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What thread count is softest?

When shopping for bed sheets, one of the key factors to consider is thread count – the number of threads woven into a square inch of fabric. Thread count is often used as an indicator of sheet softness and quality, with higher thread counts assumed to mean softer, more durable sheets. But is higher thread count always better? What thread count ultimately provides the softest, most comfortable fabric for bed sheets?

What is Thread Count?

Thread count refers to the number of threads woven vertically and horizontally into a square inch of fabric. For example, a 300 thread count sheet has 150 threads running vertically and 150 threads running horizontally for a total of 300 threads per square inch.

Most bed sheets have a thread count between 200 and 800. Standard thread counts tend to fall between 200-400, while premium luxury sheets often have a thread count of 600-800 or above. Here’s a breakdown of common thread count ranges:

Thread Count Range Quality Level
Under 200 Low
200-400 Standard
400-600 Good
600-800 Excellent
800-1000 Exceptional
1000+ Luxury Elite

In general, the higher the thread count, the softer and more durable the sheet. However, this is not always the case – thread count alone does not guarantee quality.

Does Higher Thread Count Equal Softer Sheets?

For many years, conventional wisdom dictated that higher thread counts automatically meant better quality, softer sheets. Brands pushed this belief and marketed sheets with astronomically high thread counts of 1000, 2000, even 10,000 threads per square inch.

However, the Federal Trade Commission cracked down on inflated thread count claims in 2020. Turns out, simply cramming more threads into a square inch does not necessarily improve softness, durability, or other aspects of quality.

In fact, once you go above 600-800 threads, there is negligible benefit to going higher. At very high thread counts, sheets tend to be rough and thin as fabric packed densely with threads loses pliability and softness.

So while a 20000 thread count sheet might sound luxurious, the absurdly high number is often misleading and does not guarantee superior quality.

Why Higher Thread Counts Can Be Counterproductive

There are a few reasons why higher thread counts don’t always equal better sheets:

  • Yarn quality declines – To achieve very high thread counts, manufacturers must use thinner, lower-quality yarns.
  • Weave becomes too tight and stiff – Densely packed threads limit flexibility and softness.
  • Thread count inflation – Some brands count plied yarns as multiple threads, artificially inflating the number.
  • Production focuses on quantity over quality – Priority goes to achieving high thread count at the expense of other attributes.

So clearly, thread count alone is not the definitive measure of sheet quality and softness. While thread count does matter to an extent, other factors play an equal or greater role.

What Impacts Sheet Softness More Than Thread Count

While a reasonable thread count is important, the following factors have a bigger influence on bed sheet softness and comfort:

Fiber Type

One of the biggest determinants of softness is the actual composition of the fabric. Certain fibers are inherently softer and smoother against the skin. The most common sheet fabric types include:

Cotton: The most popular sheet material, cotton offers breathability, durability, and softness. Pima or Egyptian cotton provide an ultra-soft premium feel.

Linen: Made from flax fibers, linen is lightweight, strong, and naturally lustrous. It softens over time.

Satin: Satin weave gives an indulgently smooth, silky feel. Often made from cotton, satin, polyester, or a blend.

Flannel: Made from cotton, wool, or synthetic fibers, flannel has a soft brushed finish perfect for cold weather.

Silk: Revered for its refinement and luster, silk offers a cool, gentle feel. Watch for less expensive “silk-like” fabrics.

Bamboo: Bamboo viscose sheets provide exceptional softness close to silk. Breathable and moisture-wicking.

Microfiber: Made from ultra-fine synthetic fibers, microfiber fabrics are soft, durable, and affordable.

Polyester: Despite a bad rap, new microfiber polyesters can offer good softness and wrinkle resistance.


The pattern in which threads are woven together also affects the look, feel, and durability of sheets.

Percale: With a tight one-over-one weave, percale sheets are cool, crisp, and lightweight.

Sateen: Sateen features a satin-like weave. It is smooth and silky yet thick and durable.

Jersey: The knit jersey fabric has elasticity for a stretchy, clingy feel.

Flannel: A brushed napped surface creates flannel’s signature cozy softness.

Twill: The signature twill diagonal pattern adds depth and texture.


Certain finishing processes enhance softness, including:

Mercerization: Treating threads with alkali improves sheen and strength.

Singeing: Burning off fiber ends results in smoother fabric.

Brushing/Napping: Lifting and teasing fibers adds plush softness.

Peach Finish: A delicate hand feel, like a peach skin.

Quality and Construction

Higher end sheets tend to be carefully crafted for increased softness and durability:

  • Higher number of yarns per inch creates consistent softness and resilience.
  • Long staple fibers are smoother than short staple.
  • Single ply yarns are softer than lower grade multi ply.
  • Tight, even weave prevents snagging or holes.
  • Reinforced hems and stitching prevent fraying.

These and other small details in construction and handcrafting result in softer, more luxurious bed sheets.

What Is the Softest Thread Count for Sheets?

So what’s the sweet spot for soft, quality sheets? While personal preference rules, here are some thread count guidelines:

For cotton sheets, 300-600 thread count is ideal. 300 TC offers a soft, breathable weave that improves with washing. 600 TC cotton sheets have a smoother, silkier hand feel. Above 600, minimal improvement in softness.

Linen sheets shine at the 180-300 thread count range. Higher number risks compact weave that defeats linen’s natural drape. Stick to 200-280 for optimal linen texture.

Sateen sheets, 320-400 thread count. Too high, and they lose the satin-like luster. Too low, not enough sheen and softness. 320-400 balances soft feel and silky look.

Flannel coziness, 150-170 thread count. Keeps flannel breathable and light. Still allows its signature brushing for plush softness.

Of course, fiber, weave, and processing should align with the thread count. But in general, the 300-600 range provides an ideal level of softness and quality for most sheet fabrics.

How to Choose the Softest Sheets

Follow these tips for evaluating and selecting sheets with optimal softness:

  • Touch before buying. Feel fabric samples in stores to gauge softness and quality.
  • Read labels. Check for fabric content, weave type, processing techniques.
  • Look for certification symbols. GOTS and OEKO-TEX guarantee safeness and quality inspection.
  • Learn about thread counts. Find the ideal range for the fabric type; discounts for exaggerated numbers.
  • Consider sheet sets. Buying together ensures matching weave, softness, and quality.
  • Check return policies. Sleep test sheets at home; exchange if not completely satisfied.

With a combination of savvy shopping, hands-on testing, and the right expectations on thread count, you’re sure to find sheets with your ideal level of softness and quality.

Top Rated Softest Bed Sheets

Based on glowing customer reviews and noticeably exceptional quality, these sheets sets are revered for their soft, supple feel:

Brooklinen Luxe Core Sheet Set

– 480 thread count long-staple cotton constructed for softness
– Percale weave becomes more plush over time
– Available in 10 hues like creamy Classic and warm Spice

Parachute Sateen Sheet Set

– Buttery 300 thread count long-staple Egyptian cotton
– Smooth, silky sateen weave drapes beautifully
– 14 shades like relaxed Linen and brushed Sand Dune

Brooklinen Linen Sheet Set

– Stonewashed 100% Belgian linen gets softer each wash
– 270 thread count ideal for linen’s natural drape
– 12 earthy colors like Plum and Sea Glass

Cozy Earth Bamboo Sheet Set

– 300 thread count viscose bamboo derived rayon
– Ultra-breathable and thermoregulating
– Choose white or tan for this luxury splurge

Lands’ End Garment Washed Percale Sheet Set

– 300 thread count combed cotton sheeting
– Garment washing creates soft, vintage appeal
– 25 colors and patterns available

Riley Home Percale Sheet Set

– 400 thread count long-staple cotton
– Percale weave improves with washing
– White, grey, and ivory to match any decor


What thread count do hotels use?

Hotel sheets typically have a 200-300 thread count. This provides the right balance of softness, breathability, and durability to handle commercial laundering and frequent use. Luxury hotels may use up to a 600 thread count.

What is the average thread count?

The average thread count for bed sheets is 200-400. This includes low priced sheets around 200 TC and nicer mid-tier options closer to 400 TC. 600-800 TC is considered high end.

Is 1000 thread count too high?

Yes, 1000 thread count is generally too high, with minimal improvement in softness over 600-800 TC sheets. At very high thread counts, manufacturers use lower quality shortcuts that undermine softness and durability.

What thread count do consumers prefer?

Most consumers prefer sheets in the 300-600 thread count range. 300 TC offers optimal softness for cotton, while 600 TC provides a smooth, silky feel. This strikes the best balance of softness, breathability, and resilience.

Is 1800 thread count good?

Despite impressive sound, 1800 thread count sheets are unlikely to be of high quality. Typical manufacturer shortcuts result in rough, papery fabric compared to 300-600 TC sheets. Focus more on fiber, weave, and construction.

The Bottom Line

While thread count offers useful clues, it does not directly equate to softer, better sheets. Prioritize choosing quality materials and craftsmanship to ensure the softest, most comfortable bed sheets. Let your own senses be the judge rather than fixating on thread count numbers alone. With reasonable expectations, you can absolutely find dreamy soft sheets to help you sleep soundly.