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Pilling on Fabrics - How to Avoid and Remove Lint

Pilling makes your clothes look worn and old instantly. Over time, the annoying balls of lint can form on any fabric, be it your favorite sweater, loungewear, or even furniture or bed linens, but it isn’t necessarily a sign of years of wear. Pills could also be an indication of improper care or subpar fabric quality. Find out how to wash and dry your garments to prevent pills and how to get rid of pilling in this short and useful article.

Why Pilling Occurs

Pilling on Fabrics Pilling on Sweater
Pilling usually forms in areas where fabrics get a lot of friction and use, such as the seats on chairs, between the thighs on pants, near the pockets on sweatshirts, etc. Washing and drying your clothes improperly can also speed up pilling. Certain types of fabrics, especially knitted fabrics, are more likely to pill than smooth woven fabrics like linen or silk because the latter are more compacted and stronger. This is why a sweater usually forms pills much faster than a T-shirt.
Mixed fabrics, like cotton/polyester blends, also tend to pill faster because it consists of softer and weaker fibers combined with stronger ones, and the former tend to break and form pills quite fast. This is why a cheap hoodie and lounge pants set usually start pilling sooner than a pair of silk PJs. Over time, these pills attract other loose threads in the washer, creating little entangled knots that could even cause snags over time.

How to Prevent Pilling

Pilling on Fabrics Fabric With Pills Closeup
If you suspect or know for a fact that a garment will pill, using preventative measures to reduce the pilling is key. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
1. Wash on the gentle cycle or hand wash. A shorter and gentler wash cycle means less friction and, hence, less pilling.
2. Turn clothing inside out before laundering to reduce abrasion.
3. Separate clothes wisely. Sort delicates, sturdy fabrics (like jeans), and lint-producing fabrics (like towels, robes, sweaters) into different categories to prevent pilling.
4. Avoid overload the washing machine and dryer. The more crowded the washing machine and dryer, the more rubbing and pilling will occur during the wash cycle. Your clothes should fit loosely in the machine to prevent pilling.
5. Dry on low heat or hang your clothes to air dry. High heat makes some fibers, especially synthetic ones, stretch and even snap, so avoid it whenever possible.

How to Get Rid of Pills on Clothes

Pilling on Fabrics woman in a sweater with pill remover and a pile of lint
After years and years of wear, even the most high-quality sweater or coat will start developing pills. Other clothes and household items develop pills even faster. So for most of us, pilling on clothes is just another everyday problem. However, those annoying, pesky knots are no reason to get rid of your favorite garment or textile home item.
Pills can be easily and safely removed from most fabrics, and they will as good as new. There are specialized pill and lint removers and fabric shavers that get rid of pills without snagging or damaging the fabric itself. These electronic devices look similar to the one in the picture above. They are inexpensive (around the $10 mark, depending on where you live) and are readily available both in-stores and online.
Pilling on Fabrics removing pilling with a disposable razor
Image Source: Reddit
Alternatively, you can also use an old disposable razor to remove pilling. Do so carefully to prevent tears and snags. We recommend that you lay the garment flat and pull it to create a completely smooth surface before shaving away the pills, and go slowly and avoid pressing on the fabric.
Lastly, you can get rid of pills by using a specialized laundry detergent. Search for a detergent with cellulase - this ingredient is an enzyme that can dissolve pilling and removes stains too. These enzymatic detergents work best on cotton and cotton fabric blends, and they will completely get rid of mild pilling or prevent pills altogether. 
With all these handy tips and tricks in mind, your clothes will look as good as new and show no signs of wear and tear!
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