Does Cold Or Hot Water Shrink Clothing?
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Does Cold Or Hot Water Shrink Clothing?

Does cold or hot water shrink clothing? Read our article to find out!

There is a rumor that shrinkage can occasionally be brought on by cold water. However, we contend that the exact opposite is true. The reality is that when you wash items in hot water, especially items that have a lot of cotton in them, those items are much more likely to shrink.

There are several important factors to take into account when putting your load on when deciding whether to wash in cold or hot water. It’s not just about saving money. For heavily soiled items and grease stains, hot water works best; for delicate fabrics and everyday loads, cold water offers the ideal temperature.

Your clothing label is a good place to start when trying to figure out how to wash a specific item, but if you’re curious as to why it says to wash in hot water, we’ve got you covered with this guide.

Does Cold Or Hot Water Shrink Clothing?

Hot water shrinks clothes, but cold water does not shrink clothes. Heat is the main requirement to shrink any type of clothing. 

Different types of clothing can shrink to different degrees in hot water. 100% cotton, linen, and wool clothing will significantly shrink when washed in hot water. Clothing made of spandex, polyester, and nylon will be less significantly affected by hot water.

Modern washing machines are built to handle cold water. In addition to having enzymes that can begin to function in as little as 60°F, many detergents today are also designed for cold water, which improves performance.

Does Cold Or Hot Water Shrink Clothing?

What Causes Clothing To Shrink In Cold Or Hot Water?

Washing clothes in hot water (or drying them using hot air) shrinks the fabric. Although polymer fibers are naturally short, when they are used to create clothing, they are stretched out. You should wash wool and cotton clothing in cold water because they both absorb a lot of water and will shrink more quickly.

How Much Will Cotton Shrink in Hot Water?

How much cotton shrinks during washing? If you wash your cotton shirts in hot water, they will shrink by up to 5% from their original size. It’s crucial to keep in mind that this will only happen once to avoid destroying your favorite clothing.

Is Washing Clothes In Hot Water Bad?

Hot water can cause bright colors to run and fade and can shrink certain types of fabric. Certain synthetic textiles, such as polyester, nylon, and vinyl, can also be harmed by hot water. The fabric can be destroyed by heat, which damages the fibers.

Does Cold Water Cause Clothing Expand?

For the fabric’s fibers to effectively relax, the water should be at room temperature or a little warmer. Cold water won’t help you stretch out clothing. Conversely, hot water damages and shrinks clothing, so stay away from it in this situation.

The notion of fabric shrinkage is widespread in the clothing industry. There are various kinds of fabrics and each reacts to washing in a different way. The manufacturer should have their fabrics tested before releasing them into the market. Below are the most common questions about shrinking clothes:

What Will Happen If You Wash Your Clothes In Cold Water?

Heat can break down dyes in the clothes and cause shrinkage. So, washing clothes in cold water helps keep colors vibrant and preserves the fit and size of the garments. The same case can be made for drying clothes on a line as opposed to in a very hot dryer.

Does Cold Or Hot Water Shrink Clothing?

The Hot Water Effect

The shrinkage calculation was fairly straightforward. Do you still recall geometry class? To calculate the total square inches, divide the length by the width. By dividing the post-hot wash area of the shirt by the area prior to the hot wash, we arrived at the result.

That will show you how much the area of the shirt has shrunk. We converted it to a percentage and shrinkage.

The Best of the Best

Listed below are the top 5 shirts that fared the best following a hot water wash and medium dry.

  1. [0% shrinkage] Anvil 780 – 100% ring-spun cotton (preshrunk)
  2. [1.92% shrinkage] Next Level N6210 – 60% cotton / 40% polyester
  3. [2.47% shrinkage] District Threads D142 – 50% polyester / 38% cotton / 12% rayon
  4. [2.93% shrinkage] Gildan 50/50 – 50% cotton / 50% polyester
  5. [3.50% shrinkage] Next Level 3600 – 100% ring-spun cotton

The Most Shrinkage

These five placed last because they shrunk the most after a hot wash and medium dry.

  1. [8.23% shrinkage] LAT 6901 – 100% ring-spun cotton
  2. [6.58% shrinkage] District Threads DT6000 – 100% ring-spun cotton
  3. [5.53% shrinkage] District Made DM130 – 50% polyester / 25% cotton / 25% rayon
  4. [5.52% shrinkage] District Threads DT4000 – 100% ring-spun cotton
  5. [5.33% shrinkage] Gildan 64000 – 100% ring-spun cotton (preshrunk)

Is It OK to Wash With Cold Water to Conserve Energy?

Yes, you should use cold water for your laundry when it doesn’t require a lot of cleaning. When it comes to removing stains, discoloration, and dinginess that have accumulated over time and wear, warm or hot water is more effective than cold water.

You might one day notice dull colors, yellow armpits, or rings around the collar after several cold water washes without proper pretreating! Even though using cold water may be more energy-efficient, you might end up having to replace clothes earlier than necessary if they end up looking dirty or stained.

Does Cold Or Hot Water Shrink Clothing?

Simply alternate cold or warm and hot washings of cotton, linen, and durable synthetics, and try to air dry items whenever possible. The majority of fabric damage and shrinking actually takes place in the dryer.

What Fabrics Shrink When Wash in Hot Water?

Typically, natural fiber fabrics like wool, linen, cotton, or silk are more likely to shrink when washed in warm or hot water.

  • Washing Cotton In Hot Water: Cotton can shrink if it is washed in hot water. Heat can permanently shrink your cotton items, despite the fact that cotton fabrics typically have a maximum shrinkage capacity. By washing cotton in cold water or alternately using warm and cold water, you can prevent this. 
  • Washing Jeans In Hot Water: Putting jeans in a hot wash can also make the jeans shrink. Washing jeans inside out on a delicate cycle with cold water will help keep them in their original condition.
  • Washing Bright Clothes In Hot Water: The kind of material affects whether or not your colorful items shrink in hot water. It is advised to wash brights in cold water with a brief cycle rather than hot water because it can result in bleeding or color transfer. 
  • Washing Dark Clothes In Hot Water: According to the type of material, shrinkage will vary, just like with your brights. It is typically advised to wash your darks in cold water to prevent fading. Use the dryer setting with low heat and the shortest washing cycle suggested on the care label. Generally speaking, washing your items in cold water is a safer option as long as they are not severely soiled.
  • Washing White Clothes In Hot Water: Hot water washing can assist with stain removal and lessen dinginess when it comes to your white loads of laundry. But be careful when washing white clothing because the fabric can still shrink.

When Should You Wash With Hot Water?

Does Cold Or Hot Water Shrink Clothing?

In the following situations, hot water washing is especially beneficial:

  • Heavily soiled items
  • Oil and grease stains
  • Whites
  • Removing germs

The amount of dirt on your clothes will largely determine whether or not you wash them in hot water. While heavily soiled outdoor gear might need an intensive hot wash with additional detergent to get it completely clean, your “day-to-day” dirt might only need a quick warm wash.

Additionally, it is suggested to use warm water to help lift any oil or grease stains from the fabric. Reading the label on your clothing is important because some fabrics can fade and shrink. It is advised that you first use cold water to stop a stain from setting. Stains on temperature-sensitive fabrics, such as wool, can be removed with the aid of pre-treatments.

Pre-wash soaking gives the detergent time to work its magic and absorb all the oils and grime, and then when you wash the clothing, the chemical reaction in the surfactant will already have been activated.

Furthermore, a hot wash may be helpful to prevent the family from contracting the illness again if anyone in your household is fighting off the flu or a cold. Hot water washing reduces the likelihood of allergens like dust mites and the spread of germs on towels, bedding, and facecloths.

When Should You Wash With Cold Water?

All fabrics can be washed in cold water. Energy bill savings is one of the main advantages of using cold water. A typical washing machine uses a minimum of 75L of water per wash and requires the water to be heated for hot washes. This means that heating the water each time you wash a load in hot water costs you extra money, whereas cold water doesn’t need to be heated.

Does Cold Or Hot Water Shrink Clothing?

Aside from saving money, washing delicate fabrics in cold water is advised for the following fabrics:

  • Silk
  • Wool
  • Dyed clothing
  • Protein-based stains

Since silk and wool fibers aren’t as durable as synthetic fibers, hot water can damage their structure and shorten their washable lifespan. Furthermore, any dark-colored clothing or linen can bleed in a hot wash, so cold water is advised to maintain color intensity. Additionally, a cold wash is required to help remove the discoloration from protein-based stains.

How Do You Shrink Clothes?

If you are looking to make your clothes tighter or shrink them, the main thing you want to do is use heat. The likelihood of the garment shrinking increases as the temperature rises. 

The best way to shrink clothes is by using the washing machine on the hot water setting, paired with the dryer (learn how to use a dryer properly & how long a dryer takes) on tumble dry settings: tumble dry high & tumble dry medium (tumble dry low will not be hot enough.)

Learn how hot a dryer gets to get a true sense of how much your fabric might shrink.

If you do not have access to a washing machine and dryer you may instead place your clothes into a pot of boiling hot water to shrink them. Making waistbands smaller with boiling water is a great idea.

What Can I Do To Stop My Clothing From Shrinking?

Does Cold Or Hot Water Shrink Clothing?
  1. Use mild shampoo or soap and lukewarm water.
  2. 30 minutes is the maximum soak time. 
  3. Wash the clothing gently to remove any water. 
  4. Place the clothing on a towel that is flat. 
  5. Place the clothing on a second dry, flat towel. 
  6. The clothes should air dry.

Related: How To Unshrink Clothes? (Step-By-Step Guide)

What is Pre-Shrunk Cotton?

Cotton that has been treated to withstand shrinking is known as pre-shrunk cotton. Before being used to make clothing, the fabric is washed in hot water and tumble-dried at a high temperature. By shrinking the fibers, they won’t contract as much later on when exposed to heat or water.

Therefore, pre-shrunk cotton clothing is less likely to shrink than regular cotton clothing. Even though there is frequently some shrinkage, it is typically between 1 and 5 percent and not noticeable. It implies that you can frequently purchase these clothes in your true size without worrying about them getting smaller.

It can be a little bit of a guessing game because labels frequently don’t state whether the cotton has shrunk or not, which is the problem. Always wash your clothing as directed on the label for the best results.

Conclusion: Does Cold Or Hot Water Shrink Clothing?

The majority of clothes and other items that you can safely wash in a washing machine can be washed in cold water. It can remove a variety of stains from clothing, including grass stains on your child’s jeans or makeup smudges on a sweater.

Clothing made of many different fabrics will shrink when washed in hot water. In hot water, 100% cotton, silk, wool, linen, and hemp fabrics will shrink the most.

Sort your laundry into categories so that whites, coloreds, and darks can be washed separately. Before starting, make sure there are no special care instructions by reading the care labels. To wash your clothes, choose the proper cycle and water temperature.


What Temperature of Water Shrinks Clothes?

Most washing machines have a hot water setting that ranges between 130 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Your clothing will shrink as a result of the weakening and deterioration of the fibers at this temperature.

How Much Will Clothes Shrink in Hot Water?

When soaked in hot water, various fabrics will shrink to varying degrees. 100% cotton may shrink up to 20% of its size if it is not pre-shrunk, whereas a garment made from polyester may not shrink at all. For information on the fabric type used in your clothing, check the care label. Fabrics made of natural materials typically shrink more than those made of synthetic materials.

Why Do Clothes Shrink With Cold Water?

Rumor has it that cold water can occasionally cause shrinkage. However, we contend that the complete opposite is true. The reality is that when you wash items in hot water, especially items that have a lot of cotton in them, those items are much more likely to shrink.

Is It Possible to Unshrink Clothes?

It is effortless to unshrink many clothes. Take a bucket of warm water, mix in half a cup of hair conditioner, and then add a few sprays of dishwashing liquid. Stir in the clothing until all of the fibers are covered in hair conditioner. To remove extra fluid, squeeze the clothing.

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