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When it comes to buying bed sheets, you might think there’s only one thing that really matters: feel. Well, yes, that’s important, but what you might not realize is that there’s a lot that goes into what our sheets feel like, including the material, weave, and thread count. All of those factors play key roles in helping us decide which sheets are right for us. If you’re shopping for cotton sheets, there’s a good chance you’re looking for something very specific: cotton percale, one of the most common types of bedding in the United States.
Why are cotton percale sheets so popular? They’re crisp, breathable, and feel cool to the touch, making them ideal for people who tend to sleep hot or reside where nights are warm. (In fact, many of the sheet sets in our list of The Best Cooling Sheets are cotton percale.) Plus, the smooth crispness of the sheets make you feel like you’re sleeping in a luxe hotel bed every night.
We tested a slew of cotton percale sheets in a range of price points, thread counts, and even colors to come up with a list of our very favorites. Apartment Therapy editors slept on them for several weeks to determine how comfortable the sheets were and put them through several cycles in the washer and dryer to see if their softness and durability changed over time. Below are our picks for the best cotton percale sheets you can buy right now.
The Best Cotton Percale Sheets
What to Consider Before Buying Cotton Percale Sheets
If you’re researching cotton percale sheets, you’ll want to make sure you understand what exactly that distinction means.
Percale and sateen refer to the weave of the fabric. Sleepopolis has a really good explainer about the differences between the two weaves, but the most important thing to know is that the percale weave (threads woven “one-over-one-under” in a uniform pattern) is characterized by a matte finish and crisp handfeel, while the sateen weave (typically “three-over-one-under”) is recognizable by a shinier finish and silky-smooth feel. The difference in weaves results in percale sheets that are cool to the touch, lightweight, and breathable, while sateen sheets tend to be slightly heavier and warmer.
Percale sheets are also, for lack of a better word, crinkly. They’re so crisp that they can make noise as you move about in them (think of a nicely pressed button-down shirt or fancy hotel sheets). However, high-quality percale sheets get softer as you use and wash them.
When it comes to cotton, you’ll see terms like “long-staple” and “Egyptian cotton.” But what do those things mean? Each cotton plant is made up of thousands of tiny fibers, and the quality of those fibers is determined by their length, or “staple.” Short-staple fibers are under 1 1/8 inches long, long-staple fibers are at least 1 1/4 inches long, and extra-long-staple are 2 inches and above. The longer the staple, the better the quality and higher the strength. Products made with longer-staple cotton won’t pill or tear as much and they often become softer over time.
Now, let’s take a look at the most popular types of cotton used to make sheets:
American Upland: This is the most common type of cotton produced in the U.S., often used to make flannel, jeans, and sheets. If the brand doesn’t specify, it’s most likely Upland. It’s inexpensive and typically comprised of short-staple fibers.
Pima or Supima: A high-end type of cotton, pima cotton has long-staple fibers and is known for its durability and smooth finish. Supima cotton is the trademarked marketing name for pima cotton, which is produced in the U.S. and has extra-long-staple fibers.
Egyptian: You probably associate Egyptian cotton with luxury — and you’re right. Egyptian cotton is the most well-known extra-long-staple type of cotton and it’s known for its long-lasting quality, soft feel, and accompanying higher price tag.
When shopping for sheets, you’ll notice most brands tout a thread count, which refers to the measure of how many threads are woven into one square inch of fabric. It’s meant to give you an idea of quality, but don’t be fooled — a higher thread count does NOT mean higher quality. Brands tend to inflate thread count numbers to trick consumers, when in reality there’s not much difference between a 400 and 800 thread count. What’s actually much more important is high-quality, longer-staple cotton, woven at a minimum 200 thread count (ideal is anywhere between 200-500) — anything lower will be susceptible to tearing, and anything very high is suspect.
What We Look For in Cotton Percale Sheets
We tested a wide range of cotton percale sheets, judging them on the following criteria:
Note: All prices listed are for Queen size.
The Best Cotton Percale Sheets
So what is it about Brooklinen’s Percale Sheets that landed them at the very top of our list (for the second year in a row, we might add)? “These sheets truly make getting out of bed a challenge — that’s how darn comfortable they are,” says AT contributor Jasmine, who put them to the test. Though they have a bit of weight to them, these 270-thread-count sheets are completely breathable, making them ideal for both hot and cold nights. And while the sheets are already soft to the touch, they get even better with each wash, developing a sort of lived-in quality. “What I love most is the hotel-like crispness from these sheets, which I’ve only ever experienced when I’m vacationing somewhere fancy,” adds Jasmine. To round out how awesome they are, the sheets have “long” and “short” side labels, taking the guesswork out of the eternally confusing task of making the bed on laundry day. Plus, for those who love a little pattern in their lives, these sheets are available in fun prints, in addition to classic solids. Keep an eye out for Brooklinen’s limited-edition colors — they tend to sell out fast, but the brand typically launches new ones every season.
Who It’s Best For: Those who want to invest in durable, luxe sheets but don’t want to spend a ton; those who want to take their sheets for a full test sleep-and-wash before committing, as Brooklinen’s generous return policy allows for that.
Good to Know: Not into using top sheets? You can save money by buying a Starter set that includes just the fitted sheet and pillowcases.
The Macy’s Martha Stewart Collection continues to make its way onto AT’s Best List. We’ve already named the collection’s super-soft reversible down alternative comforter one of the best picks out there and we’re (shamelessly) just as in love with the range’s Egyptian cotton percale sheet set, perfect for building a hotel-quality bed on a budget. AT commerce executive director Mark tried these sheets for himself and was thoroughly impressed, especially given how wallet-friendly they were. “Sleeping in these sheets almost feels indulgent, and it’s hard to believe they don’t come with a hefty price tag,” he says. As someone who admittedly doesn’t like to spend a lot on sheets, Mark said this set made him a believer in percale — all without breaking the bank. “The Martha Stewart Collection Cotton Percale Set from Macy’s turned out to be the best affordable option I’ve found so far, and I’m never going back.” Made from 100 percent Egyptian cotton, the sheets are luxuriously soft, yet crisp without that crunchy feel some percale sheets tend to have. They also kept Mark cool and comfortable, even as the weather started to warm up, and have “only gotten softer with each wash, yet somehow have maintained a bit of a crisp quality.” This set comes in five dreamy colors including Pale Indigo, Milky Green, and Dove Grey. Another great thing about these sheets is that they’re almost always on sale, so the chances of you snagging them at a discounted rate are pretty high.
Who It’s Best For: Those who want an entry-level price tag for high-quality sheets; those who need a deep fitted sheet to fit over mattress pads or toppers.
Good to Know: Macy’s is the only retailer to sell this brand — and it’s currently on major sale.
For the delightfully luxe feeling of slipping into a fancy hotel bed, look no further than the percale set from Parachute. Made in Portugal from 100 percent long-staple Egyptian cotton (i.e., the best of the best), these sheets are smooth and soft right from the start, while still having that classic percale crispness. “If you’ve never tried percale sheets before and are hesitant about the crunch factor, these sheets should be in your cart,” says AT contributor Olivia, who loved that they’re cozy but still lightweight and breathable. Impeccably made with a beautiful matte finish, this set is available in neutral colorways like cream and sand, as well as soft earth tones like clay and putty. Although Parachute’s percale sheets can be a bit of a splurge, they’re well worth the price tag, insists Olivia. “I expect them to last a long time and withstand a lot, from the dogs that love to lay on my bed to the many washes I have to put them through as a result.” The initial investment doesn’t seem as daunting when you can expect them to just keep getting better with time.
Who It’s Best For: Those looking to invest in super-soft, luxe bedding that will last a long time.
Good to Know: This set is also available without a top sheet for $144. Additionally, there’s the Venice Set, which includes a duvet cover, a fitted sheet, two pillowcases, and an optional top sheet.
*Honorable Mention: Snowe’s percale sheets, which come in four neutral hues, are nothing short of fabulous. Ultra crisp and airy, these 500-thread-count sheets are the closest you’ll get to hotel bedding without spending hundreds of dollars.
For the eco- and ethical-minded shopper, Boll & Branch checks all the boxes. The company uses only 100 percent organic fabrics (which reduces water usage by 90 percent and reduces the effects of harmful pesticides on the environment and consumers); reduces its carbon footprint by shipping its products by boat; and also pays living wages to its factory workers. On top of all that, the Boll & Branch Percale Hemmed Sheets are luxuriously soft and will make you feel like you’re in the hotel bed of your dreams. AT contributor Stella simply “LOVED these sheets” for how pristine they looked and felt. “These sheets are for the person who wants that hotel-sheet feel; a set of sheets that stays clean-feeling and crisp.” And even though crisp percale sheets can tend to wrinkle more than other types of sheets, Stella says that even after a couple washes, these felt “less wrinkled than other percale sheets I have tried.” With seven chic colorways in a muted palette, from white to pewter to mineral, and a simple hem stitching on the pillowcases and top sheet, these sheets exude sophistication all the way.
Who It’s Best For: Those who don’t mind spending a bit more for peace of mind that their sheets are from sustainable and ethical sources; those who want a super clean, tailored look.
Good to Know: Boll & Branch earned the accolade of the first Fair Trade certified manufacturer of linens.
*Honorable Mention: For a set that’s just a bit more affordable (and that’s on sale right now), the West Elm 400-Thread-Count Organic Percale Pleated Edge Sheet Set is also made of 100 percent GOTS certified organic cotton in a Fair Trade Certified factory. Plus, they have a pleated hem detail that Mark says “makes them feel so fancy.”
For hot sleepers, the struggle is real to find sheets that keep you from waking up in a sweat. And although choosing percale sheets certainly points you in the right direction, not all sheets are created equal. The Drumi Sheet Set forever changed assistant shopping editor Britt’s approach to bedding, opening her eyes to how sweet sleep can be when you’ve found the right set of sheets. “You know when you take your first bite of a specific food and know immediately that you won’t remember what life was like before it? That’s what it felt like to get in bed with Drumi’s percale sheets for the first time,” she says. Smooth and soft right out of the box, these breathable, cooling sheets kept Britt’s temperature regulated all night long. Better yet, they continued to get softer with each wash. “I’ve never slept more comfortably in my own bed. I got that restful, uninterrupted sleep that only seems to come when I’m in a hotel,” she raves. “I’m sold!” Drumi fitted sheets also have the thoughtful detail of long and short side labels — which we at AT are big fans of.
Who It’s Best For: Those who tend to overheat when they sleep; those who don’t mind a little flair on the sheet (a shell detail is embroidered on the top corner of the flat sheet).
Good to Know: That shell detail is a nod to Drumi’s mission to support oceanic health and wildlife: For every sheet set purchase, a part of the proceeds are donated to the Coral Restoration Foundation in Curacao, the founders’ home country. The company is also committed to being a sustainable, Fair Trade manufacturer, and uses no plastic in its packaging.
*Honorable Mention: Luxury bedding brand Kassatex’s percale sheets are 60 percent Tencel Lyocell, a fiber made from sustainably grown and processed eucalyptus that is super breathable and great at wicking moisture — thus, perfect for hot sleepers. The combination of Tencel with long-staple cotton makes these sheets feel like a cloud, so they’re great for anyone on the fence about how crunchy percale sheets can feel. “The sheets are just the right balance of crisp and soft, and they kept me cool throughout the night,” Britt says. “Plus, they’re so lightweight that it was just natural to snuggle into them to let any stress melt away. I felt like I was on vacation in my own bedroom!”
Part of Crane & Canopy’s Luxe Percale Collection, this bright white bedding set will turn you into a sheet snob. At least that’s what happened to managing editor Terri Pous. “In my entire life, I’ve never had strong opinions about my sheets,” she says, “but after trying these ones, I do.” For starters, they don’t have that “crinkly” issue that usually comes with percale sheets. These arrived soft as silk and just got even softer after washing, says Terri. And while she was wary of the “cooling” claim that comes along with percale sheets, “it always feels refreshing getting into bed,” she says. Another plus? After several washes, the sheets have maintained their durability and their gorgeous bright white color. “Not only that, but they just look nice,” says Terri. “My bed looks very adult, crisp, and clean with these.”
Who It’s Best For: Those who want an ultra-crisp look and a silky feel.
Good to Know: The Bright White color in this Luxe collection is different from the soft white color used in the main collection. Be sure to purchase from the Luxe collection for matching whites.
Riley’s percale sheets also gave the Drumi set a run for its money for the ‘Best Cooling’ category. They’re crisp but not too crinkly; soft and lightweight but with a little heft; and above all else, they keep hot sleepers cool and comfortable. “I found these sheets to be lightweight and breathable, and I’ve yet to wake up sweating or in a panic,” says Olivia. “I would highly recommend these sheets to hot sleepers or anyone seeking airy, comfortable bedding.” Not one to stick with classic white bedding? Riley stands out for the bold colorways and patterns available (from warm red Spice to turquoise Deep Lagoon to Navy Pinstripe), as well as finishing touches like baratta stitching on the flat sheet and pillowcases. Another favorite detail: The pillowcases have side-envelope closures, ensuring pillows stay securely tucked in and pillowcases don’t shift and slide.
Who It’s Best For: Those who want bolder color choices; those who enjoy the feeling of crisp, cool sheets.
Good to Know: This set doesn’t come with a top sheet, so if you want one, don’t forget to specifically add it to your order for $70 more.