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Fabric Pilling: How to Remove Pilling From Clothes and Increase their Lifespan

The first piece I ever designed for Ria Kosher was a flop. Why? Because no sooner had I concluded production than the fabric began to shed wool all over. Who would buy a dress suffering from fabric pilling? How would I convince a prospect that the fabric was original and the garment was new when it had fuzzy balls all over? These thoughts raced through my mind as I calculated my loss.

Back then, I didn’t know how to remove pilling from clothes. So, my only solution was to keep that particular one for myself and perhaps make another for anyone who liked the design.

This isn’t new, right? I can bet you’ve experienced your clothes shedding wool. But the annoying thing is that this doesn’t happen to your sweater, dresses, shirts, etc., alone. It also happens to your rugs, pillows, towels, and even the furniture in your home. 

And if you don’t know how to remove pilling from clothes, you may keep losing your best garments to the trash can. Even if you decide to wear them regardless, it won’t speak well of you, especially when you’re in a gathering where nothing but class is expected.

What then is the solution to this inconvenience?

The bottom line is to learn how to remove pilling from clothes, rugs, pillows, and any other fabrics of yours that experience fabric pilling. You’ll find the know-how in this post. As typical, you only have to consume this piece to the end and use the tips you find here.

Let’s dive in.

What is Fabric Pilling and What Causes it?

a clothe suffering fabric pilling

When a piece of fabric brushes against itself or other surfaces during usage, some loose fibers move to the fabric’s surface. Then they tangle and form tiny balls of lint on the fabric. This is pilling.

It can happen when you move around, sit on the couch, or lie in your bed. It can even happen while washing the clothes.

But this doesn’t happen to every fabric. For instance, fabrics like denim that are densely woven and made from tightly twisted yarns hardly pill. This is because they don’t release fibers to the surface of the fabric. 

On the other hand, your cardigan, sweater, leggings, and other clothes that have lint are made from lightly twisted and loosely knitted yarns. And when they rub together or against any surface, they shed wool.

How to Remove Pilling From Your Clothes 

shaving pills from clothes

When you notice these fuzzy balls on your clothes, don’t fret or do away with the clothes, use any of these solutions instead to get rid of those annoying fibers.

1. Use a Sandpaper Sponge

A sanding sponge is like sandpaper. The abrasive material of this sponge will help to get rid of any wool or fuzzy ball on your clothes. Just use it to brush or scrub the surface and you’ll be able to rock your pilling clothes again.

2. Use an Electric Lint Remover

Although this tool may cost you more than other pill removers, it’s more effective. It’s also similar to an electric hair clipper. 

To use this shaver, insert the batteries and run it carefully on the cloth or fabric until the specks of lint fall off,

3. Use a Shaving Stick

When you see balls of thread or fiber around your clothes, pick up your shaving stick and lightly run it through the fabric to shave off the balls of wool. You can also use a razor to do this.

But while at this, make sure your shaving razor or stick doesn’t have strips of moisture or soap bars on either side. This can cause more pilling when it rubs against the fabric.

4. Trim with Scissors

You can as well trim with little scissors if the balls of fuzz are many or big. But while at this, be careful lest you should damage the fabric or pull out threads and cause more fuzz to spring out.

5. Freeze the Cloth

Another tip on how to remove pilling from clothes is to freeze them Just put it in a Ziploc bag and leave it in the freezer. 

This works best if the clothes are made from wool or other natural protein-based fibers. But if the clothes are made from linen, cotton, and other natural cellulose-based fibers, iron or put them in a dryer for a short time.

6. Use Hair Rollers

Hair rollers are gentle and suitable for delicate fabrics like cashmere and wool. To use, lay the roller on the affected part of the fabric and roll upwards. The rollers will pull out the fuzz balls as you do so. Then repeat the process if there is fuzz on other parts of the fabric.

7. Singe it

Otherwise known as gassing, singeing is a process of burning off projecting fibers, yarns, and fuzz from fabrics to give off an even surface. For this to work, you have to scorch the fabrics lightly and you must be a professional in the business of textiles, or perhaps good at it, otherwise, you risk burning your cloth. 

8. Use a Sweater Comb

Unlike the comb you use in combing your hair, a sweater comb was made specifically to get rid of fabric pilling. It has small teeth that sit closely together.

Run it through your sweater or any pilling cloth and get rid of those fuzzy balls.

How to Prevent Fabric Pilling

reading clothes fabric before buying

Since prevention is always better than cure, use these tips to prevent your clothes from pilling.

Go for Fabrics that are Least Likely to Pill

As said earlier, not all fabrics pill. So, if you want to prevent this occurrence, you have to buy clothes and other stuff made from fabrics that are less likely to gather lint. 

Therefore, avoid fabrics made of fiber blends— a blend of natural and synthetic fibers. Fabrics such as terry cotton, terry wool, linen rayon, polyester wool, polyester viscose rayon, etc., fall under fiber blends.

In general, natural fabrics are less likely to have fuzzy balls over time. So, buy clothes made of:

  • Cotton
  • Wool
  • Silk
  • Hemp
  • Cashmere

On the other hand, although synthetic fabrics are more durable, they are more likely to pill. Some of them include:

  • Polyester
  • Acrylic
  • Nylon
  • Rayon
  • Spandex

Wash Your Clothes Inside-out

If you observe that one of your clothes is prone to pilling, wash them inside-out. If you’re using a washing machine, put it on a gentle cycle with only a few clothes in it. This will help to reduce friction on the clothes.

If you can’t do that, handwash your sweater and other clothes likely to pill to be on the safer side.

Apart from preventing lint, this is one of the ways to take care of your clothes and make them last longer.

Avoid Harsh Detergents

The detergents you use to wash your clothes can cause it to gather fuzzy balls. So, avoid granular detergents that can cause friction when rubbed against your clothes. Only go for detergents that are finely powdered so they won’t do any harm to your clothes. 

If you can’t find such, use liquid detergents or bar soaps void of fabric softeners. They are less likely to harm your clothes instead.

Read What’s on the Label

There’s a reason clothing manufacturers include details about their products on the label. It’s not just to stamp the name of their brand but to inform you about important details such as the fabric component, size, how to wash, etc.

You should read them to know how they expect you to take care of the clothes. This itself is enough to prevent pilling as it gives you foresight.

When you stop fabric pilling, you prolong the lifespan of your clothes. You may think it only serves you by helping you save money. But it goes beyond that as it also saves our ecosystem from pollution.

Now, go ahead and use these tips on how to remove pilling from clothes. And if you’ll like to green your wardrobe to further save the planet, read up our guide on sustainable fashion.


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Victoria B. Willie

Writing has always been a part of me. From writing stories as a young child to studying Communication Arts in the university, it has always been more than a medium of expression to me.

And then one day, I found myself toeing the path of an entrepreneur and becoming a fashion enthusiast. This made me develop an interest in content marketing and copywriting which I've been chasing alongside my fashion career.

That aside, when I'm not sharing style articles, selling with stories, or sketching fashion-forward pieces for Ria Kosher, you'll find me telling wild stories that always come with a twist.

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