Why Do Clothes Bobble And How Can It Be Stopped

Jumpers in a pile - Why do Clothes Bobble - Clean and Tidy Living

What Causes Pilling on Clothes and How to Stop It

The moment bobbles start to appear on our favourite clothes is usually the time to say goodbye. 

After signs of pilling arise, our garments stop looking their best. 

We then start to opt for our other items of clothing and leave the bobbly jumper stuffed at the back of the wardrobe. 

This is in fact the exact opposite of what we should be doing! 

Bobbling is your clothes screaming out for love, attention and help. 

Usually, we would ignore an attention seeker. But, when it comes to our clothes, it’s time to put in that extra bit of effort.

To find out what we can do to treat bobbling, we have to first ask ‘why do clothes bobble’. 

Related: Best Debobbler For Clothes And Furniture In The UK 2020

Why Do My Clothes Bobble? 

Whether you call it bobbling, linting or pilling, we all agree that they’re annoying. 

Especially if you’re trying to be environmentally conscious and keep clothes for longer, without compromising on looking smart. 

What is pilling? 

Clothes bobble because of friction and abrasion tugging at our garments and causing a build-up of fabric fibres. Think of it like how a snowball collects more snow as it rolls down a hill. These fibres are broken and collected from the movement of our bodies, such as underarms or between legs, and in the laundry process. 

For the ‘manual’ bobbling caused by our bodies moving, there isn’t much we can do (unless you want to walk like a starfish.)

We can, however, intervene in the laundry process to combat the abrasion caused in our washing machines and tumble dryers. 

Annoyingly, our laundry appliances are specifically designed to cause abrasion. They’re based on the washboard technique of rubbing clothes on a washboard, except now they rub against each other to clean deep into the fabric. 

Which fabrics are the worst for bobbling?

Although man-made fabrics like nylon and polyester tend to be the worst culprits for bobbling, wool and cotton are also known for it. 

Jumpers in a pile - Why do Clothes Bobble - Clean and Tidy Living

Unfortunately, there aren’t really any fabrics that don’t pill. 

Linen and silk tend to avoid the problem the best, which is fine for our friends in warmer climates but maybe not for a UK winter. 

Man-made fibres get bobbly fast due to the plastics in them which cause an electrical charge to build up and attract fibres like a magnet. 

For you visual learners, imagine a statically charged balloon is the bobble and your hair is the fibres in the washing machine.

As our clothes continue to spin in the washing machine or tumble dryer, the fibres and bobbles continue to tangle together and become tight little knots. 

Once its time to take out our freshly laundered clothes, these loose fabric fibres are fully entwined into our garments and are there for good.

Or at least until we start ripping them out whilst watching TV… 

How to Stop Clothes Going Bobbly 

So now we know the answer to the question of why do clothes bobble, and who the worst culprits are, let’s get into how to prevent pilling on clothes.

Air Dry Your Clothes

We’ve spoken a lot about the fault laundry appliances have in pilling, so avoiding them where possible will make a difference. Hanging clothes up to dry either outside or on drying racks will give your clothes more of a chance of staying in their best condition. 


Not the most realistic solution as the majority of people don’t have time to handwash clothes all day. However, it is a good preventative method for bobbling. If there’s one special item of clothing that you definitely don’t want to bobble, such as a cashmere jumper, then handwashing might be the way to go. 

Handwashing Clothes - Why do Clothes Bobble - Clean and Tidy Living

For more laundry related reading, check out our article The Ultimate Guide To The Difference Between Bio And Non-Bio

How to Stop Clothes Going Bobbly in the Wash

Use Shorter Washing Cycles 

The less time our clothes are whizzing round and round bashing up against each other, the less chance there is for bobbles to form. Opt for shorter, delicate cycles when washing your clothes, especially for jumpers and man-made fabrics. 

Wash Your Clothes Inside Out

Bobbling on our clothes is pretty much inevitable, but what you can change is where the bobbles appear. Washing clothes inside out will encourage the pills to form on the inside of the jumper instead of being visible. 

Switch to a Liquid Detergent

Powder detergents are abrasive when dry and get stuck in fabrics as they’re dissolving in the washing machine. Opting for a liquid detergent will prevent this dry abrasion on our clothes and smoothen the soaping process. 

Separate Fabrics 

Separating out fabrics will give your delicate clothes a chance to stay soft. There’s going to be no match between a denim jacket and a silk negligee. 

Extra Tips for Pilling Prevention:

Use a fabric conditioner or softener to lubricate the fabric fibres and stop them tugging
Don’t overload the washing machine
Brush your clothes with a garment brush or fabric comb regularly to smooth out the fabric.

Since your clothes are going to be looking their best, they might as well smell their best too! We reviewed and ranked all of the Best Smelling Laundry Detergents in the UK

How to Remove Pilling on Clothes

Even if you use every method out there for preventing pilling, odds are that our clothes will eventually get the dreaded bobbles. 

It’s now come to the point where we need to figure out how to remove bobbles from clothes.

But don’t worry, there are a few safe ways for bobble removing, that won’t cause damage to your garments. 

Use an Electric Fabric Shaver

These devices are a great investment to prolong the life of our clothes. By cutting the bobbles off at the root, they leave fabric looking smooth and lint-free. 

Our Clean and Tidy Living recommendation is the Philips GC026 Fabric Shaver.

Use an electric pilling remover or clothes bobbling remover on a delicate setting to gently glide over the bobbles. Be very careful, work slowly and make sure the area is well-lit. 

Use a Household Razor

The emergency, cheaper alternative to an electric clothes bobble remover. Simply use a disposable or naked blade razor and VERY gently glide over the bobbled area. Again, be very careful, work slowly and make sure the area is well-lit. There is a higher risk of creating a hole in your clothes with a razor so be even more careful with this method. 

Use a Velcro Hair Roller

If you happen to have one lying around, velcro hair rollers are great at picking up bobbles on our clothes. 

It’s much more gentle than the razor or electric debobbler, but will probably only be a short-term solution and might lead to more bobbling later on because of the fibres it pulls up as you roll. 

Lint Roller 

Although a lint roller probably won’t be strong enough to remove the bobbles, you might be able to get up some of the worst bits. 

Our Clean and Tidy Living recommendation is the Korbond Lint Roller.  
Lint Roller on Fabric - Why do Clothes Bobble - Clean and Tidy Living

If you don’t have time to source a lint roller than wrapping some tape around your fingers and getting stuck-in with dabbing the fabric might do the trick. 

Why Do Clothes Bobble and Pilling FAQs

How to Get Rid of Pilling on Sheets?

Spread the fabric over a large flat surface such as a table or ironing board. Make sure the area is well-lit and go over the fabric slowly with a household razor or electric fabric shaver. These tools will cut the bobble at the root and get fabrics back to their smooth finish. 
Opting for bed sheets made of long high-quality fibres will reduce pilling in the long term, as it’s harder for the fibres to get tangled. Look for Egyptian, Pima, and Supine Cotton. 

How to Remove Pilling from Silk?

Use a high-quality electric fabric shaver on its gentlest setting to smoothly and lightly glide over the affected area. Make sure the area is well-lit and work slowly. 

Can a Washing Machine Cause Pilling?

Unfortunately yes. Due to the movement inside a washing machine, fibres rub together in fabrics and cause a build-up which eventually becomes a small bobble. Washing clothes inside out, using shorter cycles or handwashing can help to reduce pilling in a washing machine. 

Why Do Clothes Bobble And How Can It Be Stopped – Final Thoughts 

Who knew there was so much to say about those tiny bobbly things on our clothes?! 

We hope that in this post you’ve found advice that works for you. 

It’s frustrating when we buy clothes and even invest in high-quality fabrics, and the dreaded bobbling still occurs. 

Unfortunately, there is no quick-fix that prevents or even fixes it. There are, however, a few effective steps we can take to improve the appearance of those rough bits.

So in conclusion, the answer to the question ‘why do clothes bobble’ is because they want more care, love and attention to be taken with them. 

If you’re willing to give it to them, your garments will look brand new and stay that way.  

Related Laundry Articles:

Why Do Clothes Bobble?

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