Everything You Need to Know Before You Buy Sheets

"300, 400, 1,000 thread count." What does it all mean? With all that linen lingo out there, purchasing a pair of sheets seems to get a little more complicated day by day. And once you do make your purchase, you might find that your sheets do not seem as soft as when you originally purchased them in-store. So what happened, and how can you ensure that you are buying the best set of linens for your budget?

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Textile expert Pat Slaven at Consumer Reports gives her advice on what customers should be on the lookout for when buying their next set of sheets.

1. Watch Out for Hand Enhancers

Slaven warns consumers to not base their purchase on how sheets feel in-store. Many manufacturers put hand enhancers on linens, so when customers go on to gauge the softness of sheets they actually are feeling silicone softeners, which disappear after the first wash.

2. Decide What Is Your Type

If your ideal sheets are "soft and smooth," then Slaven recommends sateen sheets. But if "crisp and smooth" are what you are looking for, Slaven suggests percale sheets.

3. Focus on the Cotton

Once you decide on the type of sheets you want, look at the type of cotton next. Slaven notes, "Cotton polyester is great for the kids, but adults … we sleep on 100 percent cotton." And if you're looking to invest in a set of sheets, she recommends looking at combed cotton, Egyptian cotton or Pima cotton sheets, because they are much smoother against the skin and will not get fuzzy.

4. Do Not Be Fooled by the Thread Count

Slaven insists that higher thread count does not necessarily mean superior sheets - "400 [thread count] is about the limit that you can get onto a loom. And the true thread count [is] between 200 and 400. That's where your value is. … Once you're seeing higher thread counts, they're inflated," she says. So when you do see thread counts above 400, keep in mind that Slaven has found that manufacturers often achieve the high count by jamming in extra thinner pieces of yarn, which can double or even triple the actual count.

4. Don't Feel Stuck

Slaven's biggest advice for consumers is to "keep your receipts." Most stores and online retailers have return policies, so if you are not happy with your sheets after you've washed them and think they are not performing the way you as a consumer expected, do not be afraid to send them back.

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(Photo Credit: ABC News) Textile expert, Pat Slaven examines a sheet.