What is sateen? The silky smooth weave that's ideal for sensitive sleepers

These sheets look good, feel smooth, wash well and dry fast, though they might not suit hot sleepers and warmer climates

Ettitude Signature Sateen Sheets against a dusty red wall.
(Image credit: Ettitude)

If you know you need new sheets, and you're looking to stay warm in the winter weather, you should consider a sateen set. Plant fibers are tightly knit in a three-threads-over, one-thread-under pattern to trap heat and wick moisture, keeping you just the right side of warm and dry. 

Sateen isn't a type of fiber, but a kind of weave. You'll see sateen sheets made from all sorts of materials, from durable cotton to breathable bamboo, sold in all the major sleep stores and home retailers. 

As a sleep writer, it's my job to break down the bedding buzzwords and help you find the best bed sheets that suit your sleep needs. I can tell you that, while sateen sheets might work well for cool sleepers and colder weather, they're far less suitable for the summer months, and they might be too silky smooth for some sleepers. 

This article should tell you everything you need to know about sateen sheets, from how they're made to how they wash. If you like what you read, and you're keen to invest in a sateen set, then you should stick around until the end. I've rounded up a few of my favorite sateen sets to suit every style of room and size of budget. 

What is sateen?

Egyptian Cotton Sateen Sheet Set on a bed

(Image credit: The White Company)

Sateen sheets are so called because they're meant to mimic the premium feel of satin at a more affordable price point. Where satin sheets are made from silk, sateen sheets tend to be made from plant fibers, such as long-staple cotton or bamboo. 

To weave a sateen sheet, you need to follow a three-threads-over, one-thread-under pattern, while a satin sheet features four or more threads going over a single thread. Such a tight weave forms a thick and heavy sheet that traps heat and keeps you cozy. 

All those exposed threads should feel soft against your skin and catch the light to create an attractive sheen. Sateen might not feel quite as silky as the real thing, but it's a good deal smoother than plain old cotton or percale. 

What are the benefits of sleeping under sateen?

Ettitude Signature Sateen Sheet Set in sea blue against a white wall.

(Image credit: Ettitude)

If you tend to sleep cool, or you live in a colder climate, you'll quickly feel the benefit of sateen sheets. This complex weave features fewer interlacings than a simple criss-cross pattern, so there are fewer gaps for cold air to sneak through. That's why sateen sheets make such good winter warmers.

I would recommend sateen sheets, in particular sateen pillowcases, for sleepers with sensitive skin. Your face should glide right over the soft fabric, which is smooth enough not to irritate eczema or aggravate acne. 

Not only do sateen sheets sleep cool and feel smooth, but they wash well, too. While you should always check the care tag before you do your first load of laundry, you should be safe to throw your sateen sheets in the washing machine, then straight into the dryer, without worrying about folds and creases. As weaves go, sateen is inherently wrinkle-resistant, but if you're uber-neat might want to iron their sheets for the smoothest possible finish.

What are the downsides of sleeping under sateen?

Luxe Sateen Sheets on a bed.

(Image credit: Brooklinen)

It should go without saying, but it bears repeating that tightly woven sheets might be less suitable for hot sleepers and warmer weather. If you live in a temperate climate, and you're shopping for all-season sheets, you might be better off with the best cotton percale bed sheets. These sheets are simply woven with more interlacings to boost breathability. 

While sateen sheets work well for sleepers with sensitive skin, they might not be quite so gentle on your hair. It all depends which material is woven into sateen. Water-wicking fibers, such as cotton and bamboo, will draw moisture from your hair and could cause it to lose its luster. If you want to start your journey towards clearer skin and cleaner hair, you should consider investing in the best silk pillowcase.

Which are the best sateen bed sheets?

Sunday Citizen cotton sateen sheets on a bed.

(Image credit: Sunday Citizen)

As H&G's resident sleep writer, I test sheets for weeks, if not months, to monitor their performance over time. We rank each sheet set on the basis of comfort, the quality of construction, any cooling or warming properties, as well as the all-important price. After that, we strip the bed, wash the sheets, and make the bed again to give you the fullest possible picture of what it might be like to sleep under these sheets. 

I've tested all sorts of sheet sets. For cozy comfort, sateen comes out on top. I've listed a few of my favorite sateen sets below. Some are made from cotton, others from bamboo, but all feature the silky softness and sheen of top-quality sateen. 

Sateen bed sheets FAQs

Do sateen sheets keep you cool?

Not really. While some thinner sateen sheets might be suitable for year-round use, their tight weave is designed to trap heat and keep you warm in the winter months. I wouldn't recommend sateen sheets for hot sleepers or warmer climates, and I certainly wouldn't use them to try and keep cool.

Is cotton sateen better than cotton percale?

We've written an entire article in an attempt to settle the debate between percale vs sateen bed sheets. If you don't have time to read the whole thing, here's what you need to know. 

Percale is light and airy where sateen is thick and heavy. Hot sleepers will appreciate the breathability of percale, while cooler sleepers living in colder climates might prefer the warmth of sateen.    

Percale is crisp where sateen is smooth. Percale might lie more neatly on your bed, but sateen will feel softer against your skin. Sateen is also far easier to wash and dry than percale, since it's naturally wrinkle-resistant. 

Final thoughts

Even the best sateen sheets might develop a wrinkle or two over time. If you're keen to avoid creases, then it's worth learning how to fold fitted sheets to keep them neat and save space in your linen closet.

If you know you need new sheets, and you want to take stock of all your options, then you're in luck. We've listed all the bed sheet types and laid out their pros and cons to help you find the material and weave that suits your needs. 

Emilia Hitching
Sleep Editor

Emilia is our resident sleep writer. She spends her days tracking down the lowest prices on the best bedding and spends her nights testing it out from the comfort of her own home – it's a dream job. Her quest to learn how to sleep better has taken her all around the world, from mattress factories in Arizona to sleep retreats in Scandinavia. Before she joined Homes & Gardens, Emilia studied English at the University of Oxford. She also worked on the other side of the aisle, writing press releases for regional newspapers and crafting copy for Sky.