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A Cleaner World Blog

What Causes Clothes to Shrink?

The fit was perfect when you first purchased it, and now it is not. What gives? It does not matter the garment – sweater, t-shirt, trousers – all fabric is stretched as items are made. Then when clothes are washed, they are exposed to heat, agitation, and moisture; and therefore, the fibers shorten, leaving your perfectly fitting garment smaller than it was before. The good news is that by following the garment’s care label and knowing a little bit about fabric, you can avoid the shrinkage issue.

Understanding Fabric

  • Natural fibers like cotton, wool, linen, leather, and silk are more likely to shrink when washed because heat, agitation, and moisture cause the structure to change.
  • Synthetic fabrics like polyester, acrylic, nylon, and fabric blends are less likely to shrink because they require more heat to change their structure.

Caring for Cotton

  • 100% Cotton is likely to shrink whereas pre-shrunk cotton or cotton blends will shrink less over the life of the garment.
  • Check the care label for instructions, but your best bet is to either handwash in cold water or machine wash in cold water on the delicate cycle.
  • Remove cotton garments from the washing machine as soon as the cycle is complete.
  • Hang to dry instead of placing the garment in the dryer.

Caring for Linen

  • Believe it or not, linen is likely to shrink more than cotton because of its loose weave.
  • Wash in cold water on the delicate setting.
  • Hang or lay flat to dry.
  • Avoid placing in the dryer.

Wool and Silk

Both are tricky, so A Cleaner World recommends you take garments made out of either silk or wool to a professional at one of our locations.

clothing shrinkage
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