How to stop jumpers from bobbling

Keep jumpers in great condition by preventing unsightly bobbles. A

Keep jumpers in great condition by preventing unsightly bobbles
Image source: Fisherman’s jumpers from Samuel Windsor

You’ve found the perfect jumper – in a style and colour that suits you down to the ground. There’s only one thing that can scupper your plans for casual elegance and that’s the dreaded pilling or bobbling effect.

You know what we mean – those irritating little bobbles of fuzz which appear around the armpits of men’s jumpers – swiftly turning chic into shabby. Whether you want to remove existing bobbles or protect a new jumper from bobbling in the future, we’ve got you covered.

What is bobbling?

Pilling or bobbling is caused by friction

Pilling or bobbling is caused by friction
Image source: Miyuki Satake

Pilling or bobbling describes the small balls of fluff that form on the surface of clothing in areas where there’s considerable friction – usually around the armpits of jumpers or down the sides, where your arms rub against your body.

The resulting bobbles may be tiny, but they’re pretty unsightly and, if left untreated, very quickly make good knitwear look bad.

What causes bobbling?

Jumpers made from 100% wool are less likely to bobble than a synthetic mix. Try this Aran knit jumper from Samuel Windsor

Jumpers made from 100% wool are less likely to bobble than a synthetic mix
Image source: Aran knit jumpers from Samuel Windsor

Bobbles are formed from short or broken fibres on the surface of your jumper. As these loose fibres rub together – through normal wear or during the washing and drying process – they become tangled up together in a tiny knot or bobble.

Once a bobble has formed, it becomes a magnet for other loose threads. That’s why jumpers often have different coloured bobbles on them – they quickly catch loose threads from coats and jackets or from things they brush against in the wash.

While it’s difficult to predict which kinds of fabrics will bobble, some knitted jumpers are more prone than others. Blended yarns can be more likely to pill than a pure yarn like 100% wool. This is because one fibre in the blend is usually stronger than the others. The weaker fibres will break first and knot around the stronger fibres.

How to prevent jumpers bobbling

Treat jumpers regularly with a lint roller to remove loose threads

Treat jumpers regularly with a lint roller to remove loose threads
Image source: Nor Gal

The best way to prevent jumpers from bobbling is to treat them with extra TLC. Here’s how to care for your knitwear:

1. Always wash knitwear inside out – that way any bobbles will form on the inside of your jumper rather than on the outside.

2. If you’re washing knitwear in a machine, use a short, delicate cycle – this spins your jumpers at a gentler speed for a shorter period of time.

3. Switch washing powder for a gentle liquid detergent, which is softer on clothes.

4. Wash woollens separately. Don’t mix knitwear with heavier fabrics like denim, or anything with zips or buttons, which will rough them up in the washing drum.

5. Don’t overload the washing machine – if clothes don’t have space to move freely, they are likely to pill as they rub up against each other.

6. Hand wash jumpers wherever possible – it’s the gentlest way to keep woollens clean.

7. Avoid putting jumpers in the tumble dryer – the heat will make bobbling infinitely worse.

8. Brush your jumpers regularly with a lint roller or garment brush to remove loose fibres before they can form bobbles.

How to remove bobbles

Use a specially designed pill remover to bring jumpers back to life

Use a specially designed pill remover to bring jumpers back to life
Image source:

If your sweaters are already riddled with bobbles, it’s a simple task to remove the fuzz and return them to their former glory.

The best way to de-fuzz woollens is to cut the bobbles away at the surface. There are people who advise shaving your knitwear with a razor, but this method can leave sweaters with nicks and bald patches. These days there are specially designed combs and battery-powered removers that will do a much better job. Alternatively, use a pair of nail scissors.

Whatever you do, resist the temptation to pull the bobbles off with your fingers. You’re likely to break yet more fibres and cause even more pills to form.

Now you know all there is to know about preventing and dispatching those bobbly blighters. Attack on all three fronts: treat knitwear with extra care in the wash; regularly brush away loose threads; and remove any bobbles swiftly as soon as they appear. If you have any top tips, leave a comment below or come and share it over on our Facebook page.

Posted in How To - Care.

What's your thoughts on the subject?