October 04, 2021 5 min read

When you’re browsing through designer duvet covers, the word “sateen” comes up everywhere. But what is sateen anyway?

Sateen doesn’t refer to a type of material or specific cotton fiber, but rather a type of weave. This weave pattern follows a one-yarn-under, three-yarn-over structure that exposes the maximum surface area of each yarn. 

You may know this luxe fabric for its buttery soft texture, irresistibly smooth feel, and gorgeous sheen. It’s a fantastic material for bedding that will leave you begging to spend all day in bed.

what are sateen sheets

Why Is Sateen Bedding Considered “Luxury?”

When choosing sheets, sateen is a great luxury option for many reasons. 

These may typically be made from cotton fibers, but sateen isn’t like any old cotton. Instead, sateen has a unique sheen and incredibly soft feeling that’s silky smooth. On top of that, its wrinkle-resistant nature makes sateen effortlessly gorgeous, even after you spend all night in bed. 

All About Sateen Sheets

Let’s dive into everything you need to know about luxe sateen sheets, including what they’re made from and why they’re so unique. 

What Are Sateen Sheets Made From?

So, we’ve talked about what sateen is, but what are sateen sheets made from? 

Typically, these luxurious sheets are made from 100% extra-long-staple cotton. The long yarns are ideal for forming the sateen weave, which exposes a great deal of each thread’s surface area. Sateen also follows a satin weave, meaning that there are either warp (vertical) or weft (horizontal) threads on the surface of each side of the material. 

The best sateen sheets have a thread count of between 300 and 600 yarns per inch. However, the finest quality cotton sateen consists of combed cotton. Combing removes all shorter staple threads, resulting in an overall smoother surface. 

Plus, this primarily natural fabric is hypoallergenic and has a fairly tight weave, preventing dust and dust mites. Cotton sateen is safe for all sleepers — even the most sensitive people. 

What Makes Sateen Special?

what is sateen

Part of what makes sateen sheets special is that the fabric goes through a process called mercerization. The woven material gets soaked in lye, followed by acid that secures the fibers, locking in each thread. This treatment smoothes the fabric, making it irresistibly smooth and providing sateen with its signature sheen

Pros and Cons of Sateen Sheets

Like all fabrics, sateen bed sheets have their own advantages and disadvantages. Here’s what you’ll love about this textile and what you might not be too keen on. 

Pros of Sateen Sheets

  • Wrinkle-resistant. Don’t worry about heating up the iron or steamer — these sheets are naturally wrinkle-resistant. If you love the look of a crisp finish but don’t want to spend the extra time flattening your sheets out, sateen is perfect for you. From the moment you make your bed to the time you throw them in the washing machine, sateen sheet sets will remain effortlessly gorgeous. 
  • Easy to care for. Although sateen looks and feels luxurious, it doesn’t require tedious care. It’s easy to toss your bedding in the washing machine, then let it air or machine dry. No dry cleaning or extra steps are needed! 
  • Luxurious feel. Sateen is famous for its buttery-soft texture, smooth surface, and slippery feeling. Let’s be honest: it’s nothing short of luxurious. You’ll feel like royalty every time you crawl into bed — and you definitely won’t want to leave. 
  • Affordable options. Just because sateen is a luxury material doesn’t mean it has an expensive price tag. Don’t get me wrong, some sateen sheets do cost a pretty penny, but there are still lots of affordable options available. 
  • Naturally hygienic. Since sateen has a tighter weave than many other fabrics, it comes with unique perks. This textile naturally resists both dust and dust mites, making it more hygienic than most bed sheets. If you choose organic cotton materials, you can also enjoy the benefits of cleaner, safer linens. 

Cons of Sateen Sheets

  • Traps warmth. One of the biggest questions you’re probably asking is, “Are sateen sheets hot?” The answer is yes, sateen bedding does trap heat. This can be a disadvantage for warmer sleepers with night sweats, hot summer months, or those who live in warmer climates. However, it’s ideal for cool sleepers, colder months, or places with chilly nighttime temperatures. 
  • Wears with time. While sateen has a relatively tight weave, other bedding like percale sheets offers superior durability. Because sateen’s weave exposes more of each thread’s surface area than other fabrics, it may wear out faster. Try choosing high-quality luxury bedding sets to combat this issue. 
  • Slippery finish may be uncomfortable. Sleep preferences are highly personal, so while sateen fabric may make soft sheets, the slippery finish isn’t for everyone. Some may not find the texture as cozy as they’d like. If you’d prefer a matte finish, try percale sheets.  
  • Prone to snagging and pilling. Time for the million-dollar question: do sateen sheets pill? Unfortunately, yes. One of the best qualities of sateen  —  its smooth, silky texture — comes at a cost. Due to the weave structure, some threads sit closer to the surface. These yarns are naturally prone to snagging, pilling, and tearing. Combat this by reducing friction: wash your sateen sheets without anything else in the machine. 

Types of Sateen

Although cotton is the most common type of fabric used in sateen, it certainly isn’t the only option. Here are some other materials you may find.

  • Organic cotton. With organic cotton sateen, you can enjoy all the classic perks of sateen, but with a cleaner, safer approach. Organic cotton meets rigorous standards, ensuring it is free from harmful levels of toxic substances, making it safer for you and the environment. 
  • Cotton blend. Sometimes cotton is mixed with other materials to make it more durable, affordable, or to reap the benefits of different textiles. Be careful — some companies will also use this blend of cotton to artificially make their linens’ thread counts seem higher than they indeed are. 
  • Polyester. Sateen can be made from polyester to create a durable, affordable textile. However, being a synthetic material, polyester is much less breathable and environmentally friendly than cotton.
  • Rayon. Much like cotton, rayon is a natural material that embodies similar properties. Plus, it’s lightweight and sourced from ecologically friendly cellulose fibers.   

How to Care for Sateen Sheets

There’s nothing complicated about caring for sateen sheets. Though this is a luxe material, the maintenance is easy! 

Keep in mind that every textile has specific care instructions that you can find on the garment label. However, here are some general cleaning guidelines. 

Machine Wash

Yes, sateen sheets are machine washable and machine dryable! For best results, start by turning your bedding inside out and closing any zippers. This step helps reduce any pilling and snagging in the wash. Then, add a mild detergent and set your washing machine to the gentle cycle

Immediately remove your linens from the wash to prevent mildew, and toss them in the dryer on the coolest setting possible. 

Hand Wash

Friction in the washing machine has the potential to cause pilling, so if you’re worried about this, opt for handwashing. Just like with machine washing, you’ll want to use a mild detergent. 

You can skip the dryer, too, by laying your sheets over a rack or clothesline to air dry. However, as long as you use the low or medium setting, machine drying is safe too! 

Final Thoughts

Sateen is an ultra-soft, incredibly smooth luxury bedding material with a signature sheen. These sheets are naturally hygienic, wrinkle-resistant, and slightly silky, making you feel like a million bucks. But if you’re a warm sleeper or worried about snagging and pilling, sateen may not be the material for you. 

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