Mystery solved: Where the tiny holes in your T-shirts come from (no, it's not moths)

Online sleuths have solved one of life’s greatest mysteries – where do the tiny holes in T-shirts come from?

Hint: it's not moths.

For years people have questioned why near-identical holes have been appearing in the lower front section of their T-shirts.

Whether it’s a designer tee or a basic shirt from Kmart, these pesky holes don’t discriminate and people have journeyed to all corners of the internet in search of a definitive answer.

Stills from TikTok video about tiny holes in T-shirts
Online sleuths have solved the mystery of tiny holes that appear on T-shirts after the problem was raised in a viral video. Source: TikTok/@StarryNoisy

People have previously theorised that closet critters, such as moths, silverfish, ants and even your garden variety cockroaches are responsible for the T-shirt holes.

Others suggested that the holes are a result of shirts getting caught in washing machines and dryers, but this doesn’t answer why the holes are usually in the same spot.


So what is the cause of tiny holes in T-shirts?

The answer to the age-old question of how these annoying holes are created is a lot more simple than most people think... they’re caused by friction.

Typically, the most common cause of pin holes in T-shirts is friction against the metal hardware of our jeans, such as buttons, zippers, rivets and even the tough knots of thread around the fly.

Woman's hands and T-shirt tucked into blue jeans showing metal hardware
Friction caused by metal hardware on jeans was found to be one of the main causes of tiny holes in T-shirts. Source: Getty

If you add wearing a seatbelt, a heavy crossbody bag or working at a bench or desk to the scenario, then these holes are even more likely to appear.

The reason these tiny holes have become more common in recent years is likely due to fast fashion, meaning retailers are using lower-quality cotton and jersey to keep their prices competitive.

Viral TikTok helps to solve mysterious case of T-shirt holes

While consumers have been searching the internet to diagnose their mysterious shirt holes, one woman captured the attention of millions with her TikTok video on the subject.

In the woman’s TikTok video, captioned “It’s not moths”, she asks why all of her T-shirts have tiny holes in the same spot.

“There are these little holes in the same spot on almost every shirt I own,” reads a caption in the video, which cuts to different shirts with the same type of holes.

The relatable video soon went viral, amassing over 13 million views and 31,000 comments from people who correctly theorised it was the “friction” caused by zippers, buttons, countertops and seatbelts.

How to prevent pesky holes in tops

Although T-shirt holes may be inevitable for some people, there are ways to avoid them.

Wearing an apron while working at a counter top will prevent friction between your shirt and the bench, while tucking in your top will stop it from rubbing on your jeans button or zipper.

Ensuring you buy high-quality cotton tops will also extend their lifespan.

Fans of the “French tuck”, or tucking the bottom of your T-shirt into the front of your jeans, will also be pleased to know that doing so will help to reduce the friction that causes these holes.

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