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Customers often ask us whether the thread count of sheets matters. The answer is that it does matter, but it is not the most important consideration in selecting fine linens. The most important consideration is the type of fiber used to weave the fabric. The finest cotton sheeting is made with long-staple Egyptian cotton grown in the Nile River Valley. Not easy to grow, the fibers from this cotton are especially long and thin and sheets woven from it are smooth and even silky to the touch.
In the case of sheeting that is mass produced, the cotton used in the manufacturing process is not long-staple cotton. So, to make it stronger, or even longer, several fibers are twisted together to make the equivalent of one fiber. These manufacturers then advertise that the thread count of their sheets is the total of the number of fibers twisted together to make one fiber. The problem is that these shorter fibers have a tendency to break and pill. Bottom line is that the quality of sheets produced with this variety of cotton does not improve because of thread count.
It is true that long-staple Egyptian cotton sheets with higher thread counts are of higher quality. Thread counts typically range from 200 to 800 and in some very special cases, 1000. The more threads per inch, the more substantial the hand, or the “feel,” of the cotton. At the end of the day, selecting Egyptian cotton sheets comes down to what feels good to you and suits the purpose you have for your intended purchase. But, if you choose sheets made with long-staple Egyptian cotton and take good care of them, your sheets will get softer and softer and last a good long while.