July 27, 2021 6 min read

If you’ve ever been shopping for cotton sheets, you’ve probably come across the term “percale.” But what does percale mean

Just like sateen sheets, percale is a type of weave. It may sound like a mundane, technical concept, but the type of weave used in your bed sheets makes a world of difference. 

From breathability to durability and softness to crispness, you’ll want to learn all about weave types before purchasing bedding to ensure you’re always getting quality sheets. Yep, they really can make that much of a difference. 

If you’re on the hunt for the coolest and most comfortable sheets around, look no further. Organic cotton percale bedding will reward you with a truly dreamy night’s sleep.

what are percale sheets

What Are Percale Sheets?

Before we get started, let’s address the elephant in the room: what is percale anyways? What may be shocking to some is that the percale sheet definition doesn’t refer to a type of material but rather how a textile is woven. 

Not all fabrics are woven: some are knit or even bonded together through other treatments. However, in order to be classified as a percale fabric, the material has to be woven in a specific manner. 

Percale is made up of a simple one-yarn-under, one-yarn-over pattern. These weft (vertical) and warp threads (horizontal) create a tightly woven grid-like design of fibers that feel smooth and crisp on both sides. In the United States, the material needs to have a minimum thread count of 180 to classify as percale. This means that there must be 180 fibers running in a given direction per square inch of fabric. 

What Are Percale Sheets Made Of?

So, if the percale sheet definition doesn’t refer solely to materials, then what are percale sheets made of?

Percale bed sheets can be made of any woven fibers. However, the most common material by far is long-staple cotton. In particular, Egyptian cotton and Pima cotton are some of the best textiles for bed sheets, thanks to their extra-long-staple cotton fibers and luxurious feel. These fibers may even be combed before being woven to increase their softness and length further. 

Percale bed sheets can also be made from cotton blends for enhanced durability, environmental benefits, texture, and reduced wrinkling. Popular mixtures include silk, synthetics, or bamboo sheets.

Benefits of Percale Sheets

The advantages of buying percale sheets are endless. From their smooth feel to temperature regulation, the list goes on and on. Here are a few reasons why you’ll love this material too. 

  • Crisp. Have you ever noticed that not all sheets have a crisp consistency? For example, take organic linen bedding: sure, it’s lightweight and breathable, but the texture is relatively thick and flexible. Percale, on the other hand, is thinner and ultra-crisp while remaining soft and breathable. It’s a perfect balance. 
  • Cool. Thanks to percale’s tight weave and relatively low thread count, it’s the ideal temperature-regulating bedsheet material. Whether you’re naturally a hot sleeper or trying not to overheat as the furnace blasts in winter, percale bed sheets will keep you comfortable all night long. 
  • Lightweight. Since cotton percale doesn’t require a high thread count to feel luxurious, it’s a naturally lightweight fabric. In fact, the ideal thread count for an Egyptian cotton percale sheet is only 300 — anything over 400 can actually wrinkle easier. 
  • Matte. If you love a laid-back, cozy boho vibe, cotton percale duvet covers are perfect for you. The simple matte look and feel are relaxed and perfectly neutral. Plus, the smooth texture is welcoming and oh-so-comfy. 
  • Durable. Don’t be afraid to invest in high-quality percale bedding — these durable sheets are well-worth every penny. You needn’t fear that they’ll wear out after a few uses. Percale cotton sheets resist pilling and improve with age. 

Sateen vs Percale: What’s the Difference?

percale sheet definition

Chances are if you’ve heard of percale, you’ve heard of sateen. Both are specific weaves commonly found when shopping for cotton or cotton blend bedding. But what’s the difference between a cotton sateen duvet cover and a percale one? Let’s take a closer look. 

  • Feel. The most notable difference between sateen and percale is texture. If you run your hand along percale, you’ll notice it’s smooth, crisp, and matte. On the other hand, by just glancing at sateen, you’ll see its characteristic bold sheen, softness, and pure luxuriousness.  
  • Materials. Both percale and sateen are most commonly cotton-based yet can be made of other fabrics, including rayon or silk. However, one big difference separates the two: sateen is mercerized, while percale is not. Essentially, this means that the cotton fibers have been treated with lye, then an acid solution to seal in the threads. This process makes the cotton smoother, shinier, and more durable.
  • Thread counts. Contrary to popular belief, higher is not always better when it comes to thread counts. The optimal range depends significantly on the weave. The minimum thread count available for percale is 180, but anything over 400 may cause excess creasing, while over 500 is rare and unnecessary. In terms of sateen, 300 to 600 is ideal. Anything higher may be too heavy for comfort. 
  • Breathability. Percale’s grid-like weave allows for fewer threads per square inch, making it more lightweight and breathable than sateen. If you’re a hot sleeper, opt for percale over sateen: it’s the linen of cotton. Better yet, aim for the lowest thread count that’s still comfortable to you. 
  • Wrinkling. It’s no secret that cotton percale is prone to creasing, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Yeah, your sheets may look slept-in. So what? They are! However, if you’re set on that pristine smoothness without having to pull out the iron every day, sateen will be your friend. Alternatively, look for a cotton blend that helps keep the wrinkles at bay. 
  • Weave pattern. The difference in weave patterns is what fundamentally sets these two fabrics apart. Percale weave follows a grid-like one-yarn-under, one-yarn-over structure, while sateen sticks to a one-yarn-under, three-yarns-over design. Sateen’s structure exposes more surface area of each thread, contributing to its silky luxuriousness. 
  • Price. Thread count plays a considerable role in determining a fabric’s price. More threads mean more expensive. Plus, higher thread counts consist of more delicate, costly yarn. Makes sense, right? Since percale naturally requires fewer threads to create an optimal fabric (shoutout to the dense weave pattern), it’s often more affordable than sateen. 

Percale and Sateen vs Linen

So, now we know the difference between percale and sateen, but how do they compare to linen?

Linen is a fan-favorite for hot sleepers and boho-chic lovers. Its breathable, breezy nature is easy to love. Simple as that! However, flax-based linen isn’t quite as crisp as percale, nor is it as smooth. 

Still, linen is more durable than cotton fabrics, thanks to its long fibers. Plus, linen has more excellent moisture-wicking properties and stretchiness than percale or sateen. You may notice that cotton pills more than linen, but the latter is slightly more prone to wrinkling. 

Ultimately, either of these plant-based materials will provide you with incredibly lightweight, allergen-friendly, gorgeous bedding. 

What Makes Percale Bedding Material Unique?

Percale has tons of unique characteristics, but what truly separates it from other fabrics? Let’s take a look at exactly what makes this cotton material so different. 

  • Relaxed boho appearance. There’s something effortlessly gorgeous about the way percale naturally creases. Instead of seeing this as a downfall, we think it adds the perfect beachy boho vibe. We believe embracing the laid-back, crinkled look of percale bedding is the ultimate bohemian way. 
  • Naturally hygienic. One of cotton percale’s most remarkable qualities is that it’s naturally clean. Not only is 100 percent cotton hypoallergenic, but percale’s tight weave also makes it resistant to dust and dust mites. Looking to take your health and safety one step further? Keep an eye out for organic Oeko-Tex certified 100 kinds of cotton. This certification guarantees your fabric is free of harmful levels of 100 different toxic substances. 
  • Smooth texture. Unlike some other natural fabrics like linen, percale has a characteristic smooth, crisp surface that sets it apart. If you love the feeling of a cool, clean flat sheet, this is the material for you. And who doesn’t want exactly that? 
  • Better with every wash. It’s hard to believe that some types of bedding can improve every time you clean it, but cotton percale is proof that this is possible! Each time you throw your percale cotton sheets in the wash, you’ll be rewarded with smoother, more comfortable linens. If that doesn’t encourage you to make sure you toss your bedding in the wash once a week, we don’t know what will! 

Final Thoughts

Percale fabric is naturally unique: after all, the weave type is quite literally what sets it apart from other materials. As a result, this textile will provide you with the ultimate boho-chic experience. From crisp, cool comforters to naturally clean bed sheets that become softer wash after wash, what’s not to love about this affordable cotton fabric? 

Once you spend a night wrapped up in an Egyptian cotton percale sheet, there’s no going back. We guarantee it.