I'm sure that you have seen such problems on some of your clothing items, specially one made from light twisted yarns or the ones that have been knitted loosely.

Sometimes they are in the form of raised stuff on your garment (picture 1), while in other cases they may form fine threads/ fibers (picture 2). Sometmes they are formed on the surface of carpets or rugs (picture 3) too. These problem are so common that even some tools are avaiable for removing them from the surface of the clothes, fabrics, or even carpets (like the ones shown in the pictures 3 and 4).

My question:

What do you call each type of these problems (shown in the first three pictures below)? Or how do you describe them (if there is no single word for them)?

I want to use them in sentences like these:

  • Don't wash this knitted sweater by hand, or it might form/ have ____ on it. Bythe way, you'd better use some liquid (fabric) softener at the end too.

  • Oh, look! There are so many ____ have formed on the surface of this newly-bought carpet. I need to hoover it now.

enter image description here

enter image description here

enter image description here

enter image description here

  • 1
    Those rollers are called en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lint_remover, by the way. Jul 14, 2016 at 12:19
  • 1
    @DamkerngT. Thanks. I looked up "lint" in dictionary, I think number 2 and 3 are kinds of 'lint'. Happy to learn that! ^ ^
    – Soudabeh
    Jul 14, 2016 at 12:44

1 Answer 1


You may be thinking of pilling, sometimes called bobbles.

"Pilling is a surface defect of textiles caused by wear, and is considered unsightly. It happens when washing and wearing of fabrics causes loose fibers to begin to push out from the surface of the cloth, and, over time, abrasion causes the fibers to develop into small spherical bundles, anchored to the surface of the fabric by protruding fibers that haven't broken. The textile industry divides pilling into four stages: fuzz formation, entanglement, growth, and wear-off. Pilling normally happens on the parts of clothing that receive the most abrasion in day-to-day wear, such as the collar, cuffs, and around the thighs and rear on trousers."

Pills can be removed from sweaters and some other fabrics with a pumice stone like the Dritz or with an inexpensive purpose-built electric razor like the Conair Battery Operated Fabric Defuzzer. I also find that one of my old electric shaving razors does an adequate job on smoother, finer-woven fabrics.

Consider also the nap of a fabric. Note that "pile refers to raised fibres that are there on purpose" (ibid) and are not the same as pilling. Pile often refers to the surface of a rug or carpet.

Lint is "the common name for visible accumulations of textile fibers and other materials, usually found on and around clothing. Certain materials used in the manufacture of clothing, such as cotton, linen, and wool, contain numerous, very short fibers bundled together. During the course of normal wear, these fibers may either detach or be jostled out of the weave of which they are part. This is the reason that heavily used articles like shirts and towels become thin over time, and why these particles collect in the lint screen of a clothes dryer."


"Don't wash this knitted sweater by hand, or it might form pills on it. Also, try using some liquid fabric softener at the end."


"Oh, look! So much fuzz has formed on this new carpet that I should [vacuum or hoover] it now."

  • Thank you so much. Great help! :) So number 1 is "pill" and number 3 is "fuzz". And according to Dmkerng T's comment, number 2 is "lint", right?
    – Soudabeh
    Jul 14, 2016 at 13:52
  • 2
    Number 2 looks like dog hair.
    – James K
    Jul 14, 2016 at 13:56
  • 2
    Yes, I agree with you, @Soudabeh. I have edited my answer to include lint. And James, my living room is completely covered in dog hair! I have to empty the Dyson at least once a minute while I'm vacuuming or it gets clogged. Hahahahaha! I'm an expert in fabric, feline and canine detritus. :-) Jul 14, 2016 at 14:10
  • @Soudabeh: fuzz can only be used informally about the stuff in number 3: it is normally only used about facial hair. The technical term for numbers 2 and 3 is lint.
    – JavaLatte
    Jul 14, 2016 at 14:11
  • 1
    @Java, Yet, "The textile industry divides pilling into four stages: fuzz formation, entanglement, growth, and wear-off." So apparently "fuzz" is an official term within the industry. Who knew? Carpets definitely form fuzz, especially when new. Jul 14, 2016 at 14:16

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .