You could probably feed a small army with the money you’ve spent on leggings and yoga gear. So we understand why it’s so upsetting to find your beloved freshly laundered clothing covered with pills.
“The issue with pilling is that the thing that makes you love a fabric is also the thing that makes it pill,” said Patric Richardson, owner of the Minneapolis boutique Mona Williams who runs Laundry Camp, a free class that teaches how to care for clothing and textiles at home. “Cashmere is notorious for pilling.”
Richardson says the first thing he teaches his students is that you absolutely can wash cashmere and wool at home — just put it in a mesh bag. “That works because it reduces abrasion and abrasion is what causes the pilling,” he explained.
Gwen Whiting, co-founder of The Laundress, a New York-based, eco-friendly line of detergent, fabric care and home cleaning products, says there’s a misconception that pills come from washing.
“They really come from wearing and exposure. But for reducing pilling, we recommend putting everything inside-out so the abrasion is on the interior vs. the exterior,” she said.
And wash like fabrics with like fabrics, advises Jolie Kerr, a cleaning expert, advice columnist and host of the podcast “Ask a Clean Person.” “Especially when it comes to delicate cottons and garments, like athleisure, with stretch in them. Wash heavy items like towels, sweatshirts and jeans separate from finer clothing.”
As for the dryer, skip it. “Line drying is the best way to avoid having pills form on clothing, because they're the result of friction that causes the fibers to fray or break and become tangled,” Kerr says.
If pills have already occurred on sweaters or athletic wear, Whiting suggests removing them with a sweater stone or sweater comb. Kerr says she swears by the Gleener Ultimate Fuzz Remover. And Richardson says you can even use a regular disposable razor to de-pill. “If it’s safe enough for your skin, it’s safe enough for your sweater,” he said. “You just have to have a light touch.”