Percale vs. Sateen Sheets: Which One to Pick?

sateen bed sheets set

There’s nothing quite as amazing as lying down on a comfy bedsheet for a good night’s sleep. And the feeling is even better if you go to sleep knowing that your bed linen was crafted without harming the planet.

With an impressive range of sustainable fabrics with different weaves and textures available, shopping for the perfect bedsheet can be a tricky process. Today, we bring you all the facts you need to know about two popular types of woven fabrics - Percale and Sateen, how they fare as bed linens, and where one score over the other.

So, let’s dive in!

Table of Contents

What is Percale?

Percale is a plain weave knit with a traditional technique of one yarn over and one yarn under. Percale sheets are mostly made from cotton but may be blended with synthetic fibers like polyester, rayon, or lyocell. But to make sure the percale bed sheet you’re buying is planet-friendly, we recommend opting for organic cotton percale sheets.

When you buy a set of new percale sheets, you’ll notice how crisp and matted they feel. It’s because the percale weave is usually tighter than your standard sheets. Most percale bedsheets have a minimum thread count of 180 to 200. This plain-weave fabric is hailed for its durability and resistance to piling, getting only better in texture with each wash. 

Not only are percale sheets durable, but they’re also lightweight and breathable, making them perfect for hot sleepers.

What is Sateen?

Perhaps the most noticeable feature of sateen is its distinctive weave. Sateen is made using a technique where one yarn goes under three or four yarns to give it a silky smooth look that’s very hotel-chic

This type of weave gives a shiny appearance but also makes the sheets slightly heavier than percale. In comfort, These incredibly soft and cozy organic sateen sheets are perfect for colder weather. Even those who tend to sleep cold can use these sheets every day, all year long.

In terms of construction, sateen sheets can either be pure cotton or a mix of cotton with polyester, rayon, and lyocell. To ensure that your sleep is as blissful for you as it is for the earth, we recommend buying sheets woven from a certified organic variety of cotton. We’ll talk about the benefit of this eco-friendly fabric in a bit.

Percale Vs. Sateen Sheets? What makes them different

Now that you have a fair idea of the percale and sateen weave, here’s a feature-by-feature comparison of the two types of sheets to help you decide which one to buy.

  • Texture: Percale sheets are often compared to ironed button-down shirts, making them ideal for those who appreciate a crisp, thin, and matte texture. Sateen, on the other hand, has an ultra-smooth and soft texture that mimics satin without being as expensive or fragile.
     
  • Softness: Sateen scores big in softness, and it all comes from the extra threads and the intricate weave. Percale sheets, if made from high-quality cotton threads, also feel soft though not quite as much as sateen.

  • Breathability: While both sheets offer high breathability, percale’s 1:1 weave allows more airflow. It’s cool to the touch and keeps night sweats at bay for those who tend to sleep hot.

  • Resistance to Wrinkles: Sateen sheets are naturally resistant to wrinkles and are ideal for those who care for a smooth, even appearance. That said, if you like the crisp and lightweight percale, don’t let its wrinkly nature hold you back. You can always iron the sheets to remove the wrinkles.

  • Resistance to Piling: With a weave that allows for more interlacings, percale outshines sateen in its durability and resistance to piling.
      
  • Overall Durability: Both types of sheets last fairly long, but percale has a slightly longer lifespan than sateen sheets due to its close weave. It also holds up well to daily use and only gets softer and comfier with every wash.
     
  • Warmth: The one-under and three or four-over weave of sateen make it prone to retaining heat. These sheets are great for all-year comfort but may not be a good idea for those who sleep hot, especially in the warmer months.

    Percale is more breathable and cool-to-touch of the two types of woven fabrics.

  • Look: Sateen sheets have a subtle sheen that makes them look luxurious and opulent. They also don’t wrinkle easily. High thread-count percale sheets may not possess the dazzling appearance of sateen but offer softness and durability with a lived-in look.

Are Percale and Sateen Bedding Environmentally Friendly?

Percale and sateen aren’t fabrics on their own but rather different types of weave. This means that practically any fiber, a natural or a synthetic blend, can be used to make these sheets. Your percale and sateen sheets may have an all-natural origin if they’re made from cotton or bamboo. You might also come across cotton sheets blended with synthetic materials like polyester. But, in the war of polyester vs cotton, Cotton would always be a clear cut winner.

If you believe in and practice sustainable living, then your percale or sateen bed linen should ideally be organic cotton sheets

Why organic cotton instead of equally natural and biodegradable regular cotton, you might ask? Well, while both types of cotton are just as breathable, lightweight, and comfortable, the organic variety is grown in a far greener manner. Its cultivation uses significantly less water and energy with zero presence of harsh chemicals or GMOs.

At Organic Cotton Mart, we only rely on the highest-quality, 100% GOTS-certified organic cotton to make our percale and sateen sheets. And we don’t just stop there. We also take care of packaging our bedsheets in 100% biodegradable material. In fact, every step, from the sourcing of material to the manufacturing of our bedlinen, is carried out in an eco-friendly manner while following the Fair Trade principles. 

Factors to Look at When Shopping for Bedsheets

We spend a third of our lives sleeping. So, it only makes sense to buy mattresses and bedding that will leave you well-rested and rejuvenated after a night’s sleep. 

Here are a few things to pay close attention to while buying your next set of bedsheets.

  • Eco-Friendly: Wouldn’t your sleep be all the more peaceful if your sheets were made without harming the planet? Whether you prefer percale or sateen weave, when it comes to sustainable bedding, make sure you buy sheets made from low-impact organic cotton.

  • High Thread Count: While thread count alone isn’t an indicator of quality, a higher thread count helps with softness and durability. At the same time, if the thread count number is very high, it might make the sheets feel heavy and warm to the user. We recommend a range of 200-400 thread counts for a well-balanced sleeping experience.

  • Flat or Fitted: The size of the bedsheet depends on how big your bed or mattress is. You could go for Twin, Full, King, or Queen sizes. You also need to decide between fitted or flat sheets. Fitted sheets carry elastic around their edges. Just slip it over the mattress and forget about it. The sheet will stay in place until you’re ready to change it.

  • Sleeping Needs: You can choose percale or sateen, depending on how you sleep. If you tend to sweat a lot while sleeping, you need something lightweight and airy, like percale. However, if coziness and warmth are what you’re looking for in your bedding, you’re better off with sateen.

  • Easy Maintenance: This is an important one. Fortunately, both percale and sateen sheets are a breeze to maintain. Be sure to check out our care guide right below this section for more info.
  • Care Tips to Make Your Percale and Sateen Sheets Last Longer

    Whether you pick percale or sateen, both types of bedding are incredibly fuss-free to maintain. Even then, there are still a few things to keep in mind to ensure they last long. After all, a little bit of love goes a long way.

    Both sheets are machine washable, and while sateen sheets are already quite soft, percale ones get smoother with each wash. We recommend using a mild, natural laundry detergent to keep the cotton fibers intact. For added protection, consider placing them in a canvas laundry bag before washing to prevent any snagging or damage to the delicate fabric.

    To dry the sheets, toss them in the dryer and tumble dry on a low heat setting. Remember to remove the percale sheets from the dryer as soon as possible to avoid wrinkling them.

    Still in Doubt? Try Both Weaves to Check Suitability

    If you’re yet to make up your mind, might we suggest buying a set of both percale and sateen and experiencing firsthand which you fancy more? Our all-in-one bedding sets contain one flat sheet and one fitted sheet, complete with pillow covers. 

    Depending on your requirement, you can choose Twin, King, Queen, or Full sizes. Our sheets and pillow covers are made from 100% GOTS-certified organic cotton and are available in a natural hue to help you sleep peacefully and soundly, night after night.

    Author: Karen Lamar

    Karen is the Chief Content Officer at Organic Cotton Mart. She has a Master's Degree in Environmental Science from NC State with a special focus in Energy Conservation and Renewable Energy. Since her High School days, she has been an Environmentalist and was the President of her High School's Environmental Club for 3 years before starting her freshman year at NC State. She has a deep knowledge and understanding of various environment-friendly movements like zero waste, minimalistic living, recycling, and upcycling.

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