Pilling on Clothes: Everything You Need to Know

The Minimalist Wardrobe

Making sense of those unsightly knots and getting rid of them.

Pilling on Clothes: Everything You Need to Know
Illustration by Hannah Beasley

Anyone considering a minimal wardrobe realizes the importance of quality clothing. After all, it takes a lot of thought and planning to find a perfect piece that fits with the garments you already have.

Unfortunately, no matter how much you invest in your garments, some wear and tear is inevitable. Quality garments will last you longer, no doubt. But sometimes things go wrong and even the best fabrics end up with a damaged appearance.

Fabric pilling is one of those things.

What is Pilling on Clothes?

Pilling is when the loose fibers on the surface of a fabric entangle into tiny fuzzballs. Those fuzzballs are also called pills.

While pilling doesn’t necessarily ruin a piece of clothing, it can substantially diminish the appeal of your clothes and make them seem worn out. For instance, a sweater speckled with pills is considered unsightly by most people.

Why Does It Happen?

The rubbing and abrasions from day to day wear can cause pilling on clothes. That explains why areas that receive the most abrasion usually have the most pilling as well. For instance, under the arms and between the thighs are the areas where clothing is most prone to pilling.

Furthermore, pilling is also caused by rough cleaning as the fibers of multiple fabrics collide and rub against each other. Add a harsh detergent and electric drying to the mix and you’ll create a thriving ground for pills to form.

Luckily, there’s a lot you can do to prevent clothes from pilling. But since you’re reading this post, you probably already have a sweater or shirt that’s brimming with pills and you want an effective solution.

So let’s first look into ways to remove these fuzzballs from your clothes.

How to Remove Pills from Your Clothes?

No matter how many precautions you take, some pilling is inevitable.

The good news, however, is that removing piles from your clothes is not just easy but it can also breathe a new life into your most cherished garments.

Here are a few ways you can fight pilling:

  • Scissors: You can pull the garment into a taut and cut off the pills using scissors. Obviously, you have to be very careful or else you might damage the fabric. Consider using a short pair of scissors as it allows for more precise cutting. 
  • Razor Blade: If scissors don’t appeal to you, you might want to use a razor blade as it’s sharp and easier to handle. However, every time you use one, you’ll shave away some of the fabric with it. As such, a razor is great for one-off shaving but not regularly. 
  • Fabric Shaver: A fabric shaver is one of the most effective tools to revitalize your clothes, and remove some pills while you’re at it. With this electric tool, you can shave off the pilling with minimum time, effort, and hassle. 

Out of the above three options, a fabric shaver is the safest, not to mention the fastest solution. If you can afford one, it’s going to be well worth the investment as quality shavers tend to last a long time.

Just be sure to get one with sharp blades and a powerful engine, like the Pilo Fabric Shaver. Otherwise, you risk damaging the fabric.

How to Prevent Pilling in the First Place?

The best way to fight against pilling is by preventing it in the first place. To help you do that, here are some easy but effective changes you should make:

1. Prepare Clothes for Washing

The first thing you should do is to split your washing load by separating hard and soft fabrics. Then you should turn the clothes inside out so each fabric will only rub against its own sides.

To take it a step further, you can put your most cherished items into mesh bags. Just keep it one item per bag.

2. Wash Gently

The first thing you need is to switch to the gentle cleaning mode on your washing machine permanently. Plus, you should load fewer clothes than the maximum load supported by the washer. Doing so will help minimize abrasion.

The next step is to say goodbye to harsh detergents and find something more gentle. Throwing a gentle fabric softener in the mix can do wonders for the lifespan of your clothes.

By following the above steps, you can drastically reduce the amount of pilling from washing.

However, if you really want to make the best out of your clothes, you should look into washing with hands. No washer will ever be as gentle as some good old hand washing.

3. Dry Properly

Electric drying is perhaps the biggest contributor to pilling on clothes. That’s why you need to give up on the dryer and switch to the old fashioned method of air drying.

By letting the air dry your clothes naturally, you can drastically minimize pilling on your clothes.

If you cannot completely ditch the dryer, at the very least reduce the drying time by using dryer balls.

4. Wash Less Often

There’s a popular misconception that you need to wash your clothes every time you wear them. That’s neither effective nor true.

The truth is, you can freshen up your clothes by letting them soak up some air and sunlight only. Obviously this won’t take care of dirty garments, but it works well to get unfresh clothes ready for another wearing.

Better yet, you should consider using a steamer, or a high-quality fabric spray to remove any odor or bacteria in minutes. For example, the Yuzu Fabric Spray can be used to revitalize garments with powerful yet natural ingredients.


Pilling is perhaps the worst enemy of anyone striving for a minimal wardrobe. After all, we put so much thought and effort into choosing each garment, and losing it means a loss of not just money but time as well.

That’s why taking care of your clothes is not just important but necessary. With the tips we’ve outlined in this post, you’re well on your way to make your clothes last a long time.