Wool pilling on blue sweater Wool Lifestyle Blog

Learn everything about wool pilling and how to keep your wool garments beautiful

Did you buy a wool sweater or wool socks and you just after a few wears you see these little bobbles appear on the surface of the fabric. These little bobbles are called pills and what you see happening on the fabric is called pilling. Wool pilling is is quite common and a natural process of many products made out of wool.

Read why wool pilling occures and how you can ensure your garments continue to look beautiful.

What is pilling?

As I just mentioned above, pilling is when little round bobbles or knots accumulate on the fabric of a garment. You can find pilling especially in places of the garment that get a lot of friction like on the side of the garment where your arms rub against your body.
Where there is friction applied to the garment, short fibres or broken fibres start to intertwine with each other and form little knots which are essentially the pills.

Blue cardigan with wool pilling Wool Lifestyle Blog

Why does pilling happen?

Pilling can happen on garments made of all sorts of fibres. I have had 100% synthetics sweaters which developed a lot of pills just from washing. Pilling most often occurs on fabrics made of blends, meaning when two or more different fibres are mixed. While one fibre might be stronger than the other fibre, the weaker fibre starts to break. These broken shorter fibres then start to pill. Fibres can start to break during washing or just from wearing.
Another reason for pilling to happen is that the fibres used to make the yarn are quite short and start to untangle themselves out of the alignment of the yearn and start building pills.

Wool pilling on sweater

Why does wool pilling occur?

When you have a wool garment that pills, there are also several reasons why this happens. Some types of fabrics are typically made out of shorter wool fibre. Shorter fibres have the tendency to create pills.
You will most probably experience pilling with wool sweaters. Here it can also come down to several factors. The first one could be the quality of the sweater. High-quality sweaters would be made using longer wool fibres which would not so easily start to pill compared to sweaters made of shorter fibres which can be an indicator of lower quality.

Another reason could be the yarn used to achieve a certain effect. Some fabrics and some garments are specially designed to have a so-called woollen look or effect. They look and feel very cosy and fuzzy. This fuzziness is created by small wool fibres sticking out of the final fabric. These little fibres sticking out would have a tendency to also start forming pills more easily over time.

Another reason is how the yarn was made. In wool there are two ways of creating wool yarn, the woollen system and the worsted system. A woollen yarn will achieve a very different type of fabric than a worsted fabric. One example is a flannel fabric for flannel trousers and the other one would be a suit fabric for a nice sleek business suit. On the flannel, you can see the different fibres sticking out while on the worsted fabric the wool fibres are so aligned and bound together that no little hair is sticking out. On the latter, you will have less chance of pilling to occur.

Of course just as mentioned above, wool blends with other fibres especially synthetic fibres would also have a tendency for pilling.

Pilling on wool coat Wool Lifestyle Blog

How to avoid wool from pilling?

As a summary from above, you can prevent pilling of course by choosing high-quality items as well as 100% wool items where possible.
With some fabric types you kind of need to expect pilling to occur sooner or later. For example with the majority of wool sweaters, this is just part of the process.

Pilling will occur especially in places where the garment is exposed to a lot of rubbing against itself or other fabrics or items. The inside of the sleeve and the side of the garment, or when your belly or arms rub against the desk or chair. I sometimes get pilling on the back of a garment where my handbag sling rubs against my back. I also get pilling on my socks from wearing them with my shoes. Of course, you need to still be able to move normally in your garments, so I don’t really think you can avoid pilling when you wear a garment.

When you wash your wool garments make sure the washing machine is not overloaded to avoid too much friction during the wash cycle as well as too much pressure on the fibre to prevent fibres from breaking.

How to get rid of pilling

The good news is, that you can also get rid of your pills, so pilling does not have to be the end of the world. I also recommend that you get rid of any pilling because it lets your garment look worn out. There are several tools that can help you and you need to see which one works best for you.
There is the little comb that works well for sweaters and larger pilling.
Then there is the razor type that kind of shaves pills off.
You can also buy these little electric machines that also cut off the pills, these tend to work well on smaller pills.
On larger items like a huge wool blanket or cardigan, you can be quicker by using a little pair of scissors to just cut off the larger pills.
Have a look which device works best for you. You can buy them at a drug store or department store.

Pilling razor Wool Lifestyle Blog Pilling comb Wool Lifestyle Blog

Do you have another question about wool pilling or do you have a tip on how to best manage wool pilling? Then write a comment below, I would love to hear from you.

6 replies
  1. T.C Jain
    T.C Jain says:

    To get rid of pilling on wool product , we do it with cello tape .
    We roll cello tape (from non adhesive side) on a round ruler / bat up to 8 ” long . And then roll it on the wool product . This way pilling gets transferred on adhesive side of the tape. Very effective home made solution . T C Jain.

    • evandelden
      evandelden says:

      Hi T.C. Jain, thanks for sharing that very useful tip! I will definitely try that too. Sounds so simple and yet effective!

  2. Christopher Johnston
    Christopher Johnston says:

    If you’ve never used one of the electric shavers before I personally recommend going with a sweater stone. One wrong move and that beautiful $300 cashmere sweater has got a hole in it. I’ve worked in the retail industry for over a decade and every person I’ve encountered has told me never to use the electric shavers to avoid the risk of damaging the garment. My $10 sweater stone has never failed me.


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