Pilling sheets? Here's how to prevent your bedding from pilling, and the best fabrics to invest in, according to an expert

Pilling sheets can be a pain – here's what pilling is, how to remove it, and a few of the best anti-pilling sheet sets you can buy

Pilling sheets - Blue and neutral bedroom with red cushion and white lamp
(Image credit: Studio)

If you've had your bed sheets for some time, you may notice them starting to pill. Due to loose fiber ends becoming twisted and torn, small knots or bobbles will form causing your once silky bedding set to become fuzzy and threadbare. 

The good news is that there are steps you can take to remove pilling. However, if your bed sheets are bunched beyond repair, then it's time to find a fresh set that won't pill. You can buy anti-pill bed sheets, but it's worth knowing the material that's least likely to wear. 

Even with some of the best bed sheets, pilling can happen. But don't be too disheartened if you've just invested in a luxury linen set, because there are a few things you can do to prevent pilling before it starts. Here's your expert-led guide to sheet pilling to get your bedding feeling as soft as new.

What is pilling on bed sheets?

Pilling sheets with shaver to remove

(Image credit: Credit:Yaroslav Litun Creative #:1294399078)

Pilling is when tiny balls of fuzz appear on fabric, giving your bed sheets or clothing a worn look. It happens due to the friction of your lying in in bed, or when you sheets are in the dryer. The cotton fibers break down and tangle, which explains why they may appear at the foot of your bed where your feet rub against the sheets, or at the armpit of a sweater. Not only do they make the fabric look tired and old, but they make the material rough and uncomfortable, which will eventually impact your sleep.

How to remove pilling from bed sheets

Removing pilling is a simple way to make your sheets last longer. You can remove the fuzz to restore your bedding back to how it used to look. To do so, you can get a fabric shaver, like this Amazon Choice shaver and lint remover, and use it over the worn area. Otherwise, you can use a regular lint roller or razer to pull away any fabric build-up, though this may not be as effective. 

If your sheets are still not looking great, it's worth considering whether they're past their sleep-by-date. If you have more fabric balls than fresh surface area, then it might be time to buy new bedding instead. 

What sheets are best to avoid pilling?

Disclaimer: no sheets are pill-proof, but better quality sheets are less likely to pill as quickly as bedding made of lower quality materials and thread counts. The bedding least likely to pill are sheets constructed with single-ply, natural materials that have long fibers and a tighter weave – in other words, look for 100% long-staple cotton bedding, with silky sateen finishes that are less likely to break or pull. These are the bed sheets I've tried for some time that are yet to bobble or wear: 

How to prevent pilling from bed sheets

Since bedding is prone to pilling, it can be useful to know potential ways to prevent it – especially if you've just spent a lot of money on a brand-new sheet set. Amelia Jerden, certified sleep science coach at Sleepopolis, breaks down how to avoid pilling sheets. 

  • Choose high-quality sheets: Better quality sheets are less likely to pill. Jerden advises that you should 'look for sheets made from long-staple cotton fibers with a high thread count. Long-staple cotton fibers are stronger and less likely to break, while a high thread count indicates a tighter weave that reduces the likelihood of fibers coming loose and forming pills.' 
  • Wash sheets correctly: You can't change how often you wash your bedding, but by avoiding harsh detergents or fabric softeners, which can weaken the fibers and cause them to break, your bed sheets may be less likely to pill. 'Instead, use a mild detergent and wash sheets on a gentle cycle with cool or warm water. Don't overload your washer, as this can cause friction and increase the likelihood of pilling.' adds Jerden.
  • Dry sheets properly: Drying your bed sheets in the dryer can contribute to fabric friction. 'Avoid using high heat that can damage the fibers and cause them to break. Instead, line-dry your sheets or use a low heat setting,' says Jerden, 'remove sheets promptly from the dryer to prevent them from overheating and developing wrinkles.' 
  • Store sheets carefully: 'Avoid storing sheets in direct sunlight or in areas with high humidity, as this can weaken the fibers and cause them to break,' explains Jerden,  'store sheets in a cool, dry place, such as a linen closet instead.' Bed linen storage boxes like the highly-rated Linen mate sheets organizers on Amazon are also a great way to keep your sheets in order.
Amelia Jarden expert pic
Amelia Jerden

Amelia Jerden is the Staff Writer and certified sleep science coach at Sleepopolis, where she tests and reviews sleep products such as pillows, weighted blankets, and mattress toppers, as well as covering the latest in sleep.


Does fabric softener reduce pilling?

Detergents and fabric softeners can be tricky to navigate when it comes to reducing pilling sheets. Using too many chemicals and harsh cleaning products can actually break down any protective coatings and wear materials out more – hence the tip to not wash your clothes too often. However, adding some gentle fabric softener to your bed sheets during the washing or drying process can help soften your sheets and reduce the amount of friction in the machine. We like Method's eco-friendly gentle fabric softener. 

Which fabric pills the most?

Fabrics of lesser quality, like polyesters, acrylic, and nylon, will pill more. This is because they tend to be made with multi-ply yarns with a looser weave that is easier to break. That being said, linen bed sheets and wool are both luxurious options that can pill pretty quickly. This is because the fibers are more delicate and can tear if not treated with care. 

The benefits of buying quality bedding go beyond your bedroom looking luxe. But that doesn't mean you have to go above your budget. Investing in good value bed sheets that cost around $100 for a set will wash better, pill less, and last longer – helping you save money in the long run. 

Louise Oliphant
Ecommerce Editor

Louise is your eCommerce Editor and sleep specialist to help you wind down well. A connoisseur of the mattress world, Louise previously covered sleep and wellness (as well as the occasional organizational buy) at Real Homes, and has tried, tested, and reviewed some of the buys for your bedroom. With an MA in International Journalism and PR experience, Louise brings bags of bedding expertise and enjoys nothing more than helping readers find solutions and products that best suit their sleep needs.