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What Are Percale Sheets?

Malena Piper

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“Percale” is a specific type of weave to make bed sheets and other types of bedding—which is why you often hear terms like “percale sheets” and “percale fabrics”.  It’s one of the most common weaves and it often uses 100% cotton, but it sometimes features a cotton blend, incorporating other fabrics like polyester and silk.

In this article, we discuss the benefits and drawbacks of percale sheets and what to look for when buying them. We also compare the percale weave to its popular counterpart, sateen, so you can decide if percale sheets are right for you.

What is Percale?

Percale is a plain weave that uses a one-thread-over, one-thread-under pattern. The tightly woven weave results in a crisp feel and a matte finish. The threads in percale weaves are thinner than other weaves and when woven together they create a lightweight, breathable finish.

Are Percale Sheets Right For You?

Many people find they enjoy the crisp, cool feel of percale sheets. But, depending on your personal preferences and the climate of where you live, percale may or may not be the best fit for you.

Percale sheets are summer-friendly and are great sheets for hot sleepers or anyone who lives in a warm climate. They’re affordable, yet long-lasting and easy to care for. For those who sleep cold or live in cooler climates, percale may not provide the warmth you’re looking for.

Benefits

Light and Breathable

Thanks to its plain weave, percale sheets are lightweight and airy. Since they’re typically made using 100% cotton, percale sheets are also ultra-breathable and don’t retain heat. Cotton is known for its moisture-wicking capabilities and breathability, keeping you dry and cool through the night. While percale sheets are especially ideal during the summertime, most sleepers find they remain comfortable year-round.

Durable

Percale sheets are long-lasting because cotton is an extremely durable fabric that, unlike many other fabrics, gets softer over time. As the main material (and often the only material) in percale sheets, cotton provides lasting durability. The tight weave of percale also makes it more resistant to pilling so percale cotton sheets can withstand many washes.

Easy To Care For

Since most percale sheets are made with 100% cotton, they don’t require any type of dry cleaning and typically are machine washable. Cotton blends can sometimes require different care due to the fabric used so always be sure to read the sheet’s care instructions on the label first.

Affordable

Cotton is one of the most affordable, quality fabrics used for sheets. It’s less expensive than other popular fabrics like linen or silk and its durability offers a great deal for the price.

Percale sheet sets in queen size can range in price as low as $50, upwards of a couple hundred dollars, depending on the quality of fabric. Generally, American Upland cotton and cotton blends will be less expensive, while Egyptian and Pima (sometimes sold as Supima) will be more expensive.

Drawbacks

Prone to Wrinkling

Cotton is especially prone to wrinkling. Since percale sheets are usually made from 100% cotton, they’re likely to wrinkle much easier than other sheets.

Not Ideal For Cold Climates

Since percale sheets are airy and lightweight, they may not provide enough warmth in colder climates or during the winter. Percale doesn’t retain heat well so people who tend to sleep colder may also find them too cool for their liking.

What to Look For When Buying Percale Sheets

Fabric

Fabric is the material that is woven together to make the sheet. With percale, cotton is the most common fabric type used. There are multiple variations of cotton but Egyptian, Pima, and American Upland are the three most common types you’ll see when shopping for bed sheets.

Most percale sheets you’ll come across will be made with 100% cotton. Sometimes, other synthetic fabrics like polyester will be added in to create a cotton blend. These sheets will usually be warmer because the fabrics the cotton is blended with is less breathable and better at retaining heat.

Fiber Length

The length of the fibers is important because it can tell us a lot about the quality of cotton sheets. Longer fibers are softer, smoother, and more durable. Shorter fibers, on the other hand, are more likely to pill and break down.

When shopping for sheets, look for long-staple and extra-long-staple cotton because these will make for the softest, longest-lasting sheets. Egyptian and Pima cotton sheets are the highest quality cotton sheets because they both have extra-long-staple fibers.

American Upland is the most common type of cotton and can contain both short- to long-staple fibers. It’s more affordable than Egyptian and Pima because its shorter fibers and won’t be as soft or durable. If a bed sheet’s label only denotes 100% cotton, it is most likely Upland cotton.

Thread Count

Thread count is the number of horizontal and vertical threads woven together in one square inch of fabric. A sheet’s thread count can tell us how dense the weave is. The higher the thread count, the tighter the weave. This can mean higher durability and softness, but it can also mean a thicker, heavier product that is far less breathable.

For percale sheets, we recommend a thread count between 250 and 350 because sheets within this range are breathable but durable.

Percale vs. Sateen

When shopping for a percale sheet set, you’ll probably come across many sateen options too. Like percale, sateen is also a specific type of weave. It usually features 100% cotton, but its weave is slightly different.

Sateen weaves have a three-thread-over, one-thread-under pattern as opposed to percale’s one-thread-over, one-thread-under. This type of weave exposes more surface of the thread and creates a silkier, smoother feel. Sateen sheets also have a more shiny and luminous look.

While these two popular weaves are similar, their characteristics are different. It’s important to keep these in mind when shopping for new bed sheets so you can choose the ones that are best for you.

The Differences Between Percale and Sateen

  • Look: Percale has a more matte finish while sateen has a shinier, luminous look.
  • Feel: Percale feels crisp and cool, while sateen is silky and smooth to the touch.
  • Weight: Percale is lighter and breathable, while sateen is heavier and drapes more easily.
  • Warmth: Percale sleeps cooler than sateen.
  • Wrinkles: Percale is more prone to wrinkles than sateen, which tends to be more resistant to them.
  • Care: Percale and sateen can be cared for the same. They are both typically machine washable and dryable.

FAQs

Are percale sheets made of cotton?

Percale sheets typically feature 100% cotton but sometimes they contain a cotton blend. Polyester, silk, and rayon are common fabrics to be blended with cotton. The label on bed sheets will tell you the breakdown of fabric used.

What’s the best thread count for percale sheets?

We suggest a thread count between 250 and 350 because sheets within this range are breathable but durable. Higher thread counts will result in a denser weave and will be thicker and heavier.

While thread count is important for choosing the best sheets, it’s more important that you pay attention to the fabric used. The quality of threads is always more important than the number of threads.

What are the best sheets for summer?

Generally, in summer, you’ll want sheets that keep you cool and dry. For this, a light, breathable sheet like a cotton percale is your best pick. Cotton is best for warm nights because it’s extremely breathable and great at wicking away moisture from night sweats. Likewise, a percale weave creates an airy finish that’s crisp and cool.

Do percale sheets wrinkle?

Percale sheets can be prone to wrinkling due to their tight weave and cotton fabric. Some cotton percale sheets may be advertised as wrinkle-resistant, but these sheets are often treated with chemicals to achieve the look, and these chemicals can be hazardous to your health.

The best way to prevent wrinkled percale sheets is to immediately remove them from the dryer once the cycle has finished, and place them on your bed. Sheets that are still warm can be smoothed out by hand because of the residual heat.

Is Egyptian cotton the best type of cotton?

True Egyptian cotton is grown in the Nile River Valley and is the highest quality cotton because of its extra-long-staple fibers. “Staple length” refers to the cotton fibers in the sheet. The longer the fibers, the smoother, stronger, and more durable the sheets will be. Because of this, Egyptian cotton sheets tend to be more expensive.

For a slightly more affordable option that’s still of high quality, Pima cotton sheets are a great pick. They also have extra-long staple fibers but are slightly shorter than that of Egyptian cotton.

Conclusion

Percale sheets are great for keeping you cool and dry because of their thin, tightly woven threads. They’re lightweight, airy, and breathable and ideal during the summertime. Percale’s versatility though makes them easy for most people to use year-round.

Percale sheets are generally made using 100% cotton, which makes them extremely durable and easy to care for. Offered in a variety of cotton types, shoppers can find varying degrees of quality and affordability, making them a popular choice for many sleepers.

To choose the best percale sheets for you, keep in mind the type of fabric, length of fibers, and thread count. Knowing how to strike a balance between these three components is the key to the perfect percale sheet set.

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