Weaves affect the feel and heat of sheets, and everyone has a preference. While many believe sateen is best because higher thread counts can be achieved, one weave is not necessarily better than the other. In reality, it comes down to feel, heat and personal preference.
A difference in temperature
Percale's one under, one over structure (see image) has better air permeability, or breathability, than sateen. This makes the percale weave ideal for hot summer months. If you sleep with a foot hanging out of bed, or are often hot at night, you're a prime candidate for the cool and crisp percale weave.
Sateen on the other hand, uses a three over (or more) and one under weave (see image) which traps more heat, making it an excellent choice for cooler seasons or cold sleepers. Many buy both weaves and match them to the season, preferring sateen sheets during winter and percale sheets during summer.
A difference in feel
Percale feels crisp. We talk to lots of people each year and around 80% prefer the feel of crisp sheets. If you love the feel of crisp hotel sheets, then you probably prefer the feel of percale and if you're hot at night, you don't have much of a choice!
Sateen feels soft or sometime slippery depending on the yarn-type. They can be so soft that some are seduced by the feel without realising they're also hotter. Also, sateen is used to weave super high thread count sheets (1000TC), which has lead many to believe that high thread counts are soft. But it's actually the sateen weave in combination with the cotton. Beautifully soft sheets can be achieved with a thread count in the 400s when great cotton is used.
A difference in wear
The sateen structure is inherently weaker than the percale structure. When the same cotton grade is used, sateen sheets typically require a higher thread count to reach a good level of thread cohesion compared to percale. Thread cohesion results in a stronger sheet and therefore wears better.
Overall, the one under, one over structure of percale is a lot stronger no matter the thread count which is why percale is used in most commercial applications such as hotels.
A difference in thread count and price
Because sateen typically requires a higher thread count, more cotton is used which in turn, means a higher price. The combination of higher thread counts and higher prices has given rise to a myth that sateen is better than percale.
If you rank thread count and cost above feel and heat, you could say sateen is better than percale. But many people complain about the heat of 1000 thread count sheets which all use the sateen weave.
Therefore, choosing a weave should be less about bragging rights and more about comfort and heat. Your body needs to lower its temperature to reach sleep which is why breathability matters more than people realise.
In general, we recommend layers over a cool base sheet, particularly when both hot and cold sleepers are in the same bed. What may be right for you, may not be right for your partner and layers gives everyone a chance to reach their perfect sleep temperature.
For ultimate sleep comfort, we recommend choosing a weave suited to your temperature and personal preference.
You may have also guessed that we're not huge fans of 1000 thread count sheets. See this article for the reasons why. In ten minutes, you'll understand why some feel consumers are misled into thinking they're buying the very finest quality when they're actually buying medium or even low quality sheets.
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DISCLOSURE: We aren't trained textile experts. All opinions are our own and are based on a decade's experience sleep testing, wash testing and lab testing bedding, as well as working with textile experts and high-quality European manufacturers. If you spot mistakes or incorrect information, let us know, we're always learning.