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Pilling...What Is It and How to Deal With It

by Nick, Digital Specialist | April 13, 2023

We all are aware of those pesky balls of fabric or loose strands of fiber that form on clothes, furniture and other things made of fabric. This is called pilling. We know it’s not looked upon favorably but believe it or not, pilling is not a fabric defect.

So what causes pilling and can it be prevented?  It’s all about friction.  Over time fabric fibers become loose and they shift.  In most fabrics this part of pilling is noticeable to the naked eye. However friction from people’s clothes rubbing against the fabric of the sofa cause these fibers to twist in to little balls. Usually after the loose fibers are gone it will go away, but sometimes in certain fabrics it persists. This is where we recommend a fabric shaver to remove the little balls. This does not compromise the fabric in any way.  Fabric shavers are relatively inexpensive and you can get them online. As you can see in our before and after pictures, the little balls come right off.  We recommend not letting the little balls grow and grow, because they become unsightly and can also be a collection spot for dirt and dust. Besides the shaver, there are other tools to remove pills like a pilling brush. Find one that works for you. Some shaver are battery operated, some have a power cord.  All, things being equal, we recommend one with a power cord for more consistent performance. But both will do the trick.

fabric shavers

Beware it may come back after with continued friction, so you may have to remove the pills a few times. We don’t disagree…no one likes it. However, pilling is not a fabric or manufacturer’s defect and is not covered under warranty.  Although it is difficult to tell, some fabrics are subject to less pilling than others. General rule of thumb is, the looser the weave, the more susceptible to pilling. The tighter the weave, possibly less pilling. This would also suggest that since natural fabrics like wool, cashmere, silk and cotton release their loose fibers more quickly than the man made fabrics nylon, polyester, olefin and rayon, the might pill less. Since the man made fabrics are very tightly woven, they will cling to their loose fabrics more which then results in pilling. The trade off here is that man made fabrics tend to be more durable.  So, the end result is, pilling is common and can be kept under control with a good shaver or brush.