If your wool clothes or home textiles have annoying bobbling or are looking older than they should, we’ve got some tips on how to prevent and get rid of pilling. Caused by broken fibres bunching together to form tiny balls, pills and bobbles often occur in areas of high friction, like the cuffs and armpits of sweaters. Pilling is more common in mixed fibre textiles, especially those that include polyester. Synthetic fibres are more prone to bobbling, so choose natural fabrics like linen or wool whenever possible.
Once a garment has bobbles the little balls will just keep on getting bigger, as other broken fibres from different items are attracted to them. This can result in pills that are different colours than the original garment, as bits of fluff and fuzz from other things become attached to the existing bobbles.
Thankfully, pilling is pretty easy to deal with. Firstly, it’s important to try to avoid it in the first place. Here’s how to avoid pilling on wool garments:
- Wash the item inside out on a gentle/ wool cycle, or hand wash if possible. The less friction it meets the less it will bobble.
- Use a specialist detergent for wool or delicates.
- Don’t overload your washing machine as this can damage the fibres, and wash delicates with other similar items rather than harder-wearing garments like denim, or things with zips.
- Use a fabric conditioner. This will coat the wool fibres and reduce static and friction.
- Air dry, don’t tumble dry. Heat and friction will damage the fibres and cause pilling.
- Never use bleach on wool items as this weakens the fibres and can make them more likely to break and pill.
If your beloved wool sweater or woollen blanket does have some bobbling and needs perking up, here are some tips on getting rid of pilling:
- Use a fabric comb or electric fabric shaver to carefully remove the bobbles.
- Using a sharp standard razor, hold the garment taut and gently shave off the pills. Collect the cut-offs with a lint roller or adhesive tape.
- For mild pilling adhesive tape, a head lice comb or a velcro hair roller are effective (and cheap) ways to remove pills.
- If you’re travelling and need a quick bobble fix, use the rough part of a velcro fastening to remove bobbles from an item.