling luxury shirts and sheets as well as many other types of woven fabric. They understand that it is the type of term that most people have some familiarity, but do not fully understand what it actually means. So, you will hear the term used with abandoned when marketing their products and that may be misleading to those who may not fully understand what the term really means.
The basic belief is that the more fine threads that are woven together in a sheet, the softer and more durable the fabric will be. However, that is not always the case when it comes to thread count because it will depend on what type of material is used and the limit on the number of threads that are actually needed to be optimal in its quality.
For example, a cotton thread count of 200 is actually quite good and well suited for most people. However, a count of 400 may indeed be softer, but anything above 400 is really a waste of material and generally only produces a higher price tag and little else. Naturally, this will depend on the type of material that is used for thread count sheets.
Understanding the effectiveness of thread counts starts with the materials that are being used. So for example when it comes to muslin, a thread count of 150 will feel a little rough and not as comfortable as 200 threads. In fact, 180 thread count is considered a good count and generally translates to high quality with 200 being even better.
So, what happens when some manufactures claim counts of 500, 800 or even 1200 per square inch? Are such counts even possible within a square inch of material? In short, a thread count of 1200 is simply not possible using the standard counting methods. However, there are creative ways to count threads that manufacturers use which artificially inflates the figures even if they are not quite lying about what it really means.
One way that manufactures can get away with such a count is that they do not use the thread as a whole, but instead use each fiber or plies that make up the material in a thread. Generally speaking, a single thread may be made up of four separate plies that are twisted together. So, what one manufacturer will call a thread, another will call four threads. So, it is important to understand what the term thread actually means, although when you get into counts of 400 per square inch it’s pretty easy to figure out that they actually mean fibers and not threads.
Of course, there have been attempts to standardize the number of thread count sheets in order to come up with a universally accepted term. Naturally, there is resistance to such an attempt as some manufactures benefit greatly from using plies as threads in their count. A report from Consumer Reports once examined a Queen Size bed sheet that supposedly had 1,200 threads per square inch which turned out to be 416 because they were counting plies as threads.
The controversy has been such that even the Federal Trade Commission has been called into to set some type of official guidelines. A lawsuit involving Bed, Bath & Beyond for misrepresenting the thread count was settled in 2008, but the controversy still continues as there is no official standard that must be recognized by all parties.
In the end, you will have to rely on your own judgment about the count of the threads in a particular sheet. Basically, from 180 to 200 is a good number anything above that is probably not worth the extra money. Naturally, you should feel the fabric yourself to see if there is any real difference. But for the most part you will not find anything of higher quality or better softness between a 400 or 800 count with the same material, at least nothing that can really be noticed.
Plus, a cotton thread count for example of 400 does not mean that it is more durable than one of 200. Having more threads does not necessarily mean that the material itself is stronger, only that it has more thread per square inch. Once it reaches a saturation point, additional threads add very little to the actual strength of the material as a whole.
So, the next time you go shopping for a sheet, remember that the thread count of 180 or 200 is in a very good range and will provide you with the quality, durability and softness that you require. Anything above that should be on sale because it will not be worth paying extra.