Why Are My Sheets Pilling?

Last Updated On February 20th, 2024
Why Are My Sheets Pilling?

Key Takeaways

  • Sheet Pilling Causes and Prevention: Understanding the causes of sheet pilling, such as exposure to UV radiation, heat, and friction, is crucial. Direct sunlight can weaken fibers, while factors like harsh detergents and synthetic fibers contribute to pilling. To prevent pilling, rotate and flip sheets, use window coverings, choose high-quality materials, and follow proper care instructions.
  • Washing Machine Overloading Impact: Overloading a washing machine increases friction and abrasion, leading to pilling on sheets. Uneven washing and tangling in an overloaded machine contribute to stress and fabric damage. To minimize pilling risk, adhere to load capacity guidelines, separate items, use a gentle cycle, and opt for mild detergents. Proper care practices help maintain sheet integrity.
  • Sheet Material and Fiber Impact on Pilling: Different sheet materials exhibit varying tendencies toward pilling. Cotton, particularly long-staple cotton, may experience pilling, while flannel sheets are prone due to their fuzzy surface. Bamboo sheets, with their long fibers, resist pilling. Silk sheets, when tightly woven, are less prone.

Have you ever experienced the frustration of going to bed in your brand new sheets, only to wake up to annoying little balls of lint all over them? If you’re wondering why your bed sheets pill, you’re not alone. This common problem affects many people and can make it difficult to achieve a comfortable and relaxing sleep experience.

In this article, we will explore the role of cotton fibers in sheet pilling, identify factors that can contribute to pilling, and provide tips to prevent and remove pilling. By understanding the reasons behind pilling and implementing proper care techniques, you can maintain the high quality of your bed sheets and enjoy restful sleep every night.

Save $450 On Any Mattress

Plus free shipping

Get $450 OFF Mattresses

Quick Guide: A 30-Second Summary

Best Sheets Amerisleep Bamboo Sheet Set

Factors Contributing to Sheet Pilling

Have you ever wondered why your bed sheets start pilling despite being relatively new? Various factors can contribute to sheet pilling, some of which you may not be aware of.

One factor is the use of harsh detergents, which can weaken the fibers over time and make them more prone to breakage. Fabric softeners can also have a similar effect, as they tend to leave a residue that can attract loose fiber ends and form lint balls.

Synthetic fibers are another common culprit of bed sheet pilling. These fibers have a shorter lifespan and are highly susceptible to breaking, which can result in pilling. When purchasing bed sheets, it’s important to consider the materials used and opt for sheets made of more durable fabrics such as cotton with long staple fibers or bamboo.

However, even sheets made of high-quality materials can still pill if they have a loose weave or are not tightly woven. Tightly woven fibers are less likely to break and form loose fiber ends that eventually become lint balls. So, when purchasing new bedding, it’s essential to ensure that the sheets have a tight weave and are made of high-quality materials.

To avoid pilling, we recommend washing your sheets in cold water, avoiding using harsh detergents and fabric softeners, and using a gentle cycle. Always opt for a low heat cycle when drying your sheets, and avoid drying them under direct sunlight or with high heat.

Why avoid sunlight? While there are benefits to morning sunlight, such sunlight also contains ultraviolet (UV) radiation. UV exposure can weaken the molecular structure of certain fibers, making them more prone to abrasion and damage.

Also, try to avoid rubbing against your sheets if you have rough skin or body hair, as this can cause small knots to form and lead to pilling.

Your Action Plan:

  • Use mild detergents and avoid fabric softeners
  • Choose bed sheets made of high-quality materials such as cotton with long staple fibers or bamboo
  • Opt for sheets with a tight weave
  • Wash your sheets in cold water, and use a gentle cycle
  • Dry your sheets on low heat and avoid direct sunlight
  • Be mindful of your body contact with the sheets

Understanding Types of Fibers and Pilling

The tendency of a fabric to pill depends on several factors, including the fiber type, fiber length, yarn structure, and fabric construction. Here are how some different types of sheets may or may not be pill.

Cotton & Flannel

Cotton fibers are known for their strength, durability, and softness, but they can still break over time, leading to the formation of small fiber clusters on your sheets called pills. The length of the cotton fiber, known as the staple length, can impact pilling. Extra long staple cotton fibers, such as Egyptian cotton, are less prone to breaking and therefore less likely to pill.

Flannel sheets, on the other hand, are made from cotton fibers that have been brushed to create a fuzzy surface, causing them to be more prone to pilling due to their loose fibers.

See also:


Bamboo sheets, which are made from bamboo fibers, have become a popular and eco-friendly option due to their silky texture and tendency to resist pilling.

Bamboo fibers woven into rayon is known for its softness, breathability, and moisture-wicking properties. Bamboo rayon tends to have relatively long fibers, which can contribute to its pilling resistance.

Bamboo may also be blended with other fibers, such as cotton or polyester. Blends can exhibit a combination of properties, and the likelihood of pilling may depend on the specific fiber composition.

See also:


Silk is a luxurious and smooth natural fiber. Pure silk fabrics, when woven tightly, are less prone to pilling due to the long, continuous silk fibers. The smooth surface of silk can minimize friction, reducing the likelihood of pills.

Blending silk with other materials can alter the fabric’s characteristics, and the propensity to pill may be influenced by the specific blend.

See also:

Debunking Pilling Myths

Don’t be fooled by common myths about bed sheet pilling. Despite what you may have heard, high thread count sheets are not necessarily less prone to pilling. Sheets made from tightly woven fibers with a lower thread count are often less likely to pill than those with a higher thread count.

Additionally, washing sheets in hot water can make pilling worse. Instead, wash your sheets using a gentle cycle and a low heat cycle in the dryer to help preserve the fabric and prevent further pilling.

If you do have pilled sheets in your linen closet, don’t toss them out just yet. Try using a fabric shaver to remove the excess pilling and restore your sheets to their former glory. For best results, avoid hot temperatures and always line dry your sheets to further prevent pilling.

By understanding the truth behind these common myths and taking proper care of your bed sheets, you can help avoid pilling and keep your sheets looking and feeling brand new for many sleep-filled nights to come.

Tips to Prevent and Remove Pilling

To prevent pilling and keep your highest-quality sheets looking brand new, follow these tips:

Use High-Quality Sheets

One way to prevent pilling is to invest in the highest quality sheets you can find. Look for bed sheets made from 100% long-staple cotton or bamboo rather than low-quality materials mixed with synthetic fibers. These materials tend to have a tighter weave and are less likely to form loose fibers that can result in pilling.

Wash in Cold Water

Wash your bed sheets in cold water on a gentle cycle to prevent pilling. Hot water and rough agitation can cause fibers to break, leading to pilling and causing them to break down faster.

However, sometimes hot water washing is necessary, such as when managing allergens. If that’s so, try and keep pilling under control with our other suggestions.

Avoid Harsh Detergents

Choose a gentle, eco-friendly detergent to avoid harsh chemicals that can weaken the fibers in your bed sheets and cause pilling.

Skip the Fabric Softener

Fabric softeners can leave behind a residue that attracts loose fibers and causes pilling. Instead, use a half-cup of white vinegar during the rinse cycle to soften and protect your sheets.

Don’t Wash Too Many Sheets At Once

Overloading a washing machine can lead to increased friction and abrasion between sheets and other items, potentially causing pilling. Uneven washing in an overloaded machine may result in areas of the fabric experiencing more stress and abrasion, contributing to pilling.

Tangling and wrapping of sheets in an overloaded load can also create additional friction and promote the formation of pills. To minimize the risk of pilling, adhere to load capacity guidelines, separate items to avoid friction,

Tumble Dry on Low Heat

Avoid drying your bed sheets on high heat, as this can cause fibers to break and pill. Instead, tumble dry on low heat and remove them promptly from the dryer to minimize wrinkles and prevent pilling.

You might even consider line-drying them instead to keep them in top condition. However, you will want to do so indoors for the best effect, as direct sunlight and its UV rays can have a degrading effect on fibers over time.

Consider a Clothes Shaver

If your sheets do start to roll or you see lint balls on a mattress, consider investing in a fabric shaver. This handy tool can remove the little knots and loose fiber ends that cause pilling without damaging the fabric.

Just be sure to use it gently and on a low setting to avoid any snags or tears.

Keep Body Hair Groomed

Did you know that shaved body hair can help prevent pilling? Loose body hair can get trapped in the fibers of your sheets, causing them to rub and eventually pill.

Identifying High-Quality Bed Sheets

When selecting high-quality bed sheets, it’s essential to know what to look for to avoid experiencing sheet pills. First and foremost, pay attention to the material. Natural materials such as cotton, linen, and bamboo are all excellent options as they are less likely to pill than synthetic fibers.

Thread count is another important factor to consider – higher thread counts generally translate to stronger and smoother sheets that are less prone to pilling. However, don’t focus solely on high thread counts as it’s not the only measure of quality.

The weave itself also impacts pilling. For example, when it comes to percale or sateen, percale’s tight weave can be less prone to pilling.

Finally, consider microfiber sheets. While they might not feel the same as cotton or linen, they are good at avoiding pilling. Sheets made from microfiber with a high GSM (grams per square meter) will last longer and won’t pill as easily as those with low GSM.


Are cotton sheets prone to pilling?

Cotton sheets can be prone to pilling, especially if they have a lower thread count. Pilling occurs when fibers break and form small balls on the fabric surface due to friction. Opting for high-quality, long-staple cotton sheets and following proper care instructions can help minimize the risk of pilling.

Does laundry detergent cause pilling?

While laundry detergent itself doesn’t directly cause pilling, using too much detergent or one with harsh chemicals can contribute to fabric breakdown and increase the likelihood of pilling. It’s advisable to use a mild detergent and follow care instructions. This includes washing sheets in cold water and avoiding overloading the washing machine, to preserve the fabric’s integrity.

How do I stop my sheets from pilling?

To prevent sheets from pilling, choose high-quality fabrics like Egyptian or Pima cotton with a higher thread count. Wash your sheets in cold water with a gentle detergent, and avoid overloading the washing machine.

Additionally, refrain from using fabric softeners, which can weaken fibers, and consider line drying or using a low-heat setting in the dryer.

Why do I keep getting holes in my sheets?

Holes in sheets can result from various factors, such as rough fabrics, excessive wear and tear, or the use of harsh laundry detergents. Ensure proper care, including gentle washing and avoiding abrasive surfaces, to prolong sheet lifespan.

If the issue persists, consider investing in higher-quality sheets with durable weaves to reduce the likelihood of developing holes.

What sheets are best against pilling?

In our experience, sheets made from long-staple cotton, such as Egyptian or Pima cotton, are rightly known for their durability and resistance to pilling. Other natural fibers, such as silk and bamboo, resist pilling well. Additionally, sheets with a higher thread count often exhibit a smoother and more resistant surface.

We strongly recommend choosing quality brands and following proper care guidelines to maintain the longevity of your sheets and minimize the risk of pilling.


To prevent and remove pilling in your sheets, give them a few wash cycles before use, and avoid harsh detergents. Opt for gentle washing with cool or warm water, line-dry or use a low-heat dryer setting, and be cautious with high heat and direct sunlight.

If pilling occurs, use a fabric shaver or lint roller, and for stubborn pills, carefully snip them off with small scissors. Regular grooming can also help prevent fabric snagging.

Follow these simple steps for smooth and comfortable sheets, ensuring a good night’s sleep without the frustration of pilling. Sweet dreams!

About the author

Mitchell Tollsen is a graduate student and a freelance writer who’s contributed to the Early Bird blog for three years. Mitchell’s always been fascinated by the science of sleep and the restorative processes our bodies undergo when at rest. The self-titled “Sleep Expert” is always looking for ways to improve his shut-eye, and throughout the years has implemented numerous lifestyle changes and tried dozens of sleep-promoting gadgets to determine the best ways to truly get better rest.

View all posts

Discover the ultimate sleep system

Choose your mattress

Shop top-rated mattresses with proven sleep-boosting materials.

Get a pillow

We have the perfect pillow to pair with your mattress.

Browse Pillows

Pick out bedding

Bring out the best in your mattress with our soft and breathable bedding.

Browse Bedding