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Percale or Sateen Sheets: What's the Difference and How to Choose Your Perfect Luxury Bedding

  • by Kendra Cosenza
  • 5 min read

Deciding Between Percale or Sateen Sheets

Coffee or tea? Shaken or stirred? Percale or sateen? These are timeless questions! Fortunately, we can help you answer the last one. Deciding whether you want crisp percale weave sheets or silky sateen weave sheets is the first step in shopping for luxury bedding This article explains the differences between percale vs sateen sheets to help you decide which style weave will work best for you.

Choose Your Perfect Weave: Percale or Sateen Sheets?

Luxury sheets are made to be enjoyed. At Fine Linen and Bath, we think sheets should be the very first item you select for your bed linen ensemble; after all, the sheet fabric comes in direct contact with your skin. We want you to absolutely adore how your sheets look and feel.

Our clients often ask, “What are the best luxury cotton sheets to buy?” The answer is entirely personal! Finding your best sheets always begins with us asking the same question: "How do you want your sheets to feel? Do you like a crisp, cool sheet reminiscent of a five-star hotel, or do you dream about soft, silky warm sheets?"

The answer to that question will help you decide whether you prefer percale or sateen sheets. Knowing your perfect weave sheet will set the style for your bedding ensemble and send you well on your way to a blissful night's sleep.

Let's take a closer look at percale and sateen to help you better understand these two popular weaves.

Percale Bed Sheets: Cool, Crisp, and Breathable

Percale sheets are a cool, crisp, luxurious bedroom standard that give you the feel of sleeping in a luxury five-star hotel. High quality, closely woven percale is light and breathable with a fresh feel. It's ideal for summertime sleeping and can also be used year round by anyone who is a hot sleeper. High-quality percale is cozy and durable; the cotton fabric will grow softer over time with washing. With proper care, your percale sheets should last for many years.

SFERRA Celeste Percale Sheets

SFERRA Celeste Bedding Collection

More about Percale Weave

Percale is a matte finish cotton fabric that is made with a one-yarn-over, one-yarn-under weave pattern. This gives the fabric its signature “crispness” similar to the feel of a high-quality cotton button-down shirt.

Pros to Percale Sheets

Percale sheeting is very durable and, as we mentioned, delivers a cool, crisp, feel that many people love. Percale's coolness means it is wonderful for use in warm climates, during summer months, or for anyone who sleeps hot. Percale is a breathable fabric that helps keep you comfortable for a great night's sleep.

SFERRA Celeste Percale Bedding

SFERRA Celeste Bedding Collection

Cons to Percale Sheets

100% cotton percale sheets tend to wrinkle and may need to be lightly ironed to look their best. Additionally, some people don't like the “crunchy” sound percale fabric makes (others love it!). Lastly, there are typically fewer options in bright colors in percale bed sheets.

Pro Tip: Put your percale fitted sheet on the bed right out of the dryer. Smooth it out, put the flat sheet on, and smooth it out. This will help release wrinkles without the need to iron. A quick press on just the pillowcases if needed can finish off the bed perfectly.

Read our buyer's guide to luxury percale sheet sets here.

Sateen Bed Sheets: Silky and Smooth to the Touch

Sateen sheets are thicker than percale, and known for their luster and drape. Sateen fabric feels silky and soft to the touch. Sateen weave will feel warmer, and so is ideally suited to cooler weather or anyone who “sleeps cool” and wants a little warmth in their cotton sheet set. With a lustrous sheen, a sateen bed sheet set or duvet cover is perfect for bedroom décor that heavily emphasizes luxury and romance.

Marouk Nocturne Sateen Sheets

Matouk Nocturne Bedding Collection

More about Sateen Weave

Sateen is a lustrous finish cotton fabric that is made with a three-yarn-over, one-yarn-under weave pattern. This is what gives sateen its beautiful luster and drape.

Pros to Sateen Sheets

Sateen is silky with a warmer feel, making it better for cooler seasons and climates. Sateen weave also tends to wrinkle less than percale (but still may wrinkle a bit). Additionally, sateen sheets typically come in a greater number of colors and more vivid color options than their percale counterparts.

Marouk Nocturne Sateen Fabric

Matouk Nocturne Bedding Collection

Cons to Sateen Sheets

Because it is warmer, sateen weave is not the best option for warm weather or hot sleepers. A sateen sheet set also tends to carry a higher price point than a cotton percale sheet set of similar quality.

Read our buyer's guide to luxury sateen sheet sets here.

Beyond Percale or Sateen Weave: Does Thread Count Matter?

Once you've decided on whether you prefer percale or sateen, your thoughts may turn to the question of thread count. In recent decades, a higher thread count has become synonymous with higher quality. And while that's true to a certain extent, thread count numbers are only part of the big picture.

Thread count is defined as the number of threads, horizontally and vertically, per square inch of fabric. Thread count is often used to describe sheets of high quality that are softer and more durable. However, this may not always be the case. Much depends on both the quality of the fabric and the workmanship of the manufacturer.

At Fine Linen and Bath, we recommend evaluating cotton bedding by the quality of the fiber; the finish, or manufacturing details; and the feel. It is far more important to purchase sheets made from high-quality cotton fiber (look for the words “Egyptian cotton” or “long staple cotton”) than sheets simply labeled “high thread count.” You can read about how to spot and avoid luxury sheet scams here.

Caring for Luxury Percale and Sateen Sheets and Bedding

Whatever sheets you choose, remember that you can extend their life and beauty by caring for them properly. Always follow the manufacturer's directions for washing, and never use bleach or fabric softener which can damage the integrity of the cotton fiber. Additionally, we always recommend using a detergent formulated to effectively clean and remove stains while preserving luxury fabric such as the All-Purpose Laundry Detergent from Heritage Park Laundry Essentials. This concentrated formula is pH-neutral and gentle on your fine fabric (and skin!). Learn more about the safe, effective laundry products from Heritage Park here.

Still Not Sure Percale or Sateen Sheets?

If you still don't know whether you prefer percale or sateen weave, no problem. We are here to help! Give us a call to chat about your preferences and feel free to request complimentary swatch samples of each type of sheet to review at home. As we mentioned earlier, we want your sheets to be perfect!

Fine Linen and Bath: An In-Store Shopping Experience Delivered to You Online 

At Fine Linen and Bath, our mission is to deliver a concierge luxury linen shopping experience with online convenience. Browse our website to access an expansive collection of bedding, bath, table linens, and accessories from the world's premier brands.

When you need answers, consultation, or help to narrow your choices, our team of expert design consultants is here to assist you. We offer individualized recommendations, personal consultation, and even complimentary swatch samples for your review. We'll help you make the right buying decisions for your style, budget, and design goals.

Please connect with us online or -- even better -- give us a call at (866) 352-4522. We'd love to get to know you!