Stop bobbling or pilling on clothes

Bobbling, and linting are common terms for pilling. They refer to the little bits of fabric that stick to sheets, towels, socks and other items of clothing. Pilling is caused by damaged fibres that have separated from the rest of the fibres.

Natural fibres like cotton, linen, or wool may also be subject to pilling but the separated fibres don’t tend to stick like man made fibres do and so are commonly washed away. It’s possible that with mixed fabric loads, the bits from natural fibres can stick to the man made fibres such as polyester, acrylic, and nylon.


What Causes Pilling?

The cause of pilling is abrasion and friction. The fibres simply get damaged through either wear and tear, whilst being washed, or excessive friction during use.

Here is a perfect example. I’ve been using a second pillow in bed, which goes between my knees to prevent the spine twisting when laid on the side (which is commonly recommended).

This pillow case has become completely covered in bobbling on both sides due to the constant friction, whereas my normal pillow has absolutely none.

Removing pilling (or bobbling)

Bobbling can often be removed by brushing, cutting or picking bobbles from the fabric.

Try using something sticky like Sellotape or one of those sticky rollers to remove surface pilling.

I’ve also heard that some people have had success by brushing with a wet nailbrush although I’d be careful with that. Alternatively there are specifically designed lint shavers that you can buy.


Tips to avoid pilling (or bobbling) whilst washing

Avoiding the problem in the first place is by far the best policy. Wash laundry that’s likely to be affected inside out. Also try to buy better quality garments. The better the quality of the fibres the less pilling you are likely to get

Make sure you always use a fabric softener in the washer or dryer to lubricate the fibres.

However, I’m not sure exactly how much this can help because fabric conditioner is not introduced until the very last rinse after the agitation and rubbing during washing has already taken place.

It may help in allowing some of the pilling to come away from the laundered article by stopping it sticking so easily.

Another tip is for delicate items try using a washing net to protect the fabric from much of the friction (find wash nets for washing machines on Amazon). You could also try spraying starch or fabric finish on collars and cuffs whilst ironing. Finally, don’t put your clothes in the dryer. Line dry and light iron if you need it.

Related: If damage is happening to wool or silk garments check this article out – Biological washing machine detergents can damage woollens & silks (cause holes)

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7 thoughts on “Stop bobbling or pilling on clothes”

  1. What if the garment in question was actually £120???? This being just a polo shirt!!!
    Surely there should be NO PILLING!!!!!!

  2. Bobbling means those little balls of fur sticking from the cloth, isnt it?
    Mainly seen on gloves (non-leather gloves)
    But that bobbling no matter how much you take out, it still keeps forming after sometime…
    eventually, if you keep taking them out.. for eg. a thick wool glove will get reduced to a thin one..
    and it sucks..
    I have some cheap clothes that have never formed any bobbling but some good brand ones, they have…
    dont know whats happening..

  3. I purchased a Miele and am experiencing the WORSE pilling ever… it is horrible and Miele has been a nightmare – refusing to take any responsibility. Quality clothes that I have owned for a year and having washed several times in my old washer and dryer, completely RUINED!! I am heartbroken as I paid a fortune for both the clothes, as well as tmy new appliances. I think the pilling is being caused by my dryer, though. the internal “paddles” in the Miele are made out of a heat resistance plastic – but the plastic is getting “dinged” (maybe by any metal objects such as zippers/metal snaps) and the paddles are not smooth. I believe this is causing abrasion on the clothes/hance the pilling. Miele is asking me to pay to replace the paddles, even though the units are less than 1 year old. They don’t seem to mind taking my money when I bought the washer and dryer… I only wish they would stand behind their product. Anyway, if we do replace the paddles, I need to be super careful with drying anything that culd “ding” them again??? I think this is a serious design flaw.

  4. Hello Gina, if the damage to the drum paddles is being caused by large metal zips etc then it’s not going to be covered under any guarantee by any manufacturer. However, if the paddles are going to get damaged by zips or similar on laundry then it ought to be warned about in the instruction book.

    Read the instruction book carefully, to see if it says anywhere that damage can happen to the plastic paddles with laundry that has large zips or metal buttons on. Unless they advise not to dry such items, or to put them inside out, or in a bag of some sort, then you could be forgiven for assuming the dryer paddles shouldn’t get damaged (unless you have put in items that have large enough or heavy enough metal on them so that it should be obvious).

  5. I had a Zanussi machine for years and it was great. Before buying a new machine, I went through a lot of expert best rated guides on the web. I opted for a hotpoint machine. It is the worst machine I have ever had. All of my expensive, good quality, clothes have pilling. I’m now looking for another machine. Lets just hope the same thing doesn’t happen again. I’d be interested to know what is causing the pilling though?

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