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The impact of thread count and ply on the quality of your bedsheets

The term ‘high quality’ is often used to describe bed linen, but what does it really mean? Far from just referring to thread count - a measure of quality some manufacturers use to excite (and sometimes mislead) consumers and boost sales - every aspect of a cloth’s construction, from the yarn type and ply to the thread count (TC) will impact bedsheet quality. We look at the role ply and TC play in helping you enjoy a luxury snooze.


What is thread count and how does it affect bedsheet quality? 

Consumer interest in thread count (TC) has grown in recent years. TC refers to the total number of horizontal and vertical threads per square inch of fabric, with a higher number creating a smoother, more durable fabric. TC is often seen as a mark of bedsheet quality, with a higher thread count indicating a quality product with greater fabric density. However, factors such as ply (single, 2-3-4-ply), yarn quality (long v short staple cotton), and finish are just as important in producing high quality luxury sheets.


Thread count can’t always be trusted 

Some manufactures mislead consumers into believing they are buying a high-quality product by using multi-ply threads (see explanation below) to bump up the thread count. A 500tc sheet made with two-ply yarn therefore might be advertised as a 1,000tc sheet, and made from the cheapest short-staple cotton. Short-staple cotton is an inferior yarn that can feel rough and scratchy on the skin as it is far more likely to pill and fray.  

Read this guide for more advice on bath and bed linen myths.


What is ply and how does it affect bedsheet quality?

Ply gets less attention than thread count, but it makes a big difference to bedsheet softness. Ply refers to the number of individual strands of yarn twisted together to create a single, thicker strand. Single ply yarn is made from a single strand of fibre, double-ply from twisting two pieces of fibre and 3-ply from twisting three pieces together and so on. Single-ply yarn is best for bedding as it creates a surface that is silky soft against the skin.

Ply is only as good as the cotton used to create the cloth. Reputable manufacturers craft sheets from single-ply long staple cotton as this type of high-quality yarn produces soft, smooth and longer lasting bedsheets. Cheaper, short staple cotton has exposed fibre ends that weaken bed sheet durability, making it rough to the touch and susceptible to bobbling.


What is the ideal thread count and ply for high-quality bedsheets?

While the ideal ply is always single-ply, there is no ideal thread count for bedding. It’s largely a matter of personal preference. However, the higher the thread count the smoother the linen will feel. For a cool, crisp bedsheet, a 200tc percale woven sheet is often ideal; for a silkier, more luxurious texture, a 300 or 400 thread count sateen woven sheet will often suffice. Most luxury 5-star hotels prefer their luxury cotton bedding to sit under 600tc as this fabric type offers the perfect balance of durability, luxury and practicality. Anything higher probably isn’t necessarily and can become less breathable and harder to launder – exactly what you don’t want from bedsheets!