Cotton and sateen sheets offer different features and benefits. Both have advantages that appeal to certain groups, depending on whether they are looking for comfort or style. In general, sheets with a higher thread count feel smoother to the skin.
Most people sleep on cotton or cotton-blend sheets prized for their inexpensive price and durability, even through frequent washings with detergent and chlorine bleach. Cotton is a natural fabric that feels cool and natural against the skin. Cotton sheets are comfortable and crisp when freshly laundered.
Most cotton sheets have a thread count of 120 to 180 per inch. This strength is considered rough to the touch, compared to a sheet with a higher thread count, such as Egyptian cotton, which can contain 400 or more threads per inch. Egyptian cotton sheets can cost as much as $500, compared to $39 for a lower-quality cotton set. Percale cotton sheets are a plain weave fabric in that the threads cross one another one at a time. This plain weave provides the durability cotton sheets are known for.
Sateen sheets have a weave construction that exposes more yarn surface on the face of the cloth than other basic weaves, giving a softer feel and more lustrous look. While sateen sheets are made of cotton, they have a luster like satin, because of filler threads added to the overall count for additional tactile feel.
Sateen sheets are washable and more durable than satin, with a smooth feel. The feel of sateen is luxuriant on the skin, and sateen is often used for women’s undergarments. For others, the feel of sateen is irritating, as sateen causes some people to perspire excessively, and wet skin sticks to sateen sheets. Since sateen sheets hold heat, it makes them good bed linens in cold weather.
Sateen sheets are slippery, especially if the bed’s occupant is wearing silk or satin nightclothes. It can be hard to even slightly adjust your position on the sheets, and major turnovers can be challenging.
Sateen for Style
Because of their rich look and their feel of silk satin, people who want a sensual look prefer sateen bed linens, which are washable and more durable than silk satin. Sateen sheets are more expensive than percale cotton sheets, but they offer distinct design advantages and comfort over cotton or cotton-blend sheets.
Marla Currie has written professionally since 1995. She is editor and publisher of The Urban Shopper, an online magazine whose consumerist content is targeted to Black and Latino females. In addition to short fiction, Currie is author of "The Humours of Black Life," a nonfiction work. She has a master's degree in advertising.