When shopping for luxurious bed sheets, percale and linen fabrics are top choices loved for their crisp smooth feel. But what’s the difference between these two fabrics? How do you choose which is better? Below we’ll closely compare percale and linen sheets on all the factors that matter for a comfortable night’s sleep.
What is Percale?
Percale refers to a closely woven, thin plain weave fabric with a matte finish. The fine yarns and tight weave create a lightweight sheet with a smooth, crisp feel. Cotton is the most common fiber used to make percale, although you can also find percale sheets made from other materials like microfiber. Quality percale sheets feel cool, breathable and smooth against the skin.
What is Linen?
Linen is fabric woven from the fibers of the flax plant. It’s valued for its natural sheen, lightweight breathability, and textured slubs that impart a casual elegance. High quality linen is exceptionally durable and becomes softer over time. Linen is hygroscopic meaning it absorbs moisture well. So linen sheets tend to sleep cool in warm conditions but feel cozy in cold temperatures.
Percale vs Linen: Key Differences
While both fabrics make exceptional sheets, there are a few key differences:
Percale has a matte, smooth surface while linen has more texture and visible weave slubs that give it a more rustic, artisanal appearance.
Cotton percale feels crisp and cool. Linen feels a bit thicker, more textured and develops softness over time.
Linen is more durable, outlasting cotton by years. It resists pilling.
Percale sheets are machine washable. Linen requires gentler laundering by hand or on a delicate cycle.
Linen sheets are pricier than percale since they are labor-intensive to manufacture. But percale spans a wider range of budgets.
Percale excels in hot weather, and linen in cool weather. But both regulate temperature year-round.
Pros and Cons of Percale Sheets
Percale sheets offer many advantages along with a few downsides:
- Smooth, crisp, cool feel
- Light, breathable weave
- Easy care – machine wash and dry
- Durable with proper care
- Resists wrinkles and shrinking
- Affordable price point
- Suitable for all seasons
- Can wrinkle more than linen
- Not as durable as linen long-term
- Pills with age
- Requires ironing for crispness
- Not as environmentally friendly as linen
Pros and Cons of Linen Sheets
Linen sheets also have unique benefits and a few detriments:
- Softens over time into sublime softness
- Extremely durable for years of use
- Environmentally friendly and biodegradable
- Natural temperature regulating properties
- Absorbs moisture well, stays dry
- Resists dust mites and allergens
- Gets softer wash after wash
- Has elegant drape and sheen
- Wrinkles easily requires ironing
- Expensive price point
- Requires gentle laundering
- Natural slubs may feel rougher at first
- Gradual pilling over lifetime
- Can shrink if dried improperly
Percale vs Linen Sheets: Comparing Key Factors
Let’s closely compare some of the top factors you’ll want to consider when choosing between percale and linen sheets:
Both percale and linen are exceptionally breathable fabrics that allow airflow. This makes each effective at regulating body temperature. The tighter weave of percale makes it feel slightly airier next to skin. But both rate as very breathable and comfortable for year-round use.
Linen sheets are known for their extreme durability and longevity. Quality linen sheets often last for decades. Percale sheets gradually pill and thin over years of use. While still durable, most need to be replaced sooner than finely made linen sheets.
Crisp smooth percale has an ultra-soft, silky feel against the skin right out of the packaging. Linen feels thicker and rougher at first. But after several washes, linen develops a sublime suppleness and luster that no cotton can match.
One of percale’s perks is it can be machine washed and dried with minimal ironing, retaining a crisp feel. Linen requires more delicate laundering and air drying to avoid shrinking. Wrinkles fall out easily in percale; linen requires more ironing.
Pure linen sheets cost significantly more than percale due to the labor involved in producing flax linen. But there is a wide range of budgets for both. 200-thread count percale sheets cost $50-$150 while linen starts around $200 and can surpass $500+ for heirloom sets.
Both fabrics help keep sleepers cool in summer and insulated in winter, with percale feeling a touch cooler next to skin. However, linen is more hygroscopic meaning it absorbs more ambient moisture, keeping sleep drier. For year-round comfort, it’s hard to top linen.
How to Choose Between Percale vs Linen Sheets
When deciding between these two exceptional sheet fabrics, consider these criteria:
- Budget – For most affordable, opt for percale
- Easy care – Percale if you prefer machine washing and drying
- Softness – Linen will eventually achieve unparalleled softness
- Durability – Linen stands the test of time over decades
- Breathability – Percale and linen are close; both excellent
- Temperature regulation – Linen has the edge for year-round comfort
- Moisture absorption – Linen wins for whisking moisture away
- Aesthetic – Percale for smooth luxury, linen for textured depth
Think about which features hold the most importance for you as a sleeper and let that point toward percale or linen as your ideal sheet investment.
Percale vs Linen Sheets: Which is Better?
When it comes to percale vs linen sheets, no clear winner emerges as better across the board. The fabric you choose comes down to your priorities and preferences as a shopper and sleeper. Both bring quality advantages. Often the best solution is mixing both in your bedding collection – crisp percale sheets topped with cozy linen duvet for the best of both worlds!
Percale and Linen Sheet FAQs:
Below are answers to some common reader questions about percale and linen sheets:
Is percale or linen cooler for summer?
Percale has a slightly cooler feel straight out of the package. But linen absorbs more moisture, keeping summer nights drier. Both regulate temperature beautifully.
Which is better for sensitive skin, percale or linen?
Most sleepers find both fabrics very soft against skin right away. But some report linen’s texture bothering sensitive skin at first. Percale may be the safer option for very sensitive types.
Are linen sheets high maintenance?
More so than percale sheets. Linen requires gentle laundering and air drying instead of machine washing and drying to prevent shrinking. But the longevity makes it worth it!
Do linen sheets soften over time?
Absolutely! While linen has a rougher texture at first, after about 20 washes, the fibers release their natural oils and the sheets achieve dreamy softness.
Is 300 thread count percale or linen better?
This mainly signifies how thick and dense the weave is. For luxurious lightweight breathability, 200-300 percale and 100-150 linen are ideal. But density alone doesn’t make the superior sheet.
Which pill faster, percale or linen sheets?
All sheets gradually pill with friction and wash cycles. But linen is far more resistant to pilling than even quality percale over decades of use.
Which is better for a duvet cover – linen or percale?
The Final Takeaway
Percale and linen sheets each have their advantages. Percale provides crisp smoothness that’s affordable and low maintenance. Linen offers unparalleled longevity, luxury softness and temperature regulation. Often having both in your linen closet makes sense for tailoring sheets to seasons, style and mood. Mix and match these high-end fabrics for the ultimate dream bed!