Honey, I shrunk the …clothes

Fabric shrinkage

Have you ever feared your new top might come out of the laundry a couple of sizes smaller? We’ve seen it on TV shows and movies where a character comically realises that their clothes have suddenly shrunk. Oh, the horror of actually having to go through that in real life!

laundry clothes

We firmly believe in the saying, “prevention is better than cure” and to follow through, we have put together a comprehensive guide on all you need to know about fabric shrinkage.

Let’s start with the basics, why do fabrics even begin to shrink?

It’s because different fibres naturally absorb different levels of moisture and react differently under high temperatures. Heat causes the fibres to relax too much and lose their shape. Also, fabrics shrink after it has been cut or sewn and the finished garment will look misshapen with seams looking puckered.

DIY fabric shrinkage test

What materials are susceptible to shrinkage?

The fibre most affected by shrinkage is viscose. Fabrics that includes spandex have a higher shrinkage rate when heat is applied.
Cotton fabrics shouldn’t be washed or dried at high temperatures either as natural fibres like cotton, silk, wool, linen, and hemp tend to shrink when heat and friction are applied.
Fabrics with a low shrinkage rate include synthetic fibres like polyester and blended fabrics. The next best would be linen.

DIY fabric shrinkage test

Cut and measure a 12×12 inch square of the material you want to test. Run the fabric piece through your usual washing and drying process. Lay the fabric flat on a table and measure it in both directions. Every 1/8″ shrinkage should be counted as 1% shrinkage. You could even use an online calculator to help you.
DIY fabric shrinkage test

How to prevent or reverse fabric shrinkage?

The best way to prevent shrinkage is to use cold water and a mild detergent.
Shrinkage can be reduced if fabrics are heat-set during production. Reversing fabric shrinkage is not the easiest. Stretching exercises while the fabric is still wet will help in lengthening it but it can cause low amounts of damage to the material.

So if you have clothing that is prone to shrinkage, dry cleaning is the safest option to retain the size. Sadly, at some point in time, almost all fabrics will shrink. Whether it is done by the washer, dryer, or over time, it will happen. The good news is that if you shrink cotton once, it should not shrink again.

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