BEDFORD, TX—Alarmed by reports of incorrect thread counts in the nation's blankets and sheets, bedding officials demanded nationwide thread recounts Monday.

Federal Bedding Inspectors collect sheets from a Florida home-goods store.

"This tears it," National Bed & Bath Commission director David Morgan said. "Thread-count inaccuracies are influencing outcomes in shopping districts across the nation. Americans are electing to buy products using confusing and misleading labels."

Morgan said his goal is not to condemn manufacturers with blanket statements, but to correct the snag.

"The idea that quality is based on thread count is not some old yarn—it's woven into the fabric of our society," Morgan said. "But the system for quality control is threadbare. It's coming apart at the seams. We can't pull the covers over our heads and ignore it any longer."

The thread count of cloth amounts to the number of horizontal and vertical threads in one square inch of fabric. The NBBC has documented several dozen instances in which different standards were used to count the threads, in order to misrepresent the quality and value of a bedding product.

Morgan said the NBBC believes that the tests currently in use favor North American and European textiles over ethnic textiles, such as Egyptian cotton, South American wools, and Indian batiks. The looming challenge is to modify the standards without unraveling them altogether.

"I admit that, in the past, I've championed softer, more liberal bedding standards," Morgan said. "But I'd hate to see my views adversely affect sales of those sheets cut from a different cloth."

Although a thorough canvassing of the thread-count procedures must be undertaken before any balancing actions are performed, investigators say they will look into cover-up allegations, including the particularly seamy possibility that white sheets were automatically given a higher thread count than textiles of color.

A bedding official conducts a thread recount.

"For years, we've suspected that the whites were cared for differently than colored items," NBBC official George Vega said. "Some manufacturers actually out-and-out recommended that whites and colors be treated, and in some cases pretreated, differently. It's enough to make me worry that we might never get things all sewn up."

NBBC evaluator JoAnn Baugh said local-level thread counters are not the only ones to blame.

"Corruption at the highest levels of home furnishing is bound to come out in the wash eventually," Baugh said. "We shouldn't have let them pull the wool over our eyes for so long."

"The best thing would be for everyone involved to own up to their own quilt," Baugh added. "But if no one comes forward and admits to being in bed with special interests, it may be years before we can get this issue ironed out."

Morgan agreed that the NBBC will need time to sort the piles of material evidence.

"It'll be a while before we can put this whole thing to bed," Morgan said. "It's a shame that our nation has become enmeshed in this king-sized controversy. But if we are going to count threads, we should have a solid set of standards. That way, we can all rest easy."