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What’s the best thread count for sheets?

When it comes to thread count, you’d be forgiven for thinking that bigger is better – however, that isn’t always the case

When it comes to sheets, you often hear thread count tossed around as a marker of quality. People will bristle at a 200 thread count sheet but moon over a four-figured counterpart. But what really is a thread count? In which contexts does thread count really matter? Read on for everything you need to know about thread counts for sheets.

What does thread count mean?

When people talk about thread count, they’re talking about the number of horizontal and vertical threads woven into a singular square inch of material. Essentially, it’s how densely the fabric is populated with thread. A lower thread count means there are fewer threads, a higher thread count means the bed linen is rich with individual threads.

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What is a good thread count for sheets?

There’s a misconception that, when it comes to thread count, bigger is necessarily better. That’s not always the case. Thread count offers a broad indication of quality, but there’s a big element of subjectivity to selecting your bed sheets.

If you opt for a higher thread count, you’ll get sheets which feel thicker and denser, more akin to the buttery, heavy-duty sheets you find in luxury hotels. Meanwhile, a lower thread count will buy you sheets which are lighter, airier and can feel more breathable. That’s not to say they’ll be rough or scratchy; 200 thread count bed linens can still feel wonderfully soft against the skin. That being said, you might want to steer clear of sub-180 thread counts, which can have a slightly coarse texture.

When it comes to quality, the weave of bed linens is arguably more important than the thread count itself. The two most common types of weave are percale, which uses a relatively straightforward ‘plain weave’ (one thread is woven over another thread) and secondly, sateen (where four threads are woven over one thread).

Percale is less silky, though more breathable, creating a matte cotton that’s great for everyday use. Experts recommend a thread count in the region of 200-400, and advise against exceeding a 500 thread count. For this kind of breathable design and non-shiny appearance, it’s simply not necessary.

Sateen sheets, meanwhile, offer a silker, glossier appearance, although for this you may forfeit some of the light airiness associated with percale. The finer weaving of sateen means a thread count in the region of 300 to 600 is ideal for this refined fabric.

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If you are in the market for that seven-star, heavy-duty luxury feeling, a thread count of around 600 can work, although such products tend to come associated with higher price tags. Experts warn of exceptionally high thread counts – in the 800+ region – which can fall victim to trickery of manufacturers and marketeers, for example, when companies use double-ply threads to inflate thread counts, meaning you’re lumped with an 800 count sheet which equates roughly to a 400 count sheet.

It should also be noted that many popular bed linen materials are not measured in thread counts at all. Silk, for example, is assessed by momme, a Japanese measurement which indicates the weight in pounds of a given fabric measuring 45 inches by 100 yards.

Similarly, the cosy flannel sheets that tend to hit shelves around Christmas are measured in grams per square meter (GSM). If you’re looking to bundle up warm, a 170+ GSM sheet will serve you very well indeed, though more lightweight options are available.

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The best sheets to buy for every recommended thread count

1. White Company Essentials Egyptian Cotton range: Best everyday thread count sheets

Price: From £22 | Buy now from The White CompanyFor everyday luxury, the White Company’s Essentials Egyptian Cotton range is a compelling choice. The fabric is 100% Egyptian cotton, with a 200 thread count that offers breathability without forfeiting softness. This range offers affordable quality, and proves that you don’t need a four-figure thread count for a soothing, premium feel.

Buy now from The White Company

2. M&S’s Comfortably Cool Tencel: Best cooling sheets

Price: From £20 | Buy now from M&S

M&S’s Comfortably Cool Tencel range is another highly popular option. The soft, 200 thread count fabric serves to remove, or ‘wick’, moisture from the body, cooling you down on those sweaty summer nights. The sheets’ Tencel fibres are very fine, balancing out the range’s breathability with a refined, premium feel. If you’re looking to cool down your slumber and confine clamminess to the past, M&S’s Tencel technology is an excellent shout.

Buy now from M&S

3. Eve Brushed Cotton Fitted Sheet: Best cosy sheets

Price: From £11 | Buy now from Eve

If you’re looking to stay warm in the winter, materials like flannel and brushed cotton are well-suited for nesting. The brushed cotton fitted sheet from Eve purports to keep you warm ‘like a big toasty cinnamon bun’ – a universally recognisable, not to mention delightful, sensation. The sheet’s cotton fibres have been brushed upwards, giving them that cosy, fuzzy texture that’s invaluable in the cooler months. Eve’s brushed sheets are currently in the summer sale, bringing them down from £29 to a mere £11. Come winter, your energy bill will be thanking you.

Buy now from Eve

4. The White Company Savoy Bed Linen Collection: Best luxury percale sheets

Price: From £20 | Buy now from the White CompanyWhen it comes to premium bedding, the White Company is a leader in luxury. The Savoy Bed Linen Collection does what is says on the tin, replicating the luxe look-and-feel of one of the world’s most iconic hotels. The bedding is 400 thread count percale – an ample number for the more breathable weave. Soft, sleek and breathable, these sheets are the pinnacle of classic, modern luxury.

Buy now from the White Company

5. Dusk 600 thread coutn sateen sheets: Best luxury sateen sheet

Price: From £35 | Buy now from Dusk

On the upper end of the spectrum come Dusk’s 600 thread count sateen fitted sheets, offering sumptuous, hotel-style smoothness. The finely woven fabric, though excellent for luxuriating in, can feel constrictive on the breathability front, so if you’re a hot sleeper (someone who consistently feels too warm when sleeping), they might not be the optimal option for you.

Buy now from Dusk

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