Sweater weather is here and whether you have an army of sweaters or just a few go-tos, you know how hard it can be to keep them free from unsightly fuzzing and pilling. Sweaters pill (you know, those annoying tiny balls of lint) in areas that have the most friction—elbows, collars, under arms, the bottom areas that rub against your pants.

And if you have a rambunctious little one, you can almost be certain all their sweaters will look like a massive lint ball by the end of the season. So what’s a mama to do when dry cleaning isn’t feasible? We asked Laura Goodman, P&G Senior Scientist and Fabric Care Expert to help us care for our sweaters—from cashmere to the super-practical merino wool—this season.

Why do sweaters pill?

There’s really no way around it. Any fabric can pill as the fibers stretch and break because of friction. “Pilling occurs when fibers break separate, and then clump together in little balls,” says Goodman. “It tends to form the most on wool, cotton, cashmere and even polyester garments.”

How can I stop my sweaters from pilling?

For starters, take Grandma’s advice and don’t wash your sweaters more than you need to. If you get a stain on your garment, try spot treating instead of doing a full wash. Remember, less friction means less pilling. It’s also important that you use a fabric conditioner to help protect the fibers from additional damage, keeping them intact longer.

It can also be helpful to wash clothes inside-out, avoid powder detergents and always follow fabric care directions, says Goodman.

How to de-pill your sweaters:

  1. Place the garment on a flat surface and then use a small pair of scissors or a razor blade to carefully remove fluff and pills.
  2. If you’re worried about damaging the sweater, find something that will remove the pills more gently, such as a fine-tooth comb, pumice stone or even a fruit zester.
Consider buying a sweater comb or a battery-operated electric fabric shaver, a hand-held device that sells for less than $20. It will come in handy, not just for sweaters, but for pills that build up on wool blankets and throws, towels, furniture, even the dog’s bed. It can also safely remove pet hair, loose threads, and lint, keeping fabrics and garments looking new.

How to wash your sweaters, according to the expert:

  1. Turn the sweater inside out before washing.
  2. Use a gentle cycle or hand wash.
  3. Use a detergent that rinses clean and does not contain any dyes.
  4. Lay the wet sweater on a flat towel after washing.
  5. Roll up the towel and sweater from the closest edge, almost like a jelly roll, to squeeze out any excess water.
  6. Immediately unroll the towel, lift the sweater off, and lay it flat on a dry towel.
  7. Carefully bring the sweater back to its original shape. Air dry the sweater by laying it flat.
  8. Once dry, never put a sweater on a hanger. The shoulders will likely misshapen and the weight of the sweater will pull the sleeves out of its original design. Instead, fold sweaters and store them in a dresser or on a closet shelf.
  9. When storing sweaters, opt for air-tight plastic bins to prevent moths and other bugs from crawling in and throw in a dryer sheet to keep things smelling fresh.