Emma Seymour, senior textiles product analyst at The Good Housekeeping Institute, which has been testing consumer products for Good Housekeeping magazine since 1900.
Consumers generally believe that sheets with more threads per square inch are softer and more durable. Problem: Some sheet makers lie about the sheets’ thread counts. What to consider when shopping for sheets…
Fiber and weave matter more than thread count. With 100%-cotton sheets, choose a “percale” weave if you like sheets light and crisp…or a “sateen” weave if you prefer smooth and silky. Other fabrics worth considering: Linen for summer breathability…silk for softness and smoothness but at a premium price…or moisture-wicking Tencel to remain cool and dry if you sweat while sleeping.
Favor thread counts between 300 and 500 if you’re buying 100%-cotton sheets—most sheets that receive top scores in independent tests are found in that range. Comfort and durability tend not to substantially improve above 500—but what does increase dramatically is price. If you’re buying other than 100% cotton: Thread count is not a useful measure of comfort or quality. Brands may use gimmicks to increase the sheets’ thread-count claim without any improvement in softness or durability.
The more complicated the care, the fewer years you’re likely to get out of the sheets. Reason: Eventually someone will toss special-care-required sheets into the washer or dryer, hit a few buttons and the sheets will never be the same again.
Don’t assume “Egyptian cotton” sheets are truly made from Egyptian cotton. Purchase these pricey sheets only if the packaging provides a guarantee that DNA testing was performed to confirm that the cotton truly is Egyptian—responsible brands conduct these tests.
Lean toward brands that excel in independent testing. Brands that perform very well in Good Housekeeping’s tests: Brooklinen for high-end sateen (Brooklinen.com)… Parachute for high-end percale (ParachuteHome.com)…and Mellanni for affordable-but-comfortable microfiber (Mellanni.com).