Get Rid of Lint Bobbles and Fuzz-Balls: Stop Your Clothes From Pilling

Updated on April 8, 2018
Beth Eaglescliffe profile image

Science graduate and business advisor, health educator and author, Beth writes articles on a wide variety of subjects.

Take care of your clothes and they will stay looking good for years.
Take care of your clothes and they will stay looking good for years. | Source

What Are Pills, Bobbles, Lint, or Fuzz Balls?

When clothes have been washed without care you may see loose fibers appear on the surface of the fabric. The pills give a rough texture to an otherwise smooth fabric. There are many names for these tiny balls of fiber; pills, bobbles, lint balls, and fuzz-balls are just a few of them.

The cause of these lint bobbles can be puzzling, and some items of clothing are affected more than others. They occur during washing when a piece of clothing is subjected to friction. They can also be the result of fabric being damaged during wear by constant rubbing, for example, under arms or where a seatbelt crosses the chest.

Most people agree that fuzz-balls are ugly. They make an otherwise fashionable sweater look old and scruffy. You can either take action to remove them, or better still, prevent them from happening in the first place.

Ways to Stop Your Clothes From Getting Fuzz Balls

Action
Comment
Before buying
Use Scotch tape test on fabric
Buy quality
Longer fibers are better
Buy natural fibers
Less likely to form surface pills
Protect when washing
Use individual laundry bags
Use liquid detergent
Prevents abrasion from washing powder
Air-dry clothes
Prevents contact friction
Dry knitted items flat
Prevents fiber damage
Avoid abrasion when wearing
Protect delicate fabrics from rubbing

What Causes Fuzz Balls on Knits?

Fabric is made up of lengths of yarn that have been either woven or knitted to form a continuous mat. The yarn itself is a twisted rope of individual fibers. These vary in length according to their source. In general, the longer the fiber, the higher the quality of the finished yarn will be.

Longer fibers are less likely to separate from their spun state and therefore less likely to create pills. Lint pills are tight tangles of fibers that have become loosened from the main twist of yarn. These tiny knots form on the surface of the fabric as you can see in the picture below.

This sweater has been washed incorrectly. Small lint bobbles have formed all over it.
This sweater has been washed incorrectly. Small lint bobbles have formed all over it. | Source

Test to Check Likelihood of Fabric Pilling

Here is a simple test you can do before buying clothes.

Take a small piece of sticky tape (Scotch tape or similar) and press it gently onto the fabric. Pull it off smartly and examine carefully. If you see lots of fibers this means the material is vulnerable to pilling. If there are only a few fibers, you should have no fuzz problems providing the clothing is washed and dried according to its care instructions.

Manufacturers use much more accurate hi-tech methods to assess which fabrics are going to bobble. One of these electronic testing machines is demonstrated in the video below.

Electronic Brush Pilling Tester

How to Prevent Clothes From Pilling When Washing or Cleaning Them

Here are some tips to minimize abrasion of fibers during washing.

  1. Turn clothes inside out before washing them.
  2. Put vulnerable items into individual fabric laundry bags. This stops them from rubbing together and loosening fibers. I use Hopday delicates mesh laundry bags. They come in various sizes making them suitable for washing small lingeries items like bras as well as larger items like sweaters.
  3. Make sure the washing powder is completely dissolved in the water before adding the clothes, or better still use a liquid detergent. This will stop your clothing being scratched by undissolved powder particles.

How to Avoid Lint on Clothing in Washer

Protect Your Clothes Against Lint Balls When Drying

Here are some tips to prevent pills forming during drying.

  1. Line-dry clothes and use the tumble dryer as little as possible.
  2. Dry knitted fabrics flat. This prevents fibers from being pulled as the garment stretches with gravity.
  3. Where possible, protect delicate fabrics from friction when you are wearing them. For example, when driving, wrap a soft scarf around your seatbelt to prevent it from abrading your sweater.

Any type of material can suffer from pilling if it is mistreated.
Any type of material can suffer from pilling if it is mistreated. | Source

Ways to Remove Bobbles and Pill Balls

Here are some quick ways to remove pill balls from your pants or sweater:

  1. Run a razor gently over the fabric. Shave the tiniest amount you can; otherwise, you may end up making holes in the garment.
  2. Use a very sharp pair of scissors to snip off each bobble individually. This can be time-consuming, but if done well is the method least likely to damage the surrounding fabric.
  3. A sweater stone is like a pumice stone but designed especially for clothing. Just like when you are removing rough skin from your feet, a sweater stone removes the rough parts from your clothes.
  4. You can also buy a sweater shaver. These do exactly as their name suggests. Using a sweater shaver can be quicker than the other methods mentioned, but it's easy to shave off more than just the fuzz-balls and over-thin the surrounding material by mistake.

Name That Fuzz!

What do you call these lint pills?

See results

Fabric Quality and Price Can Affect Bobbling

The price you pay for fabric can sometimes, but not always, be an indicator of quality of fiber. Longer yarn fibers don't pill as much as shorter ones. In the manufacturing process, longer fibers can get damaged and broken. These are then mixed in with the short fibers and incorporated into cheaper fabrics. The relative scarcity of unbroken long fibers increases their value and price.

Both fabrics made from natural fibers and ones made from synthetic fibers can suffer from fuzz balls. The length of the fiber in the yarn is the key factor, rather than its material or origin.

Natural vs. Synthetic Fibers

Natural fabrics shed as many fine fibers as synthetics, but these two fibers have different physical qualities. The fibers lost from natural fabrics break off from the main body of fabric. On synthetic yarns, these loose fibers form knots with fibers still attached and so are less likely to break off. These knots increase in size as other shedding fibers join the knot. These tangles are what we see as unsightly pills or bobbles on the surface of the fabric.

Static electricity is making this child's hair cling to the plastic chair back.
Static electricity is making this child's hair cling to the plastic chair back. | Source

What Causes Static Electricity On Clothes?

Sometimes when you remove garments from the dryer you can get a small electric shock. The charge from the sweater can make the small hairs on your arm stand on end, literally.

Static cling also makes one item of clothing stick to the next. It is caused when garments rub against one another causing a friction charge to build. This is particularly noticeable if you have a washing load of synthetic fabrics.

Electricity always tries to discharge to earth. When you pick up the charged fabric it uses you as a conductor to travel to the ground. You may feel a slight tingle, but it doesn't hurt you.

To get rid of static electricity from your clean clothes, shake them well before folding them and putting them into the closet. Some people also suggest putting your clothes on metal hangars as a way of discharging the static.

Comments

Submit a Comment

No comments yet.

working

This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, dengarden.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: "https://dengarden.com/privacy-policy#gdpr"

Show Details
Necessary
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Features
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Marketing
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Statistics
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)