Sock Pilling: Causes, Prevention, and Remedies

Sep 28, 2023

Pilling socks

In the course of our daily wear, we often encounter the phenomenon of "pilling" of socks, which not only affects the aesthetics of the socks, but also often makes us have doubts about the quality. But did you know? Pilling of socks is a very common phenomenon and has its own natural causes and mechanisms. In this blog, we'll reveal how sock pilling works and how it is actually a norm.

Why Do My Socks Pill

Pilling is that annoying little problem where tiny balls of fabric form on your socks. It's caused by a combination of factors:

  • Friction

The continuous rubbing of your feet against the inside of your shoes and even between your socks can cause fibers to break and tangle, leading to pilling.
High activity levels, such as running or hiking, increase friction and the likelihood of pilling.

  • Fabric Type

Fabrics like wool and cotton are more prone to pilling because they have shorter fibers that easily break and tangle.
Some synthetic fibers, when blended with natural fibers, can also contribute to pilling, although they tend to be more resistant compared to pure natural fibers.

  • Washing and Drying

Aggressive washing cycles, high temperatures, and tumble drying can weaken fibers, causing them to break and form pills.
Washing machines that are overloaded cause more friction between clothes, leading to more pilling.

  • Loose Weave or Knit

Socks with a looser weave or knit are more susceptible to pilling as the fibers can move around more freely and tangle.


The Relationship Between Quality and Pilling

Quality is indeed a significant factor in determining how much a sock will pill.

However, it's important to note that even high-quality socks can pill to some extent, especially with frequent wear and improper care.

  • Higher Quality Socks, Less Pilling

Better Fibers: Higher quality socks often use superior fiber blends or longer staple fibers, which are less prone to breaking and forming pills.
Tighter Knit: A denser, more tightly knit fabric is less likely to shed fibers.
Stronger Yarns: Thicker, stronger yarns can resist the friction that causes pilling.

  • Lower Quality Socks, More Pilling

Inferior Fibers: Cheaper socks may use shorter, weaker fibers that are more susceptible to breakage.
Loose Knit: A looser weave can lead to more exposed fibers, increasing the chance of pilling.
Thin Yarns: Flimsy yarns are more likely to fray and form pills.

How to Stop Socks from Pilling

Although pilling is the norm, we can minimise it by doing the following:

  • Try to avoid intense exercise or activity while wearing new socks to minimise friction.
  • Washing and Drying

Gentle cycle: Use a delicate or gentle cycle on your washing machine.
Cold water: Wash your socks in cold water to preserve the fibers.
Inside out: Turn socks inside out before washing to reduce friction.
Mild detergent: Avoid harsh detergents that can damage the fabric.
Air dry: Whenever possible, air dry your socks to prevent damage from the dryer. If you must use a dryer, use a low heat setting.
Laundry bags: Using a laundry bag can protect your socks from rubbing against other clothes.

  • Choosing the Right Socks

Fiber content: Opt for sock materials that are less prone to pilling, like merino wool or bamboo.
Sock construction: Look for socks with a tighter knit to reduce the likelihood of pilling.

For more on sock care see our care instructions.

How to Remove Pilling from Socks


If your socks have already developed pills, you can use a fabric shaver or sweater comb to gently remove them.
By following these tips, you can significantly reduce pilling and extend the life of your socks.

Understanding the science of sock pilling and its normative nature can help us deal with this phenomenon more rationally, as well as take better care of and prolong the life of our socks. We hope that through this blog, you have gained a more comprehensive and deeper understanding of sock pilling!


Read More:

Why Do We Wear Socks
Do You Wear Socks with Climbing Shoes
What Color Socks with Brown Shoes
What Socks to Wear with Loafers
What are Grip Socks

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