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What Is Percale Bedding?

Ask most people what percale sheets are and they will tell you they are a blend of polyester and cotton.  Maybe that was the case some years back, but today percale is as likely to be 100% cotton as a cotton-polyester blend.  Check the packaging for the fiber content before purchasing.  Most prefer the 100% cotton bedding.

Percale Bedding Colors

The Smooth Satin Look of Percale Sheets

Percale Sheets offer a smooth satiny look

Percale is one of the more interesting fabrics for bedding.  One would assume that if blue percale sheets, for example, we purchased, the sheets were made of woven blue threads.  Well, not so fast.  That is not how percale gets its color.  In fact, percale starts our looking rather dull.  The bedding is woven from cotton or cotton blend fabric that is a dull grey color.  There is no dye in percale at the time of weaving.  The correct term for percale sheets at the time of weaving is greycloth.

300 Thread Count Percale

Example of 300 Thread Count Percale

After the percale bedding is woven, the color we choose when we make a purchase is sprayed onto the fabric.  If you have doubts, look at the top side of a percale sheet that has a pattern.  Then look at the bottom side.  You will notice that the top pattern is distinct and colorful.  The underside of the percale sheet is a solid color, only allowing the pattern to be barely discernible through the fabric on the bottom side.

Perhaps, that is one of the reasons the patterned side, the top, often fades more quickly than one would expect, even with proper care.  It is important to remember that washing in cold water and drying in a cool dryer is of particular importance when washing percale to keep it fresh and help retain the colors.

Percale:  Thread Count or Weight?

Percale is a woven cotton or cotton-polyester blend that is qualified by thread count.  Percale should be counted the same as any woven cotton sheet, including Egyptian cotton.

Of importance when purchasing by thread count, bedding that advertises a thread count of over 400 usually costs more but offers no additional comfort.  Once sheets reach the 380 thread count, manufacturers have a tendency to begin using twisted threads to gain higher thread counts.

Colorful 300 Thread Count Percale Sheets

Colorful 300 Thread Count Percale Sheets

In other words, a sheet that has a 200 thread count has 100 threads running vertically and 100 threads running horizontally per square inch.  A 400 count sheet may have the same number of 100 visible strands running horizontally and 100 running vertically, to the naked eye.  To reach the higher thread count many manufacturers will twist two threads together to make a single strand.  Yet, the single strand will be made up of 2 threads, making the fabric thicker and heavier.

What You Should Know About Percale:

  • Can be 100% cotton or a cotton-polyester blend
  • The color is sprayed onto the fabric after weaving rather than using dyed threads
  • Patterned percale bedding has the print or design on one side of the sheet
  • Have a tendency to fade quicker because of the application of the color
  • Quality is determined by thread count.  (Over 400 has a diminishing quality for fineness of threads in most cases.)