Ever had the hunch, when you're reading the thread count on a set of sheets, that the number might not justify the price tag? Us too. When you're shopping for bedding, it can be difficult to navigate the marketing materials and determine what really matters and how much to pay. Here are a few tips and sources to keep in mind when you're trying to find high quality at a good price.
Understand Thread Count
Thread count is defined as the number of threads (horizontal and vertical) per square inch of a sheet. Manufacturers sometimes crowd thinner threads together to increase the count so they can charge more. (See this article for more info.)
I'm generally suspicious of thread counts in chain stores over 400 — in 2008, a massage therapist who thought her 800 thread count sheets seemed a little scratchy actually won a lawsuit against Bed, Bath & Beyond for misleading consumers. The store has since settled and complied with ASTM standards.
Shop for Simple but High-Quality Fabrics
Fabric has just as much impact on the quality of a sheet as thread count. Cotton is classic, breathable, and ideal for summer bedding. Nowadays, it's not hard to find affordable organic cotton, which the US Department of Agriculture certifies as a plant grown without pesticides or chemicals.
If you want to shop American, look for pima cotton, a soft, dense fabric — not all of it is made in the US, so check the label. (For more on cotton sourcing and classification, see the International Trade Centre's Cotton Exporters Guide.)
Shop Sales and Outlet Stores
Bedding is one of those things that's fairly easy to find on sale year-round, since stores change their collections seasonally. Check the clearance rack or visit outlet stores for good deals on last season's sheets and blankets.
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• 10 Best Organic Bedding Sources
Photo: West Elm Organic Cotton Ikat Stripe Sheets