How to Keep Flannel Sheets Soft: Our Tips and Tricks

When the weather turns cold, there’s nothing quite like curling up in a bed made with warm, inviting flannel sheets. While this fan-favorite fabric is irresistibly fuzzy and fairly easy to care for, it’s also prone to pilling and shedding—especially when laundered incorrectly. Follow our tips to make the most of extra-cozy winter-weather bedding and keep your flannel sheets soft longer.

flannel sheet

Why Do Flannel Sheets Pill?

One of the most common complaints about any flannel bedding is its propensity to pill. To know how to prevent pilling on flannel sheets, it helps to understand why it happens. Pilling occurs when fibers of any fabric shed and rub against each other, knotting together to create tiny balls (or pills) across the material’s surface. Especially common on flannel, pilling is not an indicator of poor quality, but rather a natural result of normal use.

3 Keys To Soft Flannel Bedding That Stays Soft

Our high-quality flannel sheets and bedding are irresistibly cozy—and with proper care, they’ll get even softer over time. From what to buy to how to care for flannel sheets, follow our guide for flannel bedding that stays soft and sumptuous.

Knowing what to look for in flannel sheets can simplify the job of keeping them pill-free. Simply put, high-quality flannel sheets are made with pure cotton fibers, which makes them less likely to pill than lower-quality alternatives. Look for high-quality flannel made with long-staple cotton in a weight of at least 5 ounces. Our velvet flannel is available in 5 ounce and 6 ounce options. Because the best flannel is brushed multiple times for softness, the loose fibers shed and pill at first, but this lint will diminish over time.

Proper care goes a long way in keeping flannel sheets super soft and comfy. Pay close attention to the care instructions for your chosen flannel bedding, and try these tried-and-true tips for how to wash and dry flannel sheets:

  • Wash cold to reduce pilling. Heat and friction are the primary culprits of pilled flannel sheets—launder flannel bedding alone in cold or cool water, and choose a gentle cycle to minimize agitation.
  • Rinse twice. Even natural detergents can leave residue that accumulates on flannel’s cotton fibers, resulting in stiff sheets. To remove leftover detergent, add a second rinse cycle every time you wash flannel bedding.
  • Air dry or dry on low. If you have the space, air drying is a great option for flannel. If air drying is not an option, tumble dry flannel bedding on a low temperature setting.
  • Try the tennis ball trick. Dry flannel bedding with a few clean tennis balls or our wool dryer balls to reduce friction.
The Company Store dryer balls

Whether you’re trying to figure out how to remove pilling from your favorite flannel sheets or loosen up bedding that’s stiffened over time, try these tricks to make flannel sheets and other bedding cozy again:

  • Remove pilling periodically to keep it from building up as it rubs against itself. Try a lint roller, or if you do not have a lint roller on hand, use a piece of masking tape and rub the sticky side over the flannel.
  • Forego fabric softener: Although it may seem like a common-sense solution, fabric softener (and other harsh chemicals such as bleach) actually weaken flannel’s fibers, increasing the likelihood of pilling and causing stiff bedding.
  • Make flannel sheets feel softer by tossing them in the dryer for a brief fluff cycle after air drying.
  • Wash flannel bedding alone or with other flannel items to keep it soft; laundering flannel with towels, clothing, or other bedding can increase friction and make pilling worse.

Our softness tips aren’t just for bedding: follow the same methods for the super-cozy flannel pajamas you love to snuggle up in. For more bedding tips and tricks, explore our other Guides.