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The Difference Between Sateen and Percale

Cotton might just be the most misunderstood textile out there. Choosing cotton bedding can be downright confusing, from thread counts versus staple lengths to jersey versus Egyptian cotton sheets. But not for long. We’re here to break down the differences between two unique weave types: sateen versus percale.

sateen versus percale

What Is Sateen?

Nope, not satin. We’re talking about sateen.

Unlike many other textiles, cotton is separated into different categories — sateen being one of them. This distinction comes from sateen’s specific weave pattern, not a separate material. Sateen weave follows a strict one-yarn-under, three-yarn-over pattern. This technique exposes more surface area than other cotton textiles, making sateen fabrics smoother, softer, and silkier. Did we mention it’s wrinkle-resistant?

What Is Percale?

Like sateen, percale fabric is a category of cotton distinguished by its weave. However, percale follows a tight, grid-like weave. This material abides by a one-yarn-under, one-yarn-over technique. The result? A lightweight, breathable, ultra-durable textile.

You can think of percale like the linen of cotton, but crisper and with a soft matte finish.

What Is the Difference Between Percale and Sateen Sheets?

Both percale and cotton make great high-quality bed sheets, but each has its pros and cons. Is one better than the other? Well, that ultimately comes down to personal preference. Let’s look at what each material has to offer to find which is best for you: sateen or percale?

Advantages of Percale

  •   Fresh to the touch. Organic percale duvet covers and bed sheets stand out for their crisp cool texture. Imagine sleeping on a freshly ironed shirt. You don’t need to iron your percale sheets, but that’s what they feel like!
  •   Lightweight and breathable. Above all else, percale weave stands out for its impeccable breathability. It’s a dream come true for hot sleepers — a sheet set made from this material will be your saving grace. Percale’s top-tier temperature regulating properties will ensure you have a good night’s sleep every night.
  •   Durable. Sheets that get better with age? You’re not dreaming — it’s a thing. Percale bedding does just that: it gets softer after every wash. Thanks to its tight weave, you’ll enjoy these ultra-durable sheets year after year.

Disadvantages of Percale

  •   Easily wrinkled. Percale may feel crisp, but it doesn’t always appear that way. It’s a crinkle-prone fabric similar to natural linen bedding. While we choose to admire this quality for its relaxed, boho, lived-in feel, we know some may not be as keen on it.
  •   Not as smooth. There’s no doubt that percale bedding is soft, crisp, and comfortable, but it’s not the smoothest material out there. However, if you’re into percale’s breathability, it is a smoother alternative to linen, known for its highly textured feel.

Advantages of Sateen

  •   Silky smooth feel. Buttery, indulgent, irresistible: all words that describe sateen’s luxe feel. If you’re looking for bedding that will leave you begging to come home, nothing beats sateen duvet cover sets.
  •   Warm and toasty. Since sateen is relatively heavy compared to super-lightweight materials like percale, it makes for warm, cozy bedding. It’s the ideal material for cool sleepers and those who just love to bundle themselves up at night. Spoiler: sateen sheets may make it harder than usual to get out of bed in the morning for this very reason.
  •   Luxurious look. Sateen is naturally low-maintenance yet effortlessly elegant. This wrinkle-resistant fabric practically glows, instantly making it the star of any bedroom. You can’t beat that glossy sheen.

Disadvantages of Sateen

  •   Too warm for some. While some adore sateen’s toasty feel, it’s not a good fit for others. If you don’t have air conditioning in the summer months — or just generally run warm — sateen may be too hot for you. This heavier fabric traps heat more than percale and may not keep you as cool as you’d like.
  •   Prone to pilling. Unfortunately, sateen’s luxurious nature isn’t as long-lasting as many people would prefer. After a while, this cotton variety is known to pill. Those little fuzz balls may look less than glamorous, but it’s nothing that you can’t fix. You can prevent pilling by washing your sheets inside out or by hand.

Percale vs. Sateen Sheets: How Do They Stack Up?

Now that we know a bit more about sateen and percale’s benefits and downfalls let’s see how they compare to one another in some other categories.

Comfort

Sateen is renowned for its smooth, buttery feel. This fabric’s silky texture is positively indulgent. However, it traps heat due to sateen’s relative heaviness, making it too warm for some but just right for others.

Percale, on the other hand, isn’t quite as smooth as sateen and has a crisp, cool texture. If sateen is luxurious, percale has a more laid-back, casual feel. This type of cotton breathes incredibly well, making it ideal for toasty summer nights or winter evenings with the heater on.

Health and Allergies

Both sateen and percale are tightly woven fabrics, but the latter’s grid-like weave is more compact. Thanks to these taut threads, these materials are excellent at reducing mites and preventing dust.

To ensure you’re purchasing the safest option possible, always look for Oeko-Tex certified organic cotton. This verification guarantees your bedsheets are free from toxic levels of over 100 harmful chemicals. All Or & Zon organic cotton holds this certification.

Maintenance

It’s no secret that percale bedsheets are crinkle-prone. While some aren’t into this look, we choose to embrace the easygoing, carefree vibes of percale’s wrinkles. To us, it radiates boho-chic. However, if you aren’t so into the crinkles, you may choose to iron your bedding.

If you’d rather go for a low-maintenance, effortlessly gorgeous look, give sateen a try. This fabric is wrinkle-resistant, keeping it crisp night after night.

Durability

Percale’s magical little secret is that it gets better with age. With every wash, percale grows softer. It’s like wearing in a new pair of shoes — the more you wear them, the more comfortable they are.

While sateen is definitely still durable, this silky fabric is notorious for pilling. This doesn’t mean that your sheets are low quality or falling apart, but these little fuzz balls are broken threads. To avoid this, try handwashing your bedding, turning it inside out before tossing it in the washing machine, or using a razor to remove the pills.

Final Thoughts

So, which is better: sateen or percale? Well, that’s not up to us to decide. Each material has unique benefits. Sateen is luxuriously soft, naturally gorgeous, and incredibly cozy. On the other hand, percale radiates boho vibes, is ultra-lightweight, and improves with every wash. Ultimately, the choice is up to you. It’s all about personal preference.

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