How to Fix Pilling Couch Cushions

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Pilling is a fabric phenomenon that causes little balls or pills of fuzz to build up on the surface of the material. You’ve probably seen it on sweaters, but your clothing isn’t the only place this menace can affect. Upholstered furniture is prone to pilling too. Read on to find out what to do if your sofa is pilling and how to prevent it in the first place.

The Dreaded Pill Problem

My couch used to be gorgeous, then one day, I noticed my almost-white sofa looking, well, dingy and worn. At first I wasn’t sure why it looked so dirty because the fabric still seemed white and there weren’t any stains.

Upon closer inspection, I noticed millions of teensy little dark balls of fuzz covering the surface of my cream-colored cushions.

The Problem! Pills of lint all over the cushions

The back cushions and sides of the couch looked fine, but the seat cushions were a disaster zone. In between them was the worst.

So I set out on a mission to uncover the truth about couch cushion pilling and battle this monster once and for all.

What Causes Pilling on Couch Cushions?

The first thing you should know is that pilling cushions is not your fault. There’s no need to hide your face in shame, Love. Pilling cushions happens to the best of us.

What I mean to say is, it’s not because you have a cheap couch.

It’s the natural response to friction on fabric. (Your washing machine does it to your laundry.) As you sit on your sofa, the friction pulls tiny fibers loose and they tangle up with other fibers to make pills.

In fact, it really doesn’t have to do with the quality of the fabric at all, although it does have to do with certain qualities of the fabric.

Certain types of fabric are more prone to pilling than others.

Fabrics with a tight weave are less likely to pill so before you purchase your next couch, inspect the weave of the fibers. If you can see lines going in two directions, you’re looking at a looser weave.

Man-made fabrics are more likely to pill too, even though they’re typically made to be stronger and longer lasting.

Man-made and likely to pill:

  • polyester
  • rayon
  • acrylic
  • nylon
  • spandex

Natural and less likely to pill:

  • Cotton
  • Wool
  • Hemp
  • Cashmere
  • Silk

Also, fabrics that use more than one kind of fibers, such as a polyester-cotton blend are more likely to pill.

How to Prevent Couch Cushions from Pilling

There’s not a whole lot you can do to prevent pilling on couches.

Like I said, it’s the natural result of friction, so short of not sitting on your couch, there’s really not anything that can prevent it entirely, however a product like ScotchGuard may slow the process.

The good news is, once those excess fibers are removed, the pilling should subside or at least decrease greatly.

How to Fix Pilling Couch Cushions

The best way to restore your fuzzy sofa cushions is to remove the pills. There are a few different products that can help with this.

The Before: Between the Cushions

The most highly recommended product is a fabric shaver like you might use on a sweater. (Incidentally, in my research about fabric pilling, I found that experts recommend this tool for upholstery but do not advise its use on garment. Maybe we should call it a Sofa Shaver instead of a Sweater Shaver. I’m just sayin’)

We got this one: Fabric Shaver

The kids love to take turns using it. They think its fun, and that’s totally cool with me. Hey, if it’s got to be done, let’s make it fun!

It did the job!

Buuuuutt…it kinda takes forever.

Then, I got this amazing little thing for Christmas that pulls the dog fur off the rug and I decided to give it a try on the sofa.

Get Pills off Couch Cushions


It pulled all the fuzz balls off in seconds.

I do hesitate to recommend it for this project though, because it’s pretty rough and I could see it damaging your sofa fabric. That would be worse than pilling.

Lint Removal Rock gets pills off couch

Although my sofa seems to have survived just fine, I was only confident in using it because I’m getting ready to replace this sofa anyway.

If I had a brand new sofa that was pilling, I’d want to be sure I wasn’t weakening the fabric and shortening its lifespan.

In that case, I recommend this.

It’s recommended by high-end furniture manufacturers, and it’s as easy to use as my fur-grabbing rock. It’s called a fabric gleener and I love that it doesn’t require batteries.

No More Pilling Cushions Ever!

Even though I’m planning to replace this sofa soon, it’s great to know I can keep it in shape and looking its best for as long as I have it.

And more importantly, it’s good to know that pilling is not a fabric defect so if the new sofa starts pilling after just 4 months, I’ll just whip out that handy dandy fabric shaver or fabric gleener and remove the pills before they get out of control.

Pilling may not be preventable, but like hard-water buildup, it can be managed with regular care. Have fun keeping your couch cozy!


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