Accidentally shrinking your clothes while doing laundry can leave you feeling frustrated, especially if you shrunk an item that is sentimental to you or is difficult to replace. If you’re looking to avoid this feeling of frustration again you’ve come to the right place as we put together a helpful guide on how to prevent your clothes from shrinking.
What Causes Clothes to Shrink in the Laundry
In order to prevent your clothes from shrinking you must first understand what causes your clothes to shrink in the first place. Shrinkage largely depends on the type of fabric your clothes are made of along with factors such as the amount of moisture and heat they are exposed to during the laundering process.
Types of Shrinkage in Clothes
Felting shrinkage refers to a type of shrinkage that takes place with fabrics such as wool or others that are made from animal hair fibers. These types of fabrics have scales along the surface at the microscopic level and when they are exposed to excessive heat and moisture, the scales come together and compress. If you ever had a wool sweater that shrunk in size it was due to felting shrinkage.
Relaxation shrinkage can occur in clothes made from cotton, silk, linen, or synthetic fibers. The chances of relaxation shrinkage occurring are very slim despite several different clothing types being prone to it.
If fabrics are exposed to large amounts of moisture, particularly lukewarm water, or other types of liquids then the fabrics may shrink. Relaxation shrinkage is the most common reason why silk garments can shrink. To avoid shrinking a silk garment you can explore hand washing (more on that later!).
Consolidation shrinkage gets its name from the fact the many factors contribute to the shrinkage of a garment. It’s when heat, moisture, and the physical action of a washer or dryer combine to affect the fibers that make up the garment.
During the manufacturing process, manufacturers create tension among the fibers of the clothes (for example knitting creates tension) and the combination of the factors above can lead to the release of tension and cause a garment to lose its shape or shrink. You’ve likely experienced a form of consolidation shrinkage with your t-shirts, particularly if you exposed them to excessive heat during the drying process.
How to Keep Clothes From Shrinking
To prevent your clothes from shrinking you’ll want to take preventative actions before you wash them and consider certain protocols for washing and drying. We compiled a list of helpful tips and tricks you should consider in order to avoid shrinking your clothes.
- Read the Care Labels - Regardless if you are looking for ways to avoid shrinking your clothes or not, you should always read the care labels on your clothes. The labels are there to help you understand how to properly care for your clothes and will include directions you should follow in order to prevent damage such as shrinkage. At Rinse, we always follow the care labels on your clothes. If you don’t want to deal with having to figure out what your labels mean, then leave the clothing care to us (schedule a pickup here).
- Use Cold Water - If you are able to, wash your clothes using cold water. Cold water is less likely to damage your clothes relative to warm or hot water.
- Air Dry - The safest way to dry your clothes is by hanging them to air dry as it eliminates the chances for a dryer to damage your clothes due to heat exposure. This is particularly important for delicate and synthetics (e.g. yoga pants; dri-fit shirts). We recommend investing in a drying rack if you’re looking for ways to air dry at home. Or, try our Hang Dry service and we’ll professionally clean your clothes and hang them to dry in a temperature controlled room.
- Tumble Dry Low Heat - If you cannot air dry your clothes, consider using the tumble dry low heat option on your dryer to dry your clothes using only the motion of the machine. This way, you avoid potentially damaging your clothes from excessive exposure to heat.
- Hand Wash - If your washer and dryer lack detailed settings to control temperature, then you may want to consider hand washing select items in order to avoid shrinkage from heat and moisture. Hand washing also allows you to control the amount of pressure and friction involved in the washing process, which can help a garment keep its shape.
Will Dry Cleaning Prevent Shrinkage?
Another way to prevent shrinking your clothes is to opt for a professional dry cleaning service. Rinse offers Dry Cleaning service, 7 days a week and will pick up and deliver straight to your door.
Professional dry cleaners use non-water based chemical solvents to clean clothes during the dry cleaning process. In other words, the dry cleaning process does not include any use of water or the use of a drying machine, which limits your clothing’s exposure to excessive heat and moisture.
Not only does dry cleaning help to not shrink your clothes, but it also is an effective way to remove stains due to the spotting process. Cleaners, such as Rinse, will typically go through a pre-spotting process where they’ll apply a chemical solvent, vacuum, or heat to stains on your garment, which helps to remove the stain during the actual dry cleaning process.
We hope you find these tips and tricks helpful!