How To Prevent Pilling On Sweaters and Other Clothes?

Have you noticed rough bobbles on your sweaters or an old pair of jeans? This happens when many pieces of broken fabric get entangled, either due to rubbing or abrasion. While you can’t pinpoint a specific cause for pilling as there are many, you can definitely save your favourite sweater from turning into a rag. Here’s everything you need to know!


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Sweaters are the most comfortable garments to slip into during extreme winters. Nothing promises a good night’s sleep during a cold night like snuggling in your favorite sweater! But such soft fabrics demand high maintenance due to their fragile nature and also the manufacturing process. You would see pilling developing on your clothes over time, taking away their charm, shine and comfort - all the reasons you bought the clothes in the first place! Pilling is a result of multiple factors, such as washing clothes using the high spin option in the washing machine, buying knitted fabrics, not caring for your clothes, wearing the same clothes regularly, using the wrong kind of bleach, washing the clothes too frequently, etc. Hence, even if you buy clothes of the best quality, there may be multiple other reasons they can still develop pilling. You can, however, reduce pilling considerably by following the steps listed below and, at the same time, extend the lifespan of your clothes too. Here’s how you prevent pilling on sweaters and other clothes. 

1. Categorise your laundry 

Would you wash your shimmery dress or leather jacket in a regular machine wash? It would be like welcoming a nightmare! When you wash your clothes in the washing machine, you have to categorise them because each fabric is different, and so is their washing technique. Also, the spin time and speed as well as the detergent you choose will differ from fabric to fabric. So if you include your sweaters in your regular laundry and choose the regular spinning speed and detergent, they are likely to develop pilling. During the spinning process, the soft material of the sweater will rub against another coarse fabric, which can loosen the yarns of the fabric. To avoid this, the most effective way is to soak your woollens for five minutes in a fabric conditioner like Comfort Fab Conditioner post detergent wash. Comfort Fab Conditioner coats each cloth fiber with a protective layer, avoiding further pilling.

GSC tip: Another quick and temporary way to remove pilling is by using household items such as lint rollers, shaving razors, velcro hair rollers or small scissors.  

2. Turn your clothes inside out 

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Even if you categorise the clothes before putting them in the washing machine, ensure to turn them inside out. During the spinning process, hard items like hooks, buttons and zippers tend to brush with sweaters and knitted fabrics, which can splinter the fabric and eventually develop pilling. By turning your clothes inside out, your sweaters and knitted fabrics are safer and protected. This practice can even save your cotton fabric clothes from fading, extending their lifespan. 

3. Avoid overloading your washing machine 

Have you ever felt suffocating pressure in a crowded space? That’s the kind of pressure your clothes experience when you dump a week’s laundry in the machine. Besides, putting all types of material, from soft and synthetic to embroidery and cotton, in a single cycle only makes it worse. Your sweaters or clothes with knitted fabrics cannot handle such a heavy load, and spinning amidst this load can possibly break their fragile fabric. This further develops into pilling. The best solution is to wash soft and knitted fabrics separately, or maybe hand wash them. If you don’t need to wash these clothes frequently, you can schedule the wash and ensure that you don’t include your regular clothes in the washing machine in the same cycle. This will allow you to choose the spin speed as per the softness of the clothes and prevent them from abrasion and rubbing. 

4. Choose a gentle washing cycle 

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You can’t be spinning leather and sweaters at the same speed in the washing machine! This can damage your fabrics completely. Either you will see the fabrics develop pilling or getting coarse. The best solution is to choose a gentle washing cycle on your washing machine. Slower and shorter spinning cycles will prevent friction, while the fabric conditioner will coat the softness of the fabric, leaving no room for pilling. This practice will also retain the comfort and quality of your fabric, never letting its charm fade. 

5. Use the right laundry detergent

The type of detergent or cleaner makes a significant difference in preventing the pilling of clothes. When washing soft sweaters and knitted fabrics, you should follow the instructions regarding detergents for that garment. Avoid harsh detergents or bleach that will completely damage your clothes’ colour and quality, along with developing pilling. Instead, go for a fabric softener or liquid detergent that is suitable for your sweaters and other clothes. This practice will help you retain the comfort and essence of your clothes. 

6. Use a fabric softener

For sweaters and knitted clothes, use Comfort Fab Conditioners to prevent pilling and preserve the longevity of clothes. This fabric conditioner is multi-purpose and imparts a new shine to your clothes while maintaining their softness. What’s more? It prevents the musty odour that sticks on clothes due to dampness and instead, overpowers the fabric with its own fragrance, keeping your sweaters fresh and fashionable for a long time. This conditioner is suitable for all types of clothes and not just sweaters and knitted fabrics. Now enjoy the feeling of wearing a new outfit every day! 

Did You Know: The ingredients in a fabric softener coat the fibers of your fabrics in a way that prevents abrasion or static cling to your skin.

7. Allow your clothes to air dry

An electric machine dryer tends to damage your clothes over time. Instead, opt for air drying them as it will not only prevent pilling but also disinfect your fabrics and reduce wrinkles. A steady flow of wind will also prevent dampness in your clothes, while the fragrance of the fabric conditioner will remain for a long time. Air drying your clothes is also environmentally friendly and helps you save significant costs on energy bills. You know you are doing it right when you save money and your clothes at the same time.

You May Also Like to Read: 

5 Common Washing Mistakes That Can Damage Your Delicate Fabrics

Benefits of Using Warm Water for Your Laundry

How to Make Your Special Woollen Sweaters Soft Again


Is pilling a sign of bad quality?

Pilling being a result of the bad quality of the cloth is one of the biggest myths about fabrics. The yarns for sweaters are different, and so they are spun differently from other synthetic yarns. Since it is spun more loosely to impart an elegant and luxurious look, the sweaters tend to develop pilling over time.

Does pilling come from washing machines or drying?

If you wash the fabric regularly in the washing machine, along with the regular detergent, your clothes will develop pilling over time. Since the fabric is softer and loosely spun, it can’t bear the agitation of spinning and washing, hence, developing pilling.

What kind of fabric is more durable?

Fabrics such as linen, hemp, rayon, alpaca wool, silk and denim are more durable. These fabrics can stand rough usage and are not high maintenance. You won’t have to be specific about the detergents and cleaners you use to wash them.

Does fabric shaver ruin clothes?

No, on the contrary, a fabric shaver is your saviour. It is an excellent tool to de-pill your clothes and retain their originality. You can simply glide the fabric shaver over your clothes and it will effortlessly remove the tangling of the pill without causing any friction.

Originally published