Buying guide: The truth about thread count
Is there anything better than sliding into a bed laden with good quality sheets? At the end of the day, I can't wait to stretch out under my fresh, soft covers and nestle my face into a good cotton-covered pillow. We spend a third of our lives in bed so quality sheets are key, but how do you get quality for your money? There's no doubt that most consumers believe the higher the thread count, the better the quality, but this isn't entirely true. With the help and expertise of Joanna Goodman, owner of Au Lit Fine Linens, we expose the truth about thread count and what it takes to find quality bed sheets.
What is thread count, really?
Simply put, thread count is the number of threads woven into one square inch of fabric. This number is based on the threads woven horizontally ("weft") and vertically ("warp"). Extra threads can also be woven into the weft threads to increase the thread count. These added threads are called "picks" and are added in the overall count, which is how some sheets end up having thread counts in the thousands. This is why the idea that high counts equal better quality isn't really accurate. Consider this: Joanna says most weavers will say the maximum number of threads that can be woven into one square inch of fabric is 500 to 600. Though the number is arguable and, according to Joanna, "depends on the mill you deal with," it gives you an idea of where the line is between single-ply, unpicked weaves and ones that add threads here and there to bump up the count.
What to look for when buying sheets
Joanna lists three things to look for on the label: if it's Egyptian cotton, where it's woven and, lastly, the thread count. While thread count is a bit misunderstood, the buzz around Egyptian cotton is true. "The very best cotton in the world is grown in Egypt. So Egyptian cotton will be of a better quality," Joanna says. She also recommends pima cotton, which is grown in America, "though not quite as exceptional as Egyptian." When it comes to weaving, however, she swears by the Italians as being the "master weavers of the world" due to their "long tradition of weaving" and use of the best Egyptian cotton. Be sure the label says 100% or pure Egyptian cotton though, otherwise it may only contain a small percentage of the good stuff. As for the thread count, look for a minimum of 200. From there, it's all about preference!
What to avoid when buying sheets
Joanna's one key piece of advice is to watch out for extremely low priced, high thread count sheet sets. A complete sheet set with a high thread count for $100 or less is probably not the dream bargain you think it is. As Joanna believes, "you always get what you pay for." The price tag for bed linens will vary depending on the sheet size and what items you're buying, such as a duvet cover, sheet sets, or pillowcases. "A superior quality 200 thread count queen set (including flat, fitted, two pillowcases), made of Egyptian cotton and woven in Europe, could retail reasonably for about $150-$250," says Joanna.
What do you prefer?
After going through the quality checklist, go with what feels best for you. If you're looking for a durable linen, Joanna recommends any percale from thread count 200 to 800. Percale is any cotton woven with a 200 thread count or higher and will be more durable than a cotton satin of the same thread count. It's also less likely to pill than cotton satin because it has a denser weave. Love the feel of a cotton button down shirt? Joanna advises a crisp, dense 200 thread count percale. Prefer a silkier sheet? Go for a 300 to 600 cotton satin. If you want lighter sheets, Joanna says, a 400 thread count sheet can be soft and light, while an 800 percale would be soft and dense. The higher the thread count, the more likely multiple-ply thread is used or picks are added, making the fabric denser and heavier.
Now you know that quality is not just about the number, so don't let numbers rule your bed! Remember what to look for on the label and be wary of too-low prices for supposedly high quality items. Beyond that, go with what you prefer. Get a good feel of the sheets before buying. Whether you're unzipping the packaging or lying down on a display bed, make sure the fabric feels good against your skin and soon you'll be having sweet dreams!
Find out how to keep your new linens crisp and clean with our tips to whiter-than-white sheets.
Suffer from allergies? Choose hypoallergenic bedding like this Style at Home collection mattress pad.
Find everything you need to know to maintain a functional, clean bed long term.
You’re diligent about washing your sheets, but do you clean what’s underneath them? In addition to the expected bodily fluids and dust, your mattress comes in contact with all types of microscopic filth, chief among them dust mite droppings. Dust mites live in upholstery and feed on skin cells (something you’re constantly unwittingly shedding), and beyond being plain gross, their droppings can cause allergic reactions. So it’s high time you add mattress cleaning, a seasonal chore, to your to-do list. Having removed the sheets, vacuum the surface using the upholstery and crevice attachments. Spot clean any stains using an enzyme-based upholstery or carpet spray, such as a pet-odour remover. Then liberally cover the mattress with baking soda; let sit for a full day. Finally, vacuum up all the powder and enjoy a truly freshly made bed.
Buyer’s guide: In the market for a new mattress? Check out our shopping tips:
Cost: Set a realistic budget (don’t cheap out on a good night’s sleep) and stick to it. This is a big-ticket item, so the store may be willing to bargain.
Quality: Pay attention to details (stitching, seams, etc.), which will reveal how durable and well made the mattress is.
Comfort: Always lie down to get a feel. If you’re debating between two models, opt for the firmer one – it will soften over time, and you can buy a plush mattress pad if need be.
Policies: Familiarize yourself with the return policy and warranty before purchasing.
The average lifespan of a mattress is about a decade. If yours is showing surface wear, sagging or becoming at all uncomfortable, it may be time to trade up.
Seasonal to-do: On rotation much like the groove that develops in your go-to spot on the sofa, over the years, different areas of your mattress get uneven wear. To help it last longer, make a habit of rotating the mattress once a season. Alternate between flipping it from head to toe one season and upside down the next. (If your mattress has a pillow top, then only flip it head to toe.)
Very airy: Air circulation is key to deterring bacterial growth, so give your mattress some breathing room: If possible, place it outdoors in the sun (the UV rays will add an antimicrobial kick) every few months. When you go out of town, leave it bare of sheets.
Do: Use a mattress cover. Launder it frequently, especially if you suffer from allergies.
Don't: Saturate your mattress with water or use any sort of dry-cleaning chemicals; both can cause irreparable damage.
Stock up on these tools to create the ultimate mattress-cleaning kit
1 ￼Deodorizer: Nature’s best odour absorber is baking soda, and this one is sourced without the use of chemicals. Bob’s Red Mill baking soda, Well.ca, $5.
2 Dirt sucker: This handheld is specially engineered to extract all the microscopic dirt from your mattress. V6 mattress vacuum, Dyson. $330.
3 Stain remover: This non-toxic spray tackles organic stains without leaving behind any harmful residue. Nature Clean Pet Stain & Odour remover, Well.ca, $9.
Add these tasty thumbprint cookies to your holiday baking list! Credits: Maya Visnyei
Try this decadently delicious spin on the traditional thumbprint cookie.
Offering a twist on a classic is something that comes up a lot in the Style at Home offices, but it’s never been as yummy as this. Our take on these traditional holiday cookies replaces the usual jam with three of our favourite sweet spreads – pure genius, if we do say so ourselves.
1 Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2 In a large bowl, beat the butter with the icing sugar until fluffy; beat in the vanilla.
3 In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, ginger and salt; stir into the butter mixture just until the ingredients are combined and come together to form a dough.
4 Shape the dough into thirty-six 1" balls.*
5 Arrange 1" apart on parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Press your thumb into the centre of each ball, leaving an indentation; pinch together any cracks around the edges.
6 Bake until the edges of the cookies are golden, about 12 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the sheets for 3 minutes, then transfer to racks to cool completely.
7 When the cookies are cool, spoon a scant 1 teaspoon of filling into the well of each one.
*To roll the cookies in nuts, whisk 2 egg whites with 1 teaspoon water until frothy; place finely chopped nuts (such as pistachios, walnuts or hazelnuts) in a bowl. Using a fork, dip each dough ball into the egg mixture, then into the nuts to coat. Place on the prepared baking sheets and continue with the recipe as directed. To dust with cocoa or cinnamon, roll the dough balls into either cinnamon or cocoa powder, shaking off any excess. Place on the prepared baking sheets and continue with the recipe as directed.
Makes: 3 dozen cookies
Take your bathroom from drab to fab with these easy decorating ideas!
Bathroom and kitchen renovations are known to give homeowners the biggest returns on their investment when they sell. But whether you’re doing a big renovation or just looking for ways to update your current bathroom and whether you intend to sell or not, these ideas for beautifying your bathroom will pay big returns in your overall satisfaction with your home. And you don’t have to have a $50,000 budget to do it. These affordable upgrades will add some serious style to your home without breaking the bank!
Renewal Divinity Small Mirror
What a difference something as simple as a mirror can make. The right one can transform the look of your bathroom and give it an updated, more stylish feel in an instant. The frame is made from hammered aluminum combined with beveled glass and can be hung vertically or horizontally, depending on your preference and the shape of the space you’re working in. Renewal Divinity Small Mirror, Wayfair, $380.46.
Flush Mount Bathroom Lighting Fixture
When renovating, it’s important to consider your lighting options for the type of space you have. So before you head to the lighting store, figure out whether it’d be best to go with flush mount, track lighting or sconces. No matter what you choose, illuminate your bathroom with a stunning light fixture that ties your bathroom’s whole look together and adds an appealing amount of sparkle and shine! Boasting a shiny chrome finish and a laser-cut inspired design on the lamp shade, this flush mounted lighting fixture will bring effortless elegance to your bathroom and is a simple way to take the look of the entire space from drab to fab! Flush Mount Bathroom Lighting Fixture, Multi Luminaire, $349.
Aroura Tile White and Gold Wallpaper
If you’ve always loved the look of wallpaper but have shied away from using it in the bathroom, it’s time to reconsider. Wallpaper has come a long way and today, there are lots of options on the market, many of which are suitable for moisture-rich environments. This gorgeous wallpaper has a mosaic pattern that mimics the look of tile and has a washable finish for easy clean-up. Aroura Tile White and Gold Wallpaper, Graham & Brown, $50/roll.
Metro Basket Weave White and Cobalt Porcelain Mosaic Tile
Flip through the pages of your favourite design magazine and you’re sure to see plenty of bathrooms boasting this contrasting basket weave tile to dramatic effect. Get the look for yourself with these tiles – but may we suggest opting for the white and cobalt colour combo as a subtle alternative to black and white? The rich cobalt will add a decidedly chic and unexpected look to your bathroom. Metro Basket Weave White and Cobalt Porcelain Mosaic Tile, Home Depot, $7.98 each.
Gleaming Brass Bath Collection
Upping the style quotient in your bathroom doesn’t get any easier than this! Swap out your existing vanity vessels for these truly chic options. The full set includes a soap dispenser, tumbler and tray, all in a beautiful brass finish. Gleaming Brass Bath Collection, Anthropologie, $22-$36.
Dot Medallion Shower Curtain
Looking for a quick and easy bathroom update that won’t break the bank? How about a new shower curtain? This 100% cotton curtain is made in India and features a modern medallion motif in a soothing colour palette of watercolour inspired shades of blue and grey. With this one simple addition to your bathroom, you’ll add an air of tranquility that will turn your bathroom into the oasis you always dreamed of. Dot Medallion Shower Curtain, West Elm, $29.99.