We Tested the 6 Best Percale Sheets and Found a Definitive Favorite
It’s lightweight and has a subtle sheen.
Published Jul 23, 2021 6:00 PM
If you’re on the hunt for bedding that’s favored by interior designers, allow us to introduce you to percale sheets. Classic and cool (literally), they’re the perfect choice if you tend to sleep hot at night and favor a slightly relaxed look. “They take on a very natural kind of luxury,” says interior stylist Colin King. Percale bedding crinkles a little and is known for its crisp feel, but that’s how it keeps you comfortable at night. The light weave allows for exceptional airflow, and after you sleep on a set, it’s hard to go back to anything else. “Think about sliding into a fancy hotel bed,” explains interior stylist and author Emily Henderson. “Percale has that perfect amount of silkiness and an awesome cool feeling.”
So if you’re in the market for new bedding (or are sweltering through a heat wave right now), read on to discover our picks for the best percale sheets. Not only will you sleep better, you’ll give your bedroom an effortless style upgrade, too.
- Best overall: Parachute Percale Sheet Set
- Best value: Linen Home 100 Percent Cotton Percale Sheet Set
- Best long-staple cotton: Riley Percale Sheet Set
- Best splurge: Matteo Tru Sheet Set
- Best organic: Coyuchi 300 Thread Count Percale Sheet Set
- Best colors: The Company Store Company Cotton Percale Sheet Set
A Few Things to Keep in Mind
Weave: The threads in percale sheets have a one-over-one weave. This results in a fresh matte sheet that’s cool to the touch (not unlike the texture of an oxford shirt) and moisture wicking. “Think of percale as a screen in a window: The air is able to transfer across with little resistance,” explains Erum Ilyas, M.D., of Schweiger Dermatology Group, who recommends percale sheets to patients who suffer from night sweats, skin irritation, and breakouts. If you want something that has a light and airy look and feel, percale is probably the right option for you. “It’s a classic in the realm of clean, crisp summer beds,” says King.
Material: The raw materials and processing techniques that are used to create percale sheets have a big impact on how they feel. You definitely don’t have to spend a fortune to get nice percale sheets, but there’s a noticeable difference when they’re constructed from cotton (a natural material) versus polyester (a synthetic material). That’s why all of our picks are 100 percent cotton: It is more breathable and softer and will last longer if cared for properly.
That said, all percale bedding, due to its weave, will feel cool and maybe even make a subtle but audible “crunch” sound. This isn’t for everyone, but those who love percale love percale. The material won’t hug your body like sateen (a silkier weave) or even linen (a material made from the flax plant) does. Instead it will cover you lightly, preserve pockets of air in the bed, and feel almost weightless against your skin.
Thread count: Thread count refers to the number of threads per square inch in a fabric. It’s one metric—but not the only metric—for judging a sheet’s value. For percale sheets, you want to look for a minimum thread count of 180. But don’t be fooled by marketing that touts a high thread count in order to charge you a high price. For percale, which should be airy above all else, packing an excessive amount of threads into a square inch will only weigh down the material and make it heavier; anything above 300 to 400 will likely impact breathability. Also keep in mind that packing in more threads doesn’t make a sheet more luxurious if the threads are synthetic or of poor quality.
Much more important than thread count is the quality of the materials, along with how the sheets are made. Eileen Mockus, CEO of organic bedding brand Coyuchi, says that rather than look at thread count, buyers should consider the fiber content (natural versus synthetic materials) and how the sheets feel. If you want a heavier drape at night, maybe choose a silky sateen or knit jersey weave instead of percale.
Care: You should always read and follow the care instructions on any bedding or garments you invest in. That said, most people make the same three mistakes when it comes to washing cotton sheets: using hot water, adding fabric softeners, and pouring too much detergent into the washing machine.
First, start with about a third or a fourth of the amount of detergent you’d normally use—and make sure it’s a gentle or plant-based one, such as the formula by Grove Collaborative. This is because, as Illyas explains, bedsheets can easily become tangled inside the drum of the machine, making it hard for all of the suds to fully rinse off, which can cause skin irritation. Then make sure your water temperature is set to cold or warm. “Over time, hot water can aggravate and break down the fibers of the sheets. Laundering without heat helps them stay like new longer,” explains Mockus.
Lastly, line drying is almost universally recommended, but using the gentle cycle on your dryer with low heat will work, too. If you do hang your sheets to dry outside, the sun will naturally bleach them, which is handy since you shouldn’t actually bleach your sheets. Dryer sheets and fabric softeners will break down the integrity of your bedding, so it’s best to stay away from them, too. Percale can get wrinkly, so some suggest ironing your sheets directly on your bed with high heat and steam when they’re just out of the dryer and slightly damp. (Sheets in a hotel are typically ironed.)
All of that said, the weave of percale sheets is incredibly strong, making them an ideal pick if you’re like Henderson and don’t want to fuss with your bedding too much. “I look at the label to make sure there are no big no-nos and then throw them into the washing machine and dryer,” she says. Just make sure to dial down the heat.
Our Top Picks
Best Overall: Parachute Percale Sheet Set
We could tell Parachute’s percale sheets were something special right out of the box. While most percale is matte, this set had the subtlest sheen; once unpacked and laundered, the fabric was so soft it almost felt like velvet without the fuzz. Still it managed to be lightweight and supremely breathable—all of the characteristics that make percale magical. Placed on the bed, the sheets looked sumptuous and, like fine linen, had a slightly rumpled but still regal look.
These sheets are made from genuine Egyptian cotton that’s grown along the Nile River Valley region; like all of Parachute’s textiles, they’re woven at a family-owned factory in northern Portugal that Ariel Kaye, the brand’s founder, handpicked for its commitment to blending traditional weaving techniques with modern technology. The set is also Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certified, which means that “it meets the highest standards for testing for harmful chemicals and synthetics,” explains Kaye. “We don’t artificially soften our fabrics.” All of this, combined with the fact that the sheets are garment washed, creates perfectly supple percale bedding that wrinkles only slightly and feels like silk without any of the fuss.
The set is available in six sizes, including twin XL and California king; eight neutral hues (with a new geometric print dropping in late August); the option to bundle with or without a top sheet; and back-envelope closures on each pillowcase to ensure your pillows never pop out. If you ask us, this is one of the best offerings on the market, period.
Best Value: Linen Home 100 Percent Cotton Percale Sheet Set
If you’re looking to update your bed with percale sheets but don’t want to spend a ton, Linen Home’s set is a great option. Made with 100 percent long-staple cotton, this four-piece, 200-thread-count pick will give you all the luxuries of percale, from looks to feel. The 15-inch, deep-pocket fitted sheet will stay put throughout the night, and the flat sheet and pillowcases have a Z-hem, a nice decorative touch not usually found at this price point. The sheets are also Oeko-Tex Standard 100 and Sedex certified, the latter of which affirms that the product is made with fair labor standards and ethically sourced materials.
So go ahead and choose one (or two) of the brand’s 16 color options (oh, hey, taupe and sage!). You can drift to sleep as cool as a cucumber knowing that not only are you sleeping on a quality set of sheets but you didn’t break the bank.
Best Long-Staple Cotton: Riley Percale Sheet Set
Long-staple cotton is prized for many reasons: It is softer, lasts longer, has better color retention, rarely pills, and attracts less lint. That’s why you see it touted by top bedding brands and can depend on it for a sophisticated and polished look. This percale sheet set, which is woven from long-staple cotton, proved to check all of these boxes and then some. On the crispness scale, it fell squarely in the middle, not stiff but also not overly soft, with a comfort that reminded us of the sheets at our grandparents’ house growing up: well made but not fussy. The tone-on-tone baratta stitch on the flat sheet and pillowcases is a special touch that those who are detail-oriented will appreciate, and the pillowcases also feature a side-envelope closure. Even after a few washes, our set still looked new.
These linens are Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certified and crafted in Portugal at a family-owned textile mill that has been producing quality materials for generations. The brand’s name is a play on the saying “the life of Riley,” meaning someone who leads a charmed life—and when you sleep in these sheets, you’ll be embodying exactly that.
Best Splurge: Matteo Tru Sheet Set
It can be hard to justify spending more on sheets when there are so many affordable options out there. But Los Angeles–based brand Matteo has garnered a reputation among top interior designers as one of the best bedding brands in the business for a reason: The attention to detail is almost unparalleled. Matteo’s bedding is made from top-quality raw materials and cut and sewn right in their L.A. factory by longtime employees who take their craft very seriously—and it shows. The 400-thread-count Tru sheet set is made to order using a thin 100-single-cotton yarn, and all pieces in a set are dyed in the same batch to avoid any color variations. The single yarn is unique for percale at such a high thread count, as anything over 300 is rare for the weave and generally means that a brand has “folded the thread over itself to create a two-ply weave,” explains Logan Foley, managing editor at Sleep Foundation. “This doesn’t create a higher quality fabric, as it’s still the same number of threads.”
As far as feel, this is the “truest” percale we tested—an excellent pick for any hot sleeper. It kept us comfortable, almost hovered over us as we slept, and had a crispness and slight crunch. At the same time, it laid beautifully on the bed; even the wrinkles seemed intentional for that alluring laid-back look that we’ve all come to appreciate in our favorite linen bedding.
Best Organic: Coyuchi 300 Thread Count Percale Sheet Set
If you’re looking for a percale option that’s warm but breathable, luxurious but truly sustainable, this set should be your top pick. Crafted from 100 percent organic cotton that’s grown and woven in India, Coyuchi’s staple percale set felt cool and looked even cooler on our bed in the brand’s signature “undyed” color, a soft, pretty beige. The pillowcases and flat sheet have a generous 7-inch hem to help retain shape, and the fabric only got softer after a few washes while still retaining percale’s characteristic starched texture—the mark of high-end bedding.
The California-based company is one of the only players in the bedding game that’s organic from start to finish and employs textile experts alongside designers. It’s also GOTS certified (a step above Oeko-Tex Standard 100), Fair Trade certified, and Made Safe. Every step of the supply chain is verified and traceable to meet strict ecological and social criteria; no harmful toxins are used in its bedding; and the people who source and make the products are treated and paid fairly. Bonus: The sheets come in reusable organic bags—no plastic here!—which also make great weekend or beach totes.
Best Colors: The Company Store Company Cotton Percale Sheet Set
With a whopping 25 colorways to choose from, the Company Store’s percale sheet set offers the unique opportunity to mix and match bold and neutral shades that will complement any decor or mood. It ticks all of the boxes of a good percale, washes well (no color fading!), and feels soft and cozy with little to no heft or weight. Made from combed cotton (a technique that removes impurities and short fibers from the crop, creating a softer raw material), these sheets are also Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certified. They’re an excellent choice for those who want to have fun with their interiors but also invest in quality bedding that’ll last a long time.
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