The truth about thread count and your 1000TC sheets

So much talk on the web about thread count and the lies that go with it. Most savvy linen buyers are awake to their shenanigans.

But just in case you have been living in bed with your head under the doona, here are the three simple truths about Thread Count.

1. The definition of Thread Count is made up

Well, it may be not as make-believe as unicorns, but the meaning can change depending on manufacturers and retailers.

The general rule of thumb defines "Thread Count" as the total sum of threads running vertically and threads running horizontally in a square inch.

One way manufacturers get around the "Thread Count" is to count each ply woven into a single thread as individual threads.

Therefore a 200 Thread Count sheet would be considered a 400 Thread Count if it was a 2-ply strand, and a 200 thread count sheet would be viewed as a 600 thread count sheet if a 3-ply strand of thread etc.

To spell it out for those (myself included) who like a 1000 Thread Count sheet...

A 500 Thread Count sheet would be considered a 1000 Thread Count sheet if made from two-ply thread.

Understandably, you might get quite upset, especially if you are paying $100 to $200 for sheets to love.

The problem is there is no formal, international measure of thread count, and no compulsion to have one.

In other countries, it seems they are now required to tell you the ply of the threads on packaging, but not yet in Australia.

2. Thread count was a marketing ploy for cotton sheets

For years we were sold the theory that the higher the thread count, the better sheet is.

Hats off to the marketer who came up with this one! It would undoubtedly persuade some people to pay for the more expensive sheets.

But this 'theory' wasn't always so.

The not for profit organisation Consumer Reports says that back in the 1960's a 180 Thread Count sheet was considered luxury. So, what has changed?

Not much. It would seem that the devil is in the ply (or thickness of the thread). See the explanation of defining 'ply' and 'Thread Count' in point number one above.

3. It is impossible to compare thread count across different fabric types

Let me quickly put on my David Attenborough hat.

Cotton comes from the cotton plant.

Linen comes from the flax plant.

Bamboo comes from - you guessed it, the bamboo plant.

Therefore the thread and optimum Thread Count in each type of fabric will differ.

The ply and strands are different.

The weaving process may be different, the dying process of varying material will be different.

Linen sheets feel different to bamboo, and to cotton. Even different weaves can make the same thread feel different.

Big deal you say, but what is the optimum Thread Count? Well, good question. Let's discuss...

4. You don't want a high 'Thread Count" for linen

Linen is a thicker ply than cotton or synthetic fabrics, so you don't want the Thread Count to be too high.

Let's imagine you sat down and collected 300 strands of dental floss, and you wove these with another 300 strands of floss REALLY TIGHTLY to get a 600 Thread Count in an inch of fabric.

That would be a ridiculously thick inch of fabric! And while it may smell minty, it's probably not that soft or smooth. (Not to mention a complete waste of your time!)

Trying to get linen to an actual 1000 Thread Count in one square inch would result in weighty, stiff, unbreathable fabric.

One of the main benefits of linen is its breathability.

So, a Thread Count of say 150 to 200 would be better.

Any decent linen provider will be able to tell you what the Thread Count is if you ask, but you will probably not see it on the packaging.

5. You won't get a high 'Thread Count" for bamboo

While some bamboo sheets can be considered organic, there is a chemical process to dissolve the bamboo into a pulp, and another to reconstruct the bamboo threads into fine long strands of fibre which will be woven into fine threads.

The fine threads are stong and long providing the silky feeling.

Thread counts for this type of bedding are generally 300 Thread Count to 400 Thread Count.

6. Cotton has the broadest "Thread Count" of them all.

If we ignore all of the sneaky tricks of some unscrupulous manufacturers use, we can get in the market cotton Thread Counts of 200 to 1200.

That is an enormous range!

So what is the best? Well, that depends on what you want them for of course!

I personally have no problem buying my son a 200 Thread Count Lightning McQueen Doona Cover.

I am equally happy to purchase myself a 1000 Thread Count sheet set for the master bed. We have a lot of traffic in our bed (that is our kids, not random nights of passion) and I think they stand up to the wear and tear between washes better.

If it is cold, use a higher Thread Count as the weave is closer together and keeps in the warmth.

Hotter weather may justify a lighter sheet.

If you were looking to buy a good all round sheet that won't break the bank, I recommend looking at Thread Counts of 300 to 800. We also sell a long staple 600TC.


So that is the truth of the matter. 1000 Thread Count cotton sheets look and feel great - if that is what you are after. If they are true 1000 TC, they are a couple of hundred dollars, and weigh a ton.

Don't worry yourself too much about Thread Count in other types of Fabrics, as you won't get to the magical 1000 Thread Count.

The fabric is merely different.

Happy hunting!