Dear Home-Ec 101:
It’s cold! Well actually it’s 68 right now – but yesterday it was in the 40’s and I wanted to wear my nice, warm, fluffy white wool sweater. It has not seen the light of day since last winter (February-ish). I pulled it out of the dry cleaner bag and it is covered with little white balls, I guess they are lint balls? Anyway I did a quick once over with a lint brush and it didn’t’ seem to make much difference so I put it away and wore my fleece jacket most of the day at work. Last night I did a more through ‘de-linting’ and I still can’t get rid of the balls. I also tried using some packing tape but that did not help either.
Pilled in Pillager
You are describing a phenomenon known as pilling. The yarn used to create your sweater is comprised of fibers of various lengths twisted together. Over time the weaker fibers break and tend to twist back onto themselves creating tiny balls or fabric pills anchored to the material by unbroken fibers. The threads anchoring the pills to your sweater are the reason the usual lint brush or packing tape trick didn’t work.
Fabric pilling happens, it’s a normal result of wear and is most noticeable after cleaning, as the pills form when the broken fibers stretch and shrink during the cleaning process.Don’t store your clothing in dry cleaner bags. Dry cleaning does involve moisture and leaving your clothing in the bag can cause damage over time. Transfer your sweaters to a padded hanger, wire hangers often create weird little lumps in the shoulder of your garment. If you want to prevent dust from landing on the shoulders of the garment, cut the bottom off of the bag to allow air to circulate. White garments will often yellow if left in dry cleaning bags for too long.
I do have good news, wool fabrics tend to pill less over time as the shorter and weaker fibers work their way out of the yarn. So hopefully you still have a lot of life left in your sweater.
To fix the problem you’ll need one of a few items:
A razor – only good if your sweater isn’t very textured
A fabric shaver – you can also find these at almost any big box or fabric store
A sweater stone - this is a pumice stone that will snag the pills more firmly than tape or a lint brush and break the anchoring fibers.
If you choose to shave your sweater with a razor, it’s very important to use a light hand or you risk cutting the undamaged fibers and creating more wear or a hole. Fabric shavers have a guard over the blade to help prevent damaging the rest of the material. Sweater stones should also be used with a fairly light hand, as you don’t want to create unnecessary wear, which leads to a vicious cycle of further pilling.
There’s really no way to completely prevent pilling and other than storing in the plastic bag, it sounds as though you have taken excellent care of your garment.
With washable garments, you can help reduce pilling by turning the item inside out before laundering.
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