What are Percale Sheets?

By Geoff McKinnen
Last Updated On June 5th, 2020

The term “percale” refers to a type of weave used to make bed sheets, pillowcases, and other bedding accessories. Most percale sheets are made of 100 percent cotton fabrics, but…

What are Percale Sheets?

The term “percale” refers to a type of weave used to make bed sheets, pillowcases, and other bedding accessories. Most percale sheets are made of 100 percent cotton fabrics, but sometimes they are blended with other fabrics such as silk, synthetic, or rayon.

Percale sheets are cool, crisp and breathable bed sheets. The signature tight weave of “percale” gives the sheets a smooth feel, making them popular.

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What Is Percale?

Percale is a weave of fabric with a simple criss-cross pattern. The yarns go one-under-one-over, creating a tight-knit structure that is smooth and durable. Percale sheets feel crisp to the touch, and they get softer with every wash. These finely woven bed sheets have a matte finish and are known for their breathability.

Features of Percale Sheets

Percale sheets and pillowcases have some characteristic features, such as the material and thread count. When shopping for percale sheets, check on these criteria to choose the best product for yourself.

Material

Percale sheets and pillowcases are usually made of extra-long-staple (ELS) or long-staple cotton fibers. The length of these fibers makes them suitable for the percale weave. ELS and long-staple cotton feel softer and silkier than short-staple cotton.

Thread Count

Thread count refers to the number of vertical and horizontal yarns in a square inch of fabric. The average thread count in good quality percale sheets is between 200 and 400. Though there is no upper limit to the thread count, percale sheets should have a minimum thread count of 180.

Types of Percale Sheets

Percale sheets are typically made of 100 percent ELS or long-staple cotton, organic cotton, or blended cotton. While all the different types of percale sheets have the signature cool and crisp feel, there may be a slight variation in breathability and price.

ELS or Long Staple Cotton Percale Sheets

ELS and long-staple cotton fibers are derived from superior quality Egyptian or Pima cotton, giving these sheets a smooth and luxurious feel. However, ELS cotton fibers are the most premium, making these sheets expensive. An ELS cotton percale sheet set can cost around $200 for a queen size. Long-staple cotton percale sheets are comparatively less pricey while still being very smooth, luxurious, and durable.

Organic Cotton Percale Sheets

The same ELS and long-staple cotton can be grown in organic plantations, which don’t use chemical fertilizers or pesticides. Often, products containing responsibly sourced materials are expensive, making organic cotton percale sheets pricier than the non-organic ones.

All organic sheets must have the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) label to prove their authenticity. Bedding brands may sell bed sheets containing “natural materials” as organic, but if you are serious about finding organic sheets, look for the GOTS label.

GOTS is an internationally recognized organic textile standard that ensures your product contains at least 70 percent certified organic natural fibers.

Blended Cotton Percale Sheets

Blended cotton percale sheets include other materials such as silk, polyester, or rayon from bamboo. These materials are wrinkle-resistant and typically cost less than 100 percent cotton percale sheets.

Pros and Cons of Percale Sheets

Percale cotton sheets are popular for being smooth, breathable, durable, affordable, and low maintenance, but they also have some disadvantages. Percale sheets are prone to wrinkles and they are unsuitable for a colder climate. However, their benefits far outweigh the drawbacks.

Pros

Since percale weave is usually seen in cotton fabrics, all percale sheets offer the advantages of this natural fiber. Moreover, the tight-knit structure of the percale sheets also adds to the advantages.

Smooth

Long natural fibers are finely woven to create the smooth surface of percale sheets. If you have ever wondered about the smoothness of bedsheets in hotels, they are most likely to be percale sheets. The luxurious feel of high-quality cotton is enhanced by the smoothness coming from the tight-knit percale weave.

Breathable

Though the percale weave is tight-knit, these sheets are known for their extreme breathability. Percale sheets are almost always made with excellent quality cotton, which is highly breathable. These sheets are lightweight and don’t trap heat. Their breathability makes them a favorite amongst hot sleepers, or those living in warm climates.

Durable

The tight percale weave makes these sheets strong and durable. Moreover, long-staple cotton fibers are resistant e to breaking and pilling. Pilling is uneven clumping of broken fiber ends, making small ball-like formations on fabric. They look unpleasant and make the sheet feel rough. Repeated washes may cause some inferior quality cotton fibers to break, causing pilling.

Affordable

Percale cotton sheets can range between $90 to $500 for queen size sets, depending on the quality of raw materials used. This wide price range makes them an affordable option.

Low Maintenance

Most percale sheets are made of 100 percent cotton, and cotton fabrics are low maintenance. It’s best to read the instructions on the care label before washing, but most percale cotton sheets can be easily washed in your home washing machine. Percale sheets don’t need to be dry cleaned unless they’re blended with more sensitive textiles such as silk.

Cons

People have different sleep needs, so some of the benefits of percale sheets may be a negative to others. If you really want percale sheets, there are ways to manage its disadvantages, too.

Wrinkle-prone

Cotton fabrics are prone to wrinkling. Since most percale sheets are made of 100 percent cotton they tend to wrinkle after every wash. Percale sheets made of cotton blends may wrinkle less because they contain wrinkle-resistant fibers such as polyester, silk, or rayon.

Unsuitable for a Colder Climate

Breathable percale sheets are not good at providing insulation or warmth. If you sleep cold, you’d probably prefer silk, fleece, or flannel bed sheets during winter.

Care for Percale Sheets

You don’t need to spend a lot of time taking care of percale sheets. Their laundering can be easily done at home.

Washing

Percale sheets can be machine washed at home on a gentle cycle. Use warm water because to kill germs, bacteria, and viruses. Care instructions may vary slightly depending on the materials and color. Wash the sheets separately from other clothes to prevent color bleeding, rips, or tears from zippers and buttons.

Frequency of Washing

what are percale sheets
You can wash your percale sheets as frequently as you want. Though after the first wash your sheet may shrink a little, the size remains consistent after that. Ideally, you should wash your sheets every week. Washing doesn’t fade or deteriorate its quality; instead, your percale sheets get softer after every wash.

Drying

You can tumble dry your percale sheets on a low heat setting. To avoid wrinkling, you should take your sheets out of the dryer as soon as the cycle completes and make your bed. It’s safe to iron percale sheets, too.

Our Amerisleep Percale Cotton Bed Sheet Set

Our Amerisleep Percale Cotton Bed Sheets are made of 100 percent long-staple cotton, making them luxurious, cool, crisp, and durable. With a 300 thread count, optimum for percale bed sheets, our product comes with a 5-year limited warranty.

Our percale bed sheet set includes 1 flat sheet, 1 fitted sheet, and two pillowcases. Our fitted sheets are designed with deep pockets to fit mattresses up to 18 inches thick, which is usually the tallest a mattress can be.

Our sheets are available in dark gray and light gray, either plain or striped. To accentuate your bed, we also offer matching duvet cover sets.

Prices of our Percale Cotton Sheet Sets

Apart from all the standard sizes, we also offer split king size sheet sets.

SizePrice
Twin$110
Twin XL$120
Full$130
Queen$150
King$170
California King$170
Split King$180

Common Types of Weaves in Bed Sheets

Percale and Sateen are the two most common types of weaves seen in bedsheets. While percale is cool, crisp and has a matte finish, sateen feels silky and has a shiny luster to it. Both percale and sateen weaves are made with ELS or long-staple cotton, so the bed sheets don’t feel drastically different.

Difference between Percale and Sateen

The cotton fibers can have a percale or sateen weave, resulting in a slightly different texture.

ParametersPercale SheetsSateen Sheets
Weave PatternOne-under-one-overTwo, three, or four-under-one-over
FeelCrisp with a matte finishSilky with a sheen
WrinklingMore prone to wrinklingLess susceptible to wrinkles
BreathabilityMore breathable than sateen, suitable for summersLess breathable than percale, suitable for winters
PillingLess likely to pillThe weave pattern makes these sheets more likely to pill
Thread Count200 to 400300 to 500
MaterialsELS, long-staple cotton, or cotton blended with polyester, rayon, or silkLong-staple cotton, or cotton blended with rayon
Price (Queen)$90-800$100-1000

Other Things to Consider

There are a host of other parameters such as size considerations, color and pattern, thread count, material and weave, and warranties, which you have to consider before purchasing the best sheets.

Size Considerations

Buying a bed sheet set is an economical option, especially if you are looking for a flat sheet, fitted sheet, and pillowcases, as well as a top sheet.  However, most larger sized sheet sets like a king or California king will have larger pillow covers. If you have a big bed but prefer smaller pillows (or vice-versa), then buying a sheet set won’t be your best option.

Color and Pattern

You can choose a bed sheet depending on your personal preference, bedroom decor, or the season. Lighter, subtle shades are comfortable during warm summer months, while darker, earthy tones are suitable for cold winter months.

Thread Count

It’s wise to stick to the 200 to 400 thread count range when buying bed sheets. High thread count sheets are pricier, but they may not always be the best quality because bedsheet manufacturers may use multi-ply yarn to artificially inflate the thread count.

Material and weave

If you are a hot sleeper or live in a place with longer summer months, cool, breathable, percale sheets will be perfect for you. However, if you live in a cold place you may prefer cotton sheets with a sateen weave, which is not as breathable as percale, or materials such as fleece and flannel.

Warranties

Check for return policies and warranties attached to your new sheets, so you have an option to return if you don’t like them.

FAQs

What is the difference between short, long, and extra-long-staple cotton?

The difference lies in the length of the cotton fibers—short-staple cotton is 1 and ⅛ inches, long-staple is 1 and ¼ inches, and extra-long-staple is 2 inches long. There are about 250,000 such individual cotton fibers, known as staples, in each “boll”—the cluster of cotton fibers that look like a puffball on the cotton plant. Though the difference in fiber length seems unimportant, it can make a great difference to the quality of the fabric.

Why is long-staple cotton good?

The longer the staple, the more smooth and luxurious the fabric feels. Shorter staples are prone to breaking faster, resulting in pilling and roughness. The longer staples stay strong despite numerous washes, making them a popular choice for premium bed sheet sets, towels, and other bedding accessories.

What is the difference between Egyptian and Pima cotton?

Both Egyptian and Pima cotton comes from the Gossypium Barbadense species of plant, and can be made into either long-staple or extra-long-staple cotton. While Pima cotton is mainly grown in the US, Australia, Peru, Egyptian cotton is grown along the Nile River in Egypt (hence its name). The hot and dry climate of the Nile River Valley makes these cotton fibers stronger and softer.

Are Egyptian cotton sheets the best?

Egyptian cotton and cotton grown in Egypt are not one-in-the-same. Egyptian cotton is thought of being the best and most luxurious, while other cotton grown in Egypt is not as high-quality. To ensure you’re getting a true Egyptian Cotton sheet set, look for the Cotton Egypt Certification on the product’s packaging, or extra-long-staple (or long-staple) fibers listed in the product specifications.

How important is thread count in percale sheets?

It’s best for percale sheets to have a thread count within the range of 200 to 400. While there’s no upper limit, percale sheets must have a minimum thread count of 180 thread. Usually, the higher the thread count, the smoother and more luxurious the feel of the bedsheet.

Be aware—some companies use multi-ply yarns to show a higher thread count, but these can be weaker and prone to breakage.

Conclusion

Cotton has always been a comfortable clothing material, and most percale sheets are made of 100 percent cotton. Though there are some cotton blended percale sheets, which may compromise a little on breathability, they are less prone to wrinkles. Percale bedding wins over sleepers because of its crispness, breathability, smoothness, and durability. Percale sheets can be washed numerous times, without the fear of spoiling the fabric—instead  it only feels softer with every wash. A soft bed sheet is an excellent catalyst to good quality sleep.

This article is for informational purposes and should not replace advice from your doctor or other medical professional.


About the author

Geoff McKinnen is a writer focusing mainly on the healthcare industry and has written articles on everything from foods to help you lose weight to the connection between Alzheimer’s and sleep. Geoff’s passionate about helping readers improve their well-being to lead happier lives. Outside of work, Geoff enjoys cycling and hiking and believes that by leading a healthy lifestyle, he can help others do the same.

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