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Does Hot Water Shrink Clothes? Why?

Have your favorite clothes ever shrunk when washed in hot water? This post explains why your clothes will shrink in hot water.

Laundry regulations are fairly simple to understand. Lights typically use warm water, while whites and towels receive the hot water treatment. Darks are washed in cold water to prevent fading.

However, all the guidelines might be broken depending on the fabric. Regardless of color, wool, and linen will still shrink in hot water. On the other hand, shouldn’t hot water remove stains more effectively?

Although the stain might eventually disappear, the sweater will hardly cover your midriff. Consequently, you now need to know if washing clothes in hot water always causes them to shrink.

The hot-water debate’s benefits and drawbacks are being analyzed today. Follow these instructions to wash your clothes at the correct water temperature.

Does Hot Water Shrink Clothes?

Clothing does shrink when washed in hot water. Your clothing will shrink when it is washed in warm or hot water. The maximum amount of shrinkage will occur with just one wash of your clothing when using hot water. On the other hand, warm water gradually causes your clothing to shrink. The use of warm water will cause your clothing to shrink to its maximum point over time.

Does Hot Water Shrink Clothes

Even though different fabrics respond differently to various cleaning agents, most of them will shrink when submerged in hot water for a sufficient amount of time. Cotton shirts and denim jeans, for instance, will shrink in hot water. If you put them through a hot drying cycle, they’ll shrink even more.

Additionally, hot water can harm some textiles like nylon, polyester, and vinyl. The fabric will be harmed by these materials’ fibers being broken down by the hot water’s temperature. To these plastic-type fabrics, even warm water will cause this.

When clothes are washed in hot water, do they shrink? Your cotton shirts and denim jeans will shrink by about 50% compared to their original size when washed in hot water. The most that these materials can sink is to this degree.

But why do you plan to take the chance? Before putting these fabrics in hot water, think about how they were made.

To wash your dirty clothes, you don’t actually need to use hot water. Cold water works well for most types of clothing. Additionally, that holds true for the majority of the things you wash in your washing machine. You can also cut back on the amount of electricity you use.

In some situations, shrinking clothing is beneficial. For instance, you might discover that a shirt you like has stretched over time. It might be more wearable if you try to shrink it.

In some cases, purposefully shrinking your shirts, underwear, or sweaters could have a negative result. There’s a chance that your clothing will shrink incorrectly and become unwearable.

Fabrics That Shrink the Most

  • Cotton
  • Wool
  • Linen 
  • Hemp
  • Silk
Does Hot Water Shrink Clothes

Fabrics That Shrink the Least

  • Polyester
  • Nylon
  • Spandex
  • Acrylic
  • Acetate

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:

Why Do Clothes Shrink In Hot Water?

It is quite depressing to discover that your favorite shirt can no longer be worn simply because you washed it in hot water.

However, you are not alone as everyone makes the same error of washing clothes in hot water. By understanding why certain fabrics behave in this manner when washed in hot water, you can avoid making the same error in the future.

Now you know that washing clothes in hot water shrink them, let’s look at why they shrink: 

Type Of Fabric Construction

There is still another justification, and it has to do with their design or method of construction. Fabrics are used to create clothes. Large numbers of threads that are arranged in a specific pattern or texture design make up fabrics. Wefts and warps, the terms for the different types of thread used in fabrics, are different from one another.

The polymers or fiber components will interact with the detergent and water while you are washing your clothes. The fibers will enlarge as a result. Depending on the type of fibers and the extent of their reaction with the water and detergent, the amount of swelling will vary.

Natural fibers such as cotton, silk, and wool are very good at absorbing liquid. They will enlarge considerably. Polyester PET, nylon, and polyamide PA are examples of synthetic fibers that will absorb much less water. These fibers shrink as a result of swelling. When clothing and fabrics shrink, this happens.

Does Hot Water Shrink Clothes

The amount of shrinkage will depend on how much water is absorbed by each fiber and then diffused there; this is affected by the water’s pressure and temperature.

Polymer Fibers Are Short

One explanation is that polymer fibers are initially short. They’re stretched out to make clothes. All of the fibers’ tension will be released when you apply heat to them. They will revert to their original, brief state.

Looser weaves are created by stretching and combining natural fibers. By using fewer materials and stretching them as much as they can to produce more fabric materials, fabric manufacturers can increase their profits.

The fibers in such fabrics will typically revert to their initial state when wet. Between each other, the fibers will constrict. The amount of shrinkage will increase if the fabric has a loose weave. Natural fabrics like cotton, linen, and wool shrink more than nylon, polyester, and other synthetic fabrics because of this.

The exception to this type of shrinkage is clothing and fabrics that have already been shrunk. In order to reduce how much their fibers shrink when washed, a special compression process is applied to them.

Type Of Weave

Individual fibers are woven together to form fabrics. Both manual and automated weaving methods are available. Fabrics differ from one another depending on how the fibers are mixed or woven together.

Consider the distinction between the fabrics gingham and denim. To increase the durability of denim, a twill weave is used in its weaving. However, it is also heavier due to the weaving technique. Contrarily, gingham is created using a plain weave. This gives it more air and light. A fabric’s shrinkage will typically be higher the simpler the weave is.

Do clothes shrink more in hot or cold water? In hot water, clothing shrinks. Clothes are less likely to fade or shrink in cold water. Additionally, using cold water reduces wrinkles and saves money on energy.

Pros And Cons Of Washing Clothes In Hot Water

wash clothes in hot water


  • Hot Water Gets The Job Done

For worn-in clothing—workout pants, socks, and boxers, to name a few—hot water is the best option. Although it’s not the most gentle temperature, it cuts through odors and dirt. The chemical reaction of the detergent is accelerated by hot water, giving it the most cleaning power.

It also means using less detergent and shorter wash cycles. Wash your clothes in hot water if you want to make sure they will smell fresh and clean the following day.

  • Hot Water Kills Germs

Does your child’s school have a flu outbreak? just exited an aircraft? A great way to prevent the spread of bacteria, viruses, and germs is to wash your clothes in hot water. Throw the potentially infected bed linens and clothing into a hot wash and let the water do what it does best—kill germs! You must wash at temperatures of 140 F or higher to kill germs and allergens.

However, it can be risky to set your hot water tank at 140 F, especially if you have kids. The use of a washer with a sanitizing setting is a safer choice. Your washing machine will kill 99 germs if its sanitizing cycle complies with NSF standards. for 9 percent of bacteria, viruses, and allergens.

You can use white vinegar if the water in your washer doesn’t get hot enough to kill germs. White vinegar disinfects your laundry and makes it fresh and clean when used in combination with your regular laundry soap or baking soda.

  • Hot Water Molecules Move Fast

Blood, wine, and other stains that are water-soluble can be removed more quickly with hot water.

The more quickly the water molecules move, the more likely it is that they will erupt into the fabric and loosen and remove stains, grease, and dirt.

Everything there sounds wonderful. Unfortunately, all of that cleaning effort has a price.

Does Hot Water Shrink Clothes


  • Hot Water Is Environmentally Unfriendly

We have become more concerned about the environment over the past ten or so years. According to the most recent studies, up to a third of the energy required to wash a load of laundry is used to produce heat for the water, which accounts for a significant portion of the energy used.

When a power plant works harder to supply your washing machines with electricity, more and more byproducts are released into the earth’s atmosphere. Electricity is a form of energy that is primarily produced using fossil fuels. Think about how much laundry you do each week and how that will impact the environment and raise your power bill.

  • Hot Water Can Damage Or Discolor Clothing

The next time you wash your clothes, think about the type of clothing you are washing. Hot water can shrink some types of fabric and cause bright colors to fade and run. Some synthetic fabrics, such as polyester, nylon, and vinyl, can also be harmed by hot water. The fabric can be destroyed by heat, which damages the fibers.

  • Hot Water Can Damage Delicate Fabrics

When washing delicate fabrics like lace, wool, or silk, it’s frequently advised to use cold water. On delicate fabrics, hot water can set stains and cause shrinkage, fading, and permanent wrinkles.

Use a detergent formulated for delicates because these fabrics are delicate to temperature and cleaning agents. Instead of hand washing these items, you might think about using the gentle cycle on a cold washer. You may be interested in How To Get Detergent Stains Out Of Clothes?

  • Your Clothes May Shrink Too Much
wash clothes in hot water

Your clothing may first shrink more than you anticipated. You might find that after washing jeans that previously fit you correctly in hot water, they are now too small for you. Because of this, you shouldn’t set your washing machine’s default setting to use hot water.

  • It’s Less Energy Efficient

The use of hot water is unfortunately inefficient in terms of energy use. The energy used to heat the water makes up nearly 90% of the total energy required to run your washing machine. Consider that as you select the ideal wash setting for your family and yourself.

  • It’s More Expensive

Higher energy use is accompanied by higher energy costs. Consider using a cooler wash setting if your energy bill is particularly high this month to save money. It’s just another reason to think carefully about your wash settings when washing various fabrics.

  • Hot Water Can Permanently Set Some Stains

While using hot water to wash some clothing can help remove some stains, it can also encourage the settling of other stains. When you’re trying to decide which setting to select for your laundry, you can use the following guide:

  1. Use cold water initially to treat stains from blood, alcohol, food, juice, and toothpaste. Then, after your first wash, reassess whether they still require additional cleaning.
  2. Hot water will work best for removing set-in stains, oil-based stains, coffee, wine, and other common stains.
wash clothes in hot water

You can check out more information we have on removing Mildew Smell, Cat Pee Smell, Smoke Smell, Dry Erase Marker, Hair Dye Stains, Butter Stains, Crayon, Lipstick Stains, Tree Sap, and Rust Stains from clothes.

When To Wash Clothes With Hot Water?

What do you think? Should you never wash clothing in hot water again? Not exactly; there are a few circumstances in which you might decide to wash your clothes at a high temperature for different reasons.

Let’s examine a few situations where using a washing machine at a higher temperature might be advantageous.

Use Hot Water For White Clothing

Do you need to wash a load of whites? Without hot water, it can be difficult to remove stains from white clothing. Every time you need to brighten your whites, it’s a good idea to run your load at a high temperature with bleach added to the mix.

Separating white clothing is not random; it helps you concentrate on the fabrics that are most susceptible to stains.

Use Hot Water For Soiled Clothing Items

When a piece of clothing has become particularly soiled, using hot water can be helpful in that situation as well. Hot water is most effective at cleaning the fabric and getting rid of germs when your clothing or the clothing of your children has come into contact with bodily fluids or other messy situations.

Does Hot Water Shrink Clothes

For instance, you should thoroughly wash your child’s bedding, clothing, and any other items that could potentially spread germs, like couch cushions and bath towels, if they have recently been sick. As your child regains their health and happiness, hot water can help you keep your family safe and clean.

Use Hot Water For Workout Clothes

Additionally, you might want to wash clothing that has come into contact with more bacteria in hot water. For instance, the shirt you wore for two hours to lunch with a friend probably doesn’t require hot water for its wash cycle.

The gym clothes you wore afterward, however, require a more thorough cleaning. The best method for getting rid of germs and restoring your clothes to a clean, fresh state in this situation is hot water.

This Temperature Can Discolor Your Clothing

The possible reactions of various types of clothing to hot water are another risk to be aware of. When washed at temperatures that are too hot for their recommended care, certain materials like nylon, polyester, and vinyl may suffer damage.

High temperatures can also have an impact on brightly colored clothing; when washed in a hot wash cycle, items that were once vibrant may become dull. When choosing the best way to wash the clothing for your family, consider all of these potential risks.

How To Prevent Clothes From Shrinking?

It’s not difficult to prevent your clothes from shrinking. Here are some tips:

Check The Clothing Tag

Before putting the clothing in the washing machine, be sure to check the tag. The fabric type used to make the garment is identified on the tag. Bear in mind that natural fibers like cotton and wool absorb more water than synthetic fibers.

They have a higher likelihood of shrinking. Use cold water to wash them. Since polyesters and nylons are less sensitive, they are more heat resistant.

Does Hot Water Shrink Clothes

Buy Pre-shrunk Clothes

Purchase pre-shrunk or shrink-proof clothing. Compressed fabric fibers can be found in these garments. Moreover, because it has gone through numerous washing cycles, the fibers are not tense.

The clothes you mentioned are less likely to shrink after being washed. Furthermore, you should still use cold water to wash natural fibers. Warm water should only be used when the clothing is extremely dirty if you don’t want it to shrink.

Use Cold Water Cycles

Preferably, only use cold water cycles for your washings. By doing this, you can save money, the environment, and the shrinkage of your clothing. When you have dirty clothes, only use hot water cycles. Hopefully, you won’t have many occasions to wash dirty clothes.

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

You should pay attention to the shrinkage of fabrics when washing clothes in the washing machine and dryer. Here is how to avoid this:

In The Washing Machine

The clothing always feels roomier when you try it on in a store than after a few wears. Many seasoned shoppers advise buying clothes that fit a little loosely because of this.

In order to save resources, manufacturers stretch the materials to make clothing appear larger in stores. When fabrics are washed, they relax and regain their natural length after being stretched. The reversion is brought on by heat.

More tension is released from woven fabrics at higher temperatures. Over time, even mild heat sources like sunlight can cause shrinkage. Always hand-wash in cold water when cleaning delicate or natural fabrics.

In The Dryer

The most damage is caused by the dryer’s tumbling action, which contrasts with washing. Moisture is evaporated by the friction created between clothes. Too much moisture loss weakens fabrics. So dryers also put your clothes’ longevity in danger.

Keep in mind that front-loaded dryers have kinder cycles. Avoid top-loaded models because they fling clothing more erratically.

Additionally, dryers position the fabrics. Any shrinkage that happens during the washing process is permanent after a load has been dried. Wool, for instance, appears smaller after washing because the materials adhere to one another. The fabrics never return to their original position after being put in the dryer.

Shrinkage is less pronounced for some fabrics. Particularly cotton can shrink up to 20% after just one wash! This is because cotton does not have the same ability as some other fabrics to retain moisture. Always choose to hang dry your clothes to be safe.

Advantages Of Washing Clothes In Cold Water

Already a very practical way to wash your clothes is the washing machine. However, for some, that is not enough. They use hot water rather than just water at room temperature because they yearn for more practical methods. Is the only way to wash clothes in hot water?

Recent studies revealed that washing clothes in hot water do not always result in cleaner clothes. Cold water is better for your clothes in the long run, less expensive, and more environmentally friendly than hot water.

The best option is therefore hot water. But nowadays, detergent producers have developed products that function just as well in cold water as they do in warm.

Manufacturers of washing machines have also developed models that can operate on cold water cycles in addition to hot water cycles.

There are also some advantages to using cold water instead of hot water in washing your clothes:

how to get fabric softener stains out of clothes
  • Some stains are only removable with cold water. If you use hot water, stains from sweat, blood, and other substances will settle deeper. Warm water can shrink the fabric and cause the fabric coloring dyes to bleed.
  • Cold water washing preserves the vibrancy of colors in clothing.
  • A garment won’t shrink.
  • More environmentally friendly is cold water.
  • Your electric bill will go down if you use cold water. According to a study, a family switching to cold water would save more than $200 annually.

When Do You Need To Shrink Clothes?

Maybe there are a few items in your closet that are too big. Maybe the new jeans from the thrift store are a little too big for your kid. You might want to use hot water to shrink your clothing in that situation.

Which Risks Are Associated With Shrinking Clothes?

In some situations, shrinking clothing is beneficial. For instance, you might discover that a favorite shirt has gotten longer over time. It might become more wearable if you try to shrink it. In some cases, purposely reducing the size of your shirts, underclothes, or sweaters might have a negative result. Your clothing might shrink incorrectly and lose its wearability.

How To Shrink Your 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 a garment shrinking increases with the temperature of the surrounding area.

The best way to shrink clothes is by using the washing machine on the hot water setting, paired with the dryer on tumble dry settings (You may be interested in How To Dry Clothes Without Dryer?): tumble dry high & tumble dry medium (tumble dry low will not be hot enough.)

To accurately determine how much your fabric might shrink, find out how hot a dryer gets. 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 works great.

Conclusion: Carefully Washing Your Clothes

Does hot water shrink your clothes? Yes, your dirty clothes will shrink if you wash them in hot water. If you use hot water when washing them, they will shrink to their maximum allowable shrinkage in just one wash. When washing clothes in warm water, they will still gradually shrink.

But if you consistently wash your clothes in warm water, the shrinkage will also be as great as possible.


Does Warm Water Shrink Clothing?

Both hot and warm water can cause certain items to shrink. They will shrink more gradually with repeated washings in warm water. To be safe and save energy, use cooler water.

How Much Does Warm Water Shrink Your Clothing?

Depending on the fabric, hot water will cause it to shrink to a different extent. 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.

What Temperature Should Be Used to Wash Towels?

To thoroughly clean and get rid of residue from body oils, makeup, and skincare products, wash towels on a hot, lengthy wash cycle. Also, this will guarantee that your towels remain fluffy, brilliant, and odor-free.

Do You Wash Darks in Hot Or Cold Water?

For optimal results and to stop color bleed onto light clothing, wash dark clothes separately. To prevent fading, always wash darks in warm water and flip them inside out.

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