What is Cotton Sateen and What is it Used For?

If you’ve ever bought new bedsheets and wondered exactly what you’re getting, you’re not alone. Satin, cotton, Egyptian cotton, linen, cotton sateen… who knew so many different materials could be used to create the same thing? At least with cotton and satin, most of us have a pretty good idea of what we’ll be getting. But what’s with cotton sateen? Is it cotton? Satin? A bit of both? Is than better than one or worse than both? And what exactly can you do with it except turn it into bed linen?

What is Cotton Sateen?

First up, the most important question. What exactly is cotton sateen? Obviously, it’s a type of material, but what kind in particular? In fact, the clue’s in the title. Cotton sateen is made, as the name suggests, from nothing more and nothing less than cotton. In terms of fabric content, there’s no difference between a yard of cotton sateen and a yard of regular cotton. Where the difference comes is in the weave and the treatment.

The Weave

As Hunker notes, after the cotton yarns have been created, manufacturers can take their pick of several different weaves to construct their fabric. The plainest and cheapest weaves use the same number of vertical yarns as horizontal ones, resulting in a fabric with a slightly coarse texture. For those looking for a smoother fabric, the percale weave is a popular choice. In this version, more threads are used (a minimum of 180 threads per square inch, in fact) to ensure a softer, albeit still crisp, feel. To construct sateen cotton, more vertical yarns are used than horizontal ones. This gives the fabric an incredibly soft feel, especially in comparison to the roughness of plain weave cotton or even the crispness of the softer percale weave cotton.

The Treatment

You don’t have to treat cotton sateen to make it cotton sateen (it gets its name from the weave, rather than anything else) but the vast majority of higher quality cotton sateens undergo mercerization to give them a more lustrous finish. During mercerization, the cotton fibers are soaked in lye and acid in an acid bath. As well as giving the cotton thread a gorgeous sheen, the mercerization process also makes the fabric denser and better able to handle dyes.

Properties of Cotton Sateen

Often described as poor man’s silk, cotton sateen has many the same qualities of silk, but at a far more attainable price point. So, what kind of qualities can you expect from a garment made from cotton sateen? According to tissura.com, these are:

  • Breathability: Cotton sateen is made from cotton, one of the most breathable and summer-friendly fabrics around. If you want to keep your cool no matter how high the temperatures rise, cotton sateen will help you do it.
  • Durability: Thanks to the mercerization process good quality cotton sateen goes through, it holds dye exceptionally well. No matter how many machine washings you give it, you can still expect its original color to stay intact for years.
  • Softness: Because of the special weave that’s used to construct it, cotton sateen has none of the roughness or crispness you’d expect from other kinds of cotton. Its surface is silky, smooth, and almost impossible to tell apart (on touch, at least) from silk.
  • Hypoallergenic: Cotton sateen, before anything else, is cotton. And if there’s one thing cotton is known for (at least among the sensitive-skinned), it’s its hypoallergenic qualities. If you’re looking for a fabric that won’t itch, scratch, or irritate, it’s a wise choice.
  • Wrinkle resistance: While most cotton fabrics aren’t known for their ability to withstand creases, cotton sateen is a different thing entirely. Thanks to its softness and excellent drapability, it offers excellent wrinkle resistance.

What is Cotton Sateen Used For?

Cotton sateen can be used for a huge array of purposes. As comfortersetreviews.com notes, some of its most popular uses include quilting, comforters, and, of course, bed linen. Although purists say cotton sateen sheets lack the finesse and durability of Egyptian cotton bed sheets, they’re actually incredibly durable. Some of their luster may be lost over time but providing they’ve gone through the mercerization process, you won’t need to worry about excessive pilling or tearing. As cotton sateen takes to dye like a duck to water, you’ll also be treated to your choice of colors, meaning you won’t have any problem finding bedsheets to match your decor. As an additional benefit, cotton sateen is machine washable and very low maintenance, making it a great choice for anyone who doesn’t want to waste time and money at the dry cleaners. Thanks to cotton sateen’s wrinkle resistance and durability, not to mention its soft feel, it also makes a popular choice of fabric in fashion. Children’s clothes, dresses, skirts, blouses, and even suits can all be made from cotton sateen. Some garment manufacturers have even taken to adding a small amount of elastane to it in order to make pants.

Is There a Difference Between Cotton Sateen and Satin?

Due to their similar-sounding names, cotton sateen and satin often get confused for each other. The fact that they look remarkably similar doesn’t exactly help either. So, what’s the difference between cotton sateen and satin, if a difference exists at all? In fact, the two fabrics are actually very distinct. As differencebetween.info notes, satin is not a fiber, it is a fabric weave – which, in essence, is exactly what cotton sateen is. But whereas cotton sateen uses a weft-faced weave, satin uses a warp-faced weave structure. Other crucial differences between the two include the fact that sateen uses short staple fibers during construction while satin uses filaments; cotton sateen is made from cotton whereas satin is usually made from silk, nylon, rayon, or polyester; cotton sateen is glossy but less so than satin; and cotton sateen is soft while satin is slippery.

How to Care for Cotton Sateen

One of the beauties of cotton sateen is just how easy it is to care for. Providing you stick to cool water (try to avoid exceeding 104 degrees Fahrenheit, which is hot enough to remove stains but cool enough to avoid damaging the fabric) and mild detergent, feel free to machine wash as often as needed. It even stands up well to machine drying.

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