What is Pilling and How to Avoid It | The Stated HomeIf you’ve ever had a well-loved sweater, you’re probably familiar with pilling – those tiny little fuzz balls that appear on the surface and make it look less-than-new. But pilling isn’t just something that ruins sweaters, it can also fuzz up sofas upholstered in certain fabrics.

Pilling occurs when loose fibers in the fabric move out to the surface (it’s just a natural tendency fabric has). Once there, friction twists them into small balls—more commonly known as pills.

One of the more irritating things about the pills is that you can’t just vacuum them off—they get twisted together with fibers that are still secured to the fabric and hold on tight. (Don’t worry, we’ll talk about how to get rid of them later.) The only way you can really avoid this is to never use your furniture—and who wants to do that?

On the bright side, pilling doesn’t mean your fabric is wearing out before its time. You won’t start to see bald spots or notice thinning areas. It’s just something that happens with new fabric. Before long, the excess fibers eventually stop floating to the top. Also take heart knowing that pilling happens in one form or another to almost all fabrics.

Why do some fabrics pill more?

The answer is due to two factors: the nature of the weave and the type of fiber. Smooth, tightly woven fabrics and those made from tightly twisted yarns are less likely to pill because the fibers can’t easily escape and float to the surface.

And while you might think that stronger man-made fibers are less likely to pill, it’s actually the opposite. Natural fabrics like linen, cotton, and wool shed their loose fibers easily, which makes the pilling less noticeable.

Man-made fibers like polyester, nylon, and lower quality acrylic are stronger, so the pills stay more securely attached to the surface. Other man-made fibers like acetate, olefin, and rayon fare better and tend to resist pilling.

You’ll also see more pilling on a fabric made from multiple fiber types if one is weak and the other strong (for example, a polycotton blend). The weaker one releases more excess fibers, and the stronger one holds the pills in place.

This is just a quick overview—certain fabrics are treated or coated to make the excess fibers stay in place. Or they may be singed, burning the loose fibers off before they can make trouble.

Try not to focus too much on the potential for pilling when choosing a fabric. Man-made fibers are used for upholstery for a reason—to reduce fading, eliminate crushing of napped fabric, and resist wear, wrinkling, or soiling. And since all fabrics pill, this should be just one factor to consider—especially since it is not an indicator of poor quality fabric and can be easily remedied.

So how do you remove pills? 

The solution to pilling is straightforward. The best attack is to shave them off with a battery-operated fabric pill shaver. A manual pill comb can also work, it’ll just take longer to finish the job. You may need to repeat the shaving a few times, but they will quickly diminish and eventually stop.

What to expect from The Stated Home fabrics

At The Stated Home we take care to offer high-quality fabrics that are less likely to pill. That said, we also pre-select fabrics that are stain-resistant and durable—meaning they are made up of stronger fibers that may still pill. If you notice your upholstered piece from us starts to develop pills, please don’t be alarmed. Remember: It’s a trade-off for a fabric that will hold up for years and is a natural process and that will stop soon.

Like what you read? Visit thestatedhome.com to shop our collection of made-in-America furnishings.

2 Comments on What Causes Pilling?

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