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Pilled Sweaters? Here’s How To Remove And Prevent Pilling

One of the fastest and easiest ways to remove pills from clothing is to use a lint shaver.

While pilled sweaters are more of an aesthetic concern than a real problem, those little fuzz balls sure can be a nuisance! Pills can form when friction causes loose fibers and lint to ball up together on the surface of a fabric, and they’re one those perplexing laundry problems that almost everyone deals with. Luckily, they don’t need to be a clothing catastrophe!

Nearly every kind of fabric is susceptible to pilling over time, but pilling on sweaters in particular can make them look old and worn, even if they’re relatively new! But fabric pilling is far from a death sentence for your favorite clothes — in fact, you can remove pills from sweaters and return your outerwear to like-new condition in no time at all!

In this post, we’ll discover the various causes of pilling, how to avoid or prevent pilled fabrics, and easy steps you can take to remove fuzz and lint balls from clothing. So let’s get started!

See these sweater defuzzing hacks in action in my video at the end of the post!

This little lint shaver gets pilling off sweaters and clothes fast!

What Causes Pills To Form On Sweaters And Other Clothes?

Pilling on clothes is caused by friction on fabric. Your washing machine and dryer are two common places where fabric pills, because there’s plenty of friction between fabrics when they’re tumbling around in there. And pills aren’t always a sign of poor quality fabrics or defects — pilling often occurs through normal abrasion and wear.

Almost any fabric can be subject to pilling (including cotton), but knits, polyesters, and loosely woven fabrics with long fibers tend to pill more than tightly woven fabrics.

Is It Possible To Prevent Pilling?

If you’re hoping to learn how to prevent pilling in the first place, I have a bit of bad news — there’s no surefire way to prevent it, as it’s a part of normal wear and tear. However, there are ways to reduce pilling, including the following tips:

  • To reduce friction between fabrics, avoid layering loosely woven fabrics in your outfits so they don’t rub together.
  • Use a lint roller on loosely woven fabrics and knit items before you wash them to remove loose fibers that can lead to pilling.
  • Turn garments inside out before washing them.
  • Wash clothes in cold water using a gentle wash cycle.
  • Zip up any and all zippers in each load of clothes before washing them.
  • Air dry fabrics that are most likely to pill.

Carefully hand washing clothing with a gentle detergent like Woolite can also reduce pilling, and it’s a smart choice for wool sweaters in particular. Learn more about hand washing laundry.

A lint shaver removes the pills and balls of lint from sweaters without damaging them.

What’s The Right Way To Remove Pilling From Clothes?

There are several techniques you can use for pill removal, but not all are created equal. Some people will use a razor blade or disposable razor to depill a sweater, but that can damage fibers and lead to even more pilling. The same goes for using an emory board or pumice stone to remove pills — it’s fine for one or two fuzz balls, but they create too much friction for regular use, especially on fabrics prone to pilling.

The best way to remove fabric pills effectively and with minimal risk is by using an electric fabric shaver or lint shaver, devices that rapidly shave raised fuzz balls off of clothing without harming the surface of the fabric. There are a lot of good fabric shavers to choose from online, including the JUEYINGBAILI Lint Shaver, which only cost me about $15 on Amazon.

A rechargeable lint shaver is convenient -- no cords to work around and no worries about dead batteries, so you can remove pills in a flash.

I like having the option to plug it in or power it with batteries, and I also appreciated the two extra blades so I can swap them out when the first one gets dull. If you don’t have a fabric shaver, you can try gently cutting pills off with a small pair of scissors, but it may be a time-consuming and tedious task for sweaters that have heavy pilling!

To use a lint shaver (or fabric shaver) to remove pilling, simply run it gently over the garment and the little shavers behind the screen will shave off the pills and they'll get sucked into the shaver.

How To Use A Fabric Shaver To Remove Pills And Lint Balls

It’s quick and easy to use a fabric shaver to gently remove the pills on clothes. Start by placing the garment on a flat surface, then turn the shaver on and run it over the surface of the fabric. Don’t press too hard — just slide it over the fabric surface, and the blades will gently remove the pills and whisk them up into the lint collection compartment. It’s important to clean your pill remover and empty the fuzzies after each use. 

Depending on the size of the item and the fabric type, it might take a few minutes of work to remove all the pills. But it’s oddly satisfying to watch all those little fuzz balls disappear, and you’ll be amazed at what a difference it makes! In the future, you can pull out your fabric shaver as soon as you notice new pills forming to keep your clothes looking new.

These before and after photos show how removing pills from a sweater makes it look brand new.

Bonus Tip: Use your fabric shaver to carefully remove pills from upholstery! It’s an easy and effective solution for couch pilling — a quick shave every now and then with a battery-operated electric fabric shaver will help keep your furniture upholstery looking like new.

Do you ever struggle with pilling clothes?

YouTube video
What a difference removing pesky pills from your sweaters can make!

Jill Nystul Photo

Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.
I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee

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  • That shaver sounds amazing. I’ve used the Oxi Clean formula for whites when some of our whites start looking dingy. It makes a big difference. If the detergent just didn’t irritate my skin. I’ll:have to show the shaver to my mom . We’ve had that problem before with the pills forming and haven’t had much success.

  • A good way to minimize pilling is to wash it inside out. Of course, there’s hand washing, but I usually put “hand wash onlys” & even “dry clean onlys” in the wash, so that’s is for people who are less lazy than me.

  • So I admit, I purchased the lalint shaver after reading about it before from Jillee, and it is absolutely everything she said it is. This thing is absolutely wonderful. I did buy it from Amazon, and used it immediately on my husband’s vest which I was ready to toss out, and it looks new again. Love this thing. I look forward to your blog every day. I just tried the Peroxide and Borax for whites and that also was a success. Love your positive good feeling start to my day site. Thank you for always making my day begin with a smile.

    • I also ordered the Lalint shaver, I think was last week, from Amazon, even before I finished reading Jillee’s post that day, on items that have lifetime warranties. It actually was on sale bout $5 less than she stated it was. I LOVE it, works wonderfully, I’ve only tried it on one item but it looked practically brand new when I got finished, and only took a few minutes. I had a battery operated shaver years ago, didn’t work very well. This thing is GREAT! Money well spent!! THANK you Jillee!!!

  • I use the fabric shaver. They work great, not just on sweaters but cotton shirts or anything that pills, really. A shirt I would otherwise throw away looks practically brand new when I’m done.

  • I try to keep them from forming-most all my knit items go first into an old pillowcase bound by a thick rubber band (a great reuse for those that come on veggies) before washing. And then line or hang dry. It’s friction that causes the pilling and you prevent the friction against fabrics that are rougher than a soft cotton pillowcase by doing this.

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