Why are there fluff balls or pills on my bedsheet/t-shirt/sofa?

Have you noticed little fluff and fuzzy balls, otherwise known as pills, clinging onto your fabric after wash or usage? They are commonly found on fabric sofa seats, pillowcases, cardigans and the lower back of your t-shirts if you carry backpacks.

Pilling is a natural occurrence for all fabrics regardless of the quality of the yarn fibres. 

What is pilling?

Pilling is a natural occurrence for all fabrics regardless of the quality of the yarn fibres. A Pill is a small ball of fibre that forms on the surface of the fabric. It is not a defect and it is usually caused by abrasion on the surface. 

 

The abrasive action causes breakage on fine fibres and pulls them out from their weave. These stranded fibres tend to lump together and form fuzzy balls known as pills.

 

Why and how does piling occur?

Pilling usually occurs where abrasive actions are applied to the fabric. The action tends to break and pull fibres over time and these fibres remain on the surface of the fabric. These fibres will not dislodge easily from the fabric as part of them remains in the weave.

The isolated fibres on the fabric intertwine with each other due to movement and they form small balls of fuzz on the surface.

Common areas can include pillowcases for men with short hair / facial hair stubbles / shaven body hair, or the feet area where users have greater movement and rougher heels, nails or even socks etc.

 

Determining the cause for pilling.

Before we discuss the causes, it is good to note that every fabric has a different pill tolerance and some are more likely to pill than others, even if they are more expensive. This does not necessarily mean that they are of lower quality.

Fabrics such as bamboo, rayon and sometimes even higher quality ones such as Tencel and silk, can still pill easily if not taken care of. Such fabrics are usually extremely smooth and soft. It is more difficult for smoother fibres to stay interlocked due to lesser friction between fibres and they are pulled out more easily due to their silky and soft texture.

Occasionally, they can be due to low-quality fabrics that just aren't well made.

 

Piling on a small section of the fabric

People with short hair or facial hair are likely to notice piling on a concentrated area, especially on one side of the pillowcase. The hair stubbles cause the fibres to pull and loosen through combing motion and pills will form over time.

We recommend not to share pillowcases in such scenarios to prevent piling on other pillowcases which have not been pilled.

Other factors that cause pilling on specific areas include:

  • Rough heels,
  • Coarse sleeping garments
  • shaven body hair, 
  • Sharp nails

Piling on a large area

If you notice pills/fluff balls throughout the fabric, it is likely due to washing. Common causes include:

  • Washing at a higher temperature than recommended
  • Using powdered or strong detergent
  • Soaking for too long
  • Left in the dryer for an extended period of time

A streak that resembles a cut

When bed sheets are washed with other clothes, especially in the presence of zippers or buttons, the sharp edges can sometimes cut the fabric.

 

How to prevent piling?

The best practice for washing all types of sheets is to hand-wash, but we understand that it might be difficult for most of us. For washer settings, please use the following:

  1. Flip inside out and we recommend the use a laundry bag 
  2. Coldwater wash. Only wash in temperatures up to 40°C if necessary.
  3. Gentle wash settings (low spin)
  4. Short duration (30 mins)
  5. Mild and liquid detergent (No powdered detergent, bleach and softeners)
  6. Hang dry immediately*  

*If tumble drying is required, please remove promptly right after the dryer is done while the sheets are moist.

Read more washing tips on: How to wash your bedsheets 

 

What to do if pilling occurs?

Piling is natural and inevitable, but there are some ways to fix the pills.
  1. If piling is small and sparse on a small area, you may use your fingers to pluck and remove them easily.
  2. If it occurs on a large surface area, you may consider sending it to a professional laundry service for wash and press. They may be able to help remove excess pills and minimize the fuzzy feeling with the industrial press.
  3. Finally, if you feel that you have maximised the lifespan of the fabric and there's nothing else you could do, only then do we recommend using a razor blade/shaver to shave the pills off. There are also pill removers in the market that are easily available online.