Fabric Care: How to get bobbles off a jumper

We don’t know about you, but we love our jumpers. Yet with so much use, sometimes those dreaded bobbles appear. Using both natural and synthetic fabrics like wool and polyester, jumpers are particularly prone to pilling and bobbling, some even getting to the point of becoming unwearable. While a degree of pilling is usually inevitable, with a few preventative steps and proactive care, you can ensure your favourite clothing remains largely bobble free.

So, we’ve assembled a handy guide detailing preventative and longer-term care for your favourite jumpers, fleeces, hoodies, and sweaters, ensuring you get the most out of them wear after wear. With these tips and tricks, let’s beat those bobbles.

What causes bobbles on a jumper

No matter what type of fabric or jumper you invest in, it’s likely you’ll encounter a bobble or two. However, certain fabrics are prone to pilling more than others. Pilling occurs when the fibres of your jumper split apart and begin binding together due to repeated friction. Soft and silky fabrics will be less prone to pilling and bobbles, while abrasive fabrics like wool, cotton, and synthetics are more likely to develop bobbles, particularly in areas that see more wear and tear.

With this in mind, it’s common for jumpers to develop bobbles and pills around areas like the wrists, elbows, neckline, and bottom edge which see more friction. While natural fabrics like wool and cotton will initially pill, they are more likely to loosen on their own and fall away. Synthetic fabric is prone to pills that are tighter and more difficult to remove.

How to prevent bobbles

Despite the inevitable fact that you will see a bobble or two on your favourite jumpers, there are ways to reduce the amount that form. As noted above, pilling is caused by friction against surfaces and clothing, so standard or repeated washing is not always the best idea. Taking a few simple steps before washing can dramatically improve the condition of your sweater, ensuring it lasts significantly longer:

  • Always wash your jumpers inside out
  • Wash your jumpers on their own, or in individual netted washable bags
  • Use fabric-specific conditioner in the washing cycle
  • Avoid tumble drying, particularly with other clothing

As well as the above, some clothing brands - particularly those focused on performance and sustainability - may offer anti-pill fabrics or pieces in their collections. These items are specifically designed to resist this type of wear and tear and can save you lots of time in the long run.

How to get bobbles of a jumper

If you’re only just stumbling upon these tips and have already done a little bobble-based damage to your favourite jumpers, not all hope is lost. In fact, there are several tips and tools for removing pills from your sweaters and jumpers to get them looking good as new again. Depending on the fabric, some may be more effective than others - synthetic fabric pills tend to hold stronger and may need methods that are a little more abrasive. Below is a list of common household items and specific tools that can be used to remove the little bobbly bits from your jumpers:

  • Pill removal comb / de-pilling brush
  • Electric bobble shaver (recommended) or disposable razor
  • Lint roller or packing tape
  • Velcro strips

Depending on the tool you’re using to remove the bobbles, the technique will vary slightly. Items like lint rollers, Velcro, and tape will have a fairly straightforward method and are less likely to damage your jumper. However, with improper use, items with blades or teeth such as razors, shavers, and de-pilling combs have the potential to snag the fabric.

Here are some simple tips for using fabric shavers and pilling combs so you can get the best use out of them for your jumpers and knitwear:

Use the right edge/blade: Some de-pilling combs will come with a selection of edges or blades for removing bobbles. Take time to read the instructions to understand which edges are appropriate for your favourite knits.

Follow the weave: Before you begin removing bobbles with any tool, inspect your jumper to identify the direction of the weave and brush in that direction.

Take your time: Taking your time while removing your pills will ensure you do the best possible job. Attempting to remove your bobbles while rushing out the door will not ensure the best result. Always make sure the fabric is on a flat surface and pulled tight to avoid snags while you remove the pills.

It’s time to restore your favourite jumpers and knitwear

Now that you know how to remove bobbles from a jumper, you can get to de-pilling. These simple steps can mean the world of difference when it comes to the look and feel of your favourite knits. And will save you money in the long run.

For a selection of knitwear and activewear designed to resist pilling and bobbles, browse the full TOG24 men’s, women’s, and kids’ collections to find a host of seasonal clothing that performs and looks great.

Here’s to sweater weather!

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