What Are Percale Sheets? Everything You Need to Know

February 3, 2021 | Casper Editorial Team
illustration of percale sheets illustration of percale sheets illustration of percale sheets

Percale sheets are made from a material that features tightly woven threads that create a crisp and airy structure. They’re a very popular bed sheet option due to their lightweight and breathable feel. When it comes to buying sheets, you should evaluate all the factors to find the one that’s best for you — this includes material, thread count, and your lifestyle. We’ll cover the traits that have made percale sheets so popular, their benefits, and backstory, as well as comparisons with other types of sheets. 

What Is Percale?

an image of a bed with percale sheets and an explanation of percale sheet characteristics

The term “percale” comes from the Persian word “pargalah,” which means “rag.” Originally woven on looms, these early versions of percale were exported from India to nearby regions. Later on, percale sheets caught the attention of textile manufacturers from France who quickly adopted the weave pattern and began to market their own fabrics. Since then, it’s become a popular type of bedsheet found in many stores and homes. 

Material: What Are Percale Sheets Made Of?

Traditionally, most percale sheets are made from cotton, but sometimes they can feature other materials such as bamboo, microfiber, polyester, rayon, and other synthetic fibers. These sheets feature a one-yarn-over weave pattern that forms a grid shape. The longer the thread fibers are, the higher the quality it is — high-quality percale sheets feature a crisp, matte finish. 

Thread Count: Are They Soft?

Thread count is a measure of the number of threads that are woven into a square inch of fabric. On average, percale sheets feature a thread count between 200 and 300, with 300 being the highest quality. However, for a bedsheet to qualify as a percale sheet, it must have a thread count of at least 180. 

Since percale has a high thread count and is tightly woven, it features a sturdier feel at first and then slowly becomes softer after multiple washes.

How Much Do Percale Sheets Cost?

For percale sheets with a thread count of 200–300, you can expect to pay around $70 to $150. Although there are percale sheets that are more affordable, it could mean that they’re blended with other materials, such as polyester. If you’re interested in percale sheets that are more luxurious, you could be looking at a price tag of over $100. These premium percale sheets are typically the long-staple cotton or organic cotton varieties, or even those blended with Egyptian cotton.

Pros & Cons of Percale Sheets 

a chart comparing pros and cons of percale sheets

Although percale sheets are popular for their lightweight and cool texture, they also have a few drawbacks, like being wrinkle-prone and not being ideal for cold sleepers. See the various pros and cons of percale sheets below. 

Benefits 

There are many benefits to percale sheets due to their durable, smooth, affordable, and breathable nature. These factors make them an ideal bedsheet choice for many types of sleepers. Here are some of the many pros of percale bed sheets:

  • Soft texture: The texture of percale sheets are very smooth and have a high-quality feel because of the long, natural fibers that are tightly woven in.  
  • Durable and pill-resistant: Since percale sheets are very tightly knit, the fabric itself is very durable and will last a long time. This also makes the fabric pill-resistant. Additionally, they’ll become softer with washes over time.
  • Low maintenance: Percale sheets don’t need to be dry cleaned and can be easily washed at home, making them a great low-maintenance sheet option. 
  • Affordable: Although they have a luxurious feel, percale sheets come in many varieties with affordable options (compared to its counterparts, like satin). 
  • Breathable: The lightweight and airy texture of these sheets is great for warm sleepers. They can help you sleep better and are ideal for hot climates since they are cool to the touch.

Drawbacks 

Drawbacks of percale sheets will mostly depend on the type of sleeper you are. Here are just a few downsides if you’re considering percale sheets: 

  • Not great for cold sleepers: If you get cold easily at night, these sheets may not be for you. Since percale sheets are made from a breathable material, they don’t provide much warmth or insulation. If you’re a cold sleeper, opt for fleece, flannel, or even silk, especially during the winter months. 
  • Prone to wrinkling: Since percale sheets are made up of dense cotton threads, they are more prone to wrinkling — especially so if the thread count is higher. If the percale sheets are made from 100 percent cotton they are also highly prone to wrinkling. If you prefer sheets that wrinkle less, choose more wrinkle-resistant fibers such as silk, rayon, or polyester.  

Types of Percale Sheets 

an illustration of cotton with the types of percale sheets: organic, blended and long staple

Though the different types of percale sheets feature the signature crisp and cool feeling, there are variances when it comes to price and breathability. Here are three types of percale sheets to help you determine which variation is best for your lifestyle. 

Organic Cotton Percale 

Organic cotton percale sheets are made from cotton that is grown in pesticide-free fields. Since this cotton is responsibly sourced, these bed sheets are more on the expensive side — but they’re perfect for those who want to be more environmentally friendly. 

To ensure your percale sheets are made from organic cotton, check the package to see if it features the authenticity label from the Global Organic Textile Standard, also known as GOTS. Internationally, GOTS is an organic textile standard that guarantees your bed sheets are made with a minimum of 70 percent organic cotton fibers.   

Blended Cotton 

Percale sheets that feature blended cotton will usually include materials such as polyester, rayon from bamboo, or silk. Since they’re made of a blend, they cost less than the 100 percent cotton variety. This blend of materials also makes these sheets wrinkle-resistant. 

Long-Staple Cotton Percale Sheets

Long-staple cotton percale sheets are made with fibers from Egyptian or Pima cotton which are known for their high quality. This blend gives this type of percale sheet a more luxurious and smoother feel compared to traditional percale sheets. 

Are Percale Sheets the Best?

a chart comparing percale vs sateen vs egyptian cotton

If you’re in the market for bed sheets, you’ll want to make sure you know the difference between the other types of sheets that are available, such as sateen and Egyptian cotton. 

Percale vs. Sateen Sheets

Sateen sheets are ideal for people who prefer a silkier, smoother sheet. Sateen is the budget-friendly and more durable version of satin. This type of bedsheet features a one-yarn-under, three-yarn-over weave. This weave allows more of the threading to come to the surface, making it silky and more luxurious to the touch. 

Sateen is also wrinkle-resistant and heavier in weight than percale due to the threads being more closely woven together and a higher thread count of up to 600. Due to its heavy nature, it’s also a warmer bedsheet than percale.  

Percale vs. Egyptian Cotton Sheets

The differences between percale and Egyptian cotton sheets lie in the material itself. Similar to percale sheets, Egyptian cotton bed sheets feature a very high thread count. However, Egyptian cotton is only made with the cotton that grows only in the Nile region of Egypt.

Egyptian cotton can also be woven in combination with percale. This creates a sheet that is even softer and more luxurious than normal cotton bed sheets, but with a higher price tag than traditional percale. 

How to Care for Percale Sheets 

an illustration of how to wash and dry percale sheets

Since percale sheets are durable, you can wash them as often as you want. However, check the care tag before washing your sheet for the first time. Percale sheets are made with different fabrics and weaves, which can require specific washing and drying instructions. 

Washing 

When washing percale sheets, be mindful of the water temperatures — this material is best washed in cool water. Additionally, if your percale sheets contain a higher thread count, it’s ideal to wash them on a gentle cycle since there’s more likelihood of threads breaking. Keep in mind that after the first wash they might shrink slightly (no need to size up), but the size will remain the same after future washes. 

When it comes to how often you should wash your sheets, it’s recommended that they should be cleaned at least once a week. 

Drying 

For drying your percale sheets, line dry or tumble dry on medium or low heat. Using a setting that’s too hot may cause your sheets to wear out more quickly. To ensure there are as few wrinkles as possible, remove the sheets promptly from the dryer. 

Tip: If you choose to air dry your sheets, throwing them in the dryer once they’re mostly dry on a quick tumble setting will provide some added softness. 

Percale sheets boast some amazing benefits like their lightweight, cool feel and affordable price. If you’re interested in upgrading your bedding game with some soft percale sheets, make sure you find the right sheet size and style first! You can also try pairing your new sheets with a weighted blanket for an even deeper and more luxurious sleep.