Pros of Percale
Advantages of using percale sheets include the following:
- Exceptionally cool: Percale sheets are particularly suitable for hot sleepers and/or those who live in warmer climates. They are lightweight and breathable, and should not trap too much heat. Many sleepers also prefer the crisp feel of percale during hot times of the year; sateen, by comparison, can cling to the skin and cause discomfort during the night.
- Strong durability: Percale bedding products tend to have longer lifespans than other types of sheets and pillowcases. The tight weave holds together, even after repeated washes, allowing the fabric to soften without pilling or deteriorating excessively.
- Low maintenance: Unless the care tag explicitly says otherwise, percale sheets can be washed and dried in conventional machines. Spot cleaning and/or dry cleaning is not needed unless the percale contains a cotton blend with silk or other fabrics that should not be machine-washed.
- Relatively inexpensive: Price-points for high-quality percale sheets vary by brand and set. Sheets and pillowcases made from luxury cotton, such as extra-long staple varieties like Egyptian or Pima cotton, are usually the most expensive; expect to pay at least $250 for one of these sets. Long staple percale is much more affordable, on average; these sheet sets typically cost between $70 and $150, though shoppers may track down high-quality sets for $50 or less.
Cons of Percale
There are two notable disadvantages of using percale sheets:
- Prone to wrinkling: Percale weaves yield crisp, lightweight fabric that tends to become wrinkled after washing. Although this does not affect the feel or breathability of the sheets, it can give them an unsightly appearance. To remove or reduce wrinkles, percale bedding owners can iron their sheets; another strategy is to remove them from the dryer as soon as the cycle is complete and immediately make the bed.
- Not suitable for some climates: As we’ve discussed, percale sheets are lightweight and breathable, and should not trap too much heat. The flipside to this is that percale bedding may be too cool during colder times of the year. Additionally, those who tend to sleep cool may find that percale sheets do not provide enough warmth and insulation.
Types of Percale Sheets
Most percale sheets are made from 100% long staple cotton. Long staple cotton is very soft and smooth compared to short staple cotton, and is less susceptible to pilling after repeated washes. It is also fairly durable. In addition to 100% long staple cotton, customers may also choose from the following percale options.
- Extra-long staple cotton: Bedding products made from extra-long staple cotton (such as Egyptian or Pima cotton) are even softer, smoother, and more durable. They also tend to be much pricier. Expect to pay at least $250 for an Egyptian cotton-percale sheet set, and at least $150 for a Pima cotton-percale set. Additionally, keep in mind that the material must be made entirely from Egyptian cotton in order to be labeled and sold as such; in recent years, some prominent brands have come under fire for selling ‘Egyptian cotton’ made from a blend of Egyptian fibers and fibers sourced from elsewhere. Blended Egyptian cotton is usually cheaper than authentic Egyptian cotton; if the price-point seems low, then the product is probably inauthentic.
- Organic cotton: Organic cotton tends to be more expensive than non-organic cotton; organic brands must spend more money to ensure their products are responsibly and sustainably sourced, and these expenses are often reflected in higher price-points. Some brands tout ‘organic fibers’ or ‘natural cotton’ in their sheets, implying an organic product. However, the product should be certified by the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) in order to be considered truly organic. Brands that have earned GOTS certification will normally display this on product pages and elsewhere on their website; customers who are unsure should reach out to the company’s customer support staff.
- Blended percale: Percale sheets may be made from blends of cotton and other fabrics, including natural fibers like silk and/or synthetics like polyester and rayon. Blended percale products are often cheaper than 100% cotton products, and they may be less prone to wrinkling. However, 100% cotton percale sheets tend to be more breathable and less likely to pill.
Apart from material construction, another important consideration is thread count – though this is not as crucial as some brands suggest. Generally speaking, higher thread counts translate to better quality and a longer product lifespan. However, the benefits are somewhat questionable once certain thread count benchmarks are reached. In other words, the differences between 300 thread count and 500 thread count percale sheets are, in all likelihood, fairly negotiable.
Percale sheets, by definition, must have a thread count of at least 180. High-quality percale sheet sets with thread counts of 200 to 400 are widely available.
Sizing and Fit Considerations
Although availability varies by brand, most sheet sets are available in sizes that correspond to the six standard mattress dimensions.
- Twin (39W” x 75L”)
- Twin XL (39W” x 80L”)
- Full/Double (54W” x 75L”)
- Queen (60W” x 80L”)
- King (76W” x 80L”)
- California King (72W”x 84L”)
Additionally, some brands offer specialty sizes for sheet sets, such as Full XL (54W” x 80L”) or Short Queen (60W” x 75L”). In most cases, a Twin or Twin XL sheet set will include a flat sheet, fitted sheet, and one pillowcase; larger sizes will include two pillowcases, along with the flat and fitted sheets.
It’s important to note that the flat sheet’s dimensions will be wider and longer than the mattress; for example, a flat sheet in a Queen-size sheet set often measures about 95W” x 110L”. This allows the sheet to fit over the mattress surface and drape over all four edges. The fitted sheet’s dimensions should match the mattress more closely, since this component has elasticated edges that fit over the bed’s corners. Cotton-percale sheets will most likely shrink to a degree after the first wash.
Speaking of fitted sheets, customers should also check the pocket depth for the set they’d like to buy. Pocket depth refers to the maximum thickness of any mattress or bed that can be used with the fitted sheet. Mattresses sold today usually measure 15″ or less, while the average fitted sheet has a pocket depth of about 13″ to 15″, so most sheet sets are suitable for most beds. However, some fitted sheets have much lower pocket depths and may not be compatible with high-profile mattresses.
Lastly, customers should check the sheet set’s pillowcase measurements. Generally speaking, larger-size sheet sets have larger pillows. This may be problematic for sleepers who have a larger mattress and smaller pillows. In these instances, purchasing individual sheet set components may be the best option (see the ‘How to Choose a Percale Sheet Set’ section below for more information).
Other Important Considerations for Choosing a Percale Sheet Set