Among the many terms related to sheets you’ve probably heard of are “percale” and “sateen.” The names for different fabric weaves, each type makes a sheet with a very different look and feel.
Not sure which fabric weave is right for you? Here, we break down the differences between percale and sateen and the pros and cons of each type of sheet.
Sateen vs. percale sheets: key differences
Percale and sateen refer to two different ways fabric is woven on a loom. You’ll see these two terms used to describe cotton sheets.
Briefly, percale is a more traditional “one-yarn-over, one-yarn-under” pattern, while sateen is a “one-yarn-over, three-yarn-under” weave.
Here’s how it works: On a loom, there are “warp” threads and “weft” threads. Warp threads are those that run lengthwise, while weft threads are run perpendicular to warp threads and are woven into them.
In a one-yarn-over, one-yarn-under pattern (percale), each weft thread passes over one warp thread and then under the next warp thread. In a one-yarn-over, three-yarn-under weave (sateen), each weft thread passes over three warp threads and then under one warp thread.
So, which is better: percale or sateen? It comes down to personal preference, as neither is better than the other. Both of these weaves produce excellent fabrics, but their characteristics are slightly different.
Percale produces a slightly airier and more lightweight fabric, while sateen is shinier and smoother. Depending on what type of sleeper you are, one might work better for you than the other. You might also want to switch things up depending on the season.
Benefits of sateen sheets
Sateen is characteristically smoother and silkier compared to percale. That’s because the three-yarn-under, one-yarn-over weave exposes more thread surface, producing a silky texture and smooth fabric that’s a bit heavier than percale.
Sateen sheets are also typically naturally resistant to mildew due to the finishing process they undergo—so they may be more suitable for people with allergies or sensitive skin.
In addition to having a smooth and silky texture, sateen sheets are also naturally wrinkle-resistant. This is a great benefit if you tend to sleep restlessly.
Sateen is also known for being an incredibly quiet fabric. If you’re sensitive to sound at night, sateen fabric could be the perfect type of sheet for you.
Lastly, you’ll notice that sateen has a slight sheen to it. If you’re looking for an affordable, shiny sheet set, a sateen weave may be best for you. Sateen is less expensive than satin and silk but offers a similarly shiny look and smooth feel. (Here’s how to choose the best luxury sheets.)
While there are a lot of benefits to using sateen sheet sets, they can also come with some drawbacks. For one, sateen sheets can be prone to pilling over time, which means they may have a shorter lifespan than other durable fabrics and materials.
Plus, because they use thicker yarn during the weaving process, sateen sheets are less breathable compared to percale. If you’re a hot sleeper or live in a warmer climate, you may feel uncomfortable throughout the night.
If you choose to only use a fitted sheet and forego the top sheet, then you may not run into this issue. Additionally, that also means that sateen bedding is perfect for colder climates where you may need the extra warmth throughout the night.
Benefits of percale sheets
Percale creates a matte finish with a soft and crisp feel that stands up well to everyday use. Think: your favorite crisp white button-down shirt.
Percale tends to be lighter and cooler than sateen. Because this type of percale weave allows for better airflow between the threads, it makes the material more breathable and more suitable for hot summer months or for people who tend to sleep hot.
Percale fabric also tends to soften with every wash. It’s typically more durable and less prone to pilling than sateen. Cotton percale sheets are usually also fairly affordable, with a similar price point to sateen.
If you’re looking for breathable sheets that can work in all climates, then percale sheets could be right for you.
The biggest drawback to percale sheets is that you have to find a sheet set with a fairly high thread count to get the most comfortable sleep.
While percale does get softer with every wash, sheets with a lower thread count can often feel scratchy and uncomfortable. However, those with a higher thread count will offer a soft and luxurious feel.
Additionally, percale bedding isn’t wrinkle resistant like sateen. While you can often throw percale sheets in the dryer to remove wrinkles, you should always check the care instructions to ensure they don’t get damaged.
What else to consider when selecting a new set of sheets
While weave is important when choosing sheets, it’s not the only factor. You should also pay attention to:
- Thread count: This number signifies how many horizontal and vertical threads a sheet has per square inch. The National Sleep Foundation recommends choosing sheets with a thread count between 200 and 400 for optimal comfort and coolness. Anything higher than that means the textile won’t breathe as well and will result in a hotter sleep.
- Staple: This term refers to the length of the cotton fiber. Longer fibers make for a softer and more durable fabric, even at a lower thread count.
- Ply: This is a reference to how many yarns are twisted together to make a thread. Single-ply threads are longer and stronger than multi-ply ones. Single-ply threads result in lightweight, soft, durable sheets.
Other popular types of sheets to choose from
If you’re still not sure whether percale or sateen are the best sheets for your sleep style, there are plenty of other options on the market. Some of our other top choices include:
- Egyptian cotton: Egyptian cotton is soft and cozy. It’s made using long, soft fibers that make incredibly breathable and durable bed sheets.
- Long-staple cotton: Long-staple cotton is a common material for bed sheets. It uses longer fibers compared to other types of cotton and oftentimes has a higher thread count.
- Linen: Linen is one of our top choices for bed sheets because it’s biodegradable, making it an incredibly sustainable option. Additionally, linen sheets can be more durable than other types of bed sheets. They typically last five to seven years on average!
- Silk: While silk tends to be more expensive than other textiles and bed sheet sets, it can be well worth it if it fits in your budget. Silk sheets have a very soft and luxurious feel and have plenty of benefits for your hair and skin.
- Satin: Much like silk, satin is a luxurious fabric for bed sheets. Satin sheets tend to be more expensive but are soft and cool, making for a comfortable night’s sleep.
Is sateen or percale better for hot sleepers?
Percale tends to be lighter and cooler than sateen as the percale weave allows for better airflow between the threads, making the material more breathable and more suitable for hot summer months or for hot sleepers. Sateen, on the other hand, uses thicker yarn during the weaving process, making the material less breathable compared to percale.
Our best sateen and percale sheets to suit your sleep preferences
Organic Sateen Sheet Set
It's easy to see why our flagship organic cotton sheet is a bestseller. Its silky-soft, 300 thread count sateen weave is made with 100% certified organic cotton. It's better for the planet and feels indulgently luxurious on you.
Percale Sheet Set
Pamper yourself in deluxe comfort with our breathable percale sheets. They're made from the world's best long-staple cotton that gets softer and better with every wash.
Get high-quality bed sheets, mattresses, and other accessories with Saatva
If you’re on a mission to find the best set of sheets for your sleep style, percale and sateen are both great options for you.
However, you should understand both the benefits and drawbacks of these materials before purchasing. After all, your bed sheets will have a large impact on how comfortable you are throughout the night.
Luckily, Saatva has a wide selection of high-quality bed sheets, mattresses, and other accessories for you to choose from. You can be sure you’ll find bed sheets that will help make falling asleep easy.