Percale vs. Sateen Bed Sheets

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Choosing between a percale or sateen sheet set shouldn’t give you a headache. Once you know a little about each sheet type, it’s easy to decide which one is best for you based on your personal preferences.

You’ll love PERCALE sheets if:

  • You enjoy the cool, crisp feeling of hotel bed sheets
  • You prefer minimalistic sheets that are comfortable and easy to care for
  • You’re a warm sleeper and need breathable sheets with moisture wicking properties

You’ll love SATEEN sheets if:

  • You like a heavier, warmer set of sheets
  • You prefer more decorative, lustrous sheets that have slip and drape down around the bed
  • You often find yourself chilly at night and rarely have night sweats

Are you still feeling unsure about which sheet type to choose? Keep reading for an in-depth comparison of percale vs sateen sheets (crisp vs soft sheets), including information on how they’re made, the pros and cons of each, and a summary of the main takeaways from this article.

What is Percale?

A beautiful set of organic cotton percale in color pewter

Percale is a type of fabric weave used to create sheets, pillowcases, and other bedding. The defining characteristic of percale is a tight one over/one under weave. This weave makes percale sheets exceptionally durable and the same on both sides, soft with a matte finish.

Early percale produced in India was woven on looms and exported to other countries. Recognizing it’s benefits, French textile manufacturers adopted the weave and streamlined the sheet making process. Percale sheets can be made entirely of cotton, a blend of cotton and polyester, and other combinations of materials including bamboo and Tencel. They can also come plain or printed.

Although crisp these sheets do get softer after they are washed. Tricks like soaking your sheets in Epsom salts can help soften them further.

The price of a good set of 100% cotton percale sheets ranges from around $70 to $150. The standard thread count for these sheets starts at around 180 to 200. When buying sheets, keep in mind that cotton with a thread count of over 400 tends to wrinkle easier.

Keep in mind that marketers make it sound like the higher the thread count the better, but 1,000 thread count sheets can be less durable because of the finer threads used to get such a high number.

If you’re open to it, consider a blended cotton sheet set to save on cost and gain other benefits. Depending on the materials used, blended sheets can enhance the durability, anti-wrinkling, and/or coolness of your set.

Amerisleep Percale Cotton Bed Sheet Set

A bed with mix and match percale sheets and matching pillowcases

See this percale cotton bed sheet set on Amerisleep

Percale Sheets: Pros & Cons

  • Cool
  • Breathable
  • Soft/smooth on both sides
  • Easy to care for: machine washable
  • Resists piling and wrinkling
  • Highly durable
  • A little noisy for light sleepers
  • Relatively thin

What is Sateen?

Hotel Sateen Sheets

Sateen is another type of cotton weave used to make bedding. It is the closest you can get to satin sheets while maintaining cotton-level durability.

This weave is vastly different from percale. The weave pattern for sateen sheets is one yarn over and three or four yarn under, so more thread surface is exposed on one side of the sheet. This is what makes one side shinier than the other.

Sateen sheets are heavier than percale and retain more heat. Some people use these sheets all year round, but they’re especially ideal for chilly sleepers, winter, or if you live in a generally colder climate.

While not quite as strong as percale, with proper care a good set of sateen sheets can last anywhere from 10 to 12 years. Like most sheets, these tend to get softer after being washed a few times. Sateen is stronger than untreated cotton sheets because sateen fibers are soaked in sodium hydroxide and then acid to make them long lasting, easier to dye the sheets different colors, and add shine.

The thread count of a good sateen sheet set ranges from 300 to 600 threads per square inch.

One not so well-known benefit of sateen sheets is that they may be better for your skin! Since they don’t absorb moisture and oils like other materials, they stop your skin from drying out as much and losing natural oils, therefore promoting more hydrated skin with fewer wrinkles.

MOLECULE Luxury Bed Sheets Set Sateen

Molecule Luxury Bed Sheets Set Sateen Weave Made with Cotton and Tencel Blended Breathable Fabric for a Cooling, Silky Feel Featuring deep Pocket Design for Queen Sized mattresses in Cloud Grey

Check out this silky sateen sheet set on Amazon

Sateen Sheets: Pros & Cons

  • Luxurious look and feel
  • Shiny and silky
  • Durable and long-lasting
  • Good for allergies: mildew resistant
  • Naturally wrinkle resistant
  • Slippery and soft
  • Heavy
  • Good for your skin
  • Not good for warm sleepers
  • Poor moisture retention: bad for night sweats
  • Too heavy/slippery for some preferences

The Comparison: Percale Sheets vs Sateen 

When comparing percale and sateen sheets it’s important to note that neither is ultimately better than the other. Both are different types of cotton weaves that have their own pros and cons. You may notice that you love sateen sheets, but your kids prefer percale. Or you might switch between the two yourself depending on the season.

Deciding what type of sheet set is best for you has a lot to do with your personal preference. To help you narrow it down, ask yourself if you prefer sheets that are:

Hot or Cold?

A woman waking up refreshed in clean white percale bedding.

Do you live in a cold climate all or part of the year? If not, are you the type of person who is always cold, or do prefer to keep your room cooler to sleep at night?

If yes, sateen sheets are probably best for you. These sheets are a little heavier and tend to keep in heat better.

If you live in a hotter climate, tend to give off a lot of body heat, or sweat a lot at night, percale sheets will be your best friend.

Sheets made with a percale weave are lightweight and breathable. They’re also more moisture wicking than sateen so if you sweat at night, your sheets won’t feel damp and uncomfortable.

Shiny or Matte?

Another factor that we can consider when comparing percale and sateen sheets is the different look that each one has.

Sateen sheets are shinier and softer on one side than the other.

Percale cotton sheets are equally soft on both sides and have a more matte, not shiny, finish.

Welhome Cozy 100% Cotton Percale Washed Reversible Duvet Cover Set

Welhome Cozy 100% Cotton Percale Washed Reversible Duvet Cover Set | Queen Size (White) | 88' x 92' | 3 Piece Set | Lightweight | Cool & Crisp | Breathable | Ideal for Summers

Check out this percale duvet cover set on Amazon

Crisp or Soft?

If you enjoy the crisp feeling of hotel sheets and don’t mind a little rustling noise when you move around at night, you’ll probably feel right at home sleeping with percale sheets.

Sateen sheets have more of a buttery, slippery feeling to them. They are less likely to make noise, making them a better choice for light sleepers who are easily disturbed by crinkly sheets.

High or Low Price Point?

Sheet sets vary a lot in price due to things like the brand name, thread count, size of the sheets, number of materials used to make the sheets, and more.

A good set of sateen sheets can cost you anywhere from $50 to $200+, but if well cared for sateen sheets can last for years.

Percale sheets cost roughly $70 to $150+, but like sateen sheets percale sets are quite durable. Some percale sheets even come with a lifetime warranty or lifetime satisfaction guarantee.

Choosing to pay a lot or a little for a sheet set depends on your own preference and finances. If you can afford to spend a couple hundred on a great set of sheets and know you’ll care for them, so they last, great! You might also prefer to get an average, soft enough set at a lower price and feel okay with replacing your sheets more often.

Intelligent Design Reversible 100% Cotton Sateen Duvet

Inspire by INTELLIGENT DESIGN Reversible 100% Cotton Sateen Duvet - Breathable Comforter Cover, Modern All Season Bedding Set with Sham (Insert Excluded), Mist, Ombre Indigo King/Cal King(104'x90')

Check out this 100% sateen duvet set on Amazon

Luxury or Practical?

Sateen is typically described as more luxurious because of it’s slip and sheen. Though durable enough, these sheets prioritize look over function with their uneven weave pattern and are meant to be put on the bed a certain way (not the same on both sides).

While a set of 100% cotton or organic cotton percale sheets can be luxurious, the one over one under percale weave is more practical for several reasons. These sheets are more durable due to the tight weave and the finish is the same on both sides.

Sateen vs Percale Sheets: The Takeaway

If you’re wondering, “Which is better: percale or sateen sheets?” the answer is either.

Both types of sheets are soft in their own way and can last for years if well taken care of. Knowing a little more about how the sheets are made, it’s easy to see how they are similar (both sateen and percale sheets are primarily made with cotton), yet different. Knowing the pros and cons of each can take a lot of guesswork out of the buying process, saving you time and money.

If you asked yourself the questions above, you probably now have a fairly good idea of what kind of sheets you should try out next. The right set of sheets can make a big difference in your comfort and overall sleep quality, so choose wisely! You do spend about 1/3 of your daily hours asleep after all.