Why Sweaters Pill + Care Tips

2014-12-02 16.39.43It’s officially sweater season. Well, at least it is for most of the country. It was 70 degrees here on Monday, but luckily I’ve already had plenty of chances last month to wear my sweaters, and in the upcoming week, the temperature is expected to drop, which means wearing all the sweaters!! If you can’t tell, I love sweaters.2014-12-02 16.02.36

Since I love sweaters so much, I thought I’d educate you on them a bit. First things first. Just because you spent a little more on a sweater than you’re willing to admit, doesn’t mean that it isn’t going to pill. The price of a sweater has nothing to do with whether or not it will pill, despite the common thought process that the more you spend on it, the less upkeep it requires. Even 100% cashmere sweaters can pill, so don’t trick yourself when you’re out shopping for staple sweaters. If they pill, that’s completely fine…you just have to know how to handle it at home!

If you wish to learn something, keep reading! If you just want to know how to fix your pill problem (haha?), skip this part and head to the second to last question with bullet points.

Q&A Time:

What is a pill when referring to sweaters?

A pill is a developed pill-like ball of fuzz on the surface of a textile.

So how did these unsightly balls of fuzz get there?

Pilling more likely occurs on the sweaters you’re wearing more often. This means you’re more likely to find them on your favorite sweater, rather than the one your grandma got you for Christmas two years ago that still has the tags on it. These pills occur when fibers break, become loose, or have ends that are exposed and tangle together. This is why you’re also more likely to see pilling occur in areas of movement and friction (such as under the arms, or any other area where movement rubs your sweater onto itself, or another fabric).

Why did my sweater pill after one wear?

Remember when you walked in the store and touched that one sweater that was kinda itchy and you said “Eww no, I don’t like that one…it’s too itchy!”? Well, that one wouldn’t have pilled as quickly as the super soft one you purchased, because the super soft one you love so much, actually started off pretty itchy, too. Retailers have found that customers want the soft stuff (who doesn’t, right?). People aren’t as excited to purchase a warm sweater that feels rigid or itchy, so for the most part, makers of these sweaters launder the fibers multiple times to get them to that soft texture you’re feeling in the store. That means, that your sweater has pretty much been worn in for you, so when you purchase that brand new soft sweater, it’s kind of like it’s been worn 5 or 6 times already. Not literally, but you get the point. It’s been broken in. That’s why you can see pilling after your first wear. Because those fibers in that sweater have already been worked in before you even put it on.

So how can you prevent your sweater from pilling, or manage the pills that are already there?2014-12-02 16.04.40
  • Don’t wear the same sweater two days in a row.
    • Because the majority of fibers used in sweaters are more delicate, allow them to “rest” from the stretching and movement after a day’s wear, so they are less likely to break. I would recommend 48 hours before wearing the same sweater again.
  • Don’t pull the pills off with your fingers when you notice just a few.
    • You are actually tugging at the yarn, and only making it worse, whether or not you can see it.
  • Don’t use razors or sandpaper.
    • There are a lot of “do-it-yourself” options out there on the interwebs as to how to get rid of pilling with household products, but I don’t recommend any of these. You could cause irreversible damage to your sweater, such as making a hole, or altering the surface texture of your sweater.
  • Do buy a pill remover, but avoid anything electronic such as shavers (you can get one if you’d like, but I don’t recommend a shaver, because you’re essentially removing more of the sweater than you really want to…it’s called a shaver for a reason).2014-11-14 23.09.52
  • If you wear a lot of acrylic blends, buy the Gleener.
    • I’ve never personally used this product, but it was built for acrylic blends, because those fibers are typically stronger than natural ones, and the pills are harder to remove. This product has great reviews online. (And it also works on pet hair removal!)
  • Don’t wash your sweater after every wear. They really only need washing every 3-5 wears.
  • Do use a fabric appropriate detergent.2014-12-02 16.05.19
    • I am one to avoid taking anything to the dry cleaner, and I have succeeded so far. I wash all of my sweaters at home, in my front load washing machine on the delicate cycle inside out in a mesh lingerie bag using The Laundress New York Wool & Cashmere Shampoo. I stand by this brand of detergent (I have their Delicates Wash as well). After washing, I lay my sweaters flat to dry, after reshaping.

      Place your sweaters in a mesh laundering bag if you choose to machine wash them!

      Place your sweaters in a mesh laundering bag if you choose to machine wash them!

  • Dry clean if necessary, but don’t store your sweaters in the dry cleaning bags they came home in.
  • Do use a lanolin wash your wool sweaters. (It’s not a necessity…I don’t do this, but you could!)
    • It’s pretty much conditioning your wool sweaters just as you would your hair. The lanolin oil was originally in the fiber before it was washed out during the fiber cleansing process, so you’re really just adding it back into the wool.
    • Brands to try are: LANACare Lanolin Soap and Eucalan Eucalyptus No Rinse Delicate Wash. These are obviously not vegan products as lanolin comes from sheep and other wool-bearing animals.
 Any other awesome sweater care tips?
  • Use basic white tissue in between your folded sweaters to prolong their life.
    • The tissue will keep your sweater from rubbing against itself while folded and stored away, thus creating fewer pills over time. It also prevents the crease staying in your sweater. (Just think about how they fold the ones you get from stores with the tissue on the interior of the fold.)2014-12-02 17.18.16
  • Avoid hanging your sweaters up, unless you’re using a padded hanger to avoid misshapen shoulders. Either way, I still prefer folding mine, and you should, too. Store them in drawers, or on a shelf in your closet.2014-12-02 16.02.47
  • If you wish to soften your sweater (because you bought one of those itchy ones), simply hand wash it in hair conditioner.
    • Yes, hair conditioner. Not the two-in-one stuff. It will soften your sweater, just like it softens your hair. And there’s also a good chance your hair conditioner contains lanolin. 🙂
  • Avoid putting any of your sweaters in the dryer, unless you’re purposely trying to shrink them. Some fabrics can be reversed, but it’s not worth the chance.
  • When storing your sweaters once the warmer weather arrives, avoid vacuum sealing them, because that seals in moisture. Store in a breathable bag or container, and throw in some cedar chips such as these to keep bugs away.

2014-12-02 16.40.09If you have any other questions in regards to sweaters and care tips, please let me know in the comments below! And like this post if you want to know more fashion care tips for other items in your wardrobe.

Bows and Arrows,signature

2 thoughts on “Why Sweaters Pill + Care Tips

  1. Pingback: How to: Wash Silks at Home |

  2. Hello There. I found your blog using msn. This is a really well written article.
    I’ll make sure to bookmark it and come back to read more of your useful information. Thanks for the post.
    I will definitely comeback.

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