About Pilling and How To Prevent It

Pilling is what happens when cotton fibers break and tangle, resulting in the tiny little fuzzballs or "pills" of fiber that appear to be stuck on the fabric.


Pilling can occur with any fabric that is subject to abrasion when using or washing.  Since we're all about bed linens, that's what we'll focus on.


Better quality bed linen fabrics, with longer cotton fibers, will pill less than fabrics using shorter cotton fibers. Cotton percale may pill less than cotton sateen fabrics. Linen and silk can be less prone to pilling. Synthetic fibers can be more susceptible to pilling.


Mercerization: This process shrinks the cotton fibers, tightening and smoothing the grain of the thread, making the fibers less prone to pilling. Cotton fabrics, when properly mercerized, are stronger and will perform much better than fabrics that are not mercerized.


Mercerized cotton fabrics are more expensive than fabrics that are not mercerized. The bed linen fabrics from Sferra and Schlossberg are mercerized, as are the down proof cotton fabrics used in our Cascade Made™ down comforters, and our Eiderdown comforters.


Pilling is a result of friction; when the fabric is rubbed the fibers can break. For example, pilling can often be seen on fitted sheets near the foot of the bed where frequent abrasive movement (from rough feet) can occur.  Even the stubble from shaved body hair, backs and legs can be abrasive enough to cause pilling.

Here's What Pilling Looks Like

an image showing pilling, or "pills"


How To Prevent Pilling

Start with quality mercerized bed linens!


Proper fabric care will help to prevent the cotton fibers from weakening and pilling. Use a bleach free detergent, such as Tide PureClean Liquid Unscented, with no bleach or optical brighteners.  Chlorine bleach can weaken the cotton fibers, as can excessive use of fabric softener. 


If you find that your sheets are pilling near your feet, legs or back, it may be time to pamper yourself (and your bed linens!) and get a pedicure and a wax!


If you find that the fabric on your comforter is piling, you may want consider using a duvet cover.


Follow Manufacturer Care Procedures

Manufacturer care instructions can vary depending on the fabric.   In general, when washing your bed linens, always make sure they have plenty of room to "swim" in the washer, and it's always best to wash them alone. Do not wash with other clothing, especially rough fabrics like Levi's®.


Over drying your bed linens, especially at high levels of heat, can also cause the cotton fibers to break. Pilling is one reason why bed linen manufacturers will usually suggest specific care procedures for their bed linens. It's always best to follow the recommended procedures!


Sferra Bed Linen Care | St. Geneve Bed Linen Care | Schlossberg Bed Linen Care

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