Fabric Pilling: What It Is & How to Prevent It

By Taylor Souder

What Is Fabric Pilling?

A fabric pill, also referred to as a fuzz/lint ball, is a small formation of fibers that assemble on fabric as a result of abrasion on the face’s surface. Oftentimes misconstrued, this wear and tear can lead one to believe the fabric is defective although this is not the case. Pilling is a common occurrence and does not have any correlation to the durability of a fabric.

Where Does Fabric Pilling Come From?

Pilling is most commonly found with synthetic fabrics and fabrics with a blend of contents. The reason being, synthetic fibers are man-made and tend to be much stronger than natural fibers, which are known to shed more easily on their own. With blends, one fiber tends to be stronger than the latter, causing the weaker fiber to become loose and ball up.

How to Measure Fabric Pilling

Pilling is frequently tested at mills and given a rating of 1 to 5: 1 being severe change with dense fuzzing across the entire surface, 3 being only a moderate change in either fuzzing or pills of various sizes, and 5 being no visual change present.

Not to Be Confused With

Fiber transfer or transfer pilling is a result of another fabric source rubbing off or pilling onto the original surface. Common causes of fiber transfer stem from socks, blankets, pillows, etc., and even the look of pet hair that can ball up. A large indication here are pills of a different color variation than the fabric itself. Fiber transfer cannot be correlated with the durability or pilling of the original fabric source.

How to Resolve Fabric Pilling

A fabric shaver or pilling comb is a great way to even up loose fibers too, not only remove current pills but to prevent future pills from occurring. Once loose fibers are gone and fiber lengths are even, the pilling will stop.

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