Does Heat Shrink Clothes?

If you’ve ever found yourself wondering why your clothes seem to be shrinking, then you’re not alone. Each time you wash and dry your clothes, they seem to become a bit snug or noticeably smaller.

Clothes will shrink if they’re exposed to intense heat for too long; it only makes sense that this also applies when drying your clothes after washing them. The heat from your dryer comes close to the heat required to shrink clothes, but not quite.

The intense heat would damage or warp your machine if it were that high, which means that there has to be another explanation for why you’re noticing that your favorite shirt is getting smaller each wash.

There are two reasons why your clothes may appear to be shrinking. The first is down to how you’re washing them. When you wash your clothes, the fabric being used will naturally stretch a little bit. If you use too much detergent or leave it in for too long, it can make fibers stiff and this will cause the clothes to stretch even further when you take them out.

Does Heat Shrink Clothes

If you notice that your clothes are stretched every time you take them out of the washing machine, it could be because they’ve been in for too long or there isn’t enough detergent.

The second possible reason why people think their clothes are shrinking is a little more complicated. It’s down to the way your clothes are designed; The designers make their clothes slightly bigger than required so that they can adjust them for fabric shrinkage during production.

If the clothes were made to be exactly the correct size, then after a single wash and dry they would lose their shape and fit. Instead, by making them slightly bigger and allowing for shrinkage, they’ll still appear to fit well throughout your washing cycle.

It’s also worth mentioning that there are different types of stretching that can affect your clothes once they’re in the wash. For example, the cotton fabric will stretch when it comes into contact with water, but wool won’t.

What causes clothes to shrink?

When you put your favorite shirt in the wash, you expect it to come out just the same as when you put it in. But sometimes, even with careful laundering, clothes seem to shrink. What’s going on? Why do clothes shrink, and is there anything you can do to prevent it?

Here’s a look at a number of factors that cause clothes to shrink and some tips for keeping them from getting smaller in the wash.

Type of Fabric

Different textiles shrink at varying rates, and as a result, the material’s shrinking rate is dependent on the fabric. Nylon and polyester are difficult to shrink, while cotton, silk, and wool are more likely to shrink. However, even within these categories, some fabrics are more prone to shrinking than others.

Does Heat Shrink Clothes

For example, 100 percent cotton tends to be one of the most sensitive materials when it comes to shrinking. Not only that, but it’s also not resistant to humidity and will shrink in cold water just as much as hot water.

Synthetic fabric is more difficult to shrink because it requires a more complicated manufacturing process. Synthetic fabrics require a number of different raw materials and manipulation steps to create, so when they’re finished, the fabric is much less likely to shrink in hot water.

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Heat can expand some fabrics rather than shrink them in unusual situations when you understand how heat affects your cloth material and how it will allow you to determine how to wash and dry these clothes. It stands to reason that if heating causes expansion, it may also cause shrinkage.

However, this is not always the case with synthetic items. When you wash your synthetic fabrics in hot water, they will not shrink because it’s almost impossible for them to contract under heat pressure.


If you love crisp clothes but hate ironing, your washer and dryer may be causing some frustrating wrinkles. The intense heat used by these appliances can make some fabrics wrinkle. When you dry the clothes, these wrinkles are locked in when they cool down.

However, cotton is an exception because it tends to shrink in hot water and then expand once again in the subsequent drying cycle. This can create that “ironed” smooth look even though there was no iron involved.

Dryer Speed and Movement

The speed that a dryer or the washing machine rotates can also affect the way clothes dry and the amount of shrinking they experience. For example, if you put a load of laundry in your washing machine with pants at the top and shorts at the bottom, then rotate them halfway through the cycle, it will alter how much they shrink

Does Heat Shrink Clothes

The agitation that occurs during the spin cycle can also cause some fabrics to stretch and has a more significant effect on clothes, whereas slower speeds will allow the clothes to dry more naturally and evenly.

If you’re looking to avoid shrinking in clothing, it’s important to follow the care instructions on clothes before you wash them.

If you do notice that your clothes are unusually small after they come out of the wash or dryer, then you can try putting them in the dryer for a few minutes with a damp cloth to bring them back to their original size.

Frequency of Drying

The number of times your clothes are washed or dried in a washing machine or tumble dryer can affect how much they shrink. Clothes that are seldom dried or washed generally will not shrink as much as clothes that are used frequently

When you dry your clothes, heat can expand some fabrics rather than cause them to shrink in unusual situations

Also, the more you put the clothes in the dryer, the more the clothes can shrink. Some fabrics may prove to be more resistant to the dryer, and you may not start noticing any shrinkage for a while.

Does Heat Shrink Clothes

On the other hand, the interval between each trip to the dryer may be the deciding factor in whether you have shrunken clothes. If your clothing is shrinking, it may continue to do so the more you put it through the dryer cycle.

If you give the clothes a chance to recover from the stress of the previous dryer journey before sending them in for another round, they’ll be less likely to shrink.

How to avoid shrinking clothes

Seeing as washing tends to shrink clothes in one way or the other, then it begs the question, ‘how can we avoid shrinking out clothes when doing the laundry.

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There are a couple of tips and tricks that can help you to avoid shrinking your clothes.

Read the care label on the clothing

Before washing your clothes, check to see if there are any care instructions included. If it says ‘Dry Clean Only’, then put them in a separate load before you wash all other laundry items.

The same goes for any other specific care instructions. The more you know about how the clothing should be laundered and dried, the less likely it is that they will end up shrunken in some way.

Use a gentle detergent

Using a gentle laundry detergent may also help to avoid shrinking on clothes. If you use powder, try using half of the recommended amount. If you use liquid, use only half of the recommended amount in your load.

Use cold water for washing

If you don’t want your clothes to shrink, washing them in cold water is also an option. Cold water will not damage or weaken the links between your fabrics, resulting in the shrinking.

It is advisable to use cold water for washing most fabrics, as hot water can shrink and damage them even further

Use a laundry ball or washing board

One of the options that you have is to use a laundry ball or washing board during your next laundering session. Laundry balls tend to provide gentle agitation and not agitate the clothing to such a degree that they end up shrinking.

Does Heat Shrink Clothes

Laundry balls help to stop your clothes from shrinking in the washing machine and may be an effective way of getting rid of wrinkles at the same time

As a bonus, you are less likely to see your clothes fade with each wash, which is something that can happen with some fabrics, especially dark ones.

Hang-dry clothes

Another way to avoid shrinking is to hang dry all your clothes after washing them. If you have a retractable clothesline in the backyard or room, then it may be possible for you to hang your clothes out on it each time you wash them.

The best time to hang dry your clothes is when the weather is sunny, as this will allow them to dry faster. If you cannot hang dry your clothing because of bad weather or lack of outdoor space, then air drying indoors may be a good option.

Adjust the Dryer Settings

Because of the amazing breakthroughs in technology, we may now change dryer settings to match a variety of needs. The speed and tumble settings inside dryers are one such feature.

These settings will determine the speed of the tumbling, but not always impact how hot it gets inside.

If you want to prevent shrinking, then set dryers at their lowest heat setting and use only a couple of minutes. This should be enough to get your clothing dry without causing them to shrink further.

There are also different types of dryers on the market, so it can be a good idea to do some research and see which one would work best for your needs

Does Heat Shrink Clothes

Some dryers have a steam cycle, where a small amount of water is added before the clothes are dried. This will combat shrinking in some fabrics. It also provides an option for drying delicate clothing that would otherwise shrink when hung out to dry or air-dried.

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Most modern dryers have settings that use light contact and reduced heat levels to dry your clothes, so they won’t shrink.


Does Cotton Shrink Every Time You Wash It?

Yes, cotton will shrink if washed in hot water, or repeatedly washed and dried on high heat.

Does Heat Shrink Clothes

After the first washing, most people will note the most amount of shrinkage in cotton size. If any shrinkage occurs after this, it will not be severe.

How Can I Prevent Shrinkage?

Washing clothes of 100% cotton at low temperatures can prevent shrinkage. Airing out wet clothing before putting it into the dryer can also help to avoid shrinkage.

Washing delicate fabrics like wool, silk, and linen in cold water can help to prevent shrinkage. Some fabrics like spandex or polyester may not need to be dried before hanging them up.

Why Does Heat Shrink Clothes?

Heat shrinks clothes because it breaks down the fibers of the clothing while they are wet. When wet, threads that were previously tight in weave or knit are loosened.

When the fibers are broken down, they become weaker and this can cause further damage when exposed to heat later on.

How Much Does Cotton Shrink After Washing?

Unprocessed cotton can shrink by up to 20% after being washed, whereas processed cotton that has been pre-shrunk will shrink by less than 15%.

Does a steam dryer shrink clothes?

Yes, steam dryers are heavily implicated in shrinking clothes, leading modern dryers to operate on different principles.

Why Do Some Items Shrink More Than Others?

Fabrics that are 100% cotton and have been pre-shrunk will shrink less than products that are a combination of materials. For example, a blend of cotton and polyester can be stretched beyond its original length before shrinking.

Does Cotton Shrink In the Dryer or When Washed?

When cotton is washed, it can shrink in either scenario. Dryers will cause a greater amount of shrinkage because the heat produced inside them is so high.

Does Heat from a tumble dryer Shrink Clothes?

Yes, the heat from this appliance is responsible for shrinking clothes. In comparison to other factors, such as chemicals, it is more likely to be a culprit.

Does Washing Machine Detergent Shrink Clothes?

Chemicals in washing machine detergents can also cause clothes to shrink, as they weaken the fibers. In addition, chemicals used on some dyes may react with heat and cause them to change colors. This will have an effect on the clothes’ size.

What Causes Clothes To Shrink?

There are many factors that cause clothes to shrink. The heat from a tumble dryer, washing machine detergents, or even water can all lead to shrinkage.

Final Thoughts

Although there are many factors involved in shrinkage, heat is one of the most common and it can cause serious damage to your clothes. Even if you follow all the tips in this article when drying with a tumble dryer, there’s still a possibility that some shrinkage may occur.

Never place the clothes in the dryer until they are at room temperature and always check fabric labels.

Some of these tips can also be used for reducing static cling and different types of damage you might face with your tumble dryer.