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How to remove pilling from fleece: a guide to sprucing up your jacket

Men wearing fleece jackets on a hike
We give a quick guide to how to remove pilling from fleece so you can get your jacket looking as good as new again, and offer a few handy tips for preventing pilling in the future (Image credit: Getty)

Whether it’s fending off the chill during an early morning at the crag or keeping you toasty as a mid layer on a cold hike, there are few garments that are as useful in the outdoors as your best fleece jacket. Fleece jackets are warm, relatively inexpensive and really tough under the pressures of your backpack straps or against abrasive rock. There’s just one problem with them: that annoying pilling that happens with time. In this article, we give a quick guide to how to remove pilling from fleece so you can get your jacket looking as good as new again, and offer a few handy tips for preventing pilling in the future. 

What is pilling?

Close up of pilling on clothing

Pilling is just the word that’s used to describe those little balls of fabric that appear on some clothes as a result of wear and tear (Image credit: Getty)

Pilling is just the word that’s used to describe those little balls of fabric that appear on some clothes as a result of wear and tear. It looks like lint, but it won’t brush off and is sometimes caused by washing clothes with items like towels, but most often in the case of fleece, it’s caused by abrasion. If you have a fleece that you’ve worn on a lot of hikes, you may have noticed that the pilling is in high contact areas such as where your backpack straps rub.

The good news is that pilling doesn’t affect the performance of your fleece at all. Removing pilling is purely for aesthetic purposes, so it’s not required, however if pilling on your fleece means you relegate a perfectly good jacket to the back of your closet, or worse, it ends up in the landfill, we’re all for it.

How to remove pilling from fleece 

A smiling woman in the mountains wearing a purple fleece

Removing pilling from your fleece is really easy and will make you happy (Image credit: Getty)

Removing pilling from your fleece is really easy. All you need is either a depiller (opens in new tab) or a disposable razor and some masking tape or a lint roller to pick up the pilling once it’s removed. 

  1. Spread your fleece out on a firm, flat surface like a table. 
  2. Hold the fabric taut with one hand and, using light pressure, run the razor blade or depiller across the pilling to remove it. 
  3. As the razor fills up with fuzz, run it under cool water or use a wet paper towel to clear it out. 
  4. When you’re finished, use the tape or run the lint roller over the fabric to collect the loose fuzz. 

How to avoid pilling on fleece 

Páramo Women’s Alize Fleece

Always wash your fleece separately, inside out, in cold water to avoid pilling (Image credit: Sian Lewis)

Obviously you can’t keep shaving your fleece forever of there will be nothing left of it, so when you’ve got yours looking crisp and new, avoid further pilling in the future by taking the following steps: 

  • Wash it separately, inside out, in cold water. 
  • Tumble dry low, or even better, air dry your fleece.
  • Wear it as a mid layer with a shell on top to prevent backpack rub. 
  • Wear it with a waist belt instead of a backpack.

Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.