Does Cotton Tend to Pill or Not?

cotton clothing

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Hello, Julie here from Natural Touch Clothing. I’ve been in the textile industry for years, running my factory with a focus on high-end clothing customization. So, when it comes to understanding fabrics, especially cotton, I consider myself quite knowledgeable. Today, let’s talk about a common issue with cotton fabrics: pilling.

natural cotton

What is Pilling?

Pilling in fabrics, particularly in cotton, is when those little fuzzballs appear on the surface of the garment. It’s a common annoyance that many of us have experienced. But why does it happen?

Why Does Cotton Pill?

The main culprits behind cotton pilling are friction and abrasion. As we wear and wash our cotton garments, they undergo stress, causing the fibers to break and tangle together. Cotton’s tendency to pill is primarily due to its shorter fibers. When these fibers break, they start to form small balls on the fabric’s surface.

Comparing with Other Fabrics

When we compare cotton with other fabrics, each has its characteristics in terms of pilling. For instance, cotton tends to pill more than polyester due to its shorter fibers. Polyester, being more resistant to pilling, is often chosen for durable clothing. Wool, another natural fiber, also pills, but its pilling is typically softer and fuzzier than that of cotton. Silk, being delicate and luxurious, is less prone to pilling but requires specific care to maintain its smooth texture.

Quality Matters

Not all cotton is created equal. The quality of cotton significantly influences its likelihood of pilling. Higher quality cotton with longer fibers is less prone to pilling. The weaving technique and thread count also affect a fabric’s resistance to pilling. Tighter weaves and higher thread counts can reduce the chances of pilling.

Preventing Pilling in Cotton

Prevention is key when it comes to pilling. Here are some tips to keep your cotton garments pill-free:

  • Wash Gently: Always turn garments inside out before washing to reduce friction and abrasion. Use a gentle cycle and a mild detergent. Avoid washing cotton with items that have zippers or Velcro.
  • Air Dry When Possible: Air-drying is preferable to using a dryer. If you need to use a dryer, choose a low-heat setting to minimize abrasion.
  • Regular Maintenance: Use a fabric shaver to remove any pills and maintain the garment’s appearance. Also, storing your cotton items neatly can prevent unnecessary rubbing and friction.

Debunking Myths

Let’s clear up some common misconceptions about cotton pilling:

  • Thread Count: While a higher thread count makes cotton feel smoother, it doesn’t necessarily prevent pilling.
  • Quality: High-quality cotton can also pill. Pilling is a natural occurrence in many fabrics and can happen over time, regardless of quality.
  • Durability: Pilling doesn’t necessarily indicate poor fabric quality or durability.


In conclusion, cotton does have a tendency to pill, but this can be managed and minimized with proper care and handling. Understanding these aspects of cotton helps us appreciate its qualities and care for our garments better, ensuring they last longer and look great.


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