Thread Count 101

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We spend more time with our bed sheets than any other fabric in our home. Yet when it comes to replacing those sheets, we're pretty clueless.

So how do you pick the best sheets?

Let's break it down to the basics:

Where your cotton comes from can make a difference on how it feels. You want cotton that provides an extra long staple or cotton fiber, typically coming from Egyptian, Pima or Supima cotton.

“When they spin that into a thread and weave it, the longer the staple the more durable the thread and the smoother the thread is,” said Corey Isaacson of Bed, Bath & Beyond.

Next up for superior sheets, looked for combed cotton. It's a process that is usually done on longer fibers and it will be right on the label.

“Combed cotton, which is different than regular cotton, goes through an extra process so they’ve combed out more of the trash,” said textile specialist Lorraine Henry.

The weave can make a difference. A sateen weave is often considered the best.

Finally there is the thread count, a count per square inch of the fabric that can easily run from 200 to 1,000 -- but don't be confused by the numbers.

“You can have a high thread count with an inferior cotton, " Isaacson said. "It’s not going to make a very good sheet. It’s going to pill and be rough."

So should you ignore thread count?

“No, don’t ignore it because the higher the thread count generally the rule is the nicer the sheets,” said Susan Lazear, Mesa College Fashion. “It’s sort of understood that once you get beyond 300, it’s not going to matter a whole lot.”

“After about 300, they’re just stacking them closer together,” Henry said.

Lazear said the "real way" to determine quality is to "sneak your hand inside and feel it,"

After that, the trick is to find that quality on a budget. If you know what to look for, you can sleep well knowing you found the best sheets and saved some money at the same time.

So thread count of at least 300 is important, but most critically, look for long cotton fibers coming from Egyptian or Pima cotton.

And if it's combed cotton, you know they took extra time to make a smooth, strong and soft cotton sheet.

Experts say go with 100-percent cotton, avoid synthetics.

Blends are fine for blouses and pants but not for sheets.

Make sure you measure your bed before you buy sheets especially the thickness.

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