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5 things to know about fabric pilling

Why is my sofa fabric pilling? 

Our Showroom team and Customer Service team get asked this question regularly. 

Pilling or pills are the fuzzballs that appear on fabric products, including clothing, bedding and sofas. 

And, these tiny little fuzzballs cause a lot of concerns.   

Along with accidental spills and removing stains, our customers have identified pilling as a top concern of purchasing and owning a fabric sofa, which is why we believe it is necessary to be transparent about pilling. 

After reading this article, you will know how to identify the early signs of pilling, remove pills, and help prevent pilling from occurring. 



The Neo Sofa is featured above in Club Sterling—a versatile and durable material ideal for busy living spaces.  


1. What causes pilling on fabric?


Pilling occurs when the fibres in the fabric rub together, and the friction causes the fibres to become loose and ball up.   

This friction occurs through general use. Whether you sit or lie on your sofa, your skin and clothes come in contact with the material, which creates friction and normal abrasion resulting in pills.   

Fibre transfer can also cause pilling on your fabric sofa. This occurs when loose fibres from your clothes, blankets, cushions or throws attach to the sofa fabric resulting in pilling. Pills from fibre transfer can be a different colour to your sofa material—this will depend on the colour of the transferred fibres, the colour of your throws, clothing and cushions. 


The friction from soft furnishings, including throws and pillows, can contribute to pilling. 


Is fabric pilling a fault?


While pilling can be bothersome, it is not considered a fault or defect.  

And, as pilling is not a fault, your furniture warranty does not cover fabric pilling.

Pilling occurs on various fabric and material products, including garments, rugs, and mattresses. As a result, there are various tools available to help remove pills from your material and fabric items. 


Fun, playful and durable, the Olley fabric is a heavy-duty commercial material that is very soft.  


How to prevent fabric pilling on your sofa


Whether you sit on your sofa twice a day or twice a month, most sofa materials have the potential to pill. 

The friction from general use causes the fibres to rub together and ball up. On the one hand, pilling is unavoidable, but on the other hand, there are some things you can do to prevent repeated friction and abrasion to keep the pilling on your sofa to a minimum.  

When possible, rotate seat cushions and back cushions to even out wear. This is particularly important if you sit or lounge in the same spot. Rotating the sofa cushions prevents one section of your sofa from becoming more worn than other sections.   

Throws and blankets can cause additional friction, which can be the catalyst for pills appearing more prominently in one area. Be mindful of your cushion and throw materials. Different materials are courser and more abrasive than others. Some throw and cushion materials may also have looser fibres, which can cause pilling from fibre transfer.   

As dirt and dust can also cause friction, we recommend vacuuming and cleaning your sofa regularly to remove any foreign matter. Regularly vacuuming your sofa will also help remove loose fibres before they ball up and create pills.



A KING premium fabric getting sewn into sofa covers.  


4. How to remove pills from fabric


Vacuuming weekly with low suction and a soft brush accessory will help keep your sofa clean and reduce the appearance of pills. We recommend avoiding using your vacuum in a high-suction setting as this may remove or break extra fibres. 

When cleaning your sofa with a fabric cleaner or applying a fabric protectant, it is essential only to use products designed for your fabric and sofa. Harsh chemicals, bleach, and cleaners not intended for material can weaken or break the fibres. The loose and broken fibres will ball up and make their way to the surface resulting in pills. 

One of the most efficient ways to remove pills from your sofa is to use a fabric pill remover. Also known as a de-pilling machine, a pill remover gently shaves the pills and loose fibres without damaging the rest of the fabric or your sofa. 

We recommend using the pill remover in a gentle circular motion without applying too much pressure to the fabric. For best results, work a small section at a time and run your hand over the treated area to feel the fabric is smooth and all the pills are removed.   


5. Does pilling weaken fabric?


Pilling is a normal occurrence caused by general wear and tear and does not affect the durability or functionality of the fabric. 

Pilling may appear more frequently and extensively in the few months of owning your sofa. This may subside once the excess loose fibres move to the surface and get removed.   

While some fabrics will settle after the first few months, pilling can still occur, particularly if your sofa repeatedly comes in contact with throws, blankets or abrasive clothing. 


Preston Velvet fabric being sewn into sofa cushion covers at the KING Head Office.

How to select fabric for your sofa


As bothersome as pilling might be, the tiny fuzzballs should not cause concern or prevent you from enjoying your fabric sofa 

While all fabrics have the potential to pill, some textiles are more prone to pilling than others.  

If you need help selecting the right fabric for your sofa, you can book a Showroom consultation online or speak to one of our interior design consultants. Our team can help you select the right material for your home and needs. 

At KING all our fabrics undergo an extensive fabric pilling and quality test by three independent laboratories before being approved as a KING fabric and made available to our customers. While pilling is natural and can occur on most fabrics, we select quality fabrics and conduct these tests to alleviate the risk of excessive pilling. 

All KING fabrics feature pilling ratings of three stars or above, which is considered suitable for everyday furniture use. 

If you are unsure if a fabric sofa is right for your sofa, you can read our leather vs fabric article to help make more of an informed decision.