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Sateen vs. Percale Sheets: Which Is Better?

Shopping for new bed sheets and feeling overwhelmed by all the options? We hear you. The bedding market is saturated with loads of amazing products, but all that choice can sometimes make it hard to reach a decision. Don’t worry – we’re here to help. 

Today, we’ll be comparing two types of bed sheets – sateen vs. percale. The first thing to note is that these aren’t technically types of fabrics; the names refer to the weaving patterns used, and both weaves are traditionally made using cotton. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s find out how sateen and percale differ when it comes to things like comfort, durability, and cost, and who might benefit from buying each one. 

Sateen vs. Percale Video Review

What Are

Sateen Sheets?

Sateen is a weaving technique that typically has a three-over-one-under or a four-over-one-under pattern, which produces a fabric with a luxurious, heavy feel and a smooth, slightly glossy surface. 

Sateen is usually made using cotton fibers that have been through a process called mercerization. This involves soaking them in lye (sodium hydroxide), before rinsing with an acid. This process seals the fibers, which makes them more durable, helps them maintain their color, and gives them that illustrious sheen. Sateen is not to be confused with satin, which uses the same weave but is made with longer fibers, like silk. 

What We Like About Sateen Sheets

  • Luxurious feel – Do you hate the feeling of flimsy, thin bed sheets? Sateen sheets may be just what you’re looking for. They’re soft, yet heavy, which gives them a real premium feel. 
  • Elegant look – The soft sheen of sateen gives an air of elegance, without having a tacky shine. Plus, the smooth, heavy texture of the sheets allows them to drape beautifully over your mattress. 
  • Perfect for winter – Sateen’s tight weave allows the fabric to trap heat, making it a great choice for cozy, winter bedding. The sheets lie heavy on the body, keeping you wrapped up like a toasty burrito. 
  • Wrinkle-resistant – Ironing bed sheets is a chore that many would probably be happy to skip, so you’ll be pleased to hear that sateen sheets are a hassle-free choice since they retain their smooth, wrinkle-free finish straight out of the washer.
  • Durable – Sateen is made with cotton fibers that have been mercerized, which seals the fibers. This makes them durable and able to hold dye incredibly well, retaining their color wash after wash. 
  • Machine-washable – You can wash sateen sheets at home, but they may require a delicate setting and mild detergent, so study the care label before washing. 

Potential Drawbacks of Sateen Sheets

  • Can sleep hot – While sateen is wonderful for the colder months, its heat-retaining abilities mean it may not be suitable for the summer seasons, which limits its versatility and value for money. Check out our best cooling sheets for more.
  • Pilling – Although sateen is durable, it can be prone to pilling and snagging, due to the weaving technique that leaves more threads exposed on the surface. This may make sateen sheets slightly harder to maintain than other types. However, the risk can be reduced by following the care instructions, and you can always use a lint roller or fabric shaver to remove the pills. 
  • Slippery – Its slightly glossy finish is what draws many people to sateen, but it may also feel quite slippery and move around on the bed. 
  • Sheen can fade – Depending on the quality of the sheets, and how you wash them, sateen’s luster may fade over time.

Who Should Buy Sateen Sheets?

If you like the finer things in life, sateen sheets may be right up your alley. They offer a luxuriously soft and smooth look and feel, and while they’re not cheap, they’re more affordable than other glossy fabrics like silk. 

Sateen is a great fabric for colder climates or people who always feel cold because these sheets are thick and retain heat incredibly well. Plus, sateen’s natural wrinkle resistance makes it a perfect choice for those who hate ironing. 

What Are

Percale Sheets?

Percale sheets are usually made with either pure cotton or a cotton blend and are constructed using a simple one-over-one-under weave. These sheets have a crisp, lightweight, and breathable feel, with a matte finish.

What We Like About Percale Sheets

  • Lightweight and breathable – If you sleep hot or live in a warm climate, you’ll likely appreciate the cool, airy feel of percale bedding. It’s lightweight, so it should gently drape over your body rather than cocoon you, and its breathability makes it ideal for sticky summer nights.
  • Durable – Percale’s tight weave makes it an exceptionally durable choice for bedding, especially where children and pets are concerned, as it’s less likely to snag when manhandled. 
  • Machine-washable – You can wash percale bedding at home but don’t forget to check the care label for information on which settings to use, as high temperatures may damage the yarn. 

Potential Drawbacks of Percale Sheets

  • Prone to wrinkling  One drawback of percale is that it creases easily and may require regular ironing unless you don’t mind a wrinkled, lived-in look. 
  • Can feel rough – Percale is crisp and can feel a bit rough, especially when it’s brand new. The good news is that percale softens up over time, although it won’t feel as soft as some other fabrics. 

Who Should Buy Percale Sheets?

If you’re looking for highly durable bedding that can stand the test of time, percale may be a great choice for you if you love lightweight fabric. Hot sleepers or those in warmer climates will benefit from the breathability and cool-to-the-touch feel. 

Sateen vs. Percale Sheets

Let’s get down to business – how do these two types of sheets compare when it comes to all-important factors like comfort, temperature regulation, and maintenance?

Feel and Comfort

Sateen feels smooth and silky, while percale offers more of a crisp, durable vibe. Percale is often used to make button-down shirts, which should give you an idea of the texture. The heavier weight and looser weave of sateen allow the bedding to cocoon the sleeper, while percale’s lighter weight and tighter weave offer more of a gentle drape around the body. 


You’ll be pleased to hear that both types of sheets are durable and made to last. However, as percale has a tighter weave, it’s less likely to snag, making it more durable than sateen, which is prone to snagging and pilling. 


Sateen and percale couldn’t be more different when it comes to temperature regulation. Sateen sheets are thicker and heavier than percale, which makes them great at retaining heat and perfect for winter or those living in cooler climates. While sateen is breathable, it’s nowhere near as breathable as percale, which is a great lightweight and cooling choice for summer or for those who sleep hot.

Cleaning and Care

Both sateen and percale bedding can be machine-washed and dried at home, but you should check individual care labels as they may require low heat, a gentle cycle, and mild detergent. When it comes to wrinkles, sateen is the clear winner; it’s naturally resistant to creases. Percale is more likely to need regular ironing, so do bear that in mind. Curious how often you should be washing your sheets? Check out what our sleep experts say.


Thread count plays a huge part in the cost of bedding – the higher the thread count, the more expensive it will be. Thus, sateen tends to be more expensive than percale as it has a higher thread count. However, both sateen and percale are available at a wide range of price points (which may reflect the quality of the product), with both starting at around $50 and rising into the hundreds.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which is better, percale or sateen sheets?

One isn’t better than the other; rather, it depends on what you’re looking for. You might assume that sateen is superior as it usually has a higher thread count, but this isn’t strictly true. Hot sleepers may prefer the light and airy feel of percale, while those who feel chilly at night could appreciate the cocooning, warm feel of sateen. While both sheets are known for their durability, percale may last a little longer as it’s less likely to snag, due to its tighter weave. 

Do hotels use percale or sateen sheets?

Hotels use both percale and sateen sheets; it all depends on which hotel you’re staying at. Percale is a great choice for hotels as it’s durable and has a crisp, fresh look and feel. However, the illustrious sheen of soft sateen gives off an air of luxury, which some high-end hotels may prefer. Hotels in warmer climates may lean towards percale, while those in cooler countries might sway towards the snug feel of sateen.

Are percale or sateen sheets softer?

If you’re looking for soft sheets, you should definitely check out sateen. Sateen has a much looser weave than percale, which contributes to its buttery softness. 

Are sateen sheets hot to sleep in?

Sateen sheets can make you feel rather toasty, though this does depend on the climate you live in and whether you usually sleep warm or cool. Sateen is thick and known for its heat-retaining abilities, though it is still quite breathable, so it’s not a total sweat fest. It will definitely sleep warmer than lighter, more breathable options, like percale, so may be more suited for cold, winter months. 

Loren Bullock

Loren Bullock

Lead Product Tester

About Author

Loren is the Lead Reviewer at Sleep Advisor. She has prioritized sleeping for as long as she can remember, rarely deviating from seven to nine hours each night.

Combination Sleeper