August 02, 2021 7 min read

It's easy for any brand to slap the words “luxury sheets” on their packaging, but how accurate is that claim? It’s often hard to figure out which bedding is actually high quality and which brands are misleading you.

But that doesn’t have to be the case.

There are some features you should be looking for when you’re on the hunt for a new sheet set, particularly when it’s something as high-end as luxury percale bedding.

Before you purchase new bedding, it’s important to take a look at the material you’re purchasing. If it’s 100 percent cotton, see if you can find the exact cotton variety. If the labeling doesn’t specify, buyer, beware: low-quality jersey cotton and luxurious Egyptian cotton can both pass as 100 percent cotton, but the difference is stark.

In the same way, you should always be keeping an eye out for the weave type. For example, both Oxford weave and percale weave pass as cotton sheets. However, Oxford feels like men’s formal wear while percale feels like linen sheets. Knowing the difference between cotton and cotton percale and knowing how to identify percale vs linen can help you make the right buying decision. Without a doubt, you can always trust that percale fabric makes high-quality sheets, but why is that, and what makes it unique? Read on to find out more about what percale fabric is and how it’s a great choice for your sleeping space.

What Is Percale Cotton?

What is cotton percale? This soft, breathable material is exactly what you think: the term percale-woven fabric means that your new bedding is made from 100 percent cotton.

Organic Cotton cream sets on bed White Sateen sheet sets on bed

The term percale meaning comes from the type of weave used to make it, which consists of pure cotton fibers woven in a grid or crisscross-like pattern following a one-yarn-over, one-yarn-under structure. This tight weave makes Percale durable, breathable, and crisp to the touch. It also makes the sheets and other types of bedding exceptionally strong and durable and highly resistant to pilling. In terms of finish, it has a matte and smooth texture with slightly less of a sheen than cotton sateen sheets.

What is Cotton Percale Sheets, and What are They Made Of?

Blue aegean cotton sheet set on a bed White Sateen sheet set organic cotton

Learning about different bedding types can be a bit complicated at first. Between things like thread counts, material types, and weave patterns, there may be a bit of initial confusion.

So, what is percale fabric exactly?

Contrary to popular belief, percale refers to a weave type that is closely woven, not a specific textile. Technically, any woven fabric can be made into percale. However, long-staple cotton is by far the most popular material of choice, and that’s why it receives the label of cotton percale sheets.

Modern bedroom and light beddings

Why Does Cotton Percale Classify as Luxury Bedding?

Now that we know percale is a luxury material, why is that, and what makes it so unique? Cotton percale sheets are synonymous with luxury bedding for many reasons ranging from texture and breathability to maintenance.

If you’ve never experienced percale before, you can think of it as being similar to linen. However, when it comes to percale vs linen, percale takes the cake. Since this cotton material doesn’t require a super high thread count compared to sateen sheets (we’ll get to that soon), it’s incredibly lightweight and temperature regulating to help keep you cool and comfortable throughout the night. Hot sleepers or those with the heat blasting in the winter months will both enjoy sleeping under cotton percale sheets.

Another key difference between percale cotton sheets and natural linen bedding is that the latter has a much more textured feel. On the other hand, you’ll notice that percale is much smoother and has a crisper feel to it than linen. Plus, it features an effortlessly beautiful matte finish that you just don’t get with other weaves like sateen fabric.

Is percale cotton easy to care for? Unlike some luxury linens, percale bedding is reasonably low maintenance. It’s often safe to toss in the washing machine and tumble dry. We should also mention that it becomes softer with every wash, and if that isn’t luxurious, we don’t know what is.

Why You Should Choose Percale Sheets

It’s no secret that you have tons of choices when it comes to luxury bedding. So, what is it about percale that stands out, and why should you choose it over other materials?

  • Durability.Percale is supremely soft, but it’s also long-lasting. The long, combed cotton fibers are woven into a tight pattern to ensure that these luscious sheets will last you for many years to come. It also does a fantastic job of resisting pesky, annoying pilling, and it also gets softer after every single wash, making it a very smart investment in your bedroom and sleeping experience.
  • Breathability. If you’re comparing the breathability of similar weave types, the difference between percale and sateen is obvious. Percale does a much better job of regulating your body temperature throughout the night. And since this fabric only requires a minimum of 180 thread count, it’s naturally lighter and less dense than many other fabric options. This makes it extremely breathable to help you stay cool and comfy throughout the night. If you’re a hot sleeper, consider trying a cotton percale duvet cover.
  • Safe and natural. When you’re sleeping on a specific material night in and night out, your health and safety should always be top of mind. If you’re buying bedding constructed of certified organic cotton, this should never be a concern. This material is naturally hypoallergenic, so it’s safe for even the most sensitive sleepers. Organic cotton is devoid of any harmful chemicals, which means you’ll never have to worry about nasty toxins touching your skin or being breathed in as you slumber.
  • Hygienic. One thing that helps organic percale cotton differentiate itself from other luxury fabrics is that its tight weave resists an assortment of common allergens like dust, pet dander, and dust mites. You should still wash your bedding regularly, but its hygienic properties provide peace of mind to help you sleep more peacefully. This feature also applies to other bedding, including organic sateen duvet covers, too.
  • A laid-back look. Yes, percale is prone to wrinkles, but many people view this as an advantage in terms of overall aesthetics. Your bed sheets are naturally going to look like they’ve been slept in, and percale cotton provides your sleeping space with that popular and casual, boho-inspired vibe.
  • Affordability. Another perk to choosing this material is that cotton percale sheets are generally inexpensive, and they don’t require an excessively high thread count to provide you with a luxury feel. You’ll find budget-friendly percale products for an affordable price without having to compromise on quality. And since these sheets will last for years, they’re certainly worth the investment.

What to Look for in Percale Bedding

Not all percale bedding is created equal. Here are some things to look out for before buying a new percale cotton bedding set. 

  • Type of cotton: As we mentioned earlier, fabric labels can sometimes be misleading. Just because a product says that it’s made of 100 percent cotton doesn’t mean that it’s made of high-end cotton. Always double-check labels carefully to see precisely what cotton variety you’re getting. If it’s a high-quality type, the product description will be clear since it’s a selling point, after all.
  • Thread counts: Not all luxury fabrics require excessively high thread counts -- percale is one of them. While people generally consider higher thread counts to be more luxurious, that isn’t always the case. When it comes to percale, anything with a thread count of approximately 200 is ideal. You don’t need to splurge on anything higher than that. 
  • Certifications: It’s important to know what kind of companies you’re supporting and, in turn, what type of product you’re investing your hard-earned money in. That’s where certifications come into play. Whenever possible, purchase products with specific labels and logos, such as Oeko-Tex organic cotton, fair trade, and B-corps certifications. These important certifications ensure your bedding is safe to use and that those making it are being fairly compensated while working in safe conditions.
  • Warranties and return policy: Sometimes what you love in-store just doesn’t translate well when you take it home. That’s why it’s always a good idea to find out what kind of return policies are offered before you buy your new bedding. Be sure to inquire about warranties while you’re at it because life happens, and a good product warranty can save you lots of money in the long run.
  • What’s included: If you’re purchasing a complete bedding set, always take a look at exactly what’s included in the package. Is it just a top and a fitted sheet? Are there matching pillowcases? Be sure to look into this before leaving the store (or clicking the checkout button) to avoid disappointment when you bring your brand-new bedding set home.

What Does Percale Mean in Terms of Thread Count?

Just to reiterate, the idea that a higher thread count is always better is not necessarily accurate. When it comes to fabric like percale cotton, the tight, grid-like weave pattern allows for a lower thread count while still providing high quality and a luxurious feel. Percale’s minimum thread count is 180, but anything in the 200 range is perfect. Don’t bother paying more for anything over 400, because it won’t make a difference.

Care Instructions for Cotton Percale Sheets

Regardless of the type of material you’re washing, it’s important to always look carefully at the manufacturer’s care instructions first and foremost. That being said, here are some general care instructions for cleaning your new cotton percale sheets.

Machine Washing

Because they’re low maintenance, cotton percale sheets can usually handle a cycle through the washing machine. To begin the process, pretreat any stains, then place your bedding into the machine, flipping it inside out to reduce friction-induced pilling. Next, add a mild detergent and wash the sheets with warm water on the machine’s gentle cycle. Feel free to toss your cotton percale sheets in the dryer after as well. Tumble drying can actually reduce annoying wrinkles in your bedding but note that it may shrink your sheets ever so slightly. 


If you prefer to wash your bedding by hand, go for it! If you’ve got the time to spare, this method can reduce pilling even further, though percale is naturally fairly pill resistant. The same guidelines apply: use a mild detergent paired with warm water, then air or tumble to dry. That’s all there is to it!

Final Thoughts on why Cotton Percale Is Associated With Luxury Bed Linen

Don’t let the lower thread count and affordable price point deter you: cotton percale is a strong contender when it comes to luxury bed linens. Whether you’re shopping for new sheets for your Airbnb or looking to improve your level of comfort at home, percale bedding is the way to go.