Sateen vs. Percale Sheets:
Behind the Weave


Written by David Rubin

Expert Tested

Table of Contents

Sateen and percale are two common weaves found in bed sheets. Either weave can be used with different materials, such as cotton, microfiber, rayon, and viscose. Although the material is important, the way the sheets are woven together also impacts their feel, durability, and performance.

We’ll address the differences between percale vs. sateen sheets, their benefits and drawbacks, and what to know if you’re trying to decide between the two.

What Are Sateen Sheets?

Sateen sheets are typically woven using threads in either a four-over, one-under pattern or a three-over, one-under pattern. This gives them a soft texture with a slight sheen that many people find luxurious. Sateen sheets are fairly wrinkle-resistant and tend to drape nicely on the bed. However, some people find them too slippery.

Compared to some other weaves, sateen sheets are not especially breathable and tend to retain heat. This can be an advantage for people in cold climates, but hot sleepers might find it difficult to maintain a comfortable temperature throughout the night. Sateen sheets also require careful laundering because their delicate surface can be prone to pilling.

Sateen fabric is related to satin, which uses a similar weave pattern. The difference is that to be considered satin, the fabric is traditionally made from silk. However, nylon and polyester alternatives are also available.

Breakdown of Sateen Sheets

Weave Type


Woven with a pattern of one thread under and three or four yarns over, sateen sheets are soft and slightly shiny.

  • Soft and lustrous
  • Elegant appearance
  • Wrinkle-resistant
  • Less durable
  • May trap heat
  • Can be slippery

Do Sateen Sheets Wrinkle Easily?

Sateen sheets tend to wrinkle less easily than other varieties. Their four-over, one-under pattern or three-over, one-under pattern results in a tighter weave that holds its shape better. This gives them a relatively smooth look without ironing.

Are Sateen Sheets Breathable?

Sateen sheets are moderately breathable. The sateen weave is naturally denser than its percale equivalent because it has more threads running in one direction. Accordingly, sateen sheets trap more heat and feel heavier, making them less suitable for warm climates.

What Are Percale Sheets?

Percale sheets use a balanced one-over, one-under weave that is strong, durable, and breathable. Cotton percale bed sheets tend to have a crisp, matte appearance.

Because of their durable construction, percale sheets are fairly resistant to pilling and are usually easy to care for. However, they may be more likely to wrinkle.

Breakdown of Percale Sheets

Weave Type


Percale bed sheets are woven with a one-over, one-under pattern.

  • Durable
  • Crisp and breathable
  • Lightweight
  • Wrinkle easily
  • Not as soft as the sateen weave

Do Percale Sheets Pill Easily?

Percale sheets are durable and do not pill as readily as other types. Pilling refers to the tiny fluff balls that sometimes form on sheets over time. This happens when the fabric rubs, causing loose or broken fibers to bunch together on the surface.

Pilling is more likely to occur in sheets with a low thread count or those that use short-staple fibers with more vulnerable ends. However, the one-over, one-under percale weave leaves the threads less exposed, so they are more protected against pilling.

Do Percale Sheets Sleep Cool?

The one-over, one-under percale weave maximizes airflow to reduce heat retention. Due to the superior temperature regulation of percale sheets, many sleepers use them year-round.

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What Is the Difference Between a Sateen and a Percale Weave?

As a general rule, percale sheets are usually crisp and cool, while sateen sheets are heavier and silkier. However, the type of material also determines how the fabric performs. For example, linen is breathable and durable, but new linen sheets can feel rough. Cotton is softer and highly breathable, but it doesn’t wick moisture well. Synthetic fabrics tend to be soft but less breathable. Sheets with a higher thread count also tend to sleep warmer.

While there will always be exceptions, knowing the typical attributes of sateen versus percale weaves is a useful first step when comparing sheet sets.

Sateen vs. Percale Weave


Cleaning and Care

Sateen sheets are fairly delicate. Washing them on a gentle cycle separately from other fabrics may help prevent pilling. Follow the care instructions and avoid using bleach, fabric softener, or harsh detergents.

Most percale sheets can be machine washed and tumble dried, but always check the care tag since this depends on the material. To reduce wrinkles, remove sheets promptly from the dryer or iron them.

Wear and Tear

Compared to percale, sateen sheets usually have a shorter lifespan. In addition to pilling, they are more prone to snagging and tearing. They can also lose their luster with repeated washing.

High-quality percale sheets can be quite durable. Percale sheets tend to get softer the more they are washed, although sheets made from low-quality materials may eventually pill.

Feel and Performance

Most sateen sheets have a smooth, silky hand feel and an elegant drape.

Crisp, cool, and reliable, percale sheets are generally not as soft as sateen. However, they’re usually very durable.

Temperature Control

Sateen sheets tend to sleep warmer due to their heavier weave, although temperature regulation also depends on thread count and the type of material.

The percale weave is highly breathable, making it a good choice for hot sleepers.

How Do Sateen and Percale Sheets Compare in Cost?

Both percale and sateen sheets come in a wide range of price-points, from budget-friendly to luxury. The thread count and material play direct roles in determining the cost. Lower thread counts are usually less expensive.

However, shoppers should know that some manufacturers inflate their thread counts without enhancing the quality. Additionally, sheets made from polyester or short-staple cotton are often more affordable. Those containing linen or long-staple cotton tend to be more expensive and more durable.

About The Author

David Rubin

Certified Sleep Science Coach, Director of Product Testing

David is a Certified Sleep Science Coach with a lifelong passion for well-being and health optimization. His interest in sleep developed with the arrival of his son, when sleep suddenly became a precious commodity.

  • POSITION: Side Sleeper
  • TEMPERATURE: Hot Sleeper

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