If you have come to find little pinholes on your t-shirts and lightweight knit tops, especially near your belly button, you're not the only one. It seems to happen more often and only in the past few years. I've experienced such pinholes in my tees before and went to research why this happens, how to prevent pinholes in t-shirts, and how to repair such holes.
Why Do We Get Pinholes in Our T-Shirts?
The most popular reason I have found for why we get such pinholes in our t-shirts is friction. The pinholes are usually caused by friction against the metal hardware on jeans. Your button, but also the rivets, zipper, and the tough knots of thread around the fly can wear against knit t-shirts. Add working at a counter, a heavy crossbody bag, or your seatbelt and they appear even more quickly (more friction plus body heat). Mix in trendy tissue-weight, slub, or lower quality knits. These have all become more popular in recent years because even quality retailers have been choosing lower-quality cotton and jersey to keep prices competitive with the popularity of fast fashion.
There' are many hacks online that claim to stop holes from appearing at the bottom half of t-shirts and knit tops… and most of them don't work or look good. Many websites suggest fortifying the navel of your t-shirt with interfacing, but I can only imagine that affecting the drape of the tee and look really odd if you decide to tuck it in. Some suggest wearing a camisole under t-shirts, which offers a buffer but isn't always the most comfortable or possible option. I even saw some sites suggest covering the button of jeans with a Band-Aid and had to try it. It may work, I will never know as one day of this hack left a gummy residue on my button (and don't accidentally launder your jeans with a Band-Aid on it, that creates even more of a mess). My “favorite” hack found online was just to wear crop tops. Yeah, that's not going to happen in my wardrobe any time soon!
How to Prevent Pinholes in your T-Shirts
Tucking in your top, even if it's a half tuck, is the easiest and free solution. Another solution is to wear pull-on pants or pants with a tab closure. But what about those of us who love our jeans and don't want to tuck in our tops?
The best solution is to cover the hardware causing the damage. Belt buckles can be just as damaging, but if you can find a belt with a smooth buckle that may help. Long-time readers know I am a huge fan of Beltaway. This is a stretchy belt free of any metal hardware that is virtually invisible under untucked knits. The buckle is smooth plastic and large enough to cover your jean button even when sitting. These belts come in a variety of styles and colors (I have a white one for white jeans, navy for regular denim, black for black jeans). FYI, this is a belt you don't have to take off at TSA check-in at the airport! If you wish to find something already in your closet, consider wearing a scarf through your belt loops. See me styling a silky scarf as a belt, and styling a chiffon scarf as a belt.
Companies have seen the need for button covers that prevent friction and have made some handy gadgets. In the US, Shirt Guardian makes button covers that smooth the edges and prevent friction. Their site is quite informative, helping you choose the right size cover and providing instruction on how to put it on your jeans. Shipping is free if you live in the States. I personally have tried out Holé, a company that makes silicone caps for denim buttons. I find Holé button covers to be easy to get on, not easy to fall off, and I think have prevented pinholes in my t-shirts. Holé shipping is around $3 to the US.
How to Repair Pinholes in your T-Shirts
As soon as you see one of these pinholes, don't wait and definitely don't launder again (it will just make the hole larger). There are some pretty easy ways to repair or disguise pinholes in t-shirts and knit tops.
- I love Stitch Witchery for many things, including repairing t-shirts. Using the ultra-light version, cut a piece a bit bigger than the hole and place it on the inside of the shirt. Then cut a piece a very lightweight fabric stabilizer (this is a good one for knits) a bit bigger than the Stitch Witchery. With a dampened pressing cloth (just spray with water, no need to get soaking wet) and your iron on the medium or wool setting, press your iron over the layers (don't rub). Flip the shirt rightside-out, adjust the weave with your fingers to close the hole a bit, and press again with the iron. This isn't the best for tissue-weight or sheer/slub-knit t-shirts, but works for most knits.
- If you're comfortable with a needle and thread, visit YouTube where there are many video tutorials showing you how to darn a hole in your t-shirt. You'll want a thin needle and non-shiny thread the same color as your shirt. This is a great option for thin or dressy knits as it doesn't add any bulk.
And if you have any hacks that have proven successful (and haven't left gummy residue all over your favorite jeans) do share in the comments below!
Shop Products to Help Prevent Pinholes and Repair T-Shirts:
This post was originally published in 2018 and updated in 2020 with new information and products available on the market.