What causes that annoying pilling and how can you prevent it? I get asked this repeatedly. I’ve heard many customers’ complaints. I have even returned things myself with excessive pilling.
The pills form because of rubbing or abrasion during normal wear and use. Pilling is usually found in the areas of clothing that receive the most friction in day-to-day use–under the arms, around the collar and cuffs of a shirt and between the thighs, but actually can happen anywhere on fabric.
While it is difficult to predict which fabrics will pill, there are some types of fabrics and fibers that are more prone to pilling. Knitted fabrics tend to pill more than woven fabrics because the threads are looser. That makes sense. Fabricsmade of long fibers like silk and linen pill less than wool, cotton, polyester and other synthetic threads. When fibers are blended in a fabric like a cotton/polyester, one fiber is usually much stronger than the other. The weaker fiber will break, attach to the stronger fiber and a pill is formed. Who knew?
It all sounds good on paper, but let’s get real. Shopping can be challenging enough. How will you ever find the perfect pieces with the right fabrication. Well, it’s a guideline, but I think the next suggestions will be more helpful.
How to Prevent Pills on Clothing
• For clothes that you suspect will pill, use the washer’s gentle cycle and sort for smaller loads. The slower agitation and shorter cycle will protect your clothes. Turn inside out to prevent abrasion from other clothing in the load and wash with like items—not denim or other heavier items that will cause more friction.
• Skip harsh cleaners and damaging bleaches which can weaken fibers causing them to break and pill.
• Add a commercial fabric softener to the rinse cycle. The ingredients in fabric softener coat the fibers of the fabric so that abrasion is lessened.
• Avoid the clothes dryer. If using the dryer, remove delicate items as soon as possible to lessen abrasion from other fabrics.
Laundry is time-consuming as it is and frequently things get washed incorrectly.
Best tool to help PREVENT pilling: The Lingerie Bag. I use these for some of my nicer tops or things I’m worried may pill. Wash on delicate cycle and hang to dry.
Best tool to help you AFTER the garment pills: Sweater Shaver. I’ve been using one of these for years. It’s bit more expensive than the small drugstore type, but well worth it. Hope these ideas will help prevent pilling and perhaps you will even be able to salvage a few things in your give away pile!