Thread Count Explained: How to Buy Sheets

The Quick Guide to Great Sheets

Some companies are gimmicky—we’re not one of them. Over the years, thread count has become the most advertised feature of bedding. But, standing alone, it actually isn’t a very accurate indicator of quality at all. Here’s what you really need to look for when buying your next set of sheets.

A study by Good Housekeeping Research found that 7 out of 8 sheets have an exaggerated thread count.


Fiber quality impacts how you experience your sheets: temperature, softness, feel, and durability. Long-staple cotton and French linen, for example, are known for lightweight and breathable bedding with excellent durability. Tencel® and rayon from bamboo are soft and silky—and wick away moisture. Flannel and microfiber feel soft and cozy.


A well-designed and well-made set of sheets feels amazing—and looks gorgeous on your bed. Look for deep pockets in the fitted sheet, oversized dimensions for the flat sheet and pillowcases, and high-quality elastic that will hug your mattress.


When you see pristine edges, quality piping, and strong elastic you know you’ve found a good set of sheets. It’s also important to know if the fabric has been treated with a synthetic chemical wash to present a cool, smooth feel in the store—that vanishes once it’s been washed.


Ultimately, no set of sheets will make you happy unless you love the way they feel. That preference is entirely personal. It’s essential to touch and feel sheets as you discover what you like most: silky, smooth, soft, cool, warm, etc. You may even find that you prefer a different feel depending on the season.


Long Staple Fibers

The highest quality fabrics have long-staple fibers. The term staple simply means the fiber of wool, cotton, flax, rayon, etc., considered with reference to length and fineness.

Longer fiber creates stronger and finer yarns, this leads to a smooth and supple weave. In contrast, shorter fibers can often break causing pilling and generally weakening the fabric.

Single-Ply Yarn

Yarn ply is the amount of individual yarns used in a thread. A frequent practice of low-quality bedding manufacturers is to use multi-ply yarn: the process of twisting multiple yarns together to increase their thread count.

For example, a sheet set advertised as 1,000 thread count may actually be made of multiple-ply threads. So when you break it down, it is actually only 250 threads of 4-ply yarns per square inch. It’s a sneaky way to boost the thread count, but it doesn’t create the airy, more supple fabric that single-ply yarns do.

This is because the yarns used to produce multi-ply yarn are often shorter fibers, sometimes referred to as discard-grade fibers.

Thread Count

Thread count is simply a way of measuring the number of threads per square inch of fabric. Historically, a single-ply fabric with a high thread count of 600 was—and is—premium, due to the use of fine yarns. 

Today, many manufacturers frequently use deceptively high thread counts—sometimes into the thousands. Instead of counting one thread woven in a square inch, they count the number of fibers twisted in the thread to come up with an impressive, albeit embellished, measure.


Universal Fit®

At Malouf, our sheet sets feature a fully-elasticized fitted sheet for a great looking fit that encompasses the corners as well as the sides. This allows for a smooth and secure fit no matter the depth of your mattress. In fact, we offer our Universal Fit guarantee—that means if our sheets don’t fit perfectly, we’ll replace them.

Oversized Dimensions

Good design makes for beautiful beds. That’s why we design every sheet set with deep pockets and oversized dimensions. So no matter your mattress depth, our sheets will drape, tuck, and fit like a dream. Oversized dimensions extend to our pillowcases as well, allowing for a lovely drape every time you make your bed.

Extra-Deep Pockets

Our microfiber, cotton blend, and Portuguese flannel sheets all fit mattress depths of 6 inches to 18 inches. And for those who love taller mattresses, our rayon from bamboo, Tencel®, Egyptian cotton, French linen, and Italian artisan sheets fit mattress depths of 6 inches to 22 inches.


Hem Stitching

Each Malouf sheet set is designed for optimal feel, drape, and longevity. That means we finish each sheet with the hem stitch that best complements the fabric. Our lightweight fabrics pair well with a lightweight hem. And our heavier fabrics handle a more ample hem. This guarantees our sheets lay beautifully on your bed—and won’t bunch after laundering.

Look for elegant hem stitches like double piping on our Egyptian cotton sheets, and the hand-drawn hem stitch on our classic Italian Artisan Collection for added luxury and appeal. All our sheets are hand-finished and hand-inspected.

Say No to Chemical Finishes

Many manufacturers treat fabrics with chemicals and enzymes during the finishing process. Malouf sheets are never treated with these gimmicky fabric enhancers or synthetic softeners. Our high quality products maintain their soft and smooth feel over time due to high-quality materials—not chemicals. Our feel doesn’t simply wash away after laundering like many other fabrics that feel soft in the store, but stiffen after a couple washings. 

Note: It’s always a good idea to wash your sheets at least once before using. It’s important to pay attention to care instructions so your sheets stay comfortable and looking great for as long as possible.



There are several weave options available in bedding that affect the feel in a big way. We recommend percale for strength, twill for a beautiful drape, and sateen for that lustrous look and feel. The weave of fabric is often more important to the overall quality than the thread count. Bedding is made using three basic weave patterns: percale, twill, and sateen.


A popular choice for sheets is the plain weave: a simple one-thread-over, one-thread-under pattern that creates strong, even fabric. Percale is an example, known for its crispness, breathability, and durability.


Twill weave is often a one-thread-over, three-threads-under pattern and produces a diagonal rib line on the face of the fabric. Twill fabrics are strong, durable, and used to create bedding with a soft, beautiful drape.


Sateen weave is often a four-threads-over, one-thread-under pattern and creates a silky-smooth, lustrous look and feel to bedding. The construction of the fabric gives sateen weave a grain, so it drapes beautifully over the bed as well.