Fabric Fail: Pilling

Introduction

FABRIC FAILS—WHAT THEY ARE AND HOW YOU CAN PREVENT THEM

Fabric Fails happen when you find yourself in clothes made of mystery fabric. They may be cheaper for manufactures, but can be a disaster for you. The problem is, it’s easy to mistake a mystery fabric for cotton. They can look like cotton and even feel like cotton—but only at first.

Learn more about a piling (a fabric fail) to see what awaits if you don’t check the label.

Pilling

PILLING

79% OF PEOPLE SAY THEY ARE BOTHERED BY PILLING.1

ABOUT PILLING

Pills are those pesky little round balls of entangled fibers that appear on the surface of your clothes. They are essentially small tangles of fiber on a fabric’s surface, formed when the fabric rubs against itself or another material.

100% Cotton

35% Cotton, 65% Polyester

CAUSES

There are many causes of pilling, but the main ones are fabric content and rubbing.

General wear can cause pilling, as the fabric rubs against itself, and activities like running or walking long distances can make pilling even more likely.

Laundering certain fabrics can also cause pilling, given the rubbing that occurs during washing, especially if the machine is overloaded. Suggestion—washing your clothes inside out can help protect their surfaces.

TYPES OF FABRIC TO WATCH OUT FOR

  • Blends. For example, a cotton/modal blend is more likely to pill than 100% cotton.3 Pills are also more likely to be visible in blends vs. 100% fibers.4This is because the blended fibers are never exactly the same length/strength, making them more likely to become entangled, causing pilling.
  • Wool. If you were to look at wool under a microscope you’d notice that there are actually scales on the fiber. Those scales can cause the fiber to lock together, which creates pills.
  • Synthetics. With many synthetic fabrics like nylon and polyester, pills remain visible once they are formed, whereas with natural fabrics like cotton and wool, any pilling will fall off in the wash.5

WHAT CAN YOU DO

In addition to choosing 100% natural fibers, like cotton, you can help prevent or delay pilling with these laundering tips:

  • Use high-performance detergents that contain cellulase enzymes, like Tide® and Wisk®
  • Hand wash, inside out
  • Do not overdry in the dryer; hang dry when possible

BOTTOM LINE

To avoid pilling, look for clothing made of 100% natural fibers, like 100% cotton.

CHECK THE LABEL

  • 1-Cotton Incorporated Lifestyle Monitor.™
  • 2-Comparison of 100% Cotton and Cotton/Polyester Blends on Ring, Rotor, and MVS Spinning Systems.
  • 3-Internal Textile Research; TSL 16275.
  • 4-Azimi, et al. “Application of Resins and Crosslinking Agents on Fiber Blend Fabric To Reduce Pilling Performance, Optimized by Response Surface Methodology.”
  • 5-Azimi, et al. “Application of Resins and Crosslinking Agents on Fiber Blend Fabric To Reduce Pilling Performance, Optimized by Response Surface Methodology.”
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