When buying new bed linen, there are several ways you can differentiate high quality from lower quality items. Characteristics like fabric, fibre, weight, and finish are all easy to comprehend and judge, but there is one quality that often causes confusion: thread count.
The definition of thread count seems to change depending on who you ask, to the point where it appears to be a made-up attribute. However, it always appears in the description of premium duvet covers, including the likes of Egyptian cotton, mulberry silk, and bamboo cotton.
So what do duvet manufacturers mean when they claim their product to have a 'higher thread count'? This article will unravel the mystery of thread counts, identify the benefits of it, and explore how it relates to different types of fabric.
What Does Thread Count Mean?
Thread count refers to the number of threads woven together, both horizontally and vertically, in every square inch of linen material. The higher the TC, the more tightly woven the linen is. High TC, therefore, suggests high durability.
It also suggests that finer yarns have been used to weave more into every square inch. The TC number is normally determined by counting the number of warps and wefts found within a square inch of fabric. For example, a TC of 200 would suggest that there are 100 warp threads and 100 weft threads.
For those who don't know, the warp is the yarn that is threaded onto the loom vertically, and the weft is the yarn that is threaded from left to right.
Is Thread Count The Same As Quality?
Generally, a higher TC suggests that the bedsheets are of good quality. It's undeniable that a high number of threads woven together makes sheets feel smoother and also makes the duvet covers durable and more luxurious overall.
However, the quality of bed linen should not be judged solely on the number of threads involved; weave and fibre quality must also be considered and are arguably more important in determining the overall quality of the linen.
For example, each product in our 200 thread count Egyptian cotton range has a relatively low TC. However, Egyptian cotton fibres are already durable and soft, which means an Egyptian cotton duvet cover does not require a high TC to be considered good quality.
Therefore, when it comes to buying a new duvet cover, don't judge it primarily on its TC - consider its weight, fibre, and finish, too!
Benefits Of High Thread Count Bed Linen
With more thread used to cover a surface area, the smoother the bed linen is to the touch. More thread creates an even and tighter surface, with fewer bumps and, therefore, far softer bed linen.
Thin threads are used to maximise the TC of a square inch. These finer, delicate threads also add to the overall softness of the product. Thicker yarn, which is often used in cheaper, low TC sheets, can produce a rougher, less comfortable feel.
The more threads woven into a square inch, the stronger it becomes. Through continued use, some of the woven threads will likely unravel, particularly if you regularly wash your bed linen. However, this is not a major issue when it comes to linen with high TC, as the additional woven threads help to hold the material together for longer.
Bed linen with high TC is considered to be more luxurious as they take far longer to produce than low TC linen. These strongly woven sheets are often described as having greater fabric density. High TC sheets tend to be more expensive and can often be found in the most opulent of hotels.
Is Bed Linen With High Thread Counts More Expensive?
High TC is generally more expensive than low TC, as it requires more expensive production costs as well as additional production time. Fine yarn is more expensive than thicker yarn, plus you need more of it in order to produce high TC linen. Weaving more thread will also add to production time, as finer threads are more difficult to handle than thicker ones.
Because of the reasons above, you'll likely find high TC to be priced slightly higher. For example, our Cotton Sateen 300 Count Extra Deep 38cm costs less than our Cotton Sateen 1200 Count Extra Deep 38cm. Although it is cheaper to buy the former, the latter provides more comfort and more durability, so it could be a good investment.
Cheap bedsheets that promise a high TC should be treated with suspicion. In some instances, linen manufacturers have been known to use thin yarns of low quality in order to boost thread counts.
Which Thread Count Is Best For Bed Sheets?
With such a wide range of TC linen available, the question of what number of TC is the best for bed linen often gets asked. It is a question that doesn't have a clear answer, but the range you should be looking for is at least between 200 and 700 TC.
However, this range changes depending on the type of fabric you invest in.
The perfect Egyptian cotton bed linen should fall between 200 and 400 TC. Egyptian cotton is already soft, so it does not require a high TC, but just enough to ensure its durability. Egyptian cotton is also often the most expensive material you'll come across as it has long staple fibres, so it's best to opt for some with lower TC to save money.
Egyptian cotton is noted for providing warmth in the winter and coolness in the summer.
Again, cotton is already naturally soft, so it does not require a high TC to make it smooth. Anywhere in the range of 200 to 400 will suffice.
Our 200 Thread Count 100% Cotton is breathable, lightweight, and comes with a crisp finish.
The best thread count for bamboo bed linen ranges between 200 and 400. 100% bamboo is typically softer at 200 TC than cotton is at 400 TC.
The sheets, pillowcases, and covers featured in our Bamboo range are hypoallergenic, breathable, and cool to the touch.
Linen is an exception to the 200 to 700 TC rule. Linen is a lot thicker than other types of fibre and therefore has a limited capacity for thread counts. This is why you rarely see TC mentioned in linen product descriptions. For this reason, it's best to avoid linen bedsheets that advertise a high TC.
Anything between 300 and 600 is a good TC level for sateen weave sheets, but if you want a sheet with more heaviness, opt for one with a larger TC, such as the Cotton Sateen 1200 Thread Count. Sateen weave sheets are silky soft with a glossy sheen.
Which Fibres Aren't Measured by Thread Count?
Like all silk fibres, mulberry silk is measured in momme, which measures the weight and density of the silk. Typically momme ranges from 16 momme (around 600 TC) to 30 momme.
Flannel or Brushed
Flannel or also called Brushed is measured in grams per square metre (GSM). If you're looking for a durable, high-quality flannel sheet, get one that is over 170 GSM.
Microfibre is also measured in GSM, the ideal GSM being between 90 and 120.
Jersey cotton cannot be measured by TC as it is not woven but knitted. It is also measured using GSM. The ideal weight of jersey cotton depends on what you're looking for.
As we've already mentioned, TC is only part of the picture. When deciding on what new bed linen to buy, you should also consider the following:
Make sure that the bed linen is the correct size for your mattress depth. Although 'king' and 'double' give you a good estimate of the size of the linen, your mattress may still be too deep. It is recommendable to check the exact measurements of your mattress and compare this to the size guide.
When it comes to bed linen, quality definitely trumps quantity. There's no point investing in a duvet cover with a high TC if the fibre quality is low.
Decide what kind of finish you want based on the aesthetic of your bedroom. If you want bed linen that goes well with any room theme, opt for a plain design. If you want to liven up a particularly plain bedroom, choose patterned bed linen or one that features bright colours.
Our 100% Cotton Percale 30cm Fitted Sheet comes in a range of different colours, including lilac, mint, pale blue, pink, and lemon.
It's important to also consider how different weave types affect the softness and comfort of the bed linen. The main weave types include:
Percale is a simple weave pattern where the yarn goes one under and one over. This gives the finished product feel crisp and lightweight. It feels cool against the skin and even softens through continued use.
Sateen weave features more vertical threads than horizontal ones. This weave type uses long cotton fibres that have been soaked in acid and lye, making them more durable than regular cotton. Sateen weaving produces a heavy, soft finish and features a subtle sheen. Sateen should not be mistaken for satin.
Satin weave is characterised by floating warp yarns which go over around four weft yarns. It creates an extra smooth bedsheet and is ideal for those with sensitive skin.
Jacquard is a highly complex weave type and takes a lot of skill to produce. It is made using different patterns and weaves and produces a complex and intriguing bed linen design. It is woven using a mix of cotton, viscose, rayon, and silk, making it extra strong. The delicate patterns are wrinkle resistant.
In a twill weave, either the warp or the weft passes twice or more over its counterpart, which produces diagonal lines that can reach up to 75 degrees. Twill may be rough to the touch initially but gets softer over time.
Jersey is knitted, not woven, and typically uses cotton blend fibres. Jersey knit bed linen holds in heat, is stretchy, and is often recommended for kids.
Several products in our bed linen range feature microfibre weaving, which is synthetic fibre-based and very tightly woven. Microfibre weave is both water and wrinkle resistant.
Does a higher thread count always indicate better quality?
A high TC refers to the amount of horizontal and vertical threads that fit into a specific area of fabric. Although a high count could indicate more durability and therefore higher quality, TC is not the be-all and end-all. The size, fibre, finish, and weave type of the fitted sheet should also be considered when buying new linen.
A low count does not necessarily indicate lower quality sheets.
How can I find out the thread count of a bed linen product?
The thread number is normally mentioned in the product title on the Belledorm website. Under the 'Duvet Covers & Sets' and 'Sheets' drop-down menu, you can select whichever TC you are looking for on the left-hand side.
What is a good thread count for a duvet?
The best thread number depends on what you are looking for, but anywhere between 200 and 700 TC is a good bracket to aim for. The higher the TC, the heavier the sheets tend to be.
Are lower thread count sheets cooler?
Sheets with lower TC are cooler as they trap less heat at night and are generally lighter.