How to Remove Sweater Pilling–those unsightly lint balls that accumulate on knitted garments

How to Remove Sweater Pilling

.There are four principal ways to remove “pilling,” those unsightly lint balls that tend to accumulate on knitted garments: with a hand-held, battery-operated sweater shaver; with a “sweater stone”; with a pumice stone; and with a standard, double-edged razor.

Reasonably priced and available at many crafts and fabric stores, battery-operated sweater shavers provide the quickest and most efficient means of ridding sweaters of pilling. For best results, the sweater should be laid out flat onto a firm surface (such as a tabletop onto which a towel has been spread so as to prevent the sweater from sliding). Once the areas in need of de-pilling have been identified, the hand-held device is switched on and passed, in small, circular patterns, over the pilling as the sections of the sweater being de-pilled are held taut between the thumb and index finger of the other hand so as facilitate the movement and efficacy of the device. When the transparent pilling receptacle becomes filled, the device should be switched off, the receptacle emptied, and the process repeated as necessary.

Sweater stones are in effect pumice stones packaged and labeled as “sweater stones.” For best results, the sweater should be laid out flat upon a flat, sturdy surface as described above. Starting from the neckline and working downwards towards the bottom of the sweater, the pilling is scraped off the sweater in a downward direction by holding sections of the sweater taut with the thumb and index finger of one hand as the sweater stone, held in the other hand, is used to scrape the pilling, as it accumulates, towards the bottom and then off the sweater. Pilling from the sleeves are removed by scraping downwards from the shoulders of the garment towards the cuffs.

Drugstore-bought pumice stones, marketed for pedicures and manicures, work exactly like sweater stones and are oftentimes less expensive.

When using a double-edged razor to remove sweater pilling, the sweater is laid out flat onto a firm, flat surface as described above. But unlike the circular motions of the battery-operated devices and the downward scraping of the stone devices, the razor is most effective when pilling is removed from the bottom of the sweater, working upwards, on a straight path, towards its neckline and shoulder sections. Sections of the sweater are held taut between the thumb and index finger of one hand as the razor, held in the other hand, is passed over the sweater to shave off the pilling—as if shaving a man’s face. As the shaved-off pilling accumulates, it is periodically removed with the fingers so as to facilitate the movement of the razor and to observe its efficacy. The process is continued until all the unwanted pilling has been shaved off. (Just as a carefully shaved face is not “nicked” by a razor, neither is a sweater). Approximately two new razors, one for each side of an adult-sized sweater, are needed to complete the job. For many gentlemen, because of the typical availability of razors, the razor method is preferred.

What should be avoided is attempting to remove unwanted pilling by pinching them off with one’s fingers. That procedure tends, over time, to destroy sweaters.  And attempting to snip off the pilling with a pair of scissors is a method prone to accidents.


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