Don't be fooled by inflated thread count

by Lynn Truong on 7 February 2008 15 comments
Photo: iStock

Most of us understand that "thread count" indicates the quality of linen. The higher the thread count, the softer, smoother, and more luxurious the sheets. But the class action lawsuit against Bed Bath & Beyond has revealed a dirty little secret manufacturers do to inflate the thread count of their product.

Thread count is calculated by mulitplying the number of vertical yarns by horizontal yarns. However, some manufacturers have been using multi-ply yarn (one yarn created by twisting two or more strands of fiber together) and counting them into the final thread count. For example, a bed sheet made of 200 two-ply yarns can be labeled as having a 400 thread count. This is what happened at BB&B.

On or about February 10, 2003, at a Bed Bath & Beyond in Birmingham, Alabama, White purchased one queen flat sheet, one queen fitted sheet, and two pillowcases: white, pre-shrunk, extra deep, one hundred per cent chemical-free, “woven with durable two-ply yarns,” the packaging said, for a grand total of eight hundred threads...She said, “They just didn’t feel like I expected luxurious sheets to feel.” A lawyer friend encouraged her to have the bedding tested, so White sent them off to a lab that specializes in textile forensics. The verdict: her new “800 Natural” sheets were, in fact, mere 408s.

- The New Yorker

The next time you go shopping for bed sheets, make sure to read the fine print--only buy single-ply.

If you want in on the BB&B class action suit, you still have time to get your claim in. The deadline is May 13, 2008 (postmarked by date) and it applies to anyone who "purchased multi-ply sheet sets, pillowcases, down comforters, bedskirts, shams, duvets or down pillows that were labeled as “plied,” “two-ply” or “2-ply” from Bed Bath & Beyond between August 1, 2000 and November 9, 2007."

Here is their list of covered products .

Here is their claim form .

Here is the settlement FAQ .

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Guest's picture
Guest

Whatever happened to buyer beware? Why is our society so fast to sue if they feel they have been wronged even in the slightest? Why not simply return the product, and find one that suits your needs better? Lawsuits like this simply tie up the court's time, and cost everyone lots of money, which is then passed on to the consumers! Some people really need to get over themselves!

Guest's picture
Guest

The problem is that you can't find the old sheets any more - they're making all these overseas. Just try finding 65% poly/35%cotton percale 180 count. They're not there any more. They're all selling the "ring spun" (apologies) crap.

Guest's picture
Tonamel

A few months back I went shopping for new sheets, and by far the most comfortable ones I found were a 250 count organic thread set at Target. They were also one of the cheapest. Big numbers don't necessarily mean quality, even though we really, really want them to sometimes!

Guest's picture
Lucille

I'm glad someone questioned this. I have seen lots of sheet sets various places that claimed high thread counts but really didn't look that great upon closer inspection. I think now we know why.

Myscha Theriault's picture

I understand where the first commenter was coming from, but I think the difference here is that consumers have been trained to rely on thread count as the industry standard worldwide as how to judge the quality of a luxury sheet. Some of those packages are sealed pretty tight, and if you live far away like I do, and get all the way (four hours) home to find out you were jipped, it's beyond frustrating. They had to have known what they were doing. And their sheets aren't cheap. Of course, this is the first I've read about it, and I admit to not being thoroughly informed about the issue.

 Thanks for bringing it to the forefront, Lynn.

Kate Luther's picture

I have mixed thoughts on this - my mother bought us a set of 500 threadcount sheets last christmas and I will never sleep on anything else - they are the softest, most luxurious feeling sheets I've ever owned. A few months ago, she found a 1000 thread count flat sheet on clearance so she bought us both one. I've washed it twice and it still feels... I don't know... "stiff". Maybe it was a 2-plyer? I've thrown away the packaging so there's no telling but I can say that I see both sides. The 1000 threadcount sheet isn't any better than the 250's and 300's but that 500 set I've got?  Now those are some sheets!

Guest's picture
MD

I'm a fan of Cheryl Mendelson who wrote a book called Home Comforts about housekeeping. She discusses thread count in detail. The summary is that higher thread count doesn't exactly mean better sheets. High thread count sheets tend to be softer, less durable, and more unpleasant during warm months because they drape closely to skin. Lower thread count sheets may be less soft, but they will be more crisp. Some people prefer crisp sheets.

Guest's picture
Alyson

the softest and most durable piece of bedding we own is a cheap duvet set from Ikea. It came out of the packaging a little stiff and unpromising (but it was like $30, super cheap for a duvet cover) and now is fabulously satiny soft. You really have to watch out for bargain (that's not the right word - think sheets from people that make more than just sheets, like my nautica duvet cover that I purchased at TJ Maxx for a song so I'm not complaining but if I had gotten it at full $100+ price, I'd be upset) brand sheets that promise super high thread count. I'm pretty sure if Frette says their sheets are 1000 count, there are 1000 threads in there, but they also cost like $500. Most other brands are suspect, and, for the most part, you can't get any noticeable difference above 4 or 5 hundred.

Guest's picture
Dawna

All threads being the same, higher thread count does result in a more durable sheet-- same as with more knots per square centimetre with Turkish rugs. The denser weave of a higher thread/knot count may make the cloth stiffer, but it should eventually relax with use and washing. What the thread is composed of does matter, though. Long-staple cotton has fewer exposed ends per square cm., so sheets made with this will feel softer than will short, cheaper threads in the yarn-- the side of the cotton will feel silkier than the ends, naturally. And certain cottons like certain wools just have nicer qualities. So pay attention to the kind of cotton used. Another gotcha is that many high-thread count fabrics may contain polyester rather than pure cotton. Avoid labels saying "cotton-rich" or "wrinkle-free blend" and get the softness that natural fibers give.

Guest's picture
Tammy

I've always had people give me a hard time about how much I spend on my sheets but you get what you pay for! I always ask my girlfriends...why spend $3000 on a Chanel bag when you can get one that looks just the same...? That's because you're paying for quality! It goes the same for sheets! I've been shopping at elegantlinenspc.com for some time now and ALL my sheets look and feel NOT the same but BETTER than the first day I bought them. My mom has a set of Pratesi sheets that she has had for over 15 years now. Bed Bath and Beyond can't do that.

Guest's picture
Guest

If you can see, you should be able to tell the difference between 400 and 800 thread count.

It sounds like they were accurate when they said 2-ply.

Guest's picture

God love yahoo, neat site.

Will browse around and hopefully have something I can add.

Have a nice day.
StiltsChickTracey

Guest's picture
pussianny

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Guest's picture

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Guest's picture
Guest

Good sheets used to be made from 3 ply - I used to get the 180 and they were marvelously crisp and lasted years. You couldn't see through them like the sheets being sold now. I have sheets nearly 10 years old that are in better shape than what's for sale in stores. I wish they'd stop getting their stuff from Afghanistan and Pakistan. And what the hay is "ring spun"???? Bring back the old 3 ply 180 with no lies or deception about thread count.