Have you ever shrugged on your favorite sweater or leggings and discovered tiny balls of fuzz clinging to the fabric? Those unattractive bits are called pills or “bobbles” if you’re across the pond. I always feel so shabby when I find them on my clothes
So here’s the good news: there are easy ways to remove pilling from clothes. More importantly, there are things you can do to keep them from coming back once you understand their cause.
Why Pilling Happens
Pilling happens when clothing fibers break and twist together. Sometimes this friction happens when clothes you’re wearing rub against themselves. If you’ve got thicc thighs like mine, this is why you’ll find fuzz balls wherever there’s chub rub.
Pilling also happens when lightweight fabrics rub against heavier ones, like washing towels with t-shirts for example. Add a zipper or metal buttons, like when you wash jeans with pretty much anything else, and gets even worse. So, as your mother said, sort your clothes before you wash.
How to Get Rid of Clothing Pills
Disposable razor: Gently glide a safety razor over the pilled areas to cut away the tangled fibers. I find this is easiest to do when I stretch the fabric over flat surface like a cutting board. Tap the razor to dislodge fuzz balls every so often to make room for more.
Fabric shaver: Same process as the disposable razor but the battery-powered blades remove the pilling faster. If you can’t find them in the laundry products section, they’re available online.
Pumice stone: Stretch the fabric over a curved surface like your knee or the back of a bowl and glide the pumice stone over it to snag and remove the pills. This is only suitable for sturdy fabrics like sweatpants or sweaters—the stone can damage more delicate cloth.
Sweater comb: For cashmere and finely-knit woven fabrics, a sweater comb slid along the fabric catches and pulls away clothing pills. Be sure to use a delicate touch or you’ll cause snags.
Small sharp scissors: Hold the fabric taut with one hand and snip away the clothing pills with cuticle scissors. This is a little tedious, and there’s a risk of snipping the fabric, but it works in a pinch.
The more often you remove pilling, the more chances there are of messing up your clothes. Plus, no matter which process you use you’ll wind up with weaker fabrics that wear out faster. So, here are a few simple tips to keep your clothes from pilling:
Sort your laundry. Yes, I’ve now said this twice. Even so, someone always says “I haven’t sorted my clothes in 72 years and I haven’t had a problem!” If that were true, they wouldn’t be reading this.
Wash clothes inside out. It’s a hassle, but turning clothes inside out protects the weaker side. And if pilling does happen? Well, it’ll be where no one but you will see it.
Wash with care. Don’t overcrowd your washer or things can’t float around with plenty of water protecting them from friction. Launder delicates in mesh bags or a pillowcase to protect them. And choose a low heat setting on your dryer, or line-dry things, to protect fabrics.
Fabrics that Resist Pilling
To keep your clothes from developing those unsightly fuzz balls, choose garments made of fabrics that have long fibers like silk and linen, are tightly woven like high-quality cotton, are synthetics like polyester, or are good cotton-poly blends.
Those fabrics resist pilling, especially if you sort your laundry—which you’ll have a lot more time to do once you’re not spending it removing pilling from your clothes.