Revive Your Clothes: Tips to Remove Those Annoying Clothing Pills

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A closeup of clothing pilling on a sweatshirt and behind that a larger image of the sweatshirt after removing clothing pillsPin

Have you ever shrugged on your favorite sweater and discovered tiny balls of fuzz clinging to the fabric? Or maybe you’ve slipped into a beloved pair of leggings or sweatpants and found those fuzz balls on the inner thighs? Those unattractive bits are called pills or sometimes bobbles or lint balls, and they can make your clothes look old and worn-out. If you’re looking to remove clothing pills, you’re in the right place.

There are ways of removing pilling so your favorite clothes look new again. There are also steps you can take to reduce the amount of pilling that occurs. In this article, I’ll explain what causes clothing pills, six different methods you can use to remove them from clothes, and steps that can help prevent them, so you can keep your wardrobe looking its best.

Why Pilling Happens

Although you can’t completely prevent pilling on many items of clothing, understanding the causes can help you reduce the problem and prevent pilling on clothes.

Abrasion: When you wear or wash your clothes, the fabric rubs against itself and other surfaces. This friction causes some fibers to loosen up or break and twist together, forming those annoying clothing pills.

Zippers and buttons: Washing clothing with zippers and buttons alongside knits or delicate fabrics increases abrasion. This can result in more pilling, snags, and loose threads as the zipper teeth catch on other fabrics.

Fabric construction: Some fabrics are more likely to pill than others because of their construction. Knitted fabrics and those made from blends of mixed fibers are the most prone to pilling, because they often have weaker fibers which break and twist, creating clothing pills.

Wear and tear: The more often you wear a piece of clothing, the more chances the fibers have to form pills. This is particularly true in high-friction areas like underarms and between the legs.

Not sorting laundry: For those of you who don’t like to sort your clothes and swear it’s never caused a problem? It has: washing heavy or rough items with lightweight or more delicate fabrics causes the exact friction that leads to fabric pills.

The good news is that there are simple ways to get pills off clothing, and most of them take only a matter of minutes.

6 Methods to Remove Clothing Pills

Since I have what we’re going to call “thick” legs, my leggings develop pills along the inner leg. It’s annoying, and it looks awful, so over the years I’ve tried pretty much every method to get pills off fabric. Most of the time now, I use a fabric shaver or, if I’m out of the house, a pair of small scissors that I keep in my purse. But I’m providing several sweater pilling hacks so you can find the one that’s easiest for you:

  1. Lint roller: lay the garment flat and gently run the lint roller over the pilled areas to pick off new fuzzballs. Clean the roller after use.
  2. Disposable razor: Stretch the fabric tight on a flat surface and gently glide the razor over the pilled areas. The safety razor’s blade will sever the tangled fibers. Tap the razor on the edge of a cup to dislodge them and continue until they’re all gone.
  3. Fabric shaver: Spread the fabric over a flat surface. Turn on the fabric shaver and glide it in a circular motion over the clothing pills. Empty the shaver’s container after use.
  4. Small sharp scissors: Hold the fabric taut with one hand and carefully snip off the clothing pills, making sure you don’t cut the fabric itself.
  5. Pumice stone: Stretch the pilled area over a curved surface like your knee or the back of a bowl and glide the pumice stone over the fabric to snag the pills and pull them off. Wipe the stone after use.
  6. Sweater comb: Lay the item flat and hold it taut as you gently comb the fabric to catch the pills and remove them. Clean the comb after use.

Preventing Clothing Pills

If you find it burdensome to snip or shave off all those clothing pills, here are some steps you can take to prevent them.

  • Sort your laundry: Wash heavier clothes like jeans and shirts with buttons separate from delicates and knits to minimize the abrasion that causes pilling. Adjust wash cycles based on the types of clothing in the washer, too.
  • Turn clothes inside out: By turning the clothes inside out, you’re putting the more resilient side of the fabric in contact with other garments, which can reduce pilling. Laundering your clothes inside out means that any pilling that does occur won’t be visible.
  • Use a gentle cycle: With knit items, particularly sweaters, a delicate cycle is easier on your clothes and will prevent fibers from tangling and breaking. Hand-washing is even better for very delicate items.
  • Use mesh laundry bags: Laundry very delicate items in a mesh laundry bag or add them to a pillowcase and tie a knot in the top so they don’t rub against other clothes in the wash.
  • Avoid high heat: Use a low heat setting in your tumble dryer or air dry clothing when you can to avoid weakening the fibers, which can cause pilling.
  • Choose fabrics with care: Some fabrics are less prone to pilling because of their structure and the length of the fibers used. Fabrics with long fibers, like silk and linen, are more resistant to pilling. So are tightly woven fabrics like high-quality cotton and synthetics such as polyester.

Although clothing pilling isn’t entirely avoidable, you can minimize it with proper clothing care. Once you notice signs of pilling, take steps to remove the fuzzballs using a razor, shaver, scissors, or a pumice stone right away. This combination of regular attention and preventative care will keep your wardrobe in good condition and free of those unsightly clothing pills.

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