In the Beginning: There Was Thread Count
Then the textile gods spoke and said, “Let there be confusion!” Wait, what? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered…and also supplied with covers. Here’s our thread count gospel.
Thread Count is the number of threads per square inch of a sheet, or textile.
However, double, triple, or multiple ply does not mean a higher thread count. If a 200 thread count sheet is layered in two-ply, for example, this does not mean it has a thread count of 400. It is simply two layers of the 200 thread count bed sheet.
When shopping for bed sheets, thread count typically ranges between 80 and 1200. It is normal for some 300 count sheets to sell at a higher price than some 600 count sheets—it just depends on the material and the brand. There is no legal regulation for measuring the quality of bed sheets. So manufacturers set their own standard.
The most common myth about bedding is that a higher thread count means a softer, more comfortable experience. This is not fact. The truth is that higher thread count means heavier bedding. A comfortable or “soft” feel is better determined by the bedding’s weave, ply, and material than thread count alone.
Generally speaking, bedding with a higher thread count has shown to have a higher durability than those with a low thread count. Higher durability means a longer sheet life with less wear over time.
On the Seventh Day There Were Seven Materials
Ok, there is no specific “day” to speak of…we got a little carried away. But there really are seven materials and/or weaves that are frequently used in bedding textiles of which you should be aware.
Pinpoint – Pinpoint is a stitch which threads two over and one thread under. While its feel isn’t as soft as others, its durability receives high marks.
Percale – Closely woven and tightly spun describes percale well. It has a noticeably unique feel. This thread is woven one-over one-under to ensure strength of the fabric. Its thread count is almost always 200 and above, with its higher thread counts giving it a silky touch. Some sources would profess percale to be the best around.
Sateen – This weave uses spun yarn instead of filament in which single warp yarns are floated over single weft yarns to create a luxurious feel and smooth touch. Mercerizing is often used with this cloth fabric. Mercerization was developed in England in 1844 and is a treatment for cellulosic materials which strengthen and give off a luster in appearance.
Pima Cotton – This “sea-island” cotton material is generally known for its strength and durability. Its “staple” is extra-long and widely used in bedding manufacturing. It was developed in the American Southwest as a breed of Egyptian cotton. When 100% pure American Pima cotton is used, the American Pima Cotton Growers Association (APCGA) and others may refer to this product as Supima Cotton because it is believed to come from the most superior textile mills in the world.
Egyptian Cotton – Egyptian cotton is a variety from Egypt that is known for giving off a luxurious feel and soft comfort. It is grown from Gossypium Barbadense, which is another differently-stapled plant than regular cotton. It contains long fibers that, when weaved extensively, create a luxurious and silky feel. However, be sure to look for “100% Egyptian Cotton” when shopping for this type of bedding. Because technically speaking, manufacturers need only use 1% Egyptian cotton to advertise it as such. Egyptian cotton tends to be a bit pricier than other cottons, but with their quality and life span, these sheets practically pay for themselves.
Tencel - Also known as Lyocell, tencel is referred to by the US Federal Trade Commission as a fiber “composed of cellulose precipitated from an organic solution in which no substitution of the hydroxyl groups take place and no chemical intermediates are formed”. It classifies this fiber as a sub-category of rayon, used to make textiles in multiple forms.
Viscose Rayon from Bamboo – This product of bamboo provides a natural sheen unparalleled by others. The inner pith of a bamboo trunk is extracted via a steaming process. This inner pith is then crushed and what remains is the bamboo cellulose. The cellulose is processed and turned into viscose rayon fiber. Its fibers provide a soft, non-irritating luxury that is soothing to even the most sensitive of skin. Due to an agent within bamboo called 'kun’, or ‘kunh’, this product is said to have anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties which also resist harboring odors. Likewise, this hypoallergenic product stops odor-producing bacteria from growing and spreading, leading to a fresher, more healthful bedding experience. Its unique fibers are ideal as a thermal regulator and boast supreme breathability.
The Saving Grace: Mattress Pads, Toppers, & Pillows
Let ye who is without a restless night be the first to purchase a new mattress product.
The cover of a mattress pad can be any one of the materials previously listed under Bedding 2:1 or a combination therein. Memory foam and latex typically do not have an outer covering. In addition, polyester is often used.
Polyester is a byproduct of oil. Specifically, it is the sludge left over after oil refining and turned into polypropylene. The polypropylene is processed again and turned into a fine fiber called olefin fiber (polyester). Polyester supports the stretch and durability of the fabric. For example, one of the top mattress pads on the market is 30% viscose rayon from bamboo and 70% polyester.
When referring to these mattress products, you will hear both ‘pad’ and ‘topper’. Is it like tomāto, tomăto? Not exactly. While both are products used beneath your bedding for comfort and/or support, they are in fact different.
Fill materials are where things start to get more complicated for the average consumer. Not as difficult as shopping for your mother-in-law, but complicated enough that you’re reading this.
Here are the FILLING FIVE.
Wool – This is an older option as a pad. Think lots and lots of warmth. For some the heat is too much, for others, it’s standard. Wool is quite heavy yet feels soft while in use, but it may need to be shaken or ‘fluffed’ regularly. Initially, several consumers report that wool tends to give off a ‘barn’ like odor.
Feather/Down – It softens the feel of any firm mattress. It is also not known to cause too much heat retention and feels relatively light weight. Down/feather bedding contains allergens that may be bothersome if you are or prone to allergen sensitivity or have regular allergies. It may need shaken and ‘fluffed’ often to maintain its lofty feel upon resting.
Fiber/Down Alternative – The solution to pesky allergens from standard down bedding is here! In fact, professionals suggest one of the best type of fiber currently available is referred to as cluster fiber. Cluster fiber fill is 100% hypoallergenic and 100% washable. It is a highly innovative polyester material that is engineered to create a network of fiber that “trap” air which allows the pad to keep its shape and breathability much longer. The clustering engineered technique prevents the fiber from lumping and doesn’t often need ‘fluffed’, yet projects the signature comfort most anticipate from only genuine goose/feather blend down—just without all the poking and feathers.
Latex – Plush or firm? With some 100% natural latex toppers, you needn’t fret which type of support to buy for your aches and pains because you get to choose. In addition, latex mattress toppers have self-ventilating holes that allow heat release and constant air flow during sleep. When shopping for latex, it is important to select and support companies that guarantee the use of high-quality natural latex from plantations selected, controlled, and carefully tested for use in the production process. This not only contributes to superior elasticity and flexibility of the product but is also asustainably and ecologically sound production.
Mainly, Natural Latex is the sap of the tropical “Hevea Brasiliensis” rubber tree. Using the latest, revolutionary technology in the latex industry, the creation of a latex topper from the tropical rubber tree sap begins with the pouring and foaming process. Wherein, latex, soap, and vulcanizing agents form a mixture which is then ‘foamed’ by applying compressed air to the compound. This foam is placed onto the continuous line of the steam vulcanization process. The topper is then cleaned, heated, and entered into a special bath. After this unique cleaning process, it is inspected, packaged, and ready to be sent to you, the customer.
Memory Foam – Comfort is guaranteed. It conforms to and contours your body’s specific shape ensuring a relaxing night’s sleep. It properly aligns your spine and relieves pressure points. Studies show that it is also ranked as the most effective for improving your bed’s current level of comfort. For a while, memory foam’s biggest con was that it retained heat and gave an unpleasant feeling of being hot during slumber. However, recent technology has allowed for the engineering of a new type of memory foam and mattress topper with Gel Bead Infusion. This infusion and open technology increase air flow for a cool night’s sleep. Not just any foam meets these standards. Researching retailers of this product will help you make the right choice. For example, all of the foam used at eLuxurySupply.com (the 2015 Inc. 5000 15th Fastest-Growing Company in the Retail Industry) is CertiPUR-US certified, which means it has no prohibited phthalates, no ozone depleters, no CFCs, no mercury, no lead or heavy metals, no formaldehyde, no PBDEs, and low emission (VOCs).
Pillows are just as crucial to a good night’s sleep as all the other components that make up a bed. So let’s not forget that the same rules and fill guidelines above also apply to pillows. In addition, “ticking” is very common amongst pillow varieties.
There are several studies and data which support the use of a specific type of pillow depending on what type of sleeper you are in order to absorb the maximum benefits of a restful, healthful night’s sleep. Are you a stomach, back or side sleeper?
For extra information, we turned to an educated and well-researched article posted by the Huffington Post in which they interviewed and reviewed several items in detail with Dr. Paul Salinas, of Park Avenue Spine in New York, and Gerry Borreggine, President and CEO of Therapeutic International and Chairman of the International Sleep Products Association. One thing Dr. Salinas suggested was that pillows are not one-size-fits-all, and it really comes down to preference and comfort. He went on and suggested, “Ideally, you want to sleep on your side. Sleeping on your stomach can cause a lot of discomfort. If you’re a back sleeper, avoid thick pillows because it can cause your head to push forward, making you a little stiff in the morning.” He went even further in suggesting that it’s a good idea to place a pillow between your knees while sleeping on your side for proper hip and spine alignment.
Stomach Sleepers – Does your lower back ever hurt upon waking and you’re unsure of the cause? It could likely be the position in which you sleep.
Dr. Daniel Zagst, an experienced chiropractic physician, wrote in his blog regarding sleep positions that, “Even when telling someone that sleeping on your stomach is bad for your spine, it doesn’t change much (they still do). Proper pillow placement in the stomach sleeping position can reduce your chances of waking up with back and neck pain.” He went on to suggest placing a firm pillow underneath your hips/stomach area to reduce the stress on your lower back. Doing this should eliminate the need for a head pillow, but if you still need one, use it to support your head at a downward angle. We like the extra soft down pillow by ExceptionalSheets.
Back Sleepers – Medium support pillows are your best friend. And many articles align with this one by Dr. Zagst who says, “The pillow under your head should not be propping you up, but providing some support to the natural curve of your neck.” We have found that the 100% natural latex pillow supports back sleeping very well and continues this support as you transition positions throughout the night. It is also suggested that true back sleepers place a firm pillow underneath their knees for proper lower back support.
Side Sleepers – The side sleeping position is the most common position individuals are found to be sleeping in throughout the night. A firm pillow should be used in order to keep your head and neck in straight alignment with the rest of your body. Placing another firm pillow between your knees helps alleviate pressure from your hips and lower back. The high-loft memory foam pillow with ventilated construction is a great firm pillow to use in both the positions discussed for side sleeping.
One type of pillow fill not previously discussed is buckwheat. It is becoming quite popular. Dr. Zagst, a side-sleeper, admits he uses a buckwheat pillow beneath his head and a foam pillow between his knees. Our favorite buckwheat pillow is 100% organic and made in the USA.
Thou Shalt Use Polyurethane and Be Clean!
With waterproofing and encasements, you’ll never need to walk on water, or worry about a vast array of harmful allergens and pests with your bedding. Never.
WATERPROOF: Many mattress pads and liners are available in a waterproof option. This is possible because of polyurethane†. It is often used on the underside of a covering to protect you and your product. Waterproofing options are available in many products, like this mattress pad.
BUGPROOF: Most commonly seen in encasements and liners, high temperature polyurethane can be used in conjunction with other materials, like a soft 100% terry-cloth mattress protector, to give you an impenetrable barrier of protection from dust mites, bed bugs, mildew, and many other allergy triggers. These products can be easily found for mattresses, pads, toppers, and pillows.
Comforters & Duvets : The Holy Grail of Bedding Appeal
A Bedding Prophecy: Comforters and duvets are like icing on the cake. By now, you’ve built a sound core with extra fluff, standard fluff, or no fluff at all. Let’s discuss the cherry on top.
Different types of comforters and duvets stretch far and wide, as with all the materials and fills previously discussed in our Bedding Bible. The most common and popular options are: down, down alternative/ synthetic/fiber, cotton, and bamboo (or specifically, viscose rayon from bamboo). According to Good Housekeeping, which has been a household name for a long while, for every degree you turn down the thermostat, you’ll save 1-2% on your utility bill per/during an eight-hour sleep cycle. Over one year, that could save you 10% or more. † Therefore, there should be much more to a decision than aesthetics alone.
The same Filling Five guidelines apply to comforters and duvets. As well as the thread count and material sections discussed in Bedding 1:1-1:4 and Bedding 2:1.
Typically with down and down alternative comforters, the manufacturer’s goal is to create a lofty fill that keeps you warm without making you sweat. † Our favorite is a lightweight down alternative, that uses a poly fill, for its’ 100% hypoallergenic qualities. Regardless of which you choose, caring for your comforter or duvet should be a priority and will help ensure a healthy life and prolong the cycle of longevity for your favorite bed covering. Make sure to read the manufacturer’s care instructions which are always listed on the product tag.
It is also recommended to use a duvet cover for extra bedding protection and to reflect your own personal style. Duvet covers come in a variety of designs, and by using all the guidelines set forth to shop by in our Bedding Bible, your decision will certainly be easier than it was before. Check out our favorite comforter below.
If you’d like a tutorial on putting on your new duvet cover, check out our helpful YouTube How-To.
OCTOBER 2015 PUBLICATION
† abcnews.go .com
† Wikipedia.org: Shaeffer, Claire (2008). Claire Shaeffer's Fabric Sewing Guide. Krause Publications Craft. p. 497.; Operath, Larry (2006). Textile. Lotus Press. p. 161
† Wikipedia.org: percale, sateen, federal trade commission, bed size
† Dr. Daniel Zagst is a chiropractic physician at Advanced Health & Chiropractic in Mooresville, NC. He has a BS in
Professional Studies of Adjunctive Therapies, Doctorate of Chiropractic from NYCC, and an Advanced Certificate in
Sport Science and Human Performance.
† Wikipedia.org: - ASTM D3393-Standard Specification for Coated Fabrics Waterproofness