Weaves affect the feel and comfort 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, price and personal preference.
A difference in feel
Percale is a crisp, non-glossy weave. Percale's one under, one over structure (see image) has better air permeability, or breathability, over sateen. This makes percale ideal for hot summer months or if you often feel hot at night. If you love the feel of crisp hotel sheets, then you probably prefer percale. And if you sleep with a foot hanging out of bed, you're a prime candidate for the cool, crisp percale weave.
Sateen, on the other hand, is silkier with a natural gloss. While it initially feels cool to the touch, it warms up quickly. Sateen's three over (or more), and one under weave (see image) has less air permeability so traps more heat, making it an excellent choice for cooler seasons or cold sleepers. Sateen is also softer than percale. Although, when better cotton is used, this becomes less noticeable, especially as the sheet wears over time.
For these reasons, many people buy both weaves and match them to the season, preferring sateen during winter and percale during summer.
A difference in price
The sateen weave structure is inherently weaker than percale's, but can be woven to higher thread counts. When the same cotton grade is used, it is our opinion that 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.
A higher thread count means more cotton is used which in turn, means a higher price. Remember, this is when the same cotton grade is used. And bear in mind, some retailers may not care about thread cohesion or may decide to price both weaves identically, losing slightly on the sateen, winning it back on the percale.
The combination of higher thread counts and higher prices has given rise to a myth that sateen is better than percale - especially during the thread count wars of the past few decades.
If you rank thread count and cost above sleep comfort, you could say sateen is better than percale. But we've heard more than one husband complain about the heat of 1000 thread count sheets (1000 thread count sheets use the sateen weave).
Therefore, choosing a weave should be less about bragging rights and more about the comfort of you and your partner. Your body needs to lower its temperature to reach sleep which is why breathability or air permeability matters more than people think.
And while some feel cold at night, we would recommend layers over a sheet which locks you or your partner into a certain temperature. Remember, 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 threads.
Thanks for reading. For more insight into how bed linen is made, tips and special deals, subscribe to our newsletter below.
BLOG DISCLOSURE: We aren't trained textile experts. All opinions are based on a decade worth of research, sleeping on and washing bedding, testing bedding in textile labs and talking with textile experts and Universities. If you spot mistakes or incorrect information, let us know. We're always learning.