Shoppers at post-holiday bedding sales could end up disappointed in their luxurious, high-thread-count sheets. That's because some companies...

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WASHINGTON — Shoppers at post-holiday bedding sales could end up disappointed in their luxurious, high-thread-count sheets.

That’s because some companies are inflating thread counts — the number of woven threads per square inch of fabric — in a way the Federal Trade Commission says is misleading.

Instead of using one count per thread, some are counting individual yarn plies that make up each thread. Thus, they’d label a 300-count sheet made with two-ply yarn as a 600 thread-count product.

So some sheets marketed with counts of 1,200 or more, which buyers expect to be high-end, actually may be of lesser quality.

Watch your wallet: High counts bring high prices, with some individual sheets selling for upwards of $500.

“We’d heard some consumer complaints,” said E. Linwood Wright III, chairman of the National Textile Association’s Textile Bedding Committee.

So the association contacted the FTC, stating that the industry standard is to count each thread as one, even threads spun with two- or three-ply yarn.

“That’s been the method for determining thread count as long as I’ve been in the business, for 50 years now,” said Wright, a consultant with Dan River Inc. in Danville, Va.

The FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection agreed and issued a staff opinion in August warning that consumers “could be deceived or misled” by inflated thread counts. It advised companies to label products with additional information on the yarn’s ply.

Multiplying by ply is “inappropriate,” said Carol Jennings, an attorney in the bureau’s enforcement division.

There’s no way to check the precise thread count of a sheet unless you have a microscope and are “sufficiently patient,” said Peter Schwartz, professor and head of the Polymer and Fiber Engineering Department at Auburn University in Alabama.

Schwartz explained that a balanced 200 thread-count fabric has 100 threads in its warp (the direction of the loom) and 100 in its weft (the sideways direction of the shuttle).

“The higher the thread count, the finer the yarn, so you can put more in each square inch,” Schwartz said. “And the finer the yarn, the more soft and flexible the fabric.”