Discover the definition of fabric shrinkage and what fabrics shrink the most in this guide, along with advice on how to avoid it.
All fabrics will shrink to some extent when they are washed or dried, but some are more likely to do so. If you’re not careful, you could easily shrink a garment past the point of repair with dissatisfaction.
But what is fabric shrinkage and what causes the fabric to shrink? What fabric shrinks the most and the least? How can I prevent fabric shrinkage? To learn everything you need to know, continue reading.
What is Fabric Shrinkage?
Since shrinkage is an unfavorable characteristic of fabric, shrink-resistant fabric should be used to create clothing of the highest caliber.
It is possible to define shrinkage as a dimensional alteration in a fabric or garment brought on by the application of a force, energy, or alteration to the environment that either causes the fabric to relax or forces it to move in a specific direction.
One of the main issues that textile technologists need to focus on is the shrinkage of natural fiber fabrics after washing. Stretching from applied tensions during manufacturing and finishing processes contributes to some of the shrinkages of fabrics.
A fabric shrinks during the process of being washed, usually resulting in a smaller-than-original size fabric. During subsequent washings, cotton fabric experiences two major drawbacks: shrinking and creasing.
However, some fabrics are more naturally resistant to shrinking than others. Synthetic fibers such as polyester or nylon are typically less prone to shrinking than others, although they are not 100% shrink-proof.
What Fabric Shrinks the Most?
We’ve compiled a list of items that categorically cannot be dried in a dryer and must instead be dried using an air-drying technique because we never want you to experience this issue when using our all-natural cleaning products.
Chambray is typically made of 100% cotton, and whenever cotton is used to make an outfit for fashion, there is a chance that chambray will shrink a little. Your chambray shirt should be able to withstand subsequent washings without experiencing any problems because cotton should only shrink once.
Like any other wool material, Cashmere fabric is prone to shrink when washed with hot or even warm water. The use of cold water during cleaning is the only way to wash Cashmere clothing without causing shrinkage. So, you must be very careful when stocking or washing cashmere clothing to avoid shrinkage.
There are many different materials that can be used to make lace, but many of them will shrink if they are dried in the dryer. The agitation of a dryer alone can weaken or tear lace during the cycle because it is so delicate. Lace must be hand-washed and allowed to air dry.
A variety of leathers, including faux leather will shrink in the dryer. Furthermore, leather clothing should never be put in a washer or dryer because the agitation of these appliances will damage the leather, causing it to crack, wear, or get scraped up. Instead, leather should be cleaned with products designed for leather.
Here are some of the easiest methods to shrink leather.
It’s not surprising that many people are drying their linen bedding in the dryer given the popularity of both linen clothing and linen bedsheets right now. When wet as well as after being dried in a hot cycle, linen does shrink. To prevent shrinkage, you should maintain all laundry settings between cool and lukewarm.
Due to its fragility, satin is prone to shrinking when subjected to certain factors like intense heat or harsh washing techniques. To avoid shrinkage, care must be taken when handling satin clothing and following care instructions. To prevent further harm, always test a small area before attempting any shrinkage or unshrinking techniques.
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. Heat will cause silk to shrink because it is a naturally occurring material made of protein fibers. There is no excuse for using a washer or dryer on silk.
Yes, the viscose does shrink if it is not washed properly, 100% viscose can shrink by up to 25% in a first wash, though 3–5% shrinkage is more typical. The proper technique can, however, be used to wash viscose.
By caring for your viscose fabric at home, you can keep the viscose fabric from shrinking and extend its lifespan.
Many of us discover the hard way that wool shrinks in the dryer when our sweater suddenly becomes too small to even fit our child. The wool fabric simply can’t handle the heat of your dryer, and won’t just shrink, but will warp and “felt”.
100% wool garments, including wool slippers, sweaters, suits, and pants, are best left to the dry cleaner since even handwashing can damage them.
What Fabrics Don’t Shrink?
Here are a few things to avoid when doing your laundry.
Acetate doesn’t shrink because it is resistant to heat, water, and both. You should, however, wash and dry the acetate fabric in a low heat setting to preserve it. In its hardened form, acetate is very easy to process, making it a great and inexpensive material.
The good news is that, unlike wool, acrylic will not shrink and maintains its shape. Moreover, washing acrylic fabric is simple. The fabric might also emerge from the dryer creased or static-filled due to its synthetic composition.
Since spandex is a synthetic fiber as well, spandex doesn’t shrink in most cases. If spandex is exposed to high heat for an extended period of time, it may shrink. Static or permanent creases in the fabric are possible.
How to Prevent Fabric Shrinkage?
To ensure the best results and avoid annoying occurrences like stretched or shrunken clothing, there are a few specific steps to follow when it comes to the essential steps in a fabric care guide.
- Always begin by reading the care labels on the clothing you’ll be washing to make sure there aren’t any specific instructions on how to wash them. Check what the instructions recommend when washing fabrics like cotton because they call for a specific cycle and temperature.
- Delicate fabrics or those that are easily stretchable usually respond best to cold water. When washing these kinds of fabrics, choose a cold water temperature at all times.
- You can also select the most delicate wash cycle on your machine to lessen shrinkage and any harm to the fabric fibers. The majority of machines also have cycles for wool or silk in addition to ones for delicate clothing.
- Try to avoid using the tumble dryer to dry materials like cotton, wool, and silk whenever possible; instead, choose to let them dry on a flat surface outside in the sun. Pick the low-temperature setting on the dryer if you must use one.
- Choose a fabric conditioner, such as Comfort, that uses Pro-Fibre Technology to protect fabric fibers and stop shrinking.
What Makes Fabric Shrink?
When natural or synthetic fibers are made into cloth during the manufacturing process, there are numerous types of fiber shrinkage that can happen. However, after being purchased and worn, clothing shrinks as a result of four processes: felting, relaxation, consolidation, and contraction.
While some fabrics are more susceptible than others to one kind of shrinking, your clothing will typically shrink as a result of a combination of different types of shrinking.
Shrinkage Caused by Felting
The first type of shrinkage, felting, occurs most often with clothing constructed of animal hair fibers, like wool or mohair, which have microscopic scales along their surface.
These scales can mesh together and collapse when exposed to moisture and high temperatures, shortening the length of the fibers. If a wool sweater is not handled properly, it can easily result in the well-known “shrunken sweater syndrome,” which is primarily caused by this fiber constriction.
Animal hair fibers with a scale-like construction are the only ones that experience this specific type of shrinking; cotton, linen, and synthetic fibers do not.
Shrinkage Caused by Relaxation
Relaxation shrinkage happens with a fabric made with organic yarns or threads that have been stretched or put under tension during the weaving process. This makes the fibers temporarily longer, and when the fabric is later washed in warm or hot water, the threads tend to recover their dimensional stability—their natural curliness—which causes the garment to shrink.
Although the fibers do not actually shrink, they do alter in shape. Wool and cotton are two examples of organic fibers that commonly experience this kind of shrinkage. If the clothing was prewashed before purchase, relaxation shrinkage is less noticeable because the majority of this type of shrinkage happens in the first wash/dry cycle.
The most susceptible materials to relaxation shrinkage are cotton and wool.
Shrinking Caused by Consolidation
Another common issue is consolidation shrinkage, which is due to the mechanical beating that the fabrics take during the washing and drying process. In order to get the dirt out of fabrics, washing them involves literally battering them. This action softens and compresses the fibers, which forces them closer together.
The amount of clothing fiber that is ripped off and expelled as lint during each washing causes the garment to compress, especially if other shrinkage factors are also present.
Shrinkage Caused by Contraction
Any fiber’s inherent moisture can be forced out of it by using a hot dryer. Wool has a moisture level of about 17 percent, compared to cotton’s typical moisture content of around 5 percent.
Both fabrics may experience shrinkage if exposed to temperatures that are too high and below their normal moisture content. Wool has more moisture to lose than other materials, which is why it shrinks more easily. While synthetic fibers, which have little to no moisture content, typically do not contract significantly, cotton does experience some contraction when heated.
How to Do a Fabric Shrinkage Test?
AATCC 135, AATCC 158, and ISO 3759 are three commonly used, globally recognized shrinkage test methods. A factory’s authorized laboratory may be used to carry out these tests. In addition, there would be a fee if they were performed at a third-party lab like SGS or Intertek.
However, conducting a fabric shrinkage test does not require a lot of expensive equipment. A quick but accurate shrinkage test can be performed at home. To do a fabric shrinkage test at home you will need:
- A washing machine
- A fabric swatch
- An oil-based fabric marker
- A shrinkage scale (This isn’t essential but it will help to produce more accurate markings)
- A ruler or tape measure
Then follow these steps:
- Get your fabric ready for testing. 110 cm by 110 cm of fabric should be cut.
- Using a + in each corner, mark a 100cm by 100cm square on your swatch. If you have a shrinkage scale, use it right away to improve the accuracy of your markings.
- The fabric swatch can be washed and dried as needed.
- Make sure not to stretch it as you place your fabric swatch on the table. As indicated by your markings, measure the swatch’s length and width. Note down these numbers.
Can I Restretch a Shrunken Clothing Item?
Even though it doesn’t always work, stretching out or “blocking” a sweater or other item of clothing as it dries on absorbent towels can sometimes help it return to its original size. This method involves soaking the garment in water mixed with a tiny bit of baby shampoo.
A sweater whose length has shrunk can be lengthened by hanging it up on a padded hanger while it is still wet. As the sweater slowly dries, simple gravity will cause the fabric to stretch.
Some fabrics are stretchable, but some are not. Therefore, we put the information together in our Stretch Fabric 101 to help you figure out whether your fabric or clothes is stretchy.
Conclusion: Fabric Shrinkage
Shrinkage is the method used to reduce a fabric’s initial size. The clothes shrink more in the subsequent wash. When a garment shrinks by more than a specific amount (typically 2% to 3%), it has a negative effect.
In general, natural fibers like cotton, wool, and silk shrink more easily than synthetic ones. Non-shrinking and stain-resistant fabrics include polyester, nylon, spandex, acrylic, and acetate.
Do Clothes Eventually Stop Shrinking?
No, you must wash them properly and use a Comfort fabric conditioner to help keep your clothes from wrinkling and losing their color.
How to Calculate Fabric Shrinkage?
- Weft Shrinkage: (weft length after the wash – weft length before wash) ÷ weft length before wash x 100%
- Warp Shrinkage: (warp length after the wash – warp length before wash) ÷ warp length before wash x 100%
Will 78% Cotton and 20% Polyester Shrink?
Blends of cotton, however, shrink less. For example, 80% cotton and 20% polyester will shrink to only 3% of their original size. While spandex and cotton blends in skinny jeans respond well to shrinking techniques, they will shrink less in comparison to 100% cotton because spandex will not shrink.
What is the Standard Shrinkage of Fabric?
The length of the fabric before and after laundering, as well as a calculation of the fabric shrinkage percentage, are used to determine the fabric shrinkage percentage. If the shrinkage % is less than 2-3 %, it is acceptable by consumers but there are chances of its rejection if it is more than 3%.
What Happens When Fabric Shrinks?
When we wash a piece of clothing, the water acts as a lubricant, allowing the yarn to relax, sometimes to the point where it is no longer under tension. This causes shrinkage because the yarns ultimately retract and become shorter.