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Stop Flannel Bedding from Pilling

Flannel sheets have become one of the newest trends in bedding.  No doubt the softness and warmth are among the added benefits.  However, pilling can become a problem if the bedding is not properly cared for.  Proper care of your sheets is not that difficult.  A few simple rules will help.

First of all, there is no way to totally eliminate pilling on flannel sheets.  For those of us who enjoy flannel shirts, we are well aware that rubbing on the shirt will cause those little balls to form.  That is just the nature of the fabric.  The same holds true with movement, even slight movement on your sheets while you sleep.  So, let’s just understand before purchasing anything made of flannel that some pills will form no matter what we do to prevent them.  However, the pilling can be greatly reduced with proper care, giving high quality flannel bedding years of enjoyable use.

As with all sheets, it is recommended that one never wash the bedding in hot water.  Warm or cold water will provide cleanliness.  Additionally, hot water will shrink flannel sheets as they are made of cotton and we all know that cotton shrinks.  Read the packaging before purchasing to see if your potential sheets say they are pre-shrunk.

Now to the washing.  Wash flannel sheets in cold water to reduce pilling.  Warm water is okay if you cannot accept that cold water will adequately clean the bedding.  Wash the sheets separately.  Occasionally, there will be a bit of “bleeding” or fading when the sheets are being washed, especially if they are not pre-washed or pre-shrunk.  Use a gentle detergent such as Woolite.  A liquid fabric softener is recommended during the rinse cycle.

The washer setting should be set to gentle.  This is extremely important as the cycle is slower and less motion in the washer is what we are looking for.  The washing process is hard on most softer fabrics and will break down the fibers.  Regardless of the fabric, when washing bedding it is always best to use the gentle wash cycle and cool water.

Drying flannel sheets should be done on a gentle cycle or air dry.  It may take a little longer, but your sheets will last longer.  The temperature should be set as low as possible.  Again, the gentle cycle will and the cooler temperature will prevent shrinking as well as pilling.

It has been recommended that one way to prevent pilling is to wash the flannel bedding before first use in cold or warm water with one cup of white vinegar, no detergent.  Of course, all sheets should be washed at least once before first use to remove “sizing.”  Sizing is the chemical additive that manufacturers use in fabrics to keep the bedding wrinkle-free and stiff in the packaging.  (Sometimes more than one washing is required to remove the sizing.)

To Reduce or Almost Eliminate Pilling on Flannel Sheets

  • First wash with a cup of white vinegar and cold water on gentle cycle.
  • Always wash flannel sheets in cold or warm water with a gentle detergent.
  • Always select the gentle cycle when washing flannel.
  • Add a liquid fabric softener to the rinse.
  • Dry on gentle cycle.
  • Use the lowest temperature for drying.

Flannel pilling cannot be 100% eliminated.  However, it can be greatly reduced… to the point where it is almost unnoticeable.  With the best of care, it is important to note that the quality of the flannel has a lot to do with the pilling.  Always consider the weight of the fabric.  Remember, when purchasing anything made of flannel thread count does not apply.  Weight is the measure of a high quality fabric.  Look for sheets that are 4 ounce minimum.