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How To Prevent Clothes from Shrinking in the Washer

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In the world of laundry, few things are as frustrating as pulling out your favorite sweater from the washer only to find that it’s now a size too small. Shrinkage is an all-too-common issue that many people face when laundering their clothes. However, with the right knowledge and techniques, you can prevent your clothes from shrinking in the washer. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the causes of shrinkage and provide practical tips to keep your clothes in their original size.


To prevent clothes from shrinking in the washer, always check the fabric care labels before washing. Use cold water and the delicate cycle to preserve the size and shape of your garments. Hand-wash delicate fabrics and dry on low heat or air dry. Additionally, sort your laundry according to color and washing temperature, and use a detergent suitable for the fabric type.

Why Do Clothes Shrink in the Washer?

The primary reasons clothes shrink in the washer are heat, mechanical action, and moisture. High temperatures can cause the fibers in your clothing to contract, resulting in shrinkage. The agitation during the wash cycle can further cause the fibers to compress, making the garment smaller.

Natural fibers like cotton, wool, silk, linen, and hemp are more prone to shrinkage due to their absorbent nature. These fibers can easily absorb moisture and contract when exposed to heat. For instance, washing clothes in hot water cycles with heavy agitation can cause fabrics to distort and shrink. Similarly, high-heat dryer settings can damage the fabric and lead to shrinkage.

How to Prevent Clothes from Shrinking in the Washer

Preventing clothes from shrinking in the washer involves a combination of careful fabric selection, proper washing techniques, and mindful drying methods. Here are some professional tips and tricks to keep your clothes from shrinking:

1. Check Fabric Care Labels: Before purchasing and laundering clothes, always read the fabric care labels. These labels provide the recommended washing and drying methods for each garment, helping you avoid shrinkage.

2. Wash in Cold Water: Hot water can break down the fibers in your clothing, causing them to contract and shrink. To preserve your clothing’s size and shape, wash your clothes in cold water.

3. Use the Delicate Cycle: The delicate cycle on your washing machine uses slower agitation and lower water temperatures, which is less damaging to your clothes.

4. Hand-Wash Delicate Fabrics: Cotton, linen, and silk garments are more prone to shrinkage. Hand washing these delicate fabrics can help maintain their shape and size.

5. Dry on Low Heat or Air Dry: High heat can cause your clothes to shrink more quickly. Instead, use a lower heat setting on your dryer or air-dry your clothes to prevent shrinkage.

6. Sort Laundry: Sort your laundry according to color and washing temperature to avoid mixing fabrics that could shrink with those that won’t.

7. Use the Right Detergent: Choose a detergent that is suitable for the fabric type you are washing. Some detergents are specifically designed for delicate fabrics and can help prevent shrinkage.

In Conclusion

Shrinking clothes can be a big frustration, but it’s preventable with the right knowledge and techniques. By following the tips listed above, you can protect your clothes from shrinking in the washer and maintain their original size and shape. Remember to always check the care labels on your garments, wash in cold water, use the delicate cycle, hand-wash delicate fabrics, and dry on low heat or air dry. With these practices, you’ll be able to keep your clothes looking as good as new for longer.

Frequently Asked Questions

What about clothes made of synthetic materials, do they shrink as well?

Synthetic materials such as polyester, nylon, and spandex are generally more resistant to shrinking than natural fibers. However, they can still shrink under high heat, so it’s best to follow the care label instructions and use lower heat settings when washing and drying.

Can dry cleaning prevent clothes from shrinking?

Yes, dry cleaning can help prevent clothes from shrinking. This is because dry cleaning uses chemical solvents instead of water, and thus avoids the heat, mechanical action, and moisture that can cause shrinkage. However, dry cleaning is a professional service and can be more costly than home laundering.

Why do clothes continue to shrink after multiple washes?

Some clothes, especially those made from natural fibers, can continue to shrink over multiple washes if they are exposed to heat and agitation. This is because the fibers in the fabric continue to tighten and contract over time. To prevent this, follow the washing and drying instructions on the garment’s care label.

Is it possible to unshrink clothes?

Yes, it’s often possible to unshrink clothes, especially those made of wool or cotton. This typically involves soaking the garment in a solution of warm water and a gentle conditioner or baby shampoo, then gently stretching it back to its original shape. However, this method may not work for all types of fabrics, especially synthetic ones.

Does the type of washing machine affect the shrinkage of clothes?

Yes, the type of washing machine can affect the shrinkage of clothes. Traditional top-load washers with agitators can be more aggressive on clothes and can lead to more shrinkage compared to front-load washers or top-load washers without agitators.

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