A warm, soft sweater is a lovely Christmas gift but along with all the warmth it brings, pesky “pills” will eventually form on it. Commonly called a “pill,” it is a small collection of fibers that form when fibers break down, separate and clump together in little balls.
Pilling normally happens on the parts of clothes that receive the most abrasion in day-to-day wear, such as the collar, cuffs, and on the thighs and the rear on trousers. All fabrics pill to some extent, although fibers like linen and silk pill less. The main reasons for pilling are the type of fabric, the way it was processed and the personal habits of the wearer, and the environment in which it is worn. Fibers like wool, cotton, polyester, nylon and acrylic tend to pill more. To prevent pilling, turn a sweater inside out before washing it on the gentle cycle or by hand, using a detergent that rinses clean and does not contain any dyes. After washing, air-drying a sweater by laying it flat on a mesh drying rack is best. If you already have pills on a sweater, you will have to be patient and remove them one at a time. Place the garment on a flat surface and then use either a small pair of scissors or a razor blade to carefully remove the pills. If you’re worried about damaging the item, you can use something that will lift the pills from the garment, such as a fine-tooth comb or even a pumice stone. There are also special gadgets that are designed to remove pills with no threat of harming the fibers, like a battery-operated fabric shaver. It’s a small, hand-held device that generally sells for less than $20. It will come in handy not just for sweaters but for pills that build up on blankets, throw and towels and furniture. It can also safely remove pet hair, loose threads, and lint, keeping fabrics and garments looking like new.