Oh, those oh-so-annoying fuzz balls! No season is immune and almost always it happens to our favorite pieces. But why?! Hopefully with these next few facts we'll help demystify the fuzz and get you on your way to help prevent them in the future.
What is Pilling?
Pilling is the little ball of broken fibers on knitted fabrics that come together via friction. Thus, high-friction areas are the most proliferate of areas one would see them, i.e. underarms, bust area, sleeves, inner thighs as well as areas that might rub against a purse or other accessory often.
Why does it happen?
All fabrics have the potential to pill, but really comes down to three components for absolute likelihood of pillage: 1) fiber content, 2) fiber structure & 3) fabric care.
Fiber content is referring to what the fiber is made of. Natural fibers can be cotton, wool, silk and linen. Synthetic fibers can be acrylic, polyester & lycra and blended fibers cann be a cotton-acrylic blend or a wool-acrylic blend.
Natural fibers tend to pill less then synthetics or blends. However, on a whole, shorter fibers are prone to more breakage over long fibers. That is why you'll see less or no pilling occur on a 100% silk garment.
Mostly, fabrics are either woven or knitted together. When woven, yarn is laced together in right angles to create fabric. Knitted garments are made by looping yarn together; this kind of construction is generally looser and thus makes it more susceptible to its fibers getting caught in abrasive tug of wars that eventually break the fibers.
A good rule of thumb is to always read care label instructions. If, however, they leave you dumbfounded, know that most of the time, natural fiber made knits and even some synthetic knits do much better in a gentle hand-washing over being tossed around in washer and a dryer. If your garment does experience some pilling, a very good, clean and new straight razor will help de-pill if you don't have a commercially made de-piller. Be careful not to knick the fibers that aren't broken and potentially create a hole in your garment. Be gentle and methodical in your de-pilling.
How to avoid pilling in the future...
A few good tips on avoiding pilling or to at least minimize pilling in the future:
1. If you have no option but to wash your knit garment in the washer, then wash your garment inside-out and also put your washer on a gentle cycle.
2. Hand wash if you're uncertain.
3. Be mindful of care label instructions and send dry-clean only items to your preferred dry cleaner. Make sure to tell your dry-cleaner that you would like them to pre-spot any stains(let them know where and what the stains are), ask that they either clean the garment inside out or in a net bag to help protect the garment and also ask that any pilling be removed prior to packaging.
For any questions regarding dry-cleaning instructions, please comment below.
The Rey's Team
The Rey's Team is dedicated to garment care,learning about new cleaning methods and all about new textiles used in fashion today. We hope to share some insights into the ever changing world of garment care with you.