What is Fabric Pilling? | Causes, Treatments and Prevetion


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Are you interested in learning exactly what is fabric pilling, why it happens, and how to easily treat it at home?

At La-Z-Boy Home Furnishings & Décor, we love teaching clients how to keep their furniture looking brand new for a long time.

In this article and video, we’ll take an in-depth look at what causes fabric pilling along with what you can do to treat and prevent it.

What Is Fabric Pilling?

Fabric pilling is the term for loose strands or balls of fiber that form on a piece of fabric.

You’ve probably noticed these little bits of fabric on pillows, rugs, and furniture in your home.

Fabric pilling is a common occurrence in most households. It is not a fabric defect or fault from the manufacturer.

What Causes Fabric Pilling?

When fabric fibers become loose, they will move around when we sit or brush up against them.

The friction from people rubbing up against the fabric causes loose fibers to twist together into small balls.

Your laundry machine will also cause friction. This is why you’ll see fabric pills on towels, t-shirts, and sweaters when they come out of the dryer.

Fabric pilling is completely normal and will go away once the excess loose fibers are gone. It doesn’t hurt the durability or functionality of the fabric. Plus, it’s easily removable with a pill shaver.

How to Treat Fabric Pilling

A battery-operated pill shaver is the quickest and easiest way to treat pills.

The Conair Fabric Defuzzer (paid link) on Amazon has 4.5 stars with more than 5,000 customer reviews.

The Conair Fabric Defuzzer quickly and evenly shaves unwanted fuzz, lint, and pilling.

It’s easy-to-use, runs on two AA batteries, and adjusts to accommodate different fabric types.

You can also use a pumice stone pill remover or pill comb to manually brush away fabric pills.

Pilling may reappear several times. When it does, simply shave it off again.

Your fabric will stop pilling after all of the loose fibers have been removed.

Is Fabric Pilling Preventable?

All fabrics will pill to some extent. However, some are less likely to pill.

Smooth, tightly woven fabrics are the least likely to pill. This is because the fibers are held together tightly inside the cloth.

Fabrics made with more than one fiber type are the most likely to pill.

When one fiber is stronger than the other, the weaker fiber becomes loose while the stronger fiber holds the pills to the fabric.

Natural Fabrics vs Man-Made Fabrics
You’ll notice natural fabrics will shed loose fibers easier than man-made fabrics. Man-made materials are extremely tight and strong, so loose fibers are secured to the fabric. Natural materials are not as tight, so loose fibers can easily escape from the fabric without pilling. Fabrics made by man are built for durability and performance, but they are more likely to create pills than natural fabrics.

Natural Fabrics (Least Likely):

  • Cotton
  • Wool
  • Silk
  • Hemp
  • Cashmere

Man-Made Fabrics (Most Likely):

  • Polyester
  • Acrylic
  • Nylon
  • Rayon
  • Spandex

Is fabric pilling preventable? Not really.

However, if your furniture develops fabric pills you have no reason to be alarmed because it’s easily treatable with a pill shaver.

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