Factors to Consider: Ply
The ply of a sheet refers to the number of fibers used to create a single thread. In a one-ply sheet, a single fiber is twisted to create a single thread. A two-ply sheet twists two fibers together to create each thread.
Many brands that use multiple-ply threads often do so because the material is thinner and requires doubling or tripling up so that the threads are strong enough to weave. Keep in mind that multiple-ply can affect thread count numbers, so if a higher thread count number is important to you, make sure to research whether you’re getting a high number from single-ply (which will feel softer) or multi-ply (which, compared to single-ply, won’t feel as soft – and, depending on the quality of the material, can even feel rough and scratchy).
In general, customers seeking more luxury and willing to spend a bit more should look for one-ply (a.k.a. single-ply) sheets. These are usually the softest and more durable (yet pricier!) sheets.
Factors to Consider: Thread Count
Thread count refers to the number of horizontal threads plus the number of vertical threads in each square inch of material. So a bed sheet with 150 threads in a vertical inch and 150 threads in a horizontal inch would have a thread count of 300.
To get a higher thread count, a manufacturer must use thinner threads and weave them closer together. This tight weave of high-quality thread results in a fabric that is softer, smoother, and stronger.
However, sometimes threads can be manipulated into one strand (i.e., by twisting two or three threads together, to form one thread). This creates a higher thread count by moving from thread that is single-ply to thread that has two, three, or more fibers twisted together. Using the multi-ply method, a manufacturer may use 150x150 two-ply thread and label that as a 600 thread count.
The maximum thread count that can be engineered from an expensive single-ply thread is around a 500 thread count. Customers should be skeptical of any product that advertises a thread count above 600; after 600, higher prices won’t always equal more softness.
Also, only compare thread counts across products of the same material. In other words, you should not compare a 120-count fine linen sheet against a 300-count Upland cotton sheet. The materials are so different that the thread count becomes less of a factor in the decision. You will have better luck comparing a 120-count linen sheet against a 300-count linen sheet.
To summarize the above: customers looking for the best quality sheets should choose a luxury material (such as silk or Egyptian cotton), with a single-ply, at the highest thread count available, typically within the 200-500 thread count range.
Thread count alone should never be the only factor in making a bed sheet decision. Focusing only on the thread count ignores the unique qualities of different types of materials and leaves you at risk of being misled when less multi-ply threads are used instead of more single-ply threads. Before purchasing a bed sheet set, be sure to review the material and features – and not just the thread count!
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Editorial Disclaimer: Articles featuring tips and advice are intended for educational purposes and only as general recommendations. Always practice personal discretion when using and caring for furniture, decor and related items.