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How to Prevent & Remove Fabric Pilling

After a few wears, you may have noticed that some of your clothes have developed little bits of fuzz on the fabric surface. These lint balls are called pills, and while they may be inevitable on certain fabrics, there are a few ways you can remove pilling from clothes and help stop it from forming in the first place. Follow this guide to learn how to prevent pilling and how to get rid of pilling on clothes.

Fabric pilling on sweatpants

What is Pilling on Fabric?

Those tiny lint balls on your sweaters and bed sheets are actually small knots of broken fibers. These knots, called pills, can form on any fabric, but often appear when the fabric is a blend of different fibers or has a loose weave, like knit fabrics.

Laundry in an agitator washer

What Causes Pilling on Clothes?

Everyday wear, fabric rubbing against itself and agitation from washing and drying can all cause fabric pilling. You may find more pills in the underarms of shirts, the inseam of pants and the center of bed sheets since these spots see the most wear and tear.

Fabric type also plays a role in clothes pilling. Shorter fibers like cotton, wool, fleece, polyester and other synthetics are more prone to breakage, which results in pilling. Longer fibers, such as linen and silk, hold together and break less easily. Loose-knit clothes also tend to pill more than tightly woven fabrics since the fibers aren’t held together as strongly.

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How to Prevent Pilling

So how do you avoid fuzzy clothes and sheets? Here are some laundry tips to help prevent pilling from forming.

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1. Check the Care Label

Always check the fabric care label for washing and drying tips. Following the manufacturer’s instructions for a specific fabric type is a good first step at keeping items in good shape and preventing pilling.

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2. Sort Clothes by Type and Turn Items Inside Out

To cut down on abrasion, separate and wash clothes with similar fabric types together. Washing heavy items like jeans with a light sweater, for instance, can result in increased pilling.

 

It’s also a good idea to turn clothes inside out, which can help prevent excess rubbing from other items on the fabric surface.

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3. Use a Detergent with Enzymes and a Gentle Wash Cycle

Enzyme-based detergents can help prevent pilling by smoothing out fabric fibers, which reduces the tendency for the fibers to form knots. You may want to add fabric softener to help keep fibers from getting rough and breaking. 

 

Choose a gentle or delicate cycle with slower spin speeds to reduce agitation. Hand washing is also a good option for items that are especially prone to pilling.

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4. Air Dry if Possible

Line dry items or lay them on a flat surface to dry instead of tossing them in the dryer. Pilling can form from the friction of items tumbling against each other in the dryer.

A person taking clothes out of a dryer

How to Get Rid of Pilling on Clothes and Sheets

Even if you’ve taken every precaution, fabric pilling is often inevitable, especially on certain fabrics and items. Fitted bed sheets, for example, can easily develop pills in the center or the foot of the bed due to body movement. Wool, fleece, flannel and other fabrics that are loosely woven are also prone to pilling. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to remove pilling from clothes.

A lint roller on a pair of sweatpants with pilling

1. REMOVE FUZZ WITH A LINT ROLLER OR TAPE

Lint rollers or standard sticky tape are quick options to pull looser pills off of fabric. Press the tape sticky side down on the item and pull off to remove fuzz balls.

A sweater stone on a pair of sweatpants with fabric pills

2. GET RID OF PILLS WITH A SWEATER STONE

Generally made of pumice, a sweater stone picks up pills from fabric as you gently rub it along the surface of the item.

A fabric shaver on a pair sweatpants with fabric pilling

3. USE A FABRIC SHAVER TO REMOVE FABRIC PILLING

Fabric shavers or sweater shavers can also help remove fuzz from clothes. Use caution with fabric shavers—applying too much pressure can shave away more of the fabric than you want.

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Can You Use a Razor to Remove Pilling From Clothes?

If you’re willing to run the risk of cutting the fabric, it’s possible to shave away pills with a safety razor. Using a plain safety razor without moisture strips, pull the item tight over a flat surface and gently shave the fabric to remove pilling.

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