Percale vs. Sateen Sheets: Which Is the Best Type of Cotton Sheets?

New to the world of luxury cotton bedding? Learn the pros and cons of percale vs. sateen sheets to find what’s best for you.

By Nicole Gleichmann

Finding the perfect set of sheets is nearly as daunting as choosing the right mattress. Confusing terminology and inaccurate marketing create a muddled landscape.

Fortunately, recent years have seen a rise in specialized bedding companies that prioritize product quality and customer satisfaction. Many of these companies exist only online, elevating the importance of doing your research before you buy. After all, you’ll have to decide without running your fingers across the fabric first.

Percale and sateen bedding are both considered to be some of the most comfortable products out there. Read on to learn more about these fabrics.

Parachute percale sheets

Percale vs. Sateen — What’s the Difference?

Both sateen and percale sheets are typically made from long-staple cotton, which feels more elegant and lasts longer than short-weave cotton. The difference between these two fabrics is their style of weave.

Percale sheets are made using a one-over, one-under weave. Sateen sheets, however, are made using a three-over, one under-weave. The sateen fabric is also more tightly woven than percale fabric. These differences result in remarkably different experiences considering they’re made from the same material.

What to Expect from Percale Sheets

Percale sheets are an ideal option for those who sleep hot at night. The percale weave results in a crisp, cool, breathable fabric. The feel of percale sheets is remarkably similar to the fresh crispness of a recently ironed button-down shirt (although you don’t need to iron your sheets!).

If you live in a hot, humid climate or if you’re looking for bedding for the summer months, percale sheets are a comfortable choice. And a benefit that comes from their one-under, one-over weave is durability and resistance to pilling. Many happy sleepers report their percale sheets growing in comfort with each wash.

But keep in mind that this light, cooling fabric is wrinkle-prone. If you want wrinkle-free bedding, you’ll need to transfer them from the dryer to your mattress promptly.

What to Expect from Sateen Sheets

Sateen sheets are soft, smooth, and supple. With a luminous sheen and an elegant-looking drape, sateen bedding looks as luxurious as it feels. The smooth finish does fade with each wash, but a high-quality set of sateen sheets can still provide years of sumptuous sleep.

In comparison to many other types of sheets, such as linen sheets or percale sheets, sateen sheets feel almost heavy. But for those who enjoy a warm, cuddly sleep, this added weight provides a wonderful feel. Plus, the unique weave makes sateen fabrics exceptionally wrinkle-resistant.

Sateen and Percale Sheets Compared

  • Feel: Percale sheets are light and breathable with a crisp hand. While they are soft and comfortable, they aren’t often described as smooth. Sateen sheets are heavier and buttery-smooth. They have a more luxurious feel than percale sheets.
  • Look: Sateen sheets have an elegant drape, while percale sheets are a bit more casual looking with a matte finish.
  • Durability: Percale sheeting often outlasts sateen sheeting. While percale sheets get more comfortable after each laundering session, sateen sheets slowly lose their sheen and luscious feel over time. Eventually, sateen sheets start to pill, making them look and feel less elegant.
  • Warmth: Sateen sheets are a solid choice for keeping your warm and toasty, while percale sheets are much cooler and more breathable. Sateen sheets are a good option for those who sleep cold or for chilly months. Percale sheets are a solid choice for warm sleepers or during balmy months.

Finding the Best Sateen and Percale Sheets

Once you’ve narrowed down your choice to either percale or sateen linens, it’s time to find a high-quality set. We recommend looking for an online retailer with good credibility and a generous trial period.

Keep in mind that every set of sheets can feel somewhat different, in spite of belonging to the same category (i.e., percale or sateen). Some companies source only the best long-staple cotton, such as Pima or Egyptian cotton. You will even find high-quality sheet sets made sustainably or by hand.

As you shop, read reviews both on the company’s site and from trusted review sites. This research can save you time and money by finding the best set of sheets the first time around. And there is nothing quite as luxurious as slipping into a new set of sheets that feels like they were tailored with your needs in mind.

Note: High thread count is often marketed as the crème-de-la-crème, but the truth is that higher thread counts don’t always mean better bed sheets. The type of cotton (long-staple vs. short-staple), type of weave, and trustworthiness of the company are more telling.


Conclusion

Percale and sateen sheets each offer unique attributes, making it hard to believe that both are made from the same long-staple cotton. For a light, crisp feel, go with percale. But if you’re looking for warmth and silky-smooth elegance, opt for sateen.


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