RealEstate Ke > Home improvement > What Causes Pilling on Mattress and Bed Sheet? (Solved!)

What Causes Pilling on Mattress and Bed Sheet? (Solved!)

Few things can ruin the quality of a good night’s sleep like waking up in the middle of the night due to discomfort caused by pilling on the mattress and bed sheets.

If you have been sleeping on your bed for over two years, chances are that you already have this problem or will experience it soon.

You probably wonder what causes pilling on mattress and bed sheets and what you can do about it? It usually occurs at the stitching area where two materials are sewn together. The friction between these different materials results in the pill formation, which causes pilling, lint and fuzz balls on mattress and bed sheets.

Pilling typically occurs on mattresses and bed sheets as a function of quality rather than materials.

As bed frame materials vary in quality, so does the pilling.

If you have an old frame that is made with poor-quality material, it will pill worse than a new one made from better material.

We are going to take a closer look at the possible cause of pilling on mattress and bed sheets and how to prevent it.  

Here we go!

What is pilling, lint, and fuzz balls?

Pilling is the process in which loose fibers/yarns grow onto one another

It usually occurs when sensitive fabrics such as cotton, wool, acrylic, polyester etc. are rubbed against each other repeatedly over a long period of time or many washes. 

A textile’s thread count may be an indication of its sensitivity to pilling.

Fabrics with a lower thread count may pill more easily than higher-count fabrics. 

This is because the number of yarn ends rubbing against each other determines the overall strength of the fabric.

Delicate fabrics are more likely to pill than coarser fabrics. Pilling happens more often in fabrics with long and loosely twisted fibers or yarns.

Lint balls, pills, bobbles, and fuzz balls are all names for the same thing. They are small balls or bumps that gradually form on textiles.

All of your clothes, sweatshirt, towels and pillowcase are going to be pilled eventually.

However, polyester fibers pill faster than cotton and acrylic. This is because the shorter, more tightly twisted fibers of these fabrics are easier to separate during washing and drying cycles. 

Different types of sheeting materials

Sheeting is a common term for the cloth used to make bed sheets, including fitted sheets and flannel sheets. You can also use it for other applications such as tablecloths, drapes, or pillowcases.

The most common types of sheeting materials are cotton, polyester and silk.  Cotton sheeting originated in India in the 6th century.  It is generally thicker and less resistant to wrinkles than other materials.  


Cotton sheeting is a natural fiber, which means that it biodegrades fairly easily due to its cellulose structure. Cotton bed sheets last for years with proper care. They are inexpensive and easy to wash and iron.

Cotton bed sheets are relatively easy to care for as long as you follow some basic rules, such as using color-safe bleach and drying the sheeting in a dryer without excess heat.


Silk is a natural fiber made from natural protein such as the one produced by cocoons

It is very smooth, lustrous and strong but delicate at the same time. 

Silk sheets are more expensive and harder to care for than cotton bed sheets.


Polyester sheeting is a synthetic fiber made from petroleum. It is very smooth, soft, strong, wrinkle-free and colorfast. 

Because polyester does not absorb moisture easily and has no natural shrinkage, it makes the perfect choice when looking for fitted sheets or pillowcases as it will not shrink.

Polyester sheets are warmer than cotton in winter and cooler than cotton in summer because of its ability to regulate temperature well. 

Polyester is a plastic material that does not allow for moisture absorption, thus preventing mildew from developing on the fabric or weakening it due to rot. 

Causes of pilling, lint and fuzz balls on mattress and bed sheet

Sticking out like a sore thumb, pilling is the unsightly little balls of fabric that come off when you push your hand into a mattress or sheet.

Actually known as ‘abrasion’, pilling, lint and fuzz are formed because of friction between two fabrics or materials with different textures

Tangling and rubbing together they form soft clumps which catch on skin and cause discomfort.

Pilling can be very annoying and sometimes a nuisance, especially if they keep growing. 

The process gets worse the more you use your bed clothes although it will usually even out in time.

None of us wants to wear a garment that leaves behind embarrassing pillings.

Friction can happen between the bedding and you when you sleep.

Also, shaved body hair and even stubble from hairy backs or legs can be too abrasive for mattresses, causing fabric to pill.

In fact, lint balls can form when you wear certain synthetic fabrics like polyester, which are prone to pilling.

The condition affects even the finest of things such as cashmere and cotton as well as wool and acrylic blends.

While it is common for sheets, blankets and pillows to shed a little fuzz from time to time – especially when you put it in the dryer – it’s not normal for them to leave behind lint balls every time you touch them.

Put simply, pilling is a process of the fibres or yarns that are exposed wearing off, very similar to wool being worn down. 

With time they sometimes even out and disappear while you continue using your bedding.

Ultimately this is not a serious matter.

In case of even major pilling, the problem is probably caused by you and can be easily solved with a few solutions.

Let’s focus on that in the next section.

Cleaning tips to remove pillings

Pillings on your mattress?

You may be surprised how easy it is to remove pilling off your mattress.

Pillings happen when the fabric wears down.

It may seem that you need to replace it, but it’s not that bad.

I’ll provide a few ways you can take care of the pillings yourself and save money.

How can you remove pilling on the mattress?

The following are a few methods that can help to get rid of pillings on your mattress and bed sheet.

1. Use a lint remover

A lint remover is used to remove the loose fibers on clothes, like pilling.

A lint roller will do the trick too and it’s cheaper than most of the shop bought products.

Use a rolled up lint roller to brush off the pillings from your mattress.

If it’s too difficult to brush them off, then dampen the roller and use that.

Repeat this process until you have cleared all pillings on your mattress.

2. Use a vacuum

Using a vacuum cleaner can be another effective way to remove pillings.

You may find this method is more efficient than using the lint roller as it’s more powerful to remove the fabric fibers off your mattress.  

A vacuum with brush attachments works better if you have several pillings on your mattress.

3. Use a damp cloth

If you’re not in a position to bring out the vacuum cleaner, you can always dampen a piece of cloth and wipe it over your mattress.  

Use light pressure so that you don’t damage the fabric further.

4. Use a razor blade

It is the last method I would recommend as this may cause more damage on the fabric if not done properly. 

Also, It’s a risky job and you might cut yourself if it’s not done properly.

Ways to prevent or reduce pilling on mattress and bed sheets

  1. Turn your mattress over : If you have a pilling on the top side of your mattress, then flip it over to get rid of them.  This will prolong the lifespan of your bed and save you time cleaning it every month or so. 
  1. Use pillows : As much as possible, use more pillows to make your bed fluffier.  This will prevent pillings from forming on your mattress and sheets in the first place. 
  1. Use a mattress protector : You can use a waterproof pad to protect your mattress from getting damaged when you need to clean it often. But, I do not know how effective those pads are to remove pilling. It may just prolong the time before you have to clean your mattress again. 
  1. Change the sheets regularly : Change your bed sheet every month or as often as you need to if you notice they are starting to pill.  Some people simply rotate their sheets with new ones and wash them together under a machine without damaging the fabric.
  1. Use a cotton sheet : Cotton sheets or duvet will last you longer than polyester based ones. (At least that’s what my experience is.) 
  1. Change your pillow and mattress when they’re degraded : Pillows will start to lose their support when they are too old to use.  The same goes for your mattress, if they’re already deformed and you don’t have the money to buy a new one, then it’s time for you to get rid of them.

Final words

The cause of pilling on mattress and bed sheets is friction from the natural fibers that make up a fabric rubbing against each other from constant contact. 

Also, pilling on mattress and bed sheets is caused by the fabric construction. 

Some fabrics are constructed with shorter fibers that make them pill less than longer fiber constructions. 

A fabric construction with strong fibers will pill less than weaker fiber constructions. 

I mentioned ways to prevent pilling on the mattress and bed sheets. 

To reduce friction against the fabric from constant contact, rotate your mattress pad or bed sheets periodically, and use pillows to reduce friction against the mattress and bed sheets. 

I also set a couple of ways to restore fabrics from pilling on mattress and bed sheets by using a vacuum or lint remover. 

Hopefully, these tips help you remove the pillings from your mattress!

Zebedee Nambaleo
Zebedee Nambaleo

Zebedee is the founder of RealEstate Ke. He creates content by carefully examining and analyzing the real estate market, home improvement resources, and government data. His analysis is based on the principle of supplying high-quality, relevant, and in-depth information to his audience. By evaluating the current conditions and predicting future trends, he provides his audience with invaluable insights that allow them to make better decisions.