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When buying sheets for your bed, you’ll something called “thread count.” But really, what is that? What does it mean, and how can it help you select your sheets? Thread count refers to the number of horizontal and vertical threads per square inch in the fabric.

It is normally assumed that a higher thread count means the sheets will be softer, more durable, and even soften over time. But, thread counts over 1,000 aren’t always of better quality than sheets with a thread count between 200 and 800. This is because extra threads can be woven into the sheets to increase the thread count — which is how some sheet sets claim to have a thread count of 1,200+. This is why a high thread count doesn’t necessarily equate to better quality. Sneaky, huh?

Depending on the type of cotton used to make the sheets, the maximum number of threads that can fit into a square inch of fabric is 400.

According to Jim Symmes, the vice president of Revman International — a sheet manufacturing company for brands such as Tommy Bahama — a low thread count doesn’t equate to low-quality. In fact, he tells HGTV that if you’re on a budget when shopping for sheets, a 200-count combed cotton set from a prominent brand can mimic the feel of a higher thread count sheet set.

Symmes reveals that his ideal thread count for a combed cotton sheet can range between 300 to 400. Be wary of low-priced sheets with a high thread count — good quality sheets will almost always cost more than low quality sheets, no matter what the thread count.

Experts have claimed that organic cotton, Egyptian cotton, and Pima cotton are the best fabrics for sheets. Synthetic materials often don’t breathe well and can make you hot during the night.

In addition to thread count, sheet quality, softness, and durability should all be considered before purchasing a set. (Which is why we love to feel sheets before we purchase them).

Remember, good quality sheets should get better after every wash and last you several years!