How to Prevent Sheets from Pilling

By definition, a “pill” is a surface defect made up of a small ball of fibers. A pill starts to form when fibers rub against themselves or another surface. As agitation of the pill continues, a collection of fiber will appear as clinging balls. When sheets develop pills they can be unsightly and uncomfortable, causing your sheets to become scratchy. You can prevent pilling on organic cotton sheets or any type of cotton sheets by practicing proper care and by purchasing the right kind of sheets to begin with. Though nearly all fibers can experience pilling, cloths such as silk and linen are less likely to pill than others. 100 Cotton sheets and other types of delicate fabrics that go through long-term usage and repeated washings will experience frayed fiber endings that become tangled, leading to tiny knots or pilling that can pick up lint, dust, and other ripped and tangled fibers.

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Any fabrics made from shorter fibers, such as cotton, will experience a higher likelihood of pilling. Cotton sheets that are made from a mixture of blended fabric, such as cotton-polyester, are more likely to pill than 100 cotton sheets. Shop for a 100% cotton sheet that is smooth to the touch. Try to avoid sheets that look thin or rough and those that contain polyester. A good investment would be Pima, Egyptian, or Supine Cotton. These fibers are high quality and won’t be easily knotted.

To prevent pilling, always wash your sheets in a short wash cycle and use gentle liquid detergent. A front load washer set horizontally is more gentle on the sheets than a top load washer with a spindle or agitator. Make sure to dilute the detergent and don’t overuse it as this can cause stiff and discolored fabric. Avoid hot temperatures when washing and drying as this can weaken the fibers. Stay away from using brighteners or bleach as this can also weaken the material. Add ½ cup white vinegar to the rinse cycle as this will help prevent future pilling. Use the lowest heat setting when drying, although the best option would be to hang dry on a line. Store laundered sheets in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.

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If your sheets do start to pill, trim away the raised surface with a clothes shaver. A hardware store, online appliance distributor or a fabric store often stocks these hand-held shavers. A disposable razor has also been known to work and inexpensive to use. Just run the razor over the pills in short strokes while holding the fabric tight. You may find afterwards that your sheets look like new again with this simple technique! Also, you can look into purchasing bed sheet grippers to keep the sheets on the bed – though this is more of a secondary solution to pilling, and not as effective as using a clothes shaver.

By investing in high quality cotton sheets and following simple steps during the wash and dry process, you can prevent future pills and knots from ruining your sheets.