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Bed sheets often state the thread count as an indication of quality. Is the thread count really a good measure of quality? If not, what other things can be checked to determine the quality of the sheets?

Qualities people might be looking for in sheets are durability (& resistance to pilling), softness, resistance to fading, resistance to wrinkling. My experience is that most sheets are cotton, but I know some are a polyester/cotton blend, and there are other fabrics used such as silk. Obviously a thread count of silk is not comparable with cotton, but the same questions might apply when comparing silk with silk.

Personally, I can't afford silk sheets, so I'm primarily interested in cotton or similar.

Apparently the thread count is important enough to put in bold print with the item name: enter image description here

  • I'm not sure I've heard a literal claim that high thread count is better, but I've definitely seen it quoted in advertising in a way that is clearly intended to imply quality. I've expanded the question to address your comment too. – Highly Irregular Feb 20 '12 at 9:31
  • Aenecdotally we have a set of 500ct Vera Wang sheets we got a kohls and a 900ct Egyptian cotton sheets we got from JCP and the Vera Wang sheets have held their colors, shape, and look practically new after 3 years. The 900ct sheets look worn, have a few tears, and have never felt as nice as the VW sheets. We use the VW more too. That said the 900ct sheets are still much better than your normal every day 2-300ct sheets. – Chad Feb 21 '12 at 14:08
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Choice is an Australian consumer watchdog and review magazine.

In a 2009 article titled Thread count is marketing spin, they warn that the published thread-counts may be misleading.

(This is a slightly different argument to "Thread counts are unimportant.")

In particular, they highlight that there is no standard for how thread-counts are measured:

Since there is no legal requirement for manufacturers to state how they counted the threads, the term is almost meaningless.

They go one to warn that two-ply threads may effectively double the thread-count without necessarily being less coarse, and the coarseness of the threads may make similar thread-counts feel different.

Linen Place is a retailer (and therefore might have a conflict of interest) but in their explanation "The Truth about Thread Count", they explain the (US) FTC have made rulings about the definition of thread-count (and how the manufacturers have responded), so the situation may be different by country.

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