Most shoppers know the main features to look for when shopping for bedding: material, thread count, and even environmental certifications. However, in the jumble of labeling, many overlook one key trait: weave.
The type of weave used to craft textile matters a lot. This can determine if your fabric has a matte finish, smooth feel, or any number of characteristics.
Two main types of weaves used in linens are sateen weave and percale weave. Right now, we’re going to deep dive into the latter and explore what percale fabric is all about.
What Is Percale?
Percale is a woven material that follows a specific thread pattern: one-yarn-under, one-yarn-over. This grid-like pattern may seem basic, but it’s unique to percale. The tight, strict weave makes percale lightweight, durable, and smooth to the touch. It’s like the linen of cotton but crisper.
Types of Percale Bedding
Now that we know percale only refers to the type of weave used, not the material, you’re probably wondering, “What are percale sheets made of?” Though most percale bedding is cotton-based, you might find a sheet set blended with other fabrics too.
- Cotton. Percale is traditionally made from cotton, so cotton percale sheet sets are the easiest to come by. Still, there is a wide range of factors that distinguish high-quality cotton from others. Look for combed long-staple cotton fibers, high thread counts, and organic cotton certification when shopping for percale bedding.
- Silk. If you’re looking for a wrinkle-resistant version of percale, silk blends are a great choice. This natural textile is ultra-smooth and soft on its own, but combining it with cotton adds longevity.
- Rayon. Rayon textiles are all the rage these days. This environmentally-friendly wood-pulp-based fabric is often sourced from eucalyptus, but others plants, including bamboo and cotton, can work as well. Blending rayon with cotton gives the fabric a silkier texture that’s slightly less prone to creases than cotton.
- Synthetic. Though synthetic fibers aren’t as green as natural materials, they do offer unique benefits. Synthetics like polyester balance out the two most significant drawbacks of cotton: creases and shrinkage. While this blend is less breathable than other percale, it’s much more durable.
What Sets Cotton Percale Sheets Apart?
While there are tons of textile options for percale, cotton seems to be the go-to. Why is that? What is cotton percale, and why is it unique? Let’s find out.
- Smooth, crisp texture. Cotton percale sheets take on many similar traits to linen bedding sets — they’re breathable, durable, and made of natural materials. However, one characteristic separates the two: percale bedsheets are smooth and crisp, whereas linen is highly textured.
- Available in a range of qualities. Did you know that cotton is technically the only textile measurable by thread count? Yup, it's true! And cotton percale has a minimum thread count of 180! The great thing about cotton percale is that you can buy your choice of thread count (they go up reasonably high) and cotton quality. Are you looking for an Egyptian cotton sheet set? Or Pima cotton? You can have it all.
- Relaxed, boho vibes. We won’t lie: cotton percale is prone to creasing. However, we don’t think this is necessarily a downfall. This casual, lived-in look adds a relaxed, boho feel to your bedding. What’s wrong with your cotton bedding looking slept in. It has been!
- Naturally safe. Tightly woven bedding materials like percale and organic sateen duvet covers naturally reduce dust and prevent dust mites. Plus, since cotton is naturally hypoallergenic, it’s safe for even the most sensitive of sleepers. What’s not to love?
- Softer with every wash. Arguably, the most standout trait of cotton percale is that it becomes softer every time you wash it. Yes, read it again. Cleaning this fabric makes it softer. Isn’t that all the motivation you need to stay on top of a regular bedsheet washing schedule?
Benefits of Cotton Percale Bedding
If you’re still on the fence about whether cotton percale bedding is right for you, take a look at what else this incredibly textile has to offer.
- Breathable. If you’re a hot sleeper, listen up. This one’s for you. The struggle to find breathable bedding is real, but you don’t have to suffer any longer. Percale is incredibly lightweight and airy, making it the perfect material for bed linens. Still, you don’t have to worry about being too cold: cotton percale duvet covers will help you maintain the ideal temperature all night long.
- Smooth. You’d think that all bedding should be smooth to the touch should be a given, but that’s not always the case. While other materials like linen or polyester can be textured or even scratchy, percale is always smooth and crisp. Isn’t that what you expect from bedding?
- Affordable. A huge advantage of cotton percale is its relatively low price point. While this bedding can feel like a splurge when you curl up in these luxurious-feeling sheets, they aren’t going to break the bank. Plus, if you find cotton percale too pricey, try looking for a lower thread count or a different type of cotton. You can save some cash on these fronts.
- Durable. What’s better than a deal upfront? A purchase that proves its value over time. That’s precisely what cotton percale does — it gets softer and softer with every wash. This means that as long as you take proper care of it (we’ll get to that in a second), a percale duvet cover, sheets and pillowcases will last for years to come.
- Hygienic. It’s not enough for your sheets to feel comfortable: you should also feel comfortable in your sheets. That’s why having safe, clean sheets is of the utmost importance. While washing your bedding goes a long way, nothing compares to organic sheets free from harmful chemicals. Plus, percale woven cotton is hypoallergenic and reduces both dust and dust mites.
What to Consider Before Buying Cotton Percale Sheets
Even if you’re already sold on buying cotton percale sheets, there are several factors to think about before confirming your payment. Consider the following when shopping for new bedding:
- Type of cotton. Just as how different weave types matter (think percale vs sateen), cotton type plays a significant role in your sheets’ quality. To find high quality bedding, always see what kind of cotton is used. Don’t be fooled — labels that claim their products are made of “100 percent cotton” often consist of generic jersey cotton. If it’s made from Egyptian cotton, they’ll let you know.
- Thread count. Always take a look at the thread count of your sheets before buying cotton bedding. All percale has a minimum 180 thread count — meaning there are 180 threads per square inch — but you can find ones as high as 1,000. Is that necessary? Not always. Anything within the 300-500 range may feel indistinguishable to 800+ thread counts. Thread count matters, but the highest isn’t always the best.
- Size considerations. This may seem obvious, but accounting for the dimensions of your mattress before purchasing a sheet set is vital. Be sure to check the height of your mattress as well — especially if you use a mattress topper — as some fitted sheets feature extra-deep pockets. Also, account for the size of your duvet and all of your pillows.
- Warranties. No matter what you’re buying, it's a good idea to look into warranties if you plan to keep them for a long time. Purchasing new bedding can rack up a decent price tag. Plus, you’ll be adding a good amount of wear and tear by sleeping on it every night, so a warranty is never a bad idea. Look into which warranty options are out there and what exactly they cover. This could save you cash down the road!
- Certifications. Seeing specific certifications can immediately help you choose which bedding you want to buy. When buying fabric, looking for Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) or Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certification guarantees your material is free from toxic substances. Similarly, fair trade and B Corp Certification prove workers are being fairly treated and compensated.
How to Care for Cotton Percale
Whenever you’re laundering any garment for the first time, it’s always best to follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the label. Unfortunately, not all care directions are alike — even for the same fabrics. Still, you can follow these general guidelines when caring for percale.
Machine washing your bedding is hands-down the easiest way to do it. Luckily, percale is machine washable!
Be sure to use a mild detergent and wash with warm water on the gentle cycle as the machine can be a bit abrasive. You can even try turning your bedding inside out to reduce friction-induced pilling.
Good news: percale is also dryer-safe! In fact, tumble drying your percale bedding can help reduce wrinkles — just be sure to remove them right away. However, it’s important to note that your sheets may shrink by up to 2 percent after their first wash.
If you’ve got the time, why not try hand-washing your sheets? The reduced friction will decrease pilling, helping your garments stay good as new (if not better) for longer.
As with machine washing, use a mild detergent and warm water, then feel free to toss it in the machine to tumble dry or hang it on a clothes rack.
Cotton percale is the ultimate boho bedding material. It’s lightweight, airy, and perfectly crisp but low-maintenance and improves with each wash. Plus, it’s hypoallergenic, affordable, and oh-so-smooth. What’s not to love?
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Ideas, Overstock.com, 19 May 2021, www.overstock.ca/guides/percale-sheets-fact-sheet.