How to Prevent Pinholes in T-Shirts Near your Belly Button

What, if anything, can be done to prevent the tiny holes that my t shirts get, where they rub the waist band of my jeans? I have tried wearing a camisole and ironing interfacing to the inside of that area, but neither worked for me. I am at the point of giving up jeans! Any ideas?

how to prevent holes in t-shirtsOh, those dreaded pinholes in t-shirts and knit tops! Such pinholes are caused by friction against the metal hardware on jeans. Add working at a counter, a heavy crossbody bag, or your seatbelt and they appear even more quickly (more friction plus body heat). Add in the mix the tissue-weight or lower quality knits and jeans that have part of the waistband stick out above the button. Throw the shirt in the dryer and the pinhole will grow, destroying what is likely your favorite shirt.

There's plenty of hacks online that claim to stop holes from appearing at the bottom half of t-shirts and knit tops… and most of them as you know don't work. I too saw the tip about the interfacing and wondered how it affected the drape of a shirt, especially since I vary between untucking and tucking in my t-shirts. You're not the first to tell me that the camisole trick also didn't stop it. I read once to cover the button of jeans with a Band-Aid and while it may have worked, it 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. Not really helpful, especially for the workplace.

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 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 (I love this look and have worn it in this post and this post).

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. In the UK, there's Holé, a company that makes silicone caps for denim buttons. Both companies ship internationally but there may be fees. Both companies state their product can be left on your jeans, even when laundered. I also found a gadget called Lickedy Klip, which is a piece of folded plastic that slides over your waistband to cover your button. I have not tried any of these products; if you have do share your reviews in the comments.

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's 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!

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  1. Marilyn Goure
    February 3, 2020 / 7:40 am

    Do you ladies have granite counter-tops? I do and that’s when I started noticing the pinholes. But only when I wore my favorite leather belt. I’m now looking for a plastic/elastic clasp belt since no one sees it anyway. And diligently wearing an apron. After 5 years of patching annoying pinholes, thanks to this post and others, for me the mystery is solved.

  2. Kathy Hodge Kramer
    January 7, 2020 / 8:17 pm

    As has been mentioned, this is a fabric problem. I never had holes in my shirts years ago, tucked or untucked and have been a jeans and t-shirt girl since jr high. (Damned near 50 years ago). Not sure how to mitigate the problem since it seems to be relatively new, other than boycott t-shirts. Strange that in 50+ years of wearing t-shirts with jeans, holes just started forming in the last 6-8 years. And no, I haven’t grown a giant gut!

    • Connie
      February 16, 2020 / 2:30 am

      You’re right Kathy. One store mentioned it had to do with the poor cotton quality coming from Asia. I have T shirts from many years ago which wash & wear great and still have no holes.

  3. Angie Robertson
    December 16, 2019 / 8:39 am

    My thoughts have always been that the manufacturers weave material with a flaw in it, So we have to continually keep buying

  4. Cheryl
    December 6, 2019 / 3:18 am

    It’s the point of the pants fabric above the button poking the holes in shirts. If the fabric was rounded instead of coming to a point it would help a lot. Women need to petition manufacturers of women’s jeans and pants to change the closure design to a rounded tab instead of a squared off pointed one. They’d be the #1 seller of women’s jeans and pants.

    • Lynn
      December 16, 2019 / 3:06 pm

      I totally agree!

  5. Sara
    October 17, 2019 / 8:25 am

    I have had to throw away dozens of tops (some quite expensive ones), over the last few years, this problem now makes me want to weep with frustration! (The problem benefits clothes manufacturers, since we have to buy so many more products than otherwise!) Reporting back, I have tried Shirt Guardian and Hole. Neither of them works. In addition to being ridiculously overpriced for what they are (trading on our desperation), they’re both very hard to put on/keep on. The Shirt Guardian button covers fall off continuously so I gave up, even the Hole ones come off now and again. Even with the Hole, I still get new holes. My conclusion is that perhaps it’s the corner of the jeans (rather than/in addition to the button) that causes the problem. I’m now trying out the idea of getting a belt with a flat buckle, and moving the buckle away from the front of the waistband, however note that not all this type of belt are wide enough to cover the top corner of the jeans. If this too fails, I’ll try pull-on jeans though they’re quite hard to find in Europe. I think I’m most annoyed about the bad environmental consequences of all this totally unnecessary replacement purchasing.

  6. Alison Neale
    October 12, 2019 / 6:37 pm

    Thanks for this awesome post, my Hole arrived today along with the repair iron on materials! Really hope these solve my problems!!

  7. Deborah
    September 24, 2019 / 9:45 am

    I have worked to figure out the cause of these tiny holes for years and for me, it’s definitely the kind of cotton knit the shirt is made of. I seldom wear jeans or have a snap/button closure behind the t-shirt and still get the holes, but almost exclusively on my Eddie Bauer shirts and the holes begin within 8-10 wearings. I have Calvin Klein camis that are YEARS old that I wear under lots of shirts and they have been washed and worn hundreds of times and look the same as when I opened the package. I have cheap Gap shirts that are ten years old – no holes.
    I worked for Eddie Bauer for 12+ years in the late 80’s into the 90’s, and those of you who said their shirts never used to do this are right. There has been a compromise on their knit fabrics. Also, I have bought down coats from EB in the last few years where the down works its way through the outer shell and looks cheap. These holes aren’t our fault, they are due to cutting corners on very pricey t-shirts.

    • Robin Rosner
      December 7, 2019 / 9:28 pm

      OMG I have holes in ALL my Eddie Bauer tea shirts. I’m so glad I read your post. I keep buying new ones from them and the same thing has been happening. It is very very upsetting. They also have been out sourcing to the Philippians and when you have a problem with an order it usually gets unresolved. This is very sad because it has taken me a very very long time to find tea shirts with nice colors that fit and look good. I think now I finally understand that it is not do to a moth in my closet. I do not wear jeans, have no belts and there are no buttons. I just wear stretch pants and it still happens so there goes the theory that it is the button or belt on your jeans. Time to shop elsewhere.

    • Nicky
      January 29, 2020 / 1:13 pm

      Agree about Eddie Bauer. just bought three shirts from them and saw holes after the FIRST wear. Terrible!

  8. Geoff Gafford
    September 19, 2019 / 5:51 am

    I’ve read all the above. For me, the problem happens with cotton T-shirts and with synthetic tops made by Rohan (I wear a lot of Rohan clothes). On examination, the abrasion is on the outside. The solution may be to get a dishwasher. I’m the main washer upper in my house, all done by hand and when doing this the counter top is in direct contact with the spot where the holes are. Constant rubbing of the fabric wears the holes, I’m sure.

  9. Elizabeth Barbone
    September 9, 2019 / 4:26 pm

    Ugh my shirts too – and in summer I wear linen shorts and still they get the pin holes. Eddie Bauer shirts and today a Pendleton t shirt. I think crappy thin fabric. Really sad.

  10. Pam
    August 29, 2019 / 4:17 pm

    I stopped wearing jeans and only wear elastic waist pants, and I don’t wear belts, but I still get the holes in the t-shirts. It’s true that some shirts don’t get the holes, so maybe it is just the inferior fabric.

  11. John
    July 21, 2019 / 1:28 pm

    I’m a dude and figured out the actual cause of these “pinholes”. …. Well, at least as it applies to men. I kept getting these pinholes on all my shirts and they would show up sometimes after the first time wearing a brand new shirt. AGGRAVATING! Here’s what I found out using the “scientific method”. Sort of… sample size was just me so don’t think that qualifies, but I digress. These are 100% as a result of the post on a belt buckle. This only happened when I’d wear untucked, but hadn’t always noticed when it initially happened. After going with a new shirt daily and alternating tuck/untuck, I only found a new hole on days I was untucked. I then realized the post on my belt buckles do not sit flush. Ironically, digging deeper, I was getting holes from regular daily activities, but the overwhelming majority came from my seatbelt pressing my shirt against the belt buckle post while driving. Yes, I know. I’m a nerd who has too much time on his hands.

  12. Kathleen
    July 19, 2019 / 5:03 pm

    It always happens in the exact same place: front right above the waist. It doesn’t seem to matter whether they were expensive or cheap. If it was bugs it would NOT always be in the same place. It doesn’t seem to happen on anything but 100% cottons. Drives me crazy.

  13. Αβρα
    July 16, 2019 / 3:34 am

    Maybe the holes are caused from the seatbelt of the car rubbing on the belt then on to to the tshirt. And why it happens only to my expensive brands a mystery.

  14. Kyle L.
    July 15, 2019 / 10:51 pm

    Over the last four years, the 100% cotton T-shirts from my long preferred brand Eddie Bauer, have had small holes develop on but their front side around the belt line but not directly over it. Thus, I am not believing these holes are generated merely through wearing untucked T-shirts over belt buckles. As to bugs/pests eating holes into shirts I don’t believe that is the case either as holes wouldn’t be eaten in only the same general area of each T-shirt. Rather, I now believe T-shirt brands have sold their souls and are now using inferior cotton/cotton blends. This results in accelerated wear on T-shirt areas exposed to any and all abrasive forces. I will be looking for a new T-shirt brand for Eddie Bauer did not sell inferior T-shirts through the 1990’s nor earlier. These inferior T-shirts are being sold at premium prices yet don’t even last a month without holes forming. I am very tall and thin so the only place abrading my T-shirt front is the seatbelt in my car.

  15. Maria
    July 9, 2019 / 9:21 pm

    Try wearing a belt with the buckle part moved to the side so u have a flat piece over the jeans button area. I believe that thick piece of fabric over the button is the real culprit. There has to be a reason these little holes appear in that area. This has worked well for me. I used to think I was going crazy.

  16. Char
    June 15, 2019 / 7:54 pm

    I am wearing a new shirt that was fine before I cokked dinner. Now it has a slew of holes. I’m thinking the edge of the granite countertop rubbing against the fabric is the problem

    • Stephanie
      September 14, 2019 / 5:42 pm

      Oh I’m so happy to hear your comment. I think you have something there, at least for me. I’m going to try an apron whenever I’m cooking or preparing something. Oh can’t forget doing dishes either I do hope this will help. It drives me crazy it happens to about 70% of my shirts and I don’t wear belts. Can’t wait to try, thanks

  17. June 14, 2019 / 3:33 pm

    I wear the tshirts with knit pull-on pants to exercise in, so I don’t think it is jeans buttons causing my holes. I’m just glad that others are also experiencing this.

  18. Donna Funk
    May 31, 2019 / 9:22 am

    Since these holes appear almost perfectly in the same area near the waist only on the front of the shirt it is totally unklikely that it is a bug of any sort eating the fabric. Belly button odor? Ha ha ha – good one. Something is rubbing in that location. It is logical to blame both the cheaper fabric AND the fasteners on the pants or belt buckles. Darning or fabric patches seem like the only way – can’t see manufacturers policing the fabric – particularly if they sell more shirts to replace the holey ones.

  19. Kristi Dee
    April 18, 2019 / 7:32 pm

    I finally felt it when it happened. It was the button on my jeans rubbing the counter top at my kitchen sink! Finally figured it out. Thank goodness. Now for the solution.

  20. Carolyn
    April 2, 2019 / 9:57 pm

    I believe it is from pressure between the pants button/zipper and counter top. New excuse to not do dishes? I thought it might be from lighting my gas range for some time. I’m wondering if this is because of stretch jeans and being overweight. The waistband on my pants pulls the button off to the side in the buttonhole and makes it not flat to my body. Also the zipper tab is pulled open exposing the metal zipper too. Any skinny people have this hole problem in their shirts? Do all skinny people touch their shirts in?

    • Kimberly Doukakos
      July 9, 2019 / 6:48 pm

      I’m 5’3 & weigh 120. Yes, I’ve been having the same issue for a long time! So tired of it. It doesn’t happen to all my shirts so it maybe the make of the shirts it’s happened to:( Really bummed because it seems to happen to my favs unfortunately.

    March 26, 2019 / 7:12 am

    The holes in my t-shirts were caused by the jeans button on my shorts. If the jeans button is flat and shiny, it’s ok, but if it’s metal and inverted it will rub on the fabric and cause the holes. When you button up jeans or shorts you will notice the button sits naturally on a bit of an angle and if the edge is even slightly sharp it wears through the fabric. Choose jeans with a FLAT, preferably shiny, button with no rough edges.
    Did a test with a t-shirt that I had worn many times with other garments, then wore it once with the shorts I felt were causing holes and there was a hole in the t-shirt within one hour! Wore another t-shirt in perfect condition, that had been worn for 2 years & no probs, with the offending shorts for the rest of the day (wasn’t so fussed about the t-shirt so sacrificed it) and it was shredded by the end of the day. Another t-shirt ready for the bin.
    Solution = return shorts and ask for refund or change button to a flat plastic one!
    It’s not the seat belt, handbag, bench edge or any of those other ideas, it’s definitely the button.

  22. Bonnie Goodman
    March 18, 2019 / 12:20 pm

    I started putting either masking tape or cellophane packing tape on the inside of my sweaters and tee shirts..yes, it can be somewhat bulky, but I am desparate to do anything to stop these annoying holes popping up on everything. So far my solution has worked. I just ordered a few knit shirts on sale from Banana Republic and I plan to line them with tape before I put them away for next season.

  23. Linda Walker
    March 16, 2019 / 4:23 pm

    Just cleaned out a drawer in which almost all of my shirts are full of holes around my abdomen. I’m just relieved to know it’s not just me. I also wondered if it was a bug, but it doesn’t make any sense. I am going to try wearing a shirt only with non-button pants to see if it makes any difference.

    • Dawn
      May 24, 2019 / 2:07 pm

      it worked for me. I wear pants without the zippers or buttons and never a problem but the minute i wear my jeans…new shirt ruined 🙁

  24. Nancy Mazzia
    March 10, 2019 / 12:10 pm

    THE COTTON KNIT INDUSTRY IS TO BLAME!. Pull out a knit shirt made 15 years ago…it’s old and ragged, but no pinholes. I never ever had this problem in the past. Listen up fabric makers! You are causing the problem…everyone should revolt! Stop buying knit shirts until the problem is fixed!

    • sam
      March 23, 2019 / 12:23 pm

      I totally agree . I NEVER had this problem years ago. I bought three new shirts recently and they all got holes in the first wear. Only 100% cotton button down shirts work for me now. I’m boycotting knits! They are TOTALLY manufacturing inferior knit fabric.

    • Maggie
      June 3, 2019 / 9:53 am

      I have only been plagued with this problem for the last 2 or 3 years, NEVER before. I wear jeans or pants with buttons and I had to figure it was that, but why happening now? I change sizes and have shirts that are 15/20 years old and none of them have holes (they get put aside and brought out again as my size changes). Stretch pants don’t cut it. So I bought an expensive mixed fabric, fashionable hiking shirt. At barely 2 weeks and I have holes. I will try these ideas, so frustrated.

    • Jane
      June 8, 2019 / 2:43 pm

      it’s evil. this did not happen till recent years!. why does everyone online (except this thread) act as if this problem has always been around?? they want us to buy more shirts, it’s evil.

  25. Carole (aka Caz)
    March 7, 2019 / 9:44 pm

    covered the buttons with a few layers of nail varnish a week ago..
    am waiting to see if any more holes appear !!!

  26. Mary Oneal
    March 4, 2019 / 1:22 pm

    The holes I am dealing with are only on my shirts nit my hubby’s. This is what I don’t understand at all. He gets none in his but I get them in mine. This is real strange. I know mist of mine are thinner than his but I believe it’s the washer. I wasn’t getting it
    when I first got the washer almost two years ago. I have a brand new T-shirt that I just washed and I just looked and I have two holes already. This is ridiculous. Ruining all my new shirts I own.
    Sick and tired of this crap. The store is calling the manufacturer now.

    • March 17, 2019 / 7:51 pm

      I have six or so shirts that are ruined… some from LL Beans, Talbot, Hanes, Christopher..I am sick of it…hubby was measuring where the holes were so we could go around the house to see what was that height.. maybe my counters….Not happy at all

      • Mimi
        March 21, 2019 / 11:01 am

        I just found 10 ruined tops, some are less than six months old. Including some really nice stuff. I think it’s the counters and my seatbelt.

    • Sharon H Nevitt
      February 2, 2020 / 9:58 am

      It’s not the washer. I had a really nice LG washer and dryer. I was convinced it was the problem so I got rid of them and bought a new set with no ripples in the tub. Still having the problem with all fabrics when I wear them with button pants. Just ruined my nice MK shirt. I am going to look into buying plastic smooth buttons.

  27. Leslie
    September 17, 2018 / 3:34 pm

    Sorry ladies, but it’s none of these things causing these annoying holes. It’s simply CHEAP CRAPPY fabric. I now save all receipts for tops and bring them back when holes appear. Wearing Chico’s top now and never washed it and there’s holes all over the front near the bottom. NOTHING is rubbing it to cause it. This needs to stop. Clothes are expensive and who needs to buy a top and have it least a month????

    • Kathy
      July 10, 2019 / 5:06 pm

      I agree with the thin cheap fabric such as viscose, rayon etc., but also too then cotton. But I don’t think it is the metal button on jeans. It is the corner edge of jean by the button that is rubbing. Sick of the holes!

      • Jennifer
        July 24, 2019 / 9:05 am

        I agree with Kathy! It is the corner edge of the jeans. So frustrating!!!

        • September 23, 2019 / 11:30 am

          I agree, I think it is the cornor of the jeans above the button.

    • Betty D
      October 2, 2019 / 1:13 pm

      I only have this problem with Chico brand cotton t shirts. Have been buying them for years. Last 3 years I get pin holes in all of them. No jeans buckles or any reason but the product. I complained with little result.

  28. Michelle
    August 20, 2018 / 8:01 am

    What bothers me is that this is a rather new phenomenon. I have t shirts (some are 20 years old) that I wear periodically (wore them much more often when they were new) and they don’t have these pinholes at all. I wore them tucked in, with jeans. I think manufacturers need to take a look at this and use a fabric that is less likely to have this occur. Yes, I love my light weight tees, but their lifespan is pretty darn short.

    • Janice
      August 30, 2018 / 6:04 pm

      I haven’t looked at this problem for awhile & this is the second article I found today trying to blame this on, belts, waistband rubbing, etc. whatever…no, there is some type of bug eating holes, not moths, maybe silverfish. I have read every kind of reason, rubbing against counter tops, seat belts, washer/dryer & on & on. I am so damn frustrated–I could have a brand new top still hanging & within wearing it for a matter of hours, look down & see holes. The fit is not tight either, loose, flowing still gets holes. I do seem to notice a whitish streak around these holes. I realize it sounds nutty that a bug could tell the difference between front & back to shirt, only eat around belly button or off to side area but I have been going through this for 18 yrs. or so–never, ever before that time period. Belly button order attracting? Yes, I’m loosing my mind over this–I just sewed a few holes on a new, worn once white “Vince” brand shirt—-biggest reason why I shop discount.

      • Sylvia
        October 20, 2018 / 6:36 pm

        I am totally with you. I also do not believe the rubbing and cheap fabric theory. I am launching a little experiment for myself. Will be extra attention in washing my belly button. Many bugs do not like lavender/citronella scent. Will make it a habit of putting some gentle bug repellent smell oil around my belly button for a while. Maybe even use tee-shirt that has not holes yet and observe whether it develops holes as all of my other tee-shirts have been. I hope we figure this out.

  29. Suzanne
    August 6, 2018 / 4:03 pm

    Shirt Guardian’s button covers didn’t work for me. Even the larger cover was hard to get on, and then it didn’t fit through the buttonhole without practically coming off. Expensive too at $5+ each. Still looking for the solution.

    • August 7, 2018 / 1:06 pm

      Hole sent me some of theirs, I am looking forward to cooler weather so I can test them out. Stay tuned!

  30. Kerren
    July 14, 2018 / 4:52 pm

    Could there be another solution to iron on some kind of small patch to the bottom of the inside of the shirt? I’m looking for that kind of solution rather than something to put on the jeans. Thanks for the post!

    • July 15, 2018 / 3:28 pm

      There’s a few tutorials out there that offer ways to patch a hole, but reviews say that can affect the hang of the shirt. The darning tutorials I link to get the best reviews, but there’s plenty of options out there!

  31. Cate
    June 28, 2018 / 7:29 pm

    Just wanted to report that Shirt Guardian works! I’ve been so frustrated for so many years with the holes in my T shirts and for the first time ever I found something that actually works. I haven’t had a hole in a single shirt since putting these on all my jeans. No more throwing away new shirts after the first wearing – yay! The only thing I’ll say is that they have a tendency to fall off and disappear in the wash or between wearings. So buy extra. But they work.

    • June 29, 2018 / 5:14 pm

      That is so awesome! Thanks for coming back with a review!

    • Mary Oneal
      March 4, 2019 / 1:25 pm

      I don’t wear jeans that much and I still get them regardless. So I not believe that is the cause.

  32. Chris Rose
    April 5, 2018 / 3:58 pm

    “I got moths – big, junky, mutant moths.”

    ~Whoopi Goldberg as Terry Dolittle in Jumping Jack Flash (1986)

  33. Jacquie
    April 5, 2018 / 11:29 am

    Great post! I thought I had moths in my closet! Ha ha ha! Thanks for the helpful tips!

      • amy
        May 22, 2019 / 6:33 pm

        In my case it is not the buttons but the point on the fabric above the button hole which sticks out into the shirt and rubs it

        • Tracy
          June 14, 2019 / 8:53 am

          Same with me Amy.

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