What causes sheets to pill?
There’s a number of different factors that can contribute to them pilling. Here I will talk about some of the likely culprits.
Pills or pilling are those annoying little balls that you see in some textiles. With regard to sheets, pills detract from the way that the fabric feels against your skin.
You are gonna want to avoid getting them in your sheets!
With regard to bed sheets, pilling can appear or develop as a result of a number of different factors.
First of all, cotton quality.
The cotton quality that you find in these very inexpensive sheets is very low.
Cotton is graded and sorted based on a number of criteria, but one of the factors that contributes most likely to pilling is the fiber length.
On the high end of the scale or spectrum is extra long staple cotton. This is the finest grade of cotton. The fibers are 1.5 inches or longer.
On the low end of the spectrum are the short fibers. These are fibers that you find in many Chinese cottons, in India grown cottons, and they are 0.8 inches or less.
Why is cotton fiber length important?
With the short fibers, you’re gonna have literally twice as many ends in that cotton fiber itself, that individual fiber, as you will with the extra long staple cotton.
What this means, more ends, more propensity to pill. The yarns cannot be woven as tightly and overtime those yarns start to relax and untwist and those loose fibers can become knotted up and ultimately end up in pills.
A good example of this are sweaters. The yarn that’s used in many sweaters is a very loose twist. A lot of loose fibers, particularly in areas where it’s braiding against itself, like under your arms or where your arms are rubbing on the sides, twist up into knots and become pills.
Another significant factor is exposure to high heat.
Heat damages the cotton fiber. It makes it brittle and it can break the fiber if it gets too brittle.
What you want to do when washing your sheets is use a cool to warm water temperature and when you’re drying your sheets you’re going to want to use a low to medium heat setting.
The exposure to heat makes the fiber brittle and you’re gonna want to take those sheets out of the dryer when they’re slightly damp and then you can fold them up, put them in your linen closet or put them on the bed.
You don’t want the sheets to sit in the bottom of a dryer after the dry cycle is complete. You don’t want to over dry them and by letting them sit in the dryer when the dryer shuts off, you’re exposing them to heat. In addition you are going to find that they will get more wrinkles as they just sit there in that bottom of the dryer. So take them out when they’re slightly damp, put them back on the bed or in the linen closet.
Exposure to caustic chemicals is another factor.
The tides that you purchase contain brighteners. They are bleach derivatives. Bleach is hard on the cotton fiber as well. In addition, continued use of bleach on white sheets will turn them yellow.
You’re going to want to use a mild detergent that contains no caustic chemicals and that is specifically formulated for cotton.
Last on the list is stubble from body.
Many individuals have a significant amount of body hair, particularly on their back. Many men will shave their backs because they’re a little self-conscious of that hair. Many women will shave their legs as well.
What happens is three or four days after that back is shaved, that back is going to be like a brillo pad. That individual is laying on those sheets, tossing and turning and the stubble is going to abrade against that cotton and it’s going to loosen up those fibers and potentially create pills.
So the takeaway from this is consider purchasing higher-quality sheets, don’t expose them to too much heat, don’t expose them to caustic chemicals and if you’re shaving parts of your body, you’re gonna want to ensure that you don’t build up a lot of stubble. So shave a little more frequently or don’t shave at all.
Alex P. Davis has a BA in Interior Design from The New York School of Interior Design and 10 years of experience expertly designing sophisticated interiors.