Why do sheets pill?
Pilling can occur with all bed linens.
When luxury linens are taken care of properly, they will rarely experience any pilling. However, all bed sheets are prone to pilling, especially ones lower in quality. The below (enlarged) image shows a high quality (left image) and a low-quality (right image) cotton sheet.
Cotton weaving has improved dramatically since the days of the spinning wheel, although the technique has pretty much remained unchanged. Loose cotton fibers are continuously twisted and spooled, creating a long thread or yarn. The spooled yarn is then woven in a loom to make a flat woven textile.
There are many factors that affect a textile’s propensity to pill and here is a closer look at some of those causes.
- As noted above, fraying can occur when fibers in the yarn are not twisted tightly enough. Over the course of time, these loose fibers can knot up and cause small balls or pills.
- Better bed linens, particularly luxury linens, have a tighter weave. This means that the individual cotton fiber length is longer.
- Bed linens are not as prone to pilling as something like a sweater. However, lower-quality cotton yarns that are not twisted tightly are more prone to pilling than those made from high-quality tightly twisted yarn.
Length of the fiber used in the construction of the yarn
- To make this a little clearer, here is a scenario. You have one inch of yarn made from cotton fibers that are 1/4” long. Now, compare that to one inch of yarn using 2” cotton fibers. The yarn made from the short fiber cotton would have 8 times more fiber ends. Short staple cotton is between 3/8” to 15/16” (.95 cm to 2.4 cm) in length.
- Cotton is graded on several different attributes, just according to length. Here are two basic classifications:
- Medium staple cotton is between 1” to 1-1/8” (2.54 cm to 2.86 cm) in length.
- Long staple cotton is between 1-3/16” to 2-1/2” (3 cm to 6.35 cm) in length.
Elasticity of the cotton
- Cotton fibers have different elasticity characteristics, although exposing any of them to high heat will make them brittle. Continued exposure to high heat will eventually break delicate fibers, resulting in more fraying and pilling.
- This is precisely why bed linens should not be over dried or ironed on high heat.
Exposure to harsh chemicals
- Most detergents that are used to clean bed linens adversely affect their life span and also cause pilling. This is because many of the brighteners found in popular laundry detergents contain bleach derivatives, which can harm the fibers of the cotton.
- As a result, mild detergents are a much better option. There are some detergents that are specifically formulated for linens, such as Le Blanc Linen Wash, Dreft or Ivory. These are considered mild detergents that are great for washing bed sheets.
- A number of people shave their body hair. A few days later, they are left with stubble, which is very abrasive.
- Weight is also abrasive. A 200-pound man who sleeps on his back, tossing and turning on top of a fitted sheet will eventually cause the fibers to fray.
Vero Linens has a large selection of fine bed linens, which can provide you with many luxurious nights of sleep. Customers can choose from our fine line of Italian linens, luxury duvet covers, soft down sleeping pillows and much more. When you are ready to purchase a set of elegant linens, Vero Linens is your one and only shopping stop.
You may also enjoy the following bedding articles here:
- How long do bed sheets last?
- The difference between Sateen and Percale bed sheets.
- What is Thread Count
Here is a video, explaining how to proper care for your luxury linens.
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