One night at a cheap motel is often enough to convince you that it only takes a bad night’s sleep to send your wellbeing down the drain. Getting good sleep is especially crucial to our proper function, and the road there begins with high quality, comfortable beds.
However, when we think of bed, our first thought typically jumps to investing in a premium mattress that brings the promise of excellent sleep. Yet, it is the small things like the quality of your sheets that can quickly ruin your sleeping experience in an otherwise good bed.
Nevertheless, if you successfully scale through the arduous task of selecting the perfect mattress, picking the right sheets often presents another pressing challenge.
What is the best kind of sheet for you? Which of these brings the most comfort? How much thread count do you really need?
However, while you can quickly go down the rabbit hole of a million sheet questions, the most critical decision often falls back to which material to buy. Here, two names that regularly feature in the discussion are percale and cotton.
Contrary to what you may find on enthusiastic product pages, percale is not a type of material. Instead, percale is a weave style, which means that manufacturers can apply a percale weave to fibers from a host of material types.
Hence, you can get cotton percale sheets, which are percale sheets that feature cotton fibers, or other percale sheets that feature some blend of cotton with polyester, rayon, or lyocell.
The distinctive attribute of percale is its particular weave pattern that uses a flat, checkerboard-Esque plain-weave to achieve a tighter, more tightly woven weave than you will find in most other sheet fabrics.
Consequently, percale typically posts a thread count of 180 or higher, resulting in a sturdy, medium-weight sheet that is easy to wash. Percale is also glossless and extra smooth to the touch.
While percale sheets can include several different material types, the two most popular options are a super comfy 100% cotton build or a more budget-friendly 50-50 cotton/polyester blend.
Percale can also feature either combed or carded yarns.
Cotton is arguably the king of the sheets game. This material owes its popularity to the fact that it is one of the easiest to wash and maintain, it is breathable and seldom runs hot, and the fabric can get even softer over time.
One major defining characteristic of cotton sheets is the fiber type that they feature. The two most easily available cotton sheet types here in the U.S., are those that feature American Upland or Egyptian Cotton.
American Upland: American Upland is the most common cotton fiber type you will find on most product offerings. This type of cotton typically features fibers that are shorter than Egyptian cotton. Consequently, they are often less luxurious alternatives. However, they also usually cost less.
Egyptian Cotton: Eygptian cotton brings the longest fibers you will find anywhere. Hence, Egyptian cotton is the obvious choice for most luxury cotton offerings as they produce a silky soft, supple, and durable fabric. Egyptian cotton sheets typically post a thread count of 200 or higher.
However, while cotton is a natural fiber from the cotton plant, the type of weave style used in production can result in different fabric types with significantly unique textures. The three most popular of these are sateen, oxford, and percale.
Sateen: Sateen is what you get when you make cotton fibers into a satin weave that feature filing threads interlaced with warp threads. Consequently, here, you get a durable silky material with high heat retention that is perfect for colder climates. Sateen weaves are also the glossiest of the lot and are sure to leave your bed with a shiny finish.
Oxford: Oxford cotton fabric features a 2:1 ratio of warp threads to weft threads, creating a dense and crisp material. While oxford fabric often features in dress shirts, they also make excellent pillowcases and sheets for people who prefer a firmer feel.
Percale: Cotton percale is a flat, plain-weave fabric with tightly wound latticed threads that create a smoother texture than most other cotton fabrics.
Percale vs. Cotton
For percale sheets that feature a cotton blend with polyester or rayon, you are typically trading a little bit of comfort for pocket-friendliness. Blend percale sheets are often a little stiffer and less comfy than regular 100% cotton sheets.
One hundred percent cotton percale sheets are also significantly easier to dye than blend options. With blend percale sheets, you can often end up with some spatial color variations in heavily dyed sheets.
However, here you get decently-priced budget options that provide much bang for your buck, and these sheets sport the same or even more ease of maintenance as full cotton options.
On the other hand, if you are stuck between percale cotton and other cotton sheet types, the most critical factor to consider is the feel of the sheets.
Percale cotton sheets typically provide significantly more delicate and comfier textures than both oxford and sateen fabrics. Hence, if your goal is maximum comfort, one of the best bedding choices you can make is opting for Egyptian cotton sheets with a percale weave.
However, these offerings are typically in the higher end of the price spectrum and often require a sizable investment.
Our Top Pick for Cotton Percale Sheets: MALOUF Artisan Italian Cotton Percale Sheets
- 100% Egyptian cotton
- 400 thread count
- Colors: White, Ivory
- Available in: Twin, Twin XL, Full, Full XL, Queen, King, Split Cal King, Split King, California King
If you enjoy the soothing luxury of authentic Eygptian sheets, few options will do you better than these Italian-made percale sheets. The MALOUF Artisan Sheets are a high end 400 thread count cotton sheet that comes complete with extra-deep pockets and decent oversizing on all sides.
This product also ships with an unmatched 10-year warranty.
- Fitted sheets with elastic bands that run across the entire length of the sheet
- With a few inches extra on all sides to ensure a perfect fit for any brand mattress
- Ample ten-year warranty
Our Top Pick for Non-percale Cotton Sheets: Brooklinen Luxe Core
- Egyptian cotton/Indian cotton blend
- 480 thread count
- Includes: 1 fitted sheet, one flat sheet, and two pillowcases
- Colors: 11 colors and patterns
- Available in: Twin, Twin XL, Full, Queen, King, Cali King
- 15-inch pocket depth
Cotton sheets are available in a wide range of prices, with options ranging from sub 50 bucks to premium offerings that can set you back several thousand. However, high-end cotton sheets with decent pricing is an even more contested category, and here, the Brooklinen Luxe Core stands head and shoulders above everything else.
This set of sheets sports a unique build that features a blend of Egyptian and Indian cotton for an elegant, breathable fabric that sleeps cool every time. The Luxe also boasts an impressive 480 thread count that promises enhanced comfort and superior durability.
- Decently priced premium sheets
- With envelope closure pillowcases
- Super comfy 480 thread count
- Satisfaction guarantee, with free replacements
Our Top Pick for Budget Sheets Option: Mellanni Bed Sheet Set
- 100% Brushed Microfiber (polyester)
- Fade, stain, and wrinkle resistant
- 33 different colors and patterns
- Available in: Twin, Twin XL, Full, Queen, King, California King, and Split King
When it comes to budget sheet options, few offerings can hold a candle to the unique offering that is the Mellanni Bed Sheet Set. A velvety soft brush polyester build, with fade, stain, and wrinkle resistance as well as hypoallergenic properties, is a deal too good to pass up at this price point.
At its sub $30 pricing, it is no surprise that the Mellanni Bed Sheet Set is the current top seller on Amazon in the sheets category.
Furthermore, the sheets come with generous sizing and a lifetime guarantee. However, with polyester, you do lose some of the breathability of natural cotton, and the sheets could sleep hot in extreme situations.
- Eye-catching pricing
- Soft, luxurious feel
- Lifetime guarantee