I hear you’re in the market for some new bed sheets but are already tired of the usual suspects when it comes to bedroom linen. And I also hear that you have, more often than not, encountered two words during this quest of yours to find new bedsheets: sateen and percale.
However, your budget will only allow you to add one of the two to your collection, leaving you with a difficult choice to make. Fortunately, I’m here to help you out.
Unless you work in the textile industry, you might not even be aware of what sateen or percale is, let alone how to differentiate between the two!
So in this article, we’re going to take a close look at both sateen and percale fabric so that you can be better equipped in finding the bedding that’s ideal for you.
Table of Contents
Don’t want to read through the whole guide? Pick the part most relevant to you instead!
- Percale vs Sateen: The Weaving Basics
- What is Sateen?
- What is Percale?
- What Are the Differences Between Sateen and Percale?
- Pros and Cons of Sateen and Percale
- Top Rated Sateen Bed Sheets
- Top Rated Percale Bed Sheets
Percale vs. Sateen: The Weaving Basics
Both percale and sateen signify the kind of weave that is used in textile production. For the purposes of this handy guide, we’ll specifically place our focus on bed sheets.
While identifying the distinguishing elements of each weave is crucial to really gain a clear picture of how they look and feel, let’s first touch on the weaving process a little bit.
Most times, percale sheets have a “one-over-one-under” weave, while sateen sheets have a “three-over-one-under” weave. There are exceptions to every rule, of course, and at times, you’ll come across sateen woven sheets with ‘four-over-one-under’ weaves. But, most of the time, “three-over-one-under” is the norm.
Weavers and seamstresses might already be aware of what I am talking about when I mention “one-over-one-under,” but, basically, it points to how the threads of the fabric are woven on the loom. To give you some background, let’s begin with understanding the terms “warp” and “weft.”
“Warp” are the threads that are held lengthwise on the loom, and “weft” points to the threads that get woven into the warp threads. For example, a one-over-one-under weave – as is often seen in percale sheets – means that the weft thread passes over one warp thread and then under one warp thread. In identical fashion, a four-over-one-under weave – commonly seen in sateen sheets – is when the weft thread is woven over four threads before passing under one:
The simplicity of the one-over-one-under percale weave results in a fabric that is lighter and airier than sateen woven fabric. With a sateen weave, the weft threads pass over more warp threads rather than evenly distributing them like percale’s one weave up/one weave down style. This makes for a material that feels glossier and looks shinier, similar to that of satin.
Contingent on the technique that is used, you’ll observe particular elements that are precise to each kind of weave.
Now that we know a bit more about the mechanics behind the sateen and percale weaves, let’s take a closer look into each one!
What is Sateen?
Compared to percale woven sheets, which usually have a matte finish, sateen sheets feature a slicker finish that gives them the sheen that they are particularly known for. They feel absolutely silky to the touch and is likely to have a lustrous drape that lies a little bit heavier on your body. Rather than cool-crispness, sateen sheets give you a slick, silky smoothness.
A sateen weave does make a thicker, less breathable sheet than a percale weave does, making sateen bed sheets ideal for use during the more frigid months of the year. They aren’t as warm and comfortable as flannel, but sateen sheets are heavier and warmer than percale sheets. However, there are exceptions to the rule like the Luxor Linens sateen sheet that I tried, which featured the weave’s signature sheen but also felt lightweight and cool.
Sateen sheets often sport a three-over-one-under weave that results in more visible threads at the top of the fabric. Basically, this is what causes the finished product to have its silky and lustrous appearance, and feel very smooth to the touch. In addition, this kind of weave makes the fabric less prone to wrinkling unlike that of percale.
While sateen sheets do not wrinkle as much, the fabric can at times make a swooshing sound when you rub against the material. Like with the crinkling sound that is usually heard in percale, some sateen sheets tend to be noisier than most. But the silky-slickness of sateen sheets can easily make up for slightly noisy bedding that makes a swish sound when you comfortably roll around in bed.
Sateen woven sheets are, by and large, fairly easy to care for, although it’s crucial to note that the luminous sheen of sateen bedding will lessen with every wash cycle. They are also somewhat more prone to pilling, making them a bit less sturdy than percale woven sheets. So, while the sheen and drape of sateen sheets do offer a luxurious aesthetic, they don’t last you as long. So basically, you should enjoy them while they last.
So to recap, let’s take a look at some keywords you can correlate with sateen sheets to help you out while you’re shopping:
- Sheen – Sateen sheets have a lustrous sheen.
- Drape – They lie heavier on the body, outlining your shape.
- Silky – More creamy-smooth like silk or satin.
- Heavy – A sateen weave produces a thicker sheet.
- More wrinkle-resistant – Less wrinkly than percale.
- Warm – This weave is less breathable, better for cool climate.
But you always have to take note that not every sateen sheet set is going to feel or look the same. When you’re trying to find the perfect sateen woven bedding to add to your bedroom, try to bear these terms in mind.
Now that we have discussed the things that you need to know about when it comes to sateen bed sheets, let’s now turn our attention to percale.
What is Percale?
Percale sheets are much simpler in weave, typified by a matte finish, and a crisp feel. Percale sheets are often lighter in weight, cooler and more breathable. They also have that crisp, white-button-down-shirt kind of feel.
And because of its cool-crispness and breathability, percale sheets are typically ideal for use during the warmer months when people are trying to stay fresh and fight off those night sweats. Sleepers who always run hot, like my wife for example, should not hesitate to use percale sheets all year-round.
A lot regarding the feel and quality of bedding comes down to the fibers of the fabric, but most times, percale sheets are sturdy, soft, and easy on the upkeep. However, percale sheets are also prone to wrinkling, so it’s a good thing they’re machine-dryable as applying heat can help take the wrinkles out.
But if you are the type that really does not want wrinkles on your bed sheets, I recommend taking the percale sheets from the dryer as soon as the cycle has finished. And then, spread them out over your mattress when they’re still good and warm.
Aside from getting a little wrinkly, these sheets get a little crinkly as well. Percale sheets are super crisp, they create a fair bit of a crinkling sound when you roll over in bed or press into the fabric. For someone like me, who is a deep sleeper, the crinkling of fabric is not going to bother me at all. However, if you’re a light sleeper or are hypersensitive to these kinds of noises, you have been warned.
As mentioned, percale sheets feature a matte appearance, which means they’re not shiny. If you’ve been fantasizing about a bed sheet that looks lustrous and silky, this is not the one for you.
So to help you more when you’re shopping for the ideal bed sheet, here is a little cheat-sheet that you can check out, comprised of a list of keywords you can always identify when dealing with percale bedding:
When you’re browsing the bedding aisle and you pick up a percale woven sheet set from the shelf, think of these six keywords. This list should give you a good sense of what you’re getting with percale woven sheets.
What Are the Differences Between Sateen and Percale?
Distinguishing sateen and percale sheets need a thorough outline of their features and benefits. This will help you identify which signature weave has the chief elements that can provide the most comfort, breathability, and durability. Besides these crucial factors, I have also taken note of care, cost, and health.
1) Material and Durability
Sateen is one of the finest products of cotton. This fabulous weave is taken from tightly woven cotton fibers. Some of the fabrics that you can find on the market today that are made as bed sheets feature a sturdy quality. But because it is less durable compared to percale, it is likely to pill.
Sateen appears to be another form of satin but only stronger and sturdier. It features a lustrous sheen but not as shiny as that of satin sheets. It feels smooth and soft to the touch, which makes bed sheets very comfortable and luxurious. However, the sheen may fade in time because of the frequent use and washing cycle.
However, there are different times when the quality of sateen sheets contrast depending on the thread count. The higher the thread count, the better it is. The quality or the type of cotton that is used in production is also a crucial factor.
Percale is also a fabric weave that is typically from the same source as sateen, which is cotton. The signature weave of percale is a lot tighter than sateen, which then lends it its strength and sturdiness. Compared to sateen, percale is not likely to pill but rather, it retains its prime condition for a fair number of years.
Contrary to sateen, percale spotlights a crisp or matte texture but it doesn’t compromise the softness and smoothness. It feels cool to touch but doesn’t leave you with a hot feeling when the temperatures are warmer than usual. When the weaves are tighter, the smoother it will feel. With a structure like this, it is resistant to pilling and does not easily wear out over an extended period of time.
Percale sheets often have a minimum of 180 thread count. But as previously mentioned, the higher the count, the better. And much like sateen sheets, the quality of percale bed sheets may differ depending on the thread count.
2) Comfort and Breathability
Much like the characteristics of cotton, sateen has a smooth and soft texture. With its silky and sheen features, it easily glides on the skin making it a comfortable sheet to get comfortable in.
As it judiciously absorbs the moisture, it does not keep the heat or leave spots for moisture build-up. It leaves you with a cool and fresh feeling even during the warmest temperatures. But when the night and days get cold, it becomes warm and cozy.
Percale is absolutely admitted for its comfort and breathability. Those bed sheets that are made with this beautiful fabric weave feature a smooth and soft quality every time you touch it or snuggle up in it. Perhaps another impressive feature about percale is it gets softer after every wash cycle.
As the climate flip flops over time, percale has the ability to change and deliver to you sufficient warmth and coolness. Especially when the climate gets particularly warmer, percale remains cool and crisp. But it still manages to share its remarkable warmth during colder temperatures.
3) Health Benefits
Since it has a shiny and silky texture, sateen is mild on the skin and hair. It is also a great pick when it comes to bedding especially for those who are prone to allergies with its hypoallergenic elements. And because it is mildew-resistant, it keeps bacteria from building up that can cause health issues.
As it comes from cotton, percale also features hypoallergenic properties, which can be advantageous for those who are suffering from allergies. Its breathability feature also props up its health benefits. As it lets the air to circulate, it can prevent moisture buildup that can cause bacterial growth.
Care and maintenance are crucial factors in keeping the sheets in optimal condition. And when it comes to sateen, it won’t cost you all that much to maintain its beautiful quality. It is machine washable. And because they are not likely to create wrinkles, you can just fold them up and keep them in the storage cabinet.
Depending on the brand or the quality and kind of cotton, the procedure for washing and care might vary. To prevent damaging your bed sheet, always make sure to consult the label of the sheets for specific instructions when it comes to washing or cleaning.
Percale is another low-maintenance fabric. It only takes warm water and mild soap to clean percale sheets. And as a rule of thumb, strong or harsh detergents should not be used. But to make sure you’re washing it the right way, it is best that you check the manufacturer’s manual for instructions pertaining to the care and maintenance of the percale sheets you possess.
Percale sheets are not wrinkle-free. They would most likely create creases or wrinkles when folded or not properly stored. To keep this from happening, they should be thoroughly dried up after washing and folded properly for storage. If you wish to eliminate the wrinkles thoroughly, you can iron them.
The price of sateen sheets relies on the kind of cotton and thread count. There are more affordable options but expect a higher price range for the sheets that feature a higher thread count.
There is no precise range of prices when it comes to percale sheets. Just like sateen, there are more wallet-friendly options for those that are working on a budget. The type of cotton fiber and thread are also crucial factors that might influence the price.
The signature fabric weave of percale is at times, incorporated with Egyptian cotton and Pima cotton which are both high-quality sheets that feature incredible softness and smoothness. However, bear in mind that these types are prohibitively expensive.
Pros and Cons of Sateen and Percale
So to recap our thorough differentiation of sateen and percale, here are the pros and cons of each one:
- Durable due to its signature tight weave
- Smooth, soft, breathable, and comfortable
- Provides a cool feeling, especially during hot climate
- Provides ample warmth when it is cold
- Has a crisp or matte appearance
- Resistant to pilling
- Gets softer every after wash
- Machine washable
- Easy to maintain
- Has affordable options
- Not wrinkle-free
- Price range may differ and some options for percale sheets tend to be more expensive depending on the thread count and type of material
- Sturdy quality
- Has a lustrous sheen, smooth, and soft
- Stays cool when the climate is hot and stays warm when it is cold
- Has affordable options
- Offers benefits to the skin and hair
- Not resistant to pilling
- Some options for sateen sheets may come with a higher price range due to higher thread count and type of cotton. Lower thread count may also compromise the comfort.
Top Rated and Recommended Sateen Bed Sheets
1. California Design Den 400 Thread Count 100% Cotton Sheet Set
- 100% cotton with a sateen finish
- Features deep pockets that measure 18-inches
- Available in a wide array of colors
There’s this impression that sateen sheets should be soft coming out of the package, and in some cases, that holds true, but in the case of California Design Den 400-thread count 100 percent cotton sheet set, you may need to be patient. They will get softer with every washing cycle, so it’s a good idea to wash them as soon as you get them, and then give them a good launder each week. Before long, you’ll be snuggling in their comfort. Although these are sateen, they still have a crisp feel to them.
2. Mayfair Linen Bedding Collection
- 100% Egyptian Cotton Sateen
- Luxurious and high quality
- Classic tailored look with deep pockets
This sheet set features the best bang for your buck with the material being 100% Egyptian Cotton. Mayfair Linen uses the highest quality cotton – 100% combed compact yarn, which is called long staple cotton. This sheet also guarantees optimum comfort while you sleep or rest, which means saying goodbye to night sweats with the breathable fabric that is designed to wick away moisture, keeping you cool and dry all through the night.
3. Royal Hotel Queen Bed Sheet Set
- 100% Luxury 600 TC Long-Stable Combed Cotton
- No pilling
- Thick, heavy sheets
Indulge yourself in the softness of this lush 100% cotton sheets like those that you can only encounter in the world’s finest hotels. These fine luxury bed linens are made from long-staple combed cotton. Comfort, quality, and opulence are yours with this luxury bedding, which simply put, is in a class all on its own. Elegant and durable, its softness is seemingly augmented with each washing.
4. Cariloha Resort Bamboo Sheets by 4 Piece Bed Sheet Set
- Luxuriously soft
- Keeps you cool or warm
Most sateen sheets that you will encounter find at your favorite stores are made of 100% cotton, but this Cariloha product sticks to viscose. But what’s viscose? In a nutshell, it is bamboo. This resort bamboo set of sheets are made with the sateen weave, so you get an intensely soft fabric that feels silky against your skin. The difference between viscose and cotton is weight. These sheets feel super lightweight, but they’re moisture wicking, so they keep you dry while you sleep.
Top Rated and Recommended Percale Bed Sheets
1. Thomas Lee 500 Thread Count Percale
- 100% pure cotton
- Deep pockets up to 18 inches
- Suitable for those with allergies and sensitive skin
Established 12 years ago, Thomas Lee is considered to be one of the popular brands in the luxury sheets industry, which consistently delivers high-quality products. This 500 thread count percale sheet set from the brand is made from 100% pure Pima long staple cotton, fully US-grown, which is known to be the finest, longest and strongest of fibers. You can find them in white and ivory, and the sheets carry 12 stitches per inch, which lends to the luxury and crisp feel you get when you are lying down on them.
2. Peru Pima 415 Thread Count Bed Sheet Sets
- Plush quality
- Does not pile or fade easily
- Low tumble dry machine friendly wash setting
Peru Pima 415 is made from the best quality Peruvian Pima extra long staple cotton and they give you premium feel and quality. Durability, softness and deep pocket design are three of the primary attributes of this kind of percale sheets. When talking about quality in a percale sheet, best in class material quality is guaranteed when extra long Peruvian Pima cotton or Egyptian cotton is used. Peru Pima is considered to be a household name for percale sheets and the fact that you get a hotel quality sheet for a reasonable price makes it one of the best products to buy for your home.
3. Kotton Culture Luxurious Super Percale 1000 Thread Count Sheet Set
- High-quality Egyptian Cotton percale
- Durable elastic fitted sheets
- Attractive pricing
Egyptian cotton and Peruvian cotton are considered to be the most famous and reliable percale cotton sheets in the market today and with this Kotton Culture sheet set being of 1000 thread count Egyptian percale quality, you can rest, assured that you get the best premium quality. Buying this percale sheet for your bed will definitely make you feel extra luxurious.
4. Royal Hotel Abripedic Crispy 300 Thread Count Percale Sheets
- 100% cotton
- 300 thread count single ply
- Abripedic trademark warranty against all defects
Royal Hotel bedding is one of the foremost purveyors of high-quality luxurious percale sheets and all their products are made of 100% cotton, which gives you smoothness and a luxurious feel throughout. Percale sheets like this one are made of breathable fabric, which is suitable for relaxed sleep, as their chief quality is to help keep a cool and constant temperature in your bed.
Sateen vs Percale – Which Sheets Are Better?
Sateen and percale are often derived from cotton, the similarities between the two are plenty. But even the smallest of gaps can make for a whole lot of difference.
Both weaves are durable but taking a closer look at their structure uncovers that percale has a tighter weave. And because of this, it has a stronger and sturdier weave. Percale is resistant to pilling and doesn’t easily wear out over time. It even gets softer and smoother after every wash!
However, you’ve got to be wary of those wrinkles, especially when you fold them and tuck them away for storage. You may need to iron these sheets to eliminate those wrinkles and creases off.
Sateen is also a durable fabric weave and perhaps, one of the smoothest and softest beddings you can find. It is also gentle on your skin and hair. However, they can pill over time and the sheen may wane because of frequent washing and use. But you won’t have to worry when you fold them and put them away for storage as they are wrinkle-free and easy to maintain.
Therefore, bed sheets made from percale and sateen are truly worth a shot. Although there are changes in some elements, they are both durable, comfortable, easy to maintain and beneficial to the health. So if you’re going through bedding choices for either of these weaves, you’ll surely find a quality sheet that you can pick up at a suitable price range.