Furniture Care Q&A: Pilling

Question: My cushions are pilling – should I be worried about the look and longevity of my sofa?

Short Answer: Have no fear – this is not a sign your fabric is defective and it is easily treatable!

Long Answer: First of all – what are pills?? A pill or bobble is a small ball of fibers that form on the surface of fabric. So let’s talk about what causes it and how to best manage them should they appear on your cushions.

  • What causes these little balls of fiber to form? In the normal course of use upholstery, rugs, clothing, etc. surfaces will rub together and that friction allows loose fibers to pill. Natural fibers shed these loose fibers more easily and less noticeably. Man-made fibers are notoriously stronger (note: more common in upholstery) and they may need a bit more assistance in shedding these pills.
  • Does this mean my fabric is defective? Of course not! This is a normal course of action for fabrics and can be compared to the shedding experienced with a new carpet. Pilling is completely normal and, most importantly, will reduce as the excess fibers are shed. Pilling in no way suggests that the fabric is disintegrating or wearing away. Pills are easily removable.
  • How do I get rid of the pills? There are a few options. We recommend a sweater brick or a pill shaver. Both are small and cheap – one is manual and the other electric. If pilling recurs repeat the process and remember that pilling will diminish and eventually cease once the excess fibers have shed.
  • Are there any fabrics out there that don’t pill? All fabrics will pill to some extent therefore this should not be the primary focus while shopping for upholstery. There are some options that are a tighter weave, or fabrics such as Ultrasuede, that are less likely to pill because of their structure.

Key Takeaway: Pilling is not a cause for alarm or sign of poor quality, it is a natural cycle of fibers and is easily remedied!


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Erica is a fourth generation family member at Circle Furniture. She loves bold colors, natural wood grains, and the individuality Circle Furniture allows their clients to explore in their homes. Outside of work she wrangles dogs, kids, and loves the snow!