What Shrinks Clothes the Washer or Dryer

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When you wash your clothes, you usually expect them to become softer and smell fresh. You might even hope that they come out a little bigger than when you put them in. Most people hate when they accidentally shrink their clothes in the washer or dryer. While it doesn’t happen very often, it can be an expensive mistake to make. But the question is what shrinks clothes the washer or dryer? 

Washing in hot water is more likely to shrink. And drying clothes on high heat will also cause them to shrink. That’s because the heat and tumbling of the dryer can cause natural fibers like cotton and wool to contract.

Washing machines and dryers are two home appliances that are used on a daily basis. But while they make our lives easier, they can also lead to disappointment when clothes get ruined or shrink. One of the biggest problems people have with their clothes is that they shrink in the washer or dryer.

In this article, you will learn more about what shrinks clothes in the dryer, how to not shrink clothes in the wash or dryer.

What Shrinks Clothes the Washer or Dryer

The washer, the dryer, or both can cause clothes to shrink. When you use hot water to wash clothes and drying at a high heat temperature, they are more likely to shrink.

When you run a load of laundry in the washer, your clothes come in contact with hot water and agitation. If your clothing is made from cotton or wool, the combination of heat and movement can cause fibers to break down, leading to shrinkage.

The dryer’s heat and tumbling motion can also cause clothes to shrink. Drying on high heat makes it even more likely that your clothes will shrink than drying on low or medium temperatures.

How much clothing shrinks depends on the fabric content and the cut of the garment. For example, a men’s sweater made from 100 percent cotton will likely shrink 3-5 percent in length after washing and drying on high heat compared to its size before washing. 

By comparison, a women’s stretch top made from polyester and spandex will likely experience minimal shrinkage after washing and drying on high heat, as polyester and spandex do not degrade when exposed to heat as natural fibers do.

How to Not Shrink Clothes in Dryer

Always check the care label first Before you start throwing your clothes in the dryer, check the care labels on them. You’ll find this label on most clothes and other items of clothing. The wash care label will tell you what temperature your garment can be washed at and whether it can be tumble-dried or not.

Always check the care label first

Before you start throwing the clothes you want to dry in the dryer, check the care labels on them. You’ll find this label on most clothes and other items of clothing. The garment care label will tell you what temperature to wash your garments and whether they can be tumble-dried or not.

Use a cold water setting on the washer 

Washing your clothes on a hot water cycle is one of the fastest ways to shrink them. The agitation of the wash cycle alone can cause fibers to become loose, which then contract further with heat exposure during drying. 

Always dry clothes the dryer on the lowest heat setting

When drying your clothes, try to use the lowest heat setting possible, especially if they are made from cotton or wool. Higher heat settings will result in more shrinkage than lower settings.

Avoid long cycles

It’s not always possible, but if you can limit the time your clothes sit in the dryer it will help. Each minute they spend in there is another minute for shrinking to occur.

Dry clothing on one cycle

If your clothing still feels damp at the end of a drying cycle, don’t just keep turning it back on and leaving them in there. This will make them shrink even more. Hang them up to air dry.

Remove clothes as soon as the drying cycle is finished

The hotter your clothes are when you remove them from the tumble dryer, the more likely they are to shrink. If you leave them in there any longer than necessary, they’ll continue to shrink beyond their initial state.

How to Not Shrink Clothes in Wash

Here are the best ways to avoid shrinking your clothes in the wash:

Wash clothes on a delicate cycle. The agitation of normal washes can cause shirts to shrink. If you have a delicate cycle, this is the best way to wash most clothing.

Hang – dry

If possible, hang-dry your clothes instead of using a dryer. A dryer will cause your clothes to shrink more than air-drying them. If you can air-dry your clothing, you can reduce the chance that it will shrink in the wash.

Wash your clothes by hand if possible

Washing by hand will not only prevent shrinking, but it also prevents damage from washing machines and other items in the washer as well as reduces fading caused by detergents.

It is best to use cold water when washing

Hot water can cause your clothes to shrink which is why many detergents suggest washing with cold water only.

What temperature should I wash my clothes so they don’t shrink?

Washing clothes in cold water is gentler on the fibers, so they’re less likely to shrink. Also, cold water helps reduce color bleeding and fading. That said, some laundry, such as whites and heavily soiled items, may not come out quite as clean if you use cold water.

Does washing jeans in hot water shrink them?

Washing your jeans in hot water will cause them to shrink more quickly than if you wash them in cold water. Jeans made from 100% cotton are much more likely to shrink than those that only contain a percentage of cotton, and the higher the percentage of cotton, the more likely they are to shrink.


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