October 02, 2023 5 min read

Having smooth, soft, and comfortable bed sheets is crucial when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep. Sometimes, bed sheet pilling can get in the way, causing your once beautiful sheets to look messy and unattractive. Pilling on things like clothing and bedding is common, but there are some things you can do to prevent it from happening. Having the most comfortable possible is imperative if you want to get good, restorative sleep, and that’s why pilling can become such a problem. Our guide explains why do bed sheets pill and how to prevent it so that you can enjoy your bedding and your sleep in the best possible way.

What is Sheet Pilling?

So, what is bed sheet pilling, anyway, and why do sheets pill? If your favorite bed sheets are pilling, it’s typically a result of friction, which occurs when something repeatedly rubs against the fabric. Over time, the delicate fibers of materials like cotton can break, resulting in unsightly small “balls” or pills that cover the surface. When it comes to your bed sheets, pilling is most commonly found near the foot of the bed, where your legs or feet tend to move around during the night. Once the cotton fibers break down, the pilling starts. Some sheets pill because the material is too thin and can’t hold up after being washed in the washing machine. Certain materials including flannel, polyester, and some types of cotton are most prone to unsightly pilling.

Why do Sheets Pill? Pilling Sheets

Causes of Sheet Pilling

Pilling occurs for several reasons, and there are several factors that can make it worse. Understanding the cause of pilling can help you keep your own sheets from pilling so you can protect your investment and your quality of life.

Here are some of the most common causes of pilling:

Prevent sheet pilling Signs of pilling sheets
  • Friction is the main culprit when it comes to pilling, not just on your bed sheets, but also on clothing and other textiles. Rubbing against low-quality materials eventually breaks the fibers down, resulting in pilling all over the fabric.
  • Opting for sheets made of low-quality fabric will definitely cause your bedding to pill much faster than high-quality sheets. Choose something with a high thread count and tightly woven fibers. Extra long staple cotton is an excellent choice.
  • Improper or inadequate care can also lead to pilling. Always follow the care instructions on the tag when washing your sheets use cool water and avoid harsh detergents and fabric softeners whenever possible. Dry your sheets on a low-temperature cycle. Using hot water and a dry cycle that’s too hot will cause the fibers to break down much more rapidly, increasing the breakdown of the material from friction, and harsh detergents can also cause fibers to break down prematurely. If you can, don’t dry sheets in the dryer, but line dry them instead to help them last longer.
  • Even something like rough skin can cause sheets to start pilling. If you toss and turn a lot at night, consider getting a new pillow or mattress that will help you sleep more soundly.
Best pilling free sheets

Types of Sheets Prone to Pilling

Certain sheet materials are more vulnerable to pilling than others. Here are some materials that are more prone to pilling:

  • Cotton: While not all cotton is prone to pilling, lower-quality cotton sheets are the most vulnerable. Choose sheets made of long cotton fibers, which are not only softer but also pill-resistant. Look for sheets made of long staple cotton fibers like Pima and Egyptian cotton. Always opt for sheets made of organic, long staple cotton whenever possible.
  • Flannel: Flannel sheets have a loose weave which makes them much more prone to the tiny balls known as pilling. These bed sheets pill much more frequently than just about any other material. While they’re certainly soft and warm, they need much more care and attention if you want to avoid pilling.
  • Polyester: The synthetic fibers of polyester can feel smooth and soft, but lower-quality versions tend to pill quite rapidly. Polyester sheets with higher thread counts may be a better option to keep your bedding pill-free.
  • Microfiber: This material is also constructed of polyester fiber, but it’s smoother and easier to care for. However, microfiber sheets pill when washed too frequently. The fibers can break down and cause them to start pilling.

Signs of Pilling

You might wonder what pilling looks and feels like. Essentially, pilling looks like little knots or very small balls of lint that are attached to the material. It can affect specific areas of your sheets, or it could cover the entire surface. If your sheets start to feel rough to touch, examine them more closely to look for signs of pilling.

Balls on bed sheets

How to Prevent Sheet Pilling

Fortunately, there are things you can do to prevent pilling sheets or at least reduce the chances of having to deal with pilling.

  • Choosing the right fabric for your new bedding will help you avoid pilling. Stick to natural materials like linen or organic cotton are less prone to pilling. Opt for new sheets made of durable materials with a higher thread count that will last. Highest quality sheets include linen, bamboo sheets, and organic cotton.
  • Proper care of your sheets will help prevent pilling. Use a mild detergent when washing sheets and avoid using fabric softener which can break down delicate fibers. The gentle wash cycle can also help prevent pilling. Avoid high heat and use the dryer on the low heat cycle.
  • A clothes shaver can help you remove pilling, but make sure you use it gently and press down on the sheets in slow, consistent motions.

How to Get Rid of Pilling

Use these steps to learn how to remove pilling from bed sheets:

  • If you notice pilling, you can remove it using a battery-operated fabric shaver.
  • You can also use a small pair of scissors to manually cut the pills off the sheets. Take your time and be gentle to avoid accidentally cutting your bedding or putting a hole in it.
  • Avoid common mistakes that can make pilling worse, like exposing your sheets to hot temperatures and not using cold water when you wash them.

Maintaining Pilling-Free Sheets

Are there any bed sheets that don't pill? Even if you buy brand new sheets that claim to be anti pilling bed sheets, it can still occur over time. Start by choosing quality sheets made of good materials constructed of strong yet soft fabrics. Use gentle, bleach-free detergent and wash your sheets in cold water on the gentle cycle. Follow a regular cleaning and care routine so that your beautiful sheets stay that way for many years to come. Select the proper size so that your sheets fit nicely on the bed. This can help to prevent excess friction, which is the main cause of pilling.

Final Thoughts on why do bed sheets pill and how to prevent it

Keep the tips from this guide in mind to help you choose exceptionally high-quality sheets to prevent pilling. Follow the right care instructions, and choose quality materials to enjoy a better quality of sleep. At Or & Zon, we offer a range of exceptional products to help enhance your bedroom and your life.