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Why Cotton Percale Is Associated With Luxury Bed Linen

Indeed it’s easy for any brand to slap the words “luxury sheets” on their packaging, but how accurate is that claim? It’s often hard to figure out which bedding is actually high quality and which brands are misleading you. 

But that doesn’t have to be the case. 

There are some features you should be looking for when you’re on the hunt for a new sheet set.  

Always take a look at the material you’re purchasing. If it’s 100 percent cotton, see if you can find the exact cotton variety. If the labeling doesn’t specify, buyer, beware: low-quality jersey cotton and luxurious Egyptian cotton can both pass as 100 percent cotton, but the difference is stark. 

In the same way, you should always be keeping an eye out for the weave type. For example, both Oxford weave and percale weave pass as cotton sheets. However, Oxford feels like mens’ formal wear while percale feels like linen sheets. Without a doubt, you can always trust that percale fabric makes high-quality sheets. Why? Let’s find out.

what is cotton percale

What Is Percale Bedding Made Of?

Learning about different bedding types can be pretty complicated at first. Between thread counts, material types, and weave patterns, there’s bound to be a lot of confusion. 

So what are percale sheets exactly? 

Contrary to popular belief, percale refers to a weave type, not a specific textile. Technically, any woven fabric can be made into percale. However, long-staple cotton is by far the most popular material of choice. 

What Is Cotton Percale?

What does cotton percale mean? Exactly what you think: percale-woven fabric made from 100 percent cotton. 

Percale fabric consists of cotton fibers or another type of thread, woven in a grid-like pattern following a one-yarn-over, one-yarn-under structure. This tight weave makes percale durable, breathable, and crisp to the touch. 

Why Does Cotton Percale Classify as Luxury Bedding?

Alright, so we know percale is a luxury material, but why? What makes it so unique? Cotton percale sheets are synonymous with luxury bedding for many reasons ranging from texture to breathability to maintenance. 

If you’ve never experienced percale before, you can think of it as being similar to linen. However, when it comes to percale vs linen, percale takes the cake. Since this cotton material doesn’t require a super high thread count compared to sateen sheets (we’ll get to that soon), it’s incredibly lightweight and temperature regulating. That’s right, hot sleepers — or even those with the heat blasting in the winter months — you can enjoy these cotton sheets too.

Another essential difference between percale cotton sheets and natural linen bedding is that the latter has a much more textured feel. But, on the other hand, you’ll notice that percale is much smoother and has a crisp feel to it that linen lacks. Plus, it features an effortlessly beautiful matte finish that you just don’t get with other weaves like sateen fabric. 

Best of all, cotton percale is incredibly easy to care for. Unlike some luxury linens, percale bedding is reasonably low maintenance. It’s often safe to toss in the washing machine and tumble dry. Oh, and did we mention it becomes softer with every wash? If that isn’t luxurious, we don’t know what is.

Why You Should Choose Percale Sheets

It’s no secret that you have tons of choices when it comes to luxury bedding. So what is it about percale that stands out, and why should you choose it over other materials? 

  • Durable. The beauty of percale is that it’s incredibly long-lasting. Percale’s long, often combed cotton fibers woven in a tight pattern ensure that a set of these sheets will last for years and years to come. This textile also resists pesky pilling and grows softer with every wash. There’s no question that percale is a worthwhile investment. 
  • Breathable. When comparing the breathability of similar weave types, the difference between percale and sateen stands out: percale has much better body temperature regulation. Percale only requires a minimum 180 thread count, so it’s naturally lighter and less dense than other fabrics. In turn, it’s highly breathable to keep you cool and comfortable all night long. Hot sleepers: give cotton percale duvet covers a try. 
  • Naturally safe. When it comes to the materials you’re resting your head on every night, safety should be a top priority. So long as you’re purchasing certified organic cotton, that’s never an issue. Cotton is naturally hypoallergenic, making it safe for even the most sensitive of sleepers. Plus, organic cotton eliminates the risk of harmful chemicals being mixed in with your bedding. No one wants that! 
  • Hygienic. A unique trait that makes organic percale cotton stand out against other luxury bedding materials is that its tight weave makes it resistant to dust and dust mites. Of course, you still need to be regularly washing your bedding, but these hygienic properties offer some peace of mind so you can sleep easier. But this doesn’t solely apply to percale — the same goes for organic sateen duvet covers too.
  • Laid-back boho vibes. You may have heard that percale is prone to wrinkles. It’s true — we won’t deny it. However, we choose to see this as an advantage. Of course, your bed sheets are going to look slept in — they are! So why try to hide it? Instead, we support embracing that messy, “I woke up like this” vibe. 
  • Affordable. Cotton percale sheets are generally inexpensive. Since this fabric doesn’t require a high thread count to feel luxurious, you can find a budget-friendly percale without compromising quality. Better yet, these sheets last for years and years, so you’ll definitely get your money’s worth out of them.

What to Look for in Percale Bedding

cotton percale

Not all percale bedding is created equally. Here are some things to look out for before buying a new bedding set. 

  • Type of cotton. As we mentioned earlier, labels can be misleading. Just because bedding is made out of 100 percent cotton doesn’t mean it’ll be made of high-end cotton. Always double-check to see precisely what cotton variety you’re getting. Remember, if it’s a high-quality type, the product description will say. It is a selling point, after all.
  • Thread counts. Not all fabrics require high thread counts, and percale is one of them. While people generally consider higher thread counts to be more luxurious, that isn’t always the case. When it comes to percale, anything around 200 is ideal. You don’t need to splurge on anything higher than that. 
  • Certifications. It’s important to know what kind of companies you’re supporting and, in turn, what type of product you’re investing in. That’s where certifications come into play. If you can, aim for qualifications like Oeko-Tex organic cotton, fair trade, and B corps certifications. These ensure your bedding is safe and that those making it are being fairly compensated while working in good conditions. 
  • Warranties and return policy. Sometimes what you love in store just doesn’t translate well to your home. That’s normal! That’s why it’s always a good idea to find out what kind of return policies are offered before you buy your new bedding. Also, inquire about warranties while you’re at it because, well, life happens, and a warranty can save you lots of money in the long run. 
  • What’s included. If you’re purchasing a bedding bundle, always take a look at what exactly is included in the package. Is it just a top and fitted sheet? Are there matching pillowcases? Be sure to look into this before leaving the store (or clicking the checkout button) to avoid disappointment when you bring your bedding home. 

Does Thread Count Matter When Buying Percale Sheets?

 Let’s clear something up: the idea that a higher thread count is always better is not always accurate. When it comes to fabric like percale, the tight, grid-like weave pattern allows for a lower thread count while still providing high quality and luxury. Percale’s minimum thread count is 180, but anything in the 200 range is perfect. So don’t bother buying anything over 400 — it’s not going to make a difference. 

Care Instructions for Percale Sheets

percale vs linen

Regardless of the garment you’re washing, it’s always best to take a look at the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions before listening to any other guidelines. That being said, here are some general care instructions for cleaning percale sheets. 

Machine Washing

Low maintenance percale sheets can handle washing machines. To begin the process, pretreat any stains, then place your bedding into the machine, flipping it inside out if you’d like to reduce friction-induced pilling further. Next, add a mild detergent and wash with warm water on the gentle cycle.

Feel free to toss your percale sheets in the dryer after as well. Tumble drying can actually reduce the notorious wrinkles in your bedding, but note that it may shrink your sheets ever so slightly. 

Hand Washing

If washing your bedding by hand is more your style, go for it! If you’ve got the time to spare, this method can reduce pilling even further, though percale is naturally fairly pill-resistant. The same guidelines follow: use a mild detergent paired with warm water and or tumble to dry. That’s all there is to it! 

Final Thoughts

Don’t let the lower thread count and affordable price point confuse you: cotton percale is a mighty contender when it comes to luxury bed linens. So whether you’re shopping for new sheets for your Airbnb or looking to kick up the comfort at home, percale bedding is the way to go. 

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