What Causes Pills to Appear on Clothes?
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 abrasion 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. Fabrics made 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 blend, one fiber is usually much stronger than the other. The weaker fiber will break, attach to the stronger fiber and a pill is formed.
It all makes sense, but after taking this into consideration you may wonder if you will ever find the perfect pieces with the right fabrication.
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 (or use the lingerie bag as mentioned above) 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.
- Choose a laundry detergent that contains the enzyme cellulase. It will help break down cotton pills and remove them.
- 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. Our stylist, Karen Herrema, has been using a similar tool to the one shown below for almost ten years and has salvaged many pieces. She also swears by the lingerie bag! We hope this helps give you some insight on pilling and how to deal with it going forward.