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What Is Sateen? Fabric Guide and Explanation

If you’ve ever shopped for bedding, you know the options are limitless. From organic percale duvet covers to linen bedding sets, you can find it all. Even just the cotton varieties go on and on. If you need a little help decoding the benefits and uses of these different fabrics, we’re here to help. 

Let’s start with the most luxurious cotton weave: sateen. 

What Is Sateen?

cotton sateen fabric

This soft, smooth textile is downright indulgent. Sateen is cozy, shiny, and soft as butter. So how is this irresistible texture possible? Well, there are a couple of reasons. But, ultimately, it comes down to the materials used and the process they undergo. 

What Is Sateen Made Of? 

Unlike many other textiles, sateen refers to a specific weaving pattern, not a particular material or cotton plant. However, it’s most often made of cotton fibers which are first combed to increase the length. 


Sateen weave follows a strict one-yarn-under, three-yarn-over weft pattern to expose the maximum surface area of each thread. This pattern is unique to sateen and gives the fabric a wave-like look up close. 


Once woven, these long-staple cotton fibers undergo a process called mercerization. This means that the fabric gets soaked in lye, then acid to essentially lock the threads in. Treating the yarns creates a smoother texture and a natural sheen. 

Why Choose Sateen Fabric?

Sateen may often be composed of cotton, but it embodies many unique properties. From its luxurious texture to impeccable safety to effortless beauty, there’s a never-ending list of reasons to choose sateen. Here are a few: 

  • Cozy. Sateen is the perfect material to curl up in. This shiny fabric is cozier than it may seem. Since it traps warmth, sateen sheets are ideal for toasty bedding or clothing lining on a chilly winter night. 
  • Silky. This cotton fabric is uniquely treated to lock in the fibers, making it irresistibly smooth, soft, and silky. Combed yarn and a high thread count can make this texture even more indulgent. 
  • Naturally safe. While it’s always a good idea to look for Oeko-Tex certified standard 100 cotton, sateen is inherently a more hygienic option than other alternatives. Its tight weave helps reduce dust collection and prevent mites. And shouldn’t safety always be a priority in fabrics, especially bed sheets? Allergy sufferers are also in the clear: cotton is hypoallergenic! 
  • Easy care. Cotton is naturally durable, and sateen is no exception. You may have to be more gentle with sateen than some other fabrics to reduce pilling, but it’s nothing you can’t handle. If you follow your garment's proper care instructions, you’ll have an article that will last for years and years. 
  • Water-repellent. One of the sateen’s stand-out qualities is its water-repellent qualities. Not only is it easier to clean up spills on this fabric, but it also reduces the risk of mildew. When we said it’s a safe material, we meant it. 
  • Effortlessly gorgeous. Sateen is a wrinkle-resistant material, meaning it doesn’t take much — or anything at all — to make it look beautiful. You can put the iron and steamer away: there’s no need for it here. 

Sateen vs. Satin: What’s the Difference?

Satin and sateen may sound and look alike, but you can’t use the two terms interchangeably. These are two entirely different fabrics! 


Both materials are glossy, smooth, and luxuriously silky. On top of that, they’re also durable and wrinkle resistant. However, some significant distinctions separate the two. 


As we know, sateen is often made of cotton (or other short-staple materials, but we’ll get to that later), which makes it hypoallergenic, relatively breathable, and inexpensive. 


On the other hand, the best satin is made of silk, while polyester, nylon, or other filament fibers are more durable, cost-effective options. 


Filaments are long, continuous strands far lengthier than even extra-long staple fibers. 


While sateen follows a weft (horizontal) pattern, satin follows a warp (vertical) pattern. As a result, satin has a more lustrous, slippery texture that drapes gracefully but readily snags and can be hard to work with. 

What Is Sateen Fabric Used For?

Sateen offers unique advantages that make it an excellent material for many uses. So next time you go shopping, look for sateen in some of these everyday garments.

  • Bedding. Sateen is a fantastic textile for sheet sets, duvet covers, and all other kinds of bedding. This silky yet insulating material is affordable, durable, and, most importantly: safe. You’ll feel like you’ve been carried away on a cloud when you sleep with a cotton sateen duvet cover — and that’s a promise.
  • Clothing. If you’re sick and tired of ironing your shirts after every wash, sateen is a perfect alternative. This relatively affordable luxury material has taken the fashion world by storm. You’ll find this fabric in everything from fancy dresses to handbags and everything in between. 
  • Upholstery. Looking for a shiny accent chair? Or maybe new drapes? Sateen is your friend. This water and mildew-repellent fabric is an ideal upholstery material. Soft to the touch, yet incredibly durable — what more could you want? 

Types of Sateen

A common misconception about sateen is that it’s exclusively made of cotton. Though cotton sateen is the most common variety, it’s not the only one. 

  • Cotton sateen. Any type of cotton can be used to make cotton sateen, but an extra-long staple variety like Gossypium barbadense, or Egyptian cotton, is the highest quality option. Egyptian cotton sateen is longer-lasting and softer to the touch than conventional cotton. If you’re searching for luxury sateen bedding, Egyptian cotton sheets are the way to go. 
  • Organic cotton sateen. If safety and hygiene are on your mind, opt for organic cotton sateen. This hypoallergenic, dust and mildew-resistant weave is already one of the safest options, but purchasing organic cotton ensures you won’t have to deal with any toxic chemicals found in conventionally-grown cotton. You can’t go wrong. 
  • Rayon sateen. Though sateen is typically composed of cotton, short-staple spun yarns like rayon work too. Rayon naturally embodies the properties of cotton, silk, and wool, making it a fascinating textile. This material comes from cellulose fibers, though it also contains many chemicals, but is a great option for lightweight clothing.

How to Care for Cotton Sateen Fabric

Sateen may be a luxury fabric, but it doesn’t require a ridiculous amount of maintenance. 


It’s always integral to check the manufacturer’s instructions before washing your garment, as specific care directions can vary from piece to piece. However, there are some general guidelines to follow, so you can keep your cotton sateen looking great day after day.

Machine Wash

It’s no secret that machine washings are the most convenient and cost-effective method. Luckily, cotton sateen can stand up to this! For best results, turn your garment inside out (this reduces pilling), add a mild detergent, and wash on the gentle cycle. You can even move your piece into the dryer so long as you tumble dry on low or medium. Easy, right? 

Hand Wash

To better preserve your cotton sateen, try hand-washing your piece if you have the time. Since your garment will experience less friction when you gently wash it by hand, your chances of unsightly pilling go down even further. Again, be sure to use a mild detergent. If you want to avoid machines altogether, lay your garment on a rack to air dry. Alternatively, tumble dry on low or medium.

Final Thoughts

Sateen is a unique fabric that excels in smoothness, safety, and effortless beauty. So next time you’re buying bedding, clothing, or upholstery, give sateen a shot! This durable, luxurious textile will reward you for years to come. 

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