Which Fabrics Shrink in the Washer or Dryer?

Knowing which fabrics shrink isn’t always obvious, so here’s a quick list of which ones to look out for. Read on to learn more!

Which Fabrics Shrink the Most in the Washer or Dryer?

which fabrics shrink the most in the washer or dryer

Cotton

Cotton fabric is particularly prone to fabric shrinkage if you get your settings wrong because the heat puts additional pressure on the cotton fiber.

Wool

Wool and knit fabrics also shrink on your washing machine’s warmer settings. Wool is a natural fiber made from protein scales.

The closer these scales are, the tighter the wool and the smaller the garment.

Silk

Silk fabrics shrink uniquely because it’s not the fibers that shrink but the woven fabric. The problem is that the sericin in the silk doesn’t like water, and when you put silk in a washing machine, the sericin softens.

As it softens, the fabric weave shifts your clothes shrink.

Linen

Linen comes from plants, and no matter what you do, linen always shrinks a little in the wash.

That’s because even moderate amounts of heat cause the plant fibers in linen to relax, and as they relax, the fabric shrinks.

Does Denim Shrink?

does denim shrink

Denim is 100% cotton, and like cotton, it reacts adversely to heat above certain temperatures.

Like linen, cotton comes from plant fibers, and these shrink proportionately the higher the heat and the longer they experience it.

What Types of Fabric Don’t Shrink?

what types of fabric don’t shrink

Here are some you don’t have to worry about when doing your washing.

Polyester

Polyester is a man-made fiber and one advantage that gives it is that it’s heat-resistant.

Nylon

Nylon is another synthetic fiber that doesn’t shrink. It has a plastic base, which sounds strange, but means that heat and water can’t affect the fabric’s molecular structure like natural fibers.

Spandex

Since spandex is another synthetic fiber, you don’t have to worry about it shrinking, either. However, you may have other problems if you put it in the dryer.

The fabric could develop permanent creases or static.

Acrylic

Acrylic fabric makes for easy washing, too. Because of the synthetic nature of the fabric, it may also come out of the dryer creased or full of static.

Acetate

Similarly, acetate is water and heat resistant, so it doesn’t shrink. But to preserve the fabric, you should wash and dry it on a low heat setting.

How to Avoid Shrinking Clothes When Drying Them

how to avoid shrinking clothes when drying them

While some fabrics undeniably shrink in the washing machine, there are ways to manage how much fabric shrinks.

Fabrics That Can Be Dried and How to Do So

Here are some fabrics that can be dried and how to do it without shrinking your clothes.

Cotton

To avoid shrinking, the best thing to do with 100% cotton is air dry it. Cotton blended fabric can be tumble-dried on low heat.

Acrylic

While you can dry acrylic in the machine, make sure you use low heat. Too high a temperature can damage the fabric.

Linen

Linen should be air-dried. Since it also creases easily, it helps to find a flat surface and lay the linen flush with it when drying.

Microfiber

You can machine dry microfiber, but ideally, you should use an air-dry setting. Also, avoid using things like dryer balls.

Nylon

Nylon doesn’t require much special care. But it helps if you use a mesh bag when drying nylon to reduce static and stop it from sticking to other clothes.

Polyester

You can reduce the static you get machine drying polyester by washing it in fabric softener. But you can dry it safely at low heat.

Silk

Silk should never go in the dryer. These clothes are dry clean only. Alternatively, you can hand wash them. But make sure you test for color bleeding before soaking the silk in water.

Velour

You can tumble dry velour on low heat. Because it produces lint, make sure your dryer filter is clear before starting the machine.

Fabrics You Shouldn’t Machine Dry

Now you know which fabrics shrink, here’s a list of fabrics to avoid putting in the dryer.

Spandex

Spandex is heat resistant but it isn’t heatproof. If you put spandex in the dryer you run the risk of shrinking your clothes.

Items With Embellishments or Glued Decorations

Any clothing with glue or embellishments should stay out of the dryer. Not only can the heat melt the glue, but the tumbling may damage more delicate decorations.

Lace

Lace is delicate and often made from fabrics that shrink. Heat can damage synthetic lace and shrink genuine lace.

Dry your lace clothing by hand.

Rayon

Rayon shrinks in dryers and should be air-dried. If you want to remove creases, you can also steam dry rayon.

Suede

In theory, you can dry suede in a dryer, but it damages the fabric. The best way to keep suede looking new after washing is to press newspaper overtop to absorb the water, and then let it air dry.

Wool

Wool and other knit fabrics benefit from air drying. For the best results, take the time to block your wool clothes to preserve their shape.

Bathing Suits or Tights

Finally, dry tights and bathing suits by hand. Pantyhose especially is prone to shrinking in a machine while bathing suits and their elastic can be misshapen by the tumbling.

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