Percale vs Sateen Sheets – What is the difference?

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Have you ever been told to look for a high thread count when you shop for bed sheets? What if I told you there is something more important to consider first? I’m not saying you should forget everything you ever heard about the thread count. Ultimately, it all comes down to how the bed sheet feels overall so I’m simply suggesting you consider how the material was made first. This aspect makes learning about the fabric a great idea. You will discover what fabric is ideal for you and your specific preferences. Bed sheets can be made out of virtually any kind of fabric, because of this, it’s not unusual for people to be confused with all the options when they shop. Let’s take for example comparing sateen vs percale sheets.

Both percale and sateen sheets are very popular materials used to make bedding sets because of their luxurious and soft feel. However, they are not common everyday terms and many people are unaware of what they are and how they feel like. This makes deciding between the two rather difficult.

Before you venture out to a specialty bedding shop to feel the difference for yourself, let me save you some time. Continue reading this analysis and comparing percale bedding with sateen bedding. You will soon find out all you need to know about what makes these fabrics different, what makes them alike, and what makes them great materials for your bedding sets. By the end of this article, you should know which material you would like best for your own bedding set at home.

What are Percale and Sateen?

white beddings

I was recently researching reviews about bed sheets because I wanted a new sheet set, and I kept coming across these two kinds of materials. I thought I knew what sateen sheets were but weren’t really sure and I had no idea what percale sheets are made of.

I kept asking myself, what are percale sheets? What are sateen sheets? I had to figure it out before I could buy a linen set, here’s what I learned:

The two terms refer to the type of weave used in cotton sheets. Unlike standard short-weave cotton sheets that are less expensive, both sateen and percale materials use high-quality long-staple cotton. So aside from how the bed sheet feels like, the main difference when it comes to sateen vs percale is the manner in which the long-staple cotton is weaved together.

What is Percale?

percale patternA percale features one over and one under weave yarn pattern consistently throughout the entire grid comprising the cotton fibers of a linen sheet. The threads used in percale sheets are generally thinner than the threads used in sateen sheets. The end product provides a crisp and cool feel which can help you get a more deep sleep experience. Percale sheets are breathable and lightweight allowing airflow throughout your mattress which helps you to have a good night’s sleep all while feeling cool without the worry of overheating. Percale sheet sets are also easily washed in your machines at home. They are very durable and will last you for several years before wear and tear become visible.

  • Very durable, will last for several years before you start to notice a difference in quality
  • Easy to wash and care for using your laundry machines at home
  • Lightweight with superior breathability which helps in sleeping cool on warm nights, and sleeping warm on cool nights
  • Very soft against your skin
  • Crisp and cool to the touch
  • The same weave you know and love in luxury hotel sheets
  • Easily develops wrinkles after even a short use
  • Does not have a shiny appearance, it is a more matte finish (this could be a pro or a con, depending on your individual taste)

What is Sateen?

sateen pattern

A sateen features three over and one under weave yarn pattern consistently throughout the grid comprising the cotton sheets. The threads used are usually thicker than the threads used in percale. This type of weaving pattern exposes more of the thread’s overall surface which gives it its silky feel and sheen. It is naturally wrinkle resistant and its tightly woven pattern makes the material heavier than percale. Overall, this kind of sheet feels smooth and slick to the touch. They can be washed in your machines at home but make sure you use the delicate cycle. The more you wash them, the less lustrous they will appear. They will still feel luxuriously soft for a good while, just without the brilliance of the initial shine.

  • Soft, smooth, and slick to the touch giving it a luxurious feel
  • Does not wrinkle easily so it always looks fresh and clean even after sleeping in it for a week or more
  • Shiny and lustrous appearance
  • Tight weave makes the sheets heavier and great during the colder months
  • Not extremely durable
  • Becomes less shiny with every wash
  • Not extremely breathable, may cause overheating in the summer or overheating for a person who sleeps hot
  • May pill or snag with extended use
  • Best to wash on the delicate cycle

Head to Head Comparison

What’s the main difference between the two kinds of sheets? The weave! It has been estimated that as much as 95% of the population prefers percale sheets to sateen sheets when given the choice.

happy mother and daughter sleeping

However, that estimate seems a bit steep to me. Sateen sheets are high-quality and offer an additional level of luxury. Considering that they feel silky smooth against your skin, you may want to try this material if you like sleeping naked. I wonder if sateen sheets are bought more rarely than percale sheets because people don’t like the idea of pilling fabric. Or maybe sateen sheets don’t get chosen over percale sheets because people find that they are harder to find. Either way, percale sheets remain the most popular between the two in today’s market.

Which is the Right Choice for You?

In conclusion, when it comes to percale vs sateen sheets, most people prefer percale sheets because they are breathable, lightweight, cool, crisp, and durable. Although, they do have a tendency to wrinkle quickly.

Sateen sheets are silky and soft offering luxurious sheen and comfort. They are naturally wrinkle resistant. However, they are not as durable as percale sheets. They also are not as breathable and some people overheat. This is especially true for heavy people and people who generally sleeps hot.

Now that you know everything needed for you to make a decision on whether percale or sateen sheets are best for you, we hope you can enjoy the shopping process a bit more and get linen sets that truly suits your individual and specific needs.

Additional Resources

Emily Alexander
Emily Alexander

Emily Melynn Alexander was born on the east coast of the USA but has called Colorado home since 2000. She has a degree in English and Political Science from Metropolitan State University of Denver. She enjoys sleeping in locations all around the world.

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