Sweater pilling is unavoidable—whether your sweater cost $50 or $2,000, Joseph says. Sweater pills are tangles of fabric that naturally come loose where the garment is rubbed the most. Typically, a sweater's arms and sides are first to pill.
Even an expensive cashmere sweater can pill, says Mary Scalco, senior vice president of the Drycleaning & Laundry Institute. As a rule of thumb: the softer a sweater is, the more likely it is to pill. Man-made fibers and acrylics are less likely to pill than natural fibers like wool.
To de-pill at home, try a rotary brush or pumice stone designed to remove sweater pills. For a hands-off approach, take the sweater to a dry cleaner. Joseph says de-pilling is typically included in the normal charge for cleaning a sweater.
If a "dry-cleaning only" tag really means "not gonna happen" to you, keep that in mind while shopping. Check the tag before trying something on and falling in love with a dry-clean or hand wash only garment. "Cotton, linen, polyblends and some microfibers are generally low maintenance," Steve says. "Anything that has a blend of poly or nylon in it generally won't have too many shrinkage issues."
Next: Dry cleaning dos and don'ts