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Which Fabrics Shrink the Most in the Wash?

Shrinking your clothes in the washer can be frustrating and can take a big hit to your wallet. It’s important to understand your fibers before tossing your clothes in the wash to ensure that they stay in the best shape possible. Natural fabrics that are made from plants or animal coats are highly susceptible to shrinkage, while synthetic fabrics do not shrink at all. Without further ado, here are the fabrics that shrink the most in the wash.


Cotton is by far the easiest fabric to shrink during the laundry process. During the construction of cotton clothing, tension is applied to its fabrics and then the tension is released by heat from the washer or dryer, which causes the cotton to revert to its natural size. Because of this, most cotton clothing shrinks during the first wash. The best way to avoid cotton shrinkage is to wash them by hand or to use cold water and the delicate cycle of your washing machine.


Wool is also a fiber that experiences shrinkage in the wash. Produced from the coats of sheep, goats and other mammals, wool is very durable, but is susceptible to shrinkage in warm water. To prevent your wool clothing from shrinking, dry-clean or hand-wash your clothing in cold water with mild detergent.


While silk is a very luxurious material, it is also very delicate and can easily shrink or become damaged in the wash without proper care. Because silk is a natural material made from protein fibers, heat will cause it to shrink. Pre-washing a silk garment for more than 5 minutes before washing causes its fibers to tighten. Once heat is applied to the garment after soaking it for a long time, the silk will shrink. To avoid this, either hand wash your silk in cold water or use the delicate cycle on your washing machine then hang to dry.


Because linen is a natural fabric made from the fibers of the flax plant, applying heat to it will cause it to shrink. If your linens are not prewashed, you can expect some shrinkage regardless of the temperature you use. However, you should still hand wash your linens in cold water or have them dry-cleaned to preserve the quality.

No matter what type of fabric you’re washing, always refer to the tag for care instructions. Shrinking your clothes is a pain, but with some precautionary measures, you can avoid shrinkage and extended the life span of your clothing.

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