Percale Sheets Fact Sheet
“Percale” likely comes from the Persian word “pargalah,” meaning “rag.” However, these sheets are far from rag-like. Woven on looms, early types of percale were exported to other lands from India. This method of production caught the attention of French textile manufacturers who realized the benefits of the weave pattern and began to market their own fabrics made from a variety of fibers. Fast forward a few centuries, and today percale is readily available in quality bed sheets.
A series of vertical and horizontal threads woven one at a time sets percale apart from other fabric weaves. Fabric with this weave feels the same on both sides and the tighter the weave, the smoother the sheets feel. To qualify as authentic percale in the United States, percale sheets must have a minimum of 180 threads running in one direction per square inch. The thread count may read as 180 TC on the bed sheet package. The higher the thread count, the better the sheet quality.
Although cotton is the favored fiber for percale sheets because of how it breathes, its dense threads may also cause the fabric to wrinkle more if the thread count is more than 400. To reduce wrinkles, the makers of percale sheets may add a percentage of a wrinkle-resistant fiber, such as polyester or silk, to improve the quality of the sheet.
The percale weave is durable and smooth to the touch. Percale sheets may feel softer after each washing. Even after years of use, these sheets still resist pilling, especially in thread counts over 400. One hundred percent cotton percale sheets feel cool and crisp against the skin, which is especially beneficial during warm weather. Light colors may feel softer as some dark dyes can add to sheet stiffness.
Percale bed sheets range in price depending on the type of cotton fiber used and the density of the thread count, but expect to spend somewhere between $40 and $70 for a full sheet set. Egyptian cotton and Pima cotton feature long fiber strands, which enables a higher thread count due to their strength. These sheets are generally more expensive than regular cotton or a poly-cotton blend and have a smooth, silky feel. Poly-cotton percale blends are readily available between 200 and 400 TC and are typically less than $40 per set.
Wash percale sheets in warm water with a mild soap or according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Avoid using bleach, which may weaken fibers and reduce longevity. Separate the sheets from other clothing items that may damage them during the washing and drying cycles, including anything with zippers or hooks. To reduce wrinkling, tumble dry, remove, and fold the sheets promptly when dry. You may iron percale sheets if you wish. Expect percale sheets to shrink by up to 2 percent after their first laundering.
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