A guide to bed sheets: thread counts, sizes and more - Lifestyle AU
A guide to bed sheets: thread counts, sizes and more

A guide to bed sheets: thread counts, sizes and more

Buying the bed right sheets is important, but it can get confusing fast. Although they may seem like basic forms of bed linen, you’ll quickly find there is more to them than meets the eye. From considering price points to understanding thread counts and fibres - buying new bedding can start to feel more complicated than getting a king-sized duvet into its cover.

Words by Yohei Guy

According to reports, millions of Australians are not getting enough sleep. Phones are largely to blame, but there's another factor that might be influencing the quality of your sleep. The bed sheets themselves. In this guide, we break down the buying process, identifying exactly what you need to bear in mind to get sheets that will give you the best night’s sleep possible.

Wildflower Bedding Range from Città

What does a higher thread count do in bed sheets?

So what does a higher thread count do in bed sheets? They are certainly discussed a lot by linen brands and manufacturers but what does it actually mean?

Thread counts can be an indication of quality, softness, and durability. However, there are times when high-thread counts are simply a marketing gimmick.

The higher the thread count, the higher the number of threads in one square inch of sheeting. If bed linen has a high thread count, this means that it is more tightly woven, and usually more durable.

Unfortunately, manufacturers have jumped on this metric, often trying to game the system by falsely inflating the thread count in their products. Some manufacturers weave ultra-thin threads together to create double-ply threads and then double up their thread count. That said, thread count can still be a reasonable guide to sheet quality, as long as you don't let yourself be misled by sky-high thread count numbers.

Here is a guide to thread counts and how they influence quality and softness:

  • Under 200 thread-count: Usually poor quality and loosely woven
  • 200-400 thread-count: Decent quality
  • 400-800 thread-count: High quality
  • 800-900 thread count: Premium quality
  • 900+ thread count: Probably a marketing gimmick
Simple by stylish bedding feature on the Alys Bed

As a general rule of thumb, sheets with thread counts between 300 and 500 are usually just as good as higher thread count numbers. Any difference in durability and softness is so small that it might not justify the price tag. Sheets with thread counts exceeding 500-800 are usually quite expensive.

Keep in mind that these thread count standards only really count when it comes to cotton sheets. Linen sheets for example have thicker threads, and therefore lower thread counts.

Satin fibres are so thin that cotton thread count standards don't apply because the number of threads woven in satin bed sheets is automatically higher.

Fibre

Speaking of fibres, this is another important factor to consider when buying bed sheets. Let's take a look at the different types of fibres you'll encounter in bed linen.

Cotton

Cotton is one of the most common fibres traditionally used in bedsheets. Cotton sheets are typically soft, resistant to pilling, and breathable, but are more expensive than synthetic bed sheet options.

There are three main types of cotton used for bed linen. These are:

  • Upland cotton
  • Egyptian cotton
  • Pima cotton

Upland cotton is the most common, but it has shorter fibres, making it less soft and less durable. Pima cotton and Egyptian cotton both fall into the category of extra-long-staple cotton.

Long-staple cotton is more durable and softer to the touch.

Prices can range widely for long-staple cotton, varying from around $50 dollars to a few hundred dollars for a sheet set.

Mid-century styling on the Rome Hardwood King Size Bed Frame

Satin

Real satin sheets are quite hard to come by and are on the pricier side. For a real silk sheet set, you can expect to pay around $85.

They can also feel cold to the touch, and slippery.

However, they do offer a very luxurious sensation to those who enjoy a silky feel to their bedsheets. Real satin sheets and pillowcases are also hypoallergenic.

Polyester

Polyester bed linen is one of the cheapest options when it comes to bed sheets. It is also relatively long-lasting, quick-drying, and highly resistant to creasing.

On the downside, polyester bed sheets lack breathability, are prone to pilling, and lack the feeling of softness and luxury.

Microfiber

Like polyester, microfiber bed sheets are also synthetic, however, they resist pilling and are a little softer. They are usually a little more expensive than polyester, but still cheaper than natural fibre options.

Linen

Linen bed sheets are coming back into vogue in a serious way. They are highly breathable and absorbent, making for a cool sleep, and get softer over time.

Is your best night's sleep is a cool one? If so, linen could be the ideal option.

Linen is prone to creasing. However, its softly, rumpled look is part of the organic appeal of linen bedding.

The main drawback to linen is that it commands a high price point. If you opt for high-quality options, you can expect to pay upwards of $270 for duvet cover.

Linen bed sheets typically come in thread counts ranging between 80 and 140. Any higher than this and the linen is likely to feel hard to the touch.

Linen bedding at its best from Città

Weaves

If you're out shopping for bed sheets, it won't be long before you encounter the weave conundrum. Some of the most common weaves you'll run into are percale, combed cotton, and sateen weave.

Percale

In percale cotton, the weave and the weft threads form a basic grid pattern. Because it is less dense and tight than other weaves, percale cotton typically feels light and crisp.

Some percale weaves also feature combed cotton. These bed sheets mimic the quality of long-staple cotton options because their threads are combed before weaving to remove shorter strands of cotton.

Sateen

As their name suggests, sateen weave sheets have a subtle luminous sheen. They are usually thicker and denser than percale.

This is because sateen bed sheets utilize a special weave, where the warp yarn is floated over the weft yarn. This results in a tighter weave, higher thread counts, a silkier finish, and enhanced durability.

Sateen bed sheets are immune to pilling and are very long-lasting. They also offer a luxurious feel to the skin.

Incidentally, did you know that humans are the only mammals who deliberately put off sleep? We're not making any guarantees, but a set of sateen sheets might be the secret to breaking bedtime procrastination.

Quality fabrics with the Flow Upholstered Bed by Southwood

Sizes

The final thing to think about when selecting bed sheets is sizes. It seems like every region in the world has its own bedding standards, so it's important to make sure you're buying bed sheets in standard Australian sizes.

Australian bed linen sizes are usually smaller than US sizes, but that's where the predictability ends. When compared to New Zealand sizes, it's all over the place.

For instance, single fitted sheets in Australia (91x190+40cm) are somewhat smaller than in New Zealand (93x205+40cm).

On the other hand, an Australian super-king fitted sheet (203x203+50cm) is larger than a New Zealand version (185x205+40cm)

Speaking of fitted sheets, if you use a mattress topper, you might want to size up when buying fitted sheets to account for the extra bulk.

Matching blankets, throw and pillows adorn the Aspen Toddler Single Bed

No more bed sheets buyer blues

If you've never given much thought to buying bed sheets, the specs involved can be enough to make your head spin. Fortunately, now that you know how to differentiate between thread counts, fibres, and weaves, you're all set to navigate sheet buying like a pro.

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