Bed sheets are a personal purchase. Whether you've opted for a linen set to suit a laid-back, effortless look or a silky set to enhance a luxury aesthetic, a bedding set can say more about you than you think. This is why choosing a bed sheet material can make all the difference.
Cotton is the most common bedding material on the market, but thread counts and finishes can alter the look and feel of each set – percale vs sateen sheets, for example, have a different weave construction that puts them apart. Without directly touching the bedding, it can be tricky to figure out which set you'd like best.
To help you decide between these two popular cotton variations, we've spoken to a bedding expert and broken down the pros and cons of percale vs sateen. If you're after a new bedding set, I've compared the best bed sheets, recommended by me, from two of my favorite brands after testing.
Percale vs Sateen
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What's the difference?
The difference between percale and sateen cotton is how the fabrics are woven.
Percale cotton 'uses a traditional and simplistic one-yarn-over and one-yarn-under weave,' explains Yusuf Ozkanli, founder of luxury bedding brand Beddable. 'This gives the fabric a matte finish that is crisp and cool to the touch, making it ideal for hot sleepers and warm temperatures'. Its tight weave means it's incredibly durable, washes well, and won't wrinkle.
Sateen cotton is made using a more complicated 'one-yarn-under and three-yarns-over technique that results in a silky, more luxurious looking fabric', says Ozkanli. 'This is because more thread is exposed to the surface, also making it feel softer. It is of a heavier weight than percale making it suitable to sleep under all year round. It also washes well but may be more prone to creasing.
Yusuf Ozkanli is the founder and product manager of luxury bedding brand Beddable and has over 7 years of experience in sourcing home textiles from across the world.
Percale vs Sateen: a comparison
As a sleep editor, I've reviewed plenty of both types of sheets. To make the difference clearer, here's a head-to-head comparison of the best percale vs sateen bed sheets I've tested.
Sateen sheet set
Sizes: Twin, Twin XL, Full, Queen, King, California King
Material: 100% long-staple cotton sateen
OEKO-TEK certified: Yes
With a silky, shiny finish, these are the bed sheets I reach for if I'm wanting to impress guests; they look and feel high-quality. You may need to iron these after washing, but it's worth it for how beautiful your bed will look.
- Luxurious silky look
- Great for all-season use
- Soft and smooth feel
- Washes well
- Prone to wrinkling
- Silky look isnt for everyone
Percale sheet set
Sizes: Twin, queen, king
Material: 100% long-staple cotton percale
OEKO-TEK certified: Yes
I've had my Beddable bedding set for over a year and it feels just as good as it did brand new. I love how well they wash, and don't need much of an iron. Made from high-quality long-staple cotton, with a cool, crisp percale finish, they mimic the feel of a luxurious hotel stay.
- Cool and crisp feel
- Hotel quality
- Great for hot sleepers
- Durable and washes well
- Can feel stiff to begin with
Should you buy percale or sateen sheets?
Whether you buy percale or sateen bedding comes down to personal preference. 'Sateen and percale are both made of high-quality cotton' says Ozkanli, 'so it comes down to texture.'
If you're a hot sleeper, for example, percale is a given. It's breathable and cold to the touch, so you're sure to sleep sweat-free, even in the summer months. Sateen, on the other hand, is proven to help preserve body heat and keep your temperature regulated, as opposed to keeping you cool. Thanks to a smooth composition that doesn't retain moisture, it's also great for those with sensitive skin – just like a silk pillowcase.
If you're unbothered about the finish and feel, and just want the best cotton sheet set, then I'd opt for percale. It's typically used in hotels as it's extremely durable, lasting through many wash loads and maintaining its quality. In fact, it's known to get softer and smoother with time, and since percale is usually the same price as sateen sheets, you're better off investing in the set that'll last you the longest.
Do hotels use percale or sateen?
Hotels and boutiques tend to favor percale cotton bedding. Its smooth, crisp finish is most associated with vacation stays or hotel suites for its high-quality feel. Easy to wash, dry, and have back on the bed without damage to its construction, it's the most durable of bedding materials that will suit almost all sleep types. Getting yourself a good cotton percale bed sheet set is the simplest way to bring a little luxe into your life. If you want to make your bedroom feel five-star, then it's worth investing in a luxury mattress, one of the best duvets, and so on. Because the key to hotel standard sleep is having the most comfortable bed products possible.
Is Egyptian cotton percale or sateen?
Egyptian cotton could either have a percale or sateen finish. The term 'Egyptian cotton' refers to cotton that is grown exclusively in Egypt. The fertile soil and hot climate allow the cotton plant to grow at a slower, longer pace, producing fine fibers considered by some to be more luxurious. Egyptian cotton bedding made with a percale weave allows for one of the strongest, most durable materials best for bedding.
There are a lot of myths surrounding what makes the best bed sheets, including thread count. If you're looking for the best bedding, don't rely on common knowledge. Higher thread counts and Egyptian cotton aren't the only indicators of quality bedding. How the fabric feels and the color looks to you is what matters.
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Louise is your eCommerce Editor and sleep specialist to help you wind down well. A connoisseur of the mattress world, Louise previously covered sleep and wellness (as well as the occasional organizational buy) at Real Homes, and has tried, tested, and reviewed some of the buys for your bedroom. With an MA in International Journalism and PR experience, Louise brings bags of bedding expertise and enjoys nothing more than helping readers find solutions and products that best suit their sleep needs.
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