This Week I Love …

… my sweater shaver.

Remington Battery Operated Fabric Shaver – $5.99

OK, this one isn’t MY sweater shaver. I bought mine at Target about 10 years ago. But this one looks the same, costs the same, and is made by the same company. So we’ll call it good enough.

Pilling sweaters are a pain, and a sweater that pills after a single wearing miiiiiight be a piece of crap. But some underarm pilling after years of wear is almost inevitable in certain weaves and fibers, and shouldn’t be cause for abandonment. I’ve never had much luck with sweater stones or other pilling remedies, but my trusty sweater shaver has saved many sweaters from appearing tired and worn-out. And/or covered with creepy sweater spores.

Do you own a sweater shaver? Sweater stone? How do you deal with pilled sweaters?

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  • I deal with pilling sweaters by picking little pieces off when no one’s looking and depositing them in random locations. What?

    I do have a sweater shaver too, but I’m not all that impressed with its performance.

    • Kate K

      That’s how I maintain my sweaters as well! 😀

    • I do that too! usually, I let them loose outdoors so birds can find them and use them for their nests.

      I own a shaver, but hardly use it. My husband just found out I have one, and we’ve been married for 5 years now!

  • Thanks for this. I have actually been meaning to ask how you (and your readers) deal with this issue, as I have a recently obtained cashmere hoodie that seems to pill if I so much as look at it. I’m pretty sure it’s not a piece of crap, and I want to hold on to it for a while, so … add this to the next Target list!

  • Carol

    I’ve had one for years and use it when I remember I have it. Works great on most things. I find if I stretch the sweater out single layer on the ironing board it works better. And I don’t accidently shave right through the fabric…oops!

  • Missey

    I love my sweater shaver! I have used disposable razors in the past, but you have to be very careful to pull the fabric taut. I’ve nicked a few in the past and the sweater shaver is much safer!

  • I tried to get one of those all winter! but I never had the time, now is summer and pilling sweaters are the last worry on my mind… till next fall when I will go to get a sweater and I will remember again I forgot to purchase that shaver. Thank you for helping me remember to buy one Sally! They are great, arent they? It can bring back to life that favourite sweater that you thought you will have to give away.

  • I cracked out my shaver just this morning. Not for a sweater but to spruce up an older pair pill-covered tights.

  • Amy

    THE BEST! I attack all of my sweaters each season, right before I send them to the dry cleaner. Don’t know what I’d do without it.

  • Katharine

    Like Cynthia, I deal with pills by picking at them mostly. I do have a sweater shaver, but it is VERY IMPORTANT to make sure that the sweater is laid out perfectly FLAT when shaving. That is, do not shave your sweater laid out on the bed. Also, do not shave sweaters with irregular yarn or knit. That’s how I’ve slashed through two favourites to date.

    I was intrigued by this sweater comb (http://www.jcrew.com/womens_special_shops/JCrewcashmere/sweaters/PRDOVR~39237/39237.jsp) which I randomly spotted on the JCrew site just before Christmas. I wonder how well that works?

    • Iona K

      I have a sweater comb similar to this and it works great, you don’t have to lay the garment flat either, I often de-pill while wearing it! Virtually all my sweaters are cashmere and they all pill sooner or later. I don’t think it’s an indication of quality, just the nature of the fibre.

  • Kat

    I had always used a sweater shaver but found it took so long to finish a single sweater. I switched to a sweater stone and it’s amazing! Takes seconds to de-pill a sweater and for me, it’s been much more effective than a sweater shaver, especially on cashmere. Highly recommend it.

    • Sal

      Good to know!

  • Miss T

    I was a textile design major back in the day, and pilling was a subject that was discussed. It’s not so much an indication of quality as it is related to the length and strength of the fiber. Almost all fabrics pill, but pilling on the softer, more pliable fibers is less because the pills fall off (not all, of course). Pilling is worst on synthetics and synthetic blends because the fibers are so strong the pilling is permanent; they are like knots in a rope. However, fabrics with a flat finish and a tight weave (e.g., gabardine) are the least likely to pill because there are no long fibers for the pills to get started on. For some fabrics, like fine gauge sweaters, etc., gentle hand washing with something like Woolite and/or with fabric softener actually helps prevent pilling — think conditioner for your hair. Anyway, bottom line: pilling can’t be prevented, but can be minimized/dealt with.

    In my own recent experience, I had 450 threat count SHEETS pill so badly that I had to throw them out. It was like sleeping on an emery board. I’ve NEVER had high thread count sheets pill. BUT: they were a “satin” weave, and and they must have used a shorter staple length of cotton, so that the fibers were “sticking up” enough for pilling to get started/maintained. They were not overly expensive sheets, by the way. In something like sheets, it’s both thread count and the type of cotton used that will indicate quality. Egyptian cotton, for example, has a very long staple length — 2 or 3 inches — sheets made from that would not have a pilling problem.

    • Susan, the one in Berkeley

      Thank you, Miss T. I’d always noticed that my synthetic clothes pilled worse and now I know why. Eventually I just eliminated them entirely from my wardrobe, since I was throwing out horribly pilled clothes too soon and too often.

      And I’ve never gotten a sweater shaver to work. I’ll have to try again with all these great tips.

  • Dee

    Very interesting and educational! I recently realized that I need to buy a sweater shaver – had one years ago and never much used it so threw it out, I guess. But, a new cardigan, all wool (I think) pilled like crazy the first time I wore it and I ended up just trying to pull them all off — what a pain! I like the sweater and want to keep wearing it. A few years ago I bought a very nice and pricey Talbots wool sweater, it pilled so badly I returned it to the store after one wearing. I still am not clear if that meant the sweater was poor quality but I certainly didn’t expect it to pill and was annoyed. Now I am just thinking it because its wool. Merino wool sweaters don’t pill though — I may stick to those! Also the cardigan has been washed once, I am hoping the pilling will be less now.

    • Miss T

      Right — Merino wool staples (the fibers) are up to 4 inches long, so there are less broken ends sticking up in fabric made from Merino wool to start the pilling process.

  • I’ve never tried a sweater shaver! I’ve had the same DFuzzIt sweater comb since 6th grade when my grandma gave it to me and it works great (and is oddly satisfying to do while watching TV)

    • Halo

      The DFuzzIt is my sweater bff! I used to have a shaver, but accidentally cut holes in a few of my cashmere sweaters, so I swore it off for the comb. It’s never let me down.

  • Mary

    I use a straight razor when needed, but I work with fabric constantly and so I trust my hands more than many would. My mom always told me to never pick at pills because “you’re tearing that blanket apart!” and by definition, that’s true. Cutting the fibers (with a shaver or razor), as opposed to pulling at pills and hoping the fibers break, has GOT to be easier on the fabric.
    Miss T’s tutorial on fiber length etc has made all sorts of things make sense to me now. Thanks!

  • LinB

    Sweater stone. Shaver inevitably nicks a hole for me. But most of my sweaters are woolen, of worsted yarn, so don’t pill much. If I can’t just pick them off with my fingers, I dust them with the stone and all is well.

  • I used mine just the other day for a cashmere sweater! I’ve gotten steadily spendier with my sweaters so these days they only seem to pill around the underarms after lots of wear. But you’re right, a sweater shaver is great for maintaining those investment sweaters.

  • Velma

    I use a sweater stone and occasionally a regular razor. (I am a knitter, so I am good at handling yarns! I’ve never nicked a hole.)

    For cashmere and some softer yarns, I brush the pills with a soft natural bristle hairbrush, instead of trying to remove them. It is a much gentler approach–you can even brush the surface while wearing the garment–but the pills do come back over time.

  • I vary between a stone and a shaver – usually the stone for bulkier knits.

    Have to share a picking sweater story – I was wearing a black one and in the office bathroom, picked a few and well, they landed on the floor. A woman came in, looked at the floor and screamed. “ANTS! ANTS!” and she ran screaming from the bathroom. Nope not ants, just messy me leaving sweater pills everywhere. Whoops!

  • Secret Squirrel

    I use his one, it is spendy but amazing and totally rejuvenates my sweaters… http://www.amazon.com/Alessi-Pirippichio-Clothes-Shaver-Green/dp/B000IUSWWU

    I have lent it out to my friends (or invited them round for a Jumper Shaving Party) and have since bought one for my friend for Christmas. Awesomesauce.

  • Andra

    I own the one shown above and was JUST talking to my mother about it this morning. It was the best $6 I ever spent, and keeps all my favorite old sweaters (and new sweaters… including cashmere!) looking brand new. LOVE LOVE LOVE my sweater shaver!

  • gwen

    I love the idea of a fabric softener. I am trying that as I write this. In WI my sweaters never pilled. (The water is softened there with salt.) Here in Ca, my sweaters are pilling. Hope this works!