The Holey T-Shirt Mystery

I don’t want a t-shirt with holes, but I have around 50 of them anyway. All the holes are in the same place: on the front, a little below the waist.

Last year, a friend told me that she had the same problem and I was amazed by her analysis of it: The holes were caused by the zippers of our low-cut jeans. Looking back, I can’t believe I went along with this. It sounded so brilliant at the time, and it was nice to solve the mystery.

At some point, I realized that it wasn’t about zippers. More and more of my t-shirts sprouted the same tiny holes. And the holes are multiplying but staying roughly in the same place. Sitting in the car with my husband yesterday, I noticed a hole in one of my newer t-shirts and cursed. I explained the phenomenon, and joked that maybe it was my belly button. Maybe I have a toxic belly button! My son suggested that maybe it emits radioactive waves.

I decided to google “why are there holes in my t-shirts,” and landed on a forum where people discussed the holey t-shirt mystery. Their theories ranged from logical to absurd. Seatbelts, third-world shoddiness, kitchen counters, harsh laundry soap, the theories were offered up and then shot down by other commenters.

Finally, I came to this revelation:

Silverfish. They eat ONLY cotton and similar vegetable based natural fabrics such as rayon, they especially eat clothing that hasn’t been recently washed. They eat mostly around the bottom of the shirt because of oils and dirt from your belly button sticking to the fabric.

The “oils and dirt” from my belly button?!? Silverfish?!?

I googled silverfish and found an eco friendly product to kill them with. I can’t even think about my belly button.

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128 Responses to The Holey T-Shirt Mystery

  1. Karin from LBI says:

    We have read every post and have concluded that we all have too much free time on our hands if we really take a look at the posts. Despite this free time issue I am of the belief that my skin emanates alien rays that burn small holes in my shirt as the aliens in my belly ( I starred in Aliens 2) wish to communicate to the mothership.

  2. lois dankenbring says:

    Started getting holes 3 months after moving into a newly-built apt. in 2005…still getting them…have used 3 different exterminators, talked to numerous sources (entomologists, catalog customer service, Nat’l Cotton Growers,)!..all say “never heard of it”. Have been sprayed, bombed, sticky-boxed; froze shirts, ,2 discarded hundreds of $’s worth.
    The only common denominator I find after reading myriads of comments is the one about moving into new digs….because…
    1) I don’t wear jeans
    2) I’ve always worn an apron in the kitchen , and countertops are all curved
    3) Same holes in nightgowns (not worn with seatbelts!) and
    not always at mid-section
    4) Changed washer/dryer
    5) Dirty laundry goes into Ziploc bags in basket
    …you name it, I’ve done it or thought of it after 9 years..

    Before move-in I had Closet Co. arrange so I could hang t-shirts. No more…now fold & put into drawers. Many of the shirt-fronts have only “divots” (not-quite a hole-in-one)…and can only be seen by holding shirtfront to light…, most of my tees are black, so I’m wearing anyway, with jacket, shirt, etc.

    It seems that holes appear more frequently in winter months.
    Still spraying and praying,


  3. Karen says:

    DO ALL OF YOU HAVE TOP LOADING WASHERS? I never had the problem until I got a new washing machine five years ago, so I blamed the machine. But now I do think it may be the cheaper cloth (regardless of the price of the T-shirt). I heard that side loaders, which do not have the central column, are easier on cloths…

  4. Debbie says:

    I’m going crazy & so happy to hear I’m not the only one having this problem. It can’t be bugs cause my husband shares the same closet & his shirts have no holes. I have ruined so many shirts & not just t shirts. I don’t think it’s the material either. I think it has to do with jean material & the the way the zipper can stick up & cause it to poke thru the shirt. I have jeans that I wear in colder months that do not cause this problem. Only jean capris that I war in summer
    I’ve tried buying new pants but they all seem to be the same material. Please help I think I’m going to go crazy. Can’t keep buying new clothes

  5. Stacey says:

    I wonder- do all of us have kids that we carry? I have moved on from my pants and seatbelt theory to the velcro on his shoes…could it be? I carried him in to day care today….— I just wore a brand new top and the only possibilities are his shoes, the seat belt or my pants— that is it- has not been in my closet or washed yet— and it SUCKS i love this new shirt- argh!!!! Plus my husband only has these wee holes in one shirt I think….

  6. Mariette says:

    Hello all you holey people. LOL ?
    I’m with Karen from BLI on this. We have too much time on our hands and I’m also alien species.
    Not only am I at my WITS end with the holes in my shirts and soft tops (the new one too I bought a few days ago and wore only once, hand washed and everything) I’m DEVASTATED that they might be caused by those fucking critters that invade our houses called Silverfish.
    Not saying it is but today I am going to extreme measures to eliminate the possibility of these fuckers or I really do hope I do.

    A few months ago I started noticing Silverfish in the house, bathroom, kitchen and my clothes cupboard well, I think is invested only my clothes cupboard. But for no reason because all my clothes are worn all the time and washed soon after so the probability of it hanging long enough to be eaten through is kinda a big question and my husband does NOT have the same issue.
    So today is the diluted with water “Orange Essential Oil” mixture sprayed all over my cupboards as well as drops of that in cotton balls on the corners of the “most invested areas”

    All you might think I am crazy but someone out there is even more crazy and freakier. This dude made a documentary of “how silverfish live” WFT!!
    So when I watched it – now you think I’m fucking crazy I came to some conclusion based on his factual study that the mouths of Silverfish are not designed to chew or bite: it is scraping action.
    I’m all grossed out now again but you can watch the video yourself.

    Anyway, I’m off to do the orange oil extermination now… wish me luck. Fuck because I’m not sure what I am going to do if they don’t die and leave my house!

  7. El says:

    It’s NOT seatbelts: I have them in my pajama tops.
    It’s NOT the toxic belly button: I have them in most of my t-shirts, and I always wear a skirt or pants when I leave the house. Lol (My jeans go above my belly button.)
    It’s NOT counter tops: I don’t lean against the counters at all.
    It’s NOT only new shirts: I’m getting the fucking holes in my old ones now, too.
    It’s NOT my cat: I notice many of you don’t even have pets.
    It’s NOT belts: I never wear them.
    It’s NOT zippers: I only wear skirts with some of my tops that have these damn things.
    It’s NOT bugs: Why would bugs only eat the shirts at the bottom front? (Especially if my jeans are covering my belly button, which they always are.)
    It’s NOT from accidentally dropping food there: I am embarrassed, but Ill day that I’m outrageously large-chested– my food falls on and in my boobs, never the bottom front of my shirts.
    It’s NOT only thin shirts: I have them in some thicker shirts, too.
    It’s NOT the washer/dryer: I would be getting them in other items, too, but I’m not. And, the fact that they’re on the bottom front still wouldn’t make sense.
    It’s NOT FAIR either:(

  8. Rose says:

    These holes are annoying and they were driving me crazy too….about a month ago I went to the Southern Women’s Show in Orlando, Florida. There was a new product being sold there that I bought, made sense and actually works….it’s the nub rub that causes the holes….check out this link

    Hope this helps with the mysterious holes!!!

  9. Mariette says:

    Its the button of your jeans / belt buckle rubbing againts the inside of your shirt on the counter tops. Since i stopped doing this…. my shirts/tops does not have holes in them anymore. When im in the kitchen i wear old shirts or aprons. dont wear my new clothes without an apron in the kitchen anymore.

    either get this or wear your shifts inside your pants when in the kitchen and dont lean on the kitchen.

    so mistery solved for me.

  10. Kris K. says:

    No way it’s silverfish. Or washing. No way.

    I pulled the tags off of a brand new shirt TODAY and I just spotted the holes. Crap. They were not there when I bought this. I am now absolutely convinced that it’s my granite countertops doing this. The only thing I did today at all was make some holiday treats int he kitchen and drive my car to the holiday party. I’ve been wearing this shirt for exactly 7 hours. That’s it. I’m totally ticked.

    CURIOUS- all of you with this problem, do you just happen to have granite counter tops in the kitchen or bath?

  11. J B says:

    I solved the problem of having holes in my Tshirts by closing all zippers on any clothing I put in the washing machine. I discovered that the open zippers combined with the violent motion of the agitation was ripping holes in my shirts kind of like a saw blade. Ever since I started doing this, no holes.

    I’m curious if anyone else has been having this problem. The new material that they have been making sweatshirts out of, such as Nike Drifit and Under Armour. I have noticed that the seatbelt in my wife’s car leaves lines across the material. It looks like it has been rubbed with an abrasive and the fibers in the material appear to be getting pulled and causing what looks like a run in hosiery. The seatbelt doesn’t feel abrasive at all but it is definitely the cause. There are diagonal lines across the chest and horizontal lines across the waist. A lint shaver will improve it but nothing I have tried will fully repair it. I have several of the sweatshirts and have simply had to stop wearing them in her car. It really makes you mad when you drop $75 on a sweatshirt only to have it ruined by a seatbelt. Anyone else having the same problem?

  12. Joey says:

    I have so many holes in my Tshirts its driving me nutty. I put my Tshirts in same drawer as my underwear and no holes in the underwear.

    I guess the smell is keeping away the mystery eater, jumping ship from underwear to Tshirts.

    I wonder if some kind of small woodpecker is pecking away so many holes, if I catch woody its all over.

    No serious, I have not seen any silverfish.

    The only bug I have seen is those tiny microscopic fast flying tiny, only saw a few in middle of winter, could that be eating the holes.

  13. Sheree says:

    I can’t help to wonder if it has anything to do with GMO cotton? I think it’s possible, that along with low quality combing and spinning.

    I recently bought a set of sheets that advertised 600 thread count. I was shocked to see that the sheets were thinner (see through thin) than any of 250-400 thread count sheets I had. I’m sure the thread count was accurate, they just used a much thinner thread.

    If manufactures are using a lower quality thread to start with, the end result will be shirts that do not hold up to normal wear and tear like they used to.

  14. AH says:

    I agree with the person who said that they are 60 and in the old days nothing like this happened. Since silverfish, navels, washing machines, zippers and seatbelts were around then, it has to be a quality problem. My husband got a hole on the back of a sleep henley from Land’s End that was only 2 months old. I’ve had it happen with with things the first day that I wore them, as of yet unwashed. By the way, the brands are brands that you’d consider fairly good, too: Coldwater Creek, Talbots, Land’s End. All my Merona tees from Target got holes after 2-3 wearings. Tees that we’ve bought in France and the UK have done the same thing. It’s today’s lousy quality and the consumers just accept it. Well, we aren’t or we wouldn’t be writing.

  15. cornelia says:

    I had this problem too, when I was younger. Now that i am only wearing skirts for years – no buttons, no zippers, NO HOLES! So i believe, it’s really a friction-thing. Plus the obviously poor quality of most shirts you can buy nowadays.
    For those of you with many holes in various places: sounds like moths to me. DO NEVER store worn and unwashed garments in your closet. Be careful with wool and silk. When in doubt, put suspicious items in the freezer for a couple of weeks. Good luck!

  16. Sharon says:

    I’m 55, and this problem for me began around 6 yrs ago. My daughter (mid 20’s) also has this problem. My son does not. I have taken to wearing a belt, which covers the button to my jeans. When I wear a belt, I don’t get holes in my tops. When I cover the button with duct tape, I don’t get holes in my tops. I have had holes in heavy cotton blouses, t-shirts that are light weight, and heavy weight, and I have got holes in a heavy knit sweater that was new and cost me over $300! I bought a new t-shirt 2 wks ago, and within the first hour of wearing for the first time, I looked down and there were two tiny holes! I was driving … so not near a kitchen counter to lean against. There goes that theory. I used to wear LEVI jeans, and LEE jeans. When I began wearing Ralph Lauren, Jones New York, and NYD jeans I began getting holes in my tops…blouses, t-shirts & sweaters! I ran my finger around some of the buttons of my jeans. I found the odd one to be a little rough, which could easily have sliced the threads of my top. Other buttons are not a nice rounded bullnoze edge, it is square which creates a sharp edge, like a knife. That is what I believe is creating the holes in my shirts. My daughter wears Citizen of Humanity and Mavi jeans. Where do these companies purchase their buttons? From China of course! These are only a few companies, but they are costing us women cumatively billions of dollars in women’s tops. The media, and celebrities need to step up and challenge these jean companies to purchase a better quality button. We as consumers need to stop purchasing their jeans to force them into changing their buttons. It’s crazy. Buy a new shirt and within the first hour you wear it you have a hole or two! It makes me mad as hell! And I don’t want to take it anymore! But clearly there are hundreds of blogs on this, and millions of women around the world with the same problem … I read one blog said she found a statistic stating 10,300,000 women affected. So why is nothing being done? It needs to go to the next level … bad publicity on the news and by celebrities … around the world! Oprah … where are you? 🙂

  17. Cathy says:

    I don’t wear jeans, only sweat pants and leggings/jeggings. (No buttons or zippers then. My husband/boys wear jeans, but I wash all jeans separately. The jeans do not ever (maybe rarely) get holes in them. All t-shirts and underwear (white AND colored) do. We don’t have granite counter-tops. I don’t LEAN on counter-tops, either. My opinion is, that it is the combination of the following: 1) inferior material (we buy only cotton t-shirts and mostly cotton underwear -the colored underwear might not be all cotton) -but its cheaper made, and maybe the new “GMO” cottons has something to do with it ?? 2) inferior machines, washer &/or dryer ?? and 3) inferior soap products, including color “safe” bleach (I use regular bleach rarely and less than what it calls for when I do). Either one or all of these in combination. No other reasons fit and this has been happening for years now. I am going to try the “dry shirts outside” theory, but that’s a hard thing to do in this busy day and age! I feel that it probably wont even make a difference, anyway. (sigh!)

  18. Ryan says:

    That is a foolish suggestion. Our armpits put our a lot more oil then our belly buttons. If this was true all of our arm pits would also have holes in them. It is most likely from the button on jeans as all the holes appear around this area

  19. Debra says:

    This has plagued me for the past year. Several months ago I bought some tops on sale at Anthro. I double checked to make sure that they did not have tiny holes. Put them in my drawer. Took them out to wear with the nice weather. Holes! Never worn! No jeans zipper/buttons, no belly button oil to attract bbbbugs, no counter top leaning, no washing detergent, so have to conclude it’s the fabric! Going to return them to the store.

  20. Debra says:

    Although it’s a bit suspicious that it’s always in the same area-below the belt line.

  21. Sheryl says:

    We moved to Florida eight years ago and that is when the holes in our clothing began. We have lived in three different houses. I saw a silverfish in the first house. I did not know at the time that it was a silverfish though. I killed it and thought that was an odd looking bug. There were a lot of new bugs I was encountering here in Florida. We built our house two years ago and we are still experiencing holes. I think they have moved with us from home to home. Time to exterminate.

  22. Ed says:

    I have this on 5 Ralph Lauren T Shirts, I’m going back to the outlet in Kent England on Friday to see what they will do about this, have tried to call them for 2 weeks but no one answers.

  23. Priscilla DePetris says:

    I thought it only happened to me, and it all started about 5 years ago. Every top I bought would get holes in them, mostly in the front, some in the back. I think it is mostly cheap, too thin material that is causing most of the problem. I have bought Lucky Brand, Ralph Lauren, Guess, etc. and they all do the same thing. I have resorted to second hand shops now for tops, cheaper and if they get holes in it, oh well, I only lost a few dollars.

  24. Scooter says:

    It’s belts and zippers and buttons, OH MY! I’m a 4’10” bartender. I am CONSTANTLY tip-toeing to hand cocktails over certain areas of the bar where I am rubbing up against the freezer or the beer cooler or the wooden rail. Metal belt buckle + cotton + metal &/or wood = tiny holes. NONE of my PJ’s have this problem nor do any of the shirts I wear with skirts. Obviously the thinner/cheaper the material the less friction it takes to produce these tiny mystery holes. My husband is a foot taller and several of his T-shirts he wears with a belt & jeans have these hole as well. But his dress shirts & bowling style shirts have none.

  25. Jonboy says:

    Has to be from jeans/ belt in the coal mines and almost only wear overalls and dont have this problem on any of my work shirts. Almost every one of my good shirts has this because i constantly wear (you guessed it) jeans and belts. I think its from rubbing against stuff with a belt on or even pinching the shirt between the buckle and the prong.. i grimmace at the idea of silverfish in fact im pretty sure ive never seen a silverfish.

  26. Elena says:

    I think the lickety-clip woman is right. It’s the way the nub on the button tab of jeans sticks out, combined with manufacture methods that are much cheaper and low-quality. Hear me out: Even if you wear yoga pants and not jeans, the belly area endures abrasion against counters, seat belts, cross-body purses… when the cotton is low-grade short fiber, ANY abrasion will wear a hole through pretty quickly. I’ve examined these holes with a light behind them, and they are all within a 3 square inch area and some are in their nascent stages, where the knit has thinned out in spots but the wear remains invisible until the last threads finally fray and a hole appears.

    I don’t have granite counters, but my counters are steel, a hard surface. Any kitchen counter is a hard surface, when you consider hardware on your clothes combined with cheap cottons. That could do it.

    Incidentally, I’m in my 50s, and this problem started when I was around 40-45. I lived in what I know now to be halcyon days, a happy place during happy times, blissfully ignorant and unaware of little holes in T-shirts, until the Aughts. This holy-T-shirt phenomenon is definitely a recent development.

  27. Alice says:

    not the jeans,
    not the buttons,not the belt,
    I don’ t have grandkids yet,
    isn’t the countertop,
    I have been in my house 16years,
    I have “eaten way” type holes, probably much like “use holes”, around 2-4mm
    and ALWAYS in the same area –slightly below navel area ….often on my right side !?
    I haven’t noticed new holes since I sprayed my closet against moths…will see this summer perhaps when I plan to buy a few new tops.
    I have just laid down a periphery of Diatomaceous “dust “on my closet floor…. no other closet has had this problem- not any on my husband’s shirts.. .. .and I have tried to not put back anything which is NOT freshly laundered .. in the past, I had often rehung blouses only worn a bit ( no perspiration).
    I am convinced it is from an insect.

    For holes– or weak spots–to form, one must rub the same area over and over again–not my case .
    A REAL Mystery !

    YEs,Iwear almost exclusively cotton

  28. DINA D says:

    If it’s insects why in the same area? Why not all the shirts? It’s just weird. I always cursed, because all my cotton shirts having holes and they are new. Tried cheap and expensive shirts, all the same. I feel it’s most probably the jeans and seat belt. It’s just annoying, I don’t like to wear shirts with holes.

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