A “pill” is a small ball of fibers that forms on the face of a piece of fabric. It is caused by abrasion on the surface of the fabric and while it is considered an unsightly occurrence, it is completely normal.
So what causes Pilling?
Loose fibers have a natural tendency to move to the surface of a piece of fabric, where they are subject to friction, which then causes them to twist together into small balls. Fibers that are still secured to the fabric are also twisted into the ball so the the pill becomes secured to the surface of the material.
Friction is caused in the normal course of people using the furniture, rubbing against the surface of the fabric. Laundering also causes friction – washing machines agitate fabric causing the surfaces to rub together
Pilling is more noticeable on man-made fibers. This is mainly because natural fibers shed loose fibers easily while man-made fibers are notoriously strong so the pills are anchored strongly to the fabric. In a backwards way of thinking about it – pills are just showing t how strong the base fibers actually are!
So is it a fault in my fabric? Should I send it back?
It is important to note that pilling is not a fabric defect or fault. You can compare it to the shedding experienced when purchasing a new carpet – think about the way the carpet behaves when newly installed as there are constantly loose fibers coming to the surface over the first few months of use. This is completely normal and will reduce once the excess fibers are gone.
Consumers are sometimes concerned that pilling means that the fabric is wearing away and disintegrating – this is not the case. Pilling is a normal occurrence caused by wear and tear, and does not affect the durability or functionality of the fabric. It is easily removed.
How do I remove pilling?
The quickest and most cost effective approach is to use a battery operated pill shaver to remedy the situation. These small, inexpensive appliances are available most places. A pill comb is also effective and performs the same task manually.
If pilling reoccurs, it can simply be shaved off again. This may occur several times but the pilling will diminish and eventually cease once the excess fibers are removed.
Can I buy fabric that doesn’t pill?
Since all fabrics will pill to some extent, the possibility of it happening should not be a main concern when choosing an upholstery fabric. However, there are some fabrics that are less likely to pill. Some are treated or coated during the manufacturing process and adhere excess fiber to the surface of the fabric. Smooth, tightly woven fabrics and fabrics made from tightly twisted yards are less likely to pill because the fibers are held tightly in the cloth.
Also think about what accessories you have around – those super soft acrylic throw blankets that are so popular are notorious for shedding fibers.
Ultimately, if you notice that your furniture is developing pills, don’t be alarmed. It is easily remedied and does not mean you chose a poor quality fabric!