What is thread count?

Anyone who has shopped for sheets would have heard of the term thread count. But what is it really? If you would like to find out what it is you are buying, read on. 

What is thread count? This refers to the total number of vertical and horizontal threads woven into a single square inch of fabric.

This means that a set of sheets labelled 400 TC per square inch would have 200 vertical threads (warp) and 200 horizontal threads (weft).


And for those of us living in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore, thread count is typically measured per 10 cm square. A set of sheets with 400 TC per square inch would be equivalent to 600 TC per 10 cm square. 

Is a higher thread count always better? Generally yes, but there is a limit to that. A good set of bed sheets typically starts at 200 TC per square inch. Anything above 300 TC per square inch will be luxurious. 

However, there is a physical limit to the number of threads that can be woven into a single square inch and that number is generally agreed to be around 400 TC per square inch.

How do some manufacturers arrive at 800 TC then? This is where it gets grey.

Some manufacturers use multi-ply threads to inflate their thread counts. Think of it as twisting multiple strands of weaker thread (i.e ply) together to form a single thread, and then multiplying the real thread count with the number of ply in each thread. So, technically, a 800 TC can be achieved by using 4-ply threads in a 200 TC fabric weave.

This method is normally used on lower-grade cotton and allows manufacturers to inflate thread counts and charge unsuspecting consumers more.

So if you see a set of sheets marketed with a number like 800 or 1200 TC, you should be cautious about your purchase. 

What should I look out for when buying sheets? Look for cotton sheets made of long-staple cotton. This refers to cotton that has extra long fibers. And when it comes to cotton, the longer the fiber, the stronger, softer and more durable the resulting fabric.

Egyptian cotton, pima and Supima are all examples of long-staple cotton and are used to produce fine cotton fabrics. 

Cotton is great for bed sheets because it is soft and breathable. Cotton sheets wick moisture away from your skin, keeping you cool and dry throughout the night.

Avoid sheets that are blended with polyester. Polyester blended sheets may be cheap and durable but they may get quite hot to sleep on. 

Sheets that are labelled with an exaggerated thread count (say, 800 and above) should be treated with caution. They are likely to be misleading and will not be worth the extra sticker price.


 A good quality and honest set of sheets (between 300 to 400 TC per square inch) hits the sweet spot between value for money and ultimate comfort. 

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