How to Avoid Shrinking Clothes

Anyone who’s moved out of their parents’ house has likely made a few laundry mistakes during the fledgling period of trial and error. Whether it be an unfortunate bleach accident in college or a misinterpretation of those hieroglyphics they put on care labels, we’ve all been there. One of the most common laundry blunders, featured in family based sitcoms since the dawn of time, is accidentally shrinking clothes in the dryer. The good news is that this mishap is entirely avoidable with a few handy tips, and even if an accident happens, it is very likely reversible.

Why Do Clothes Shrink

Heat is the primary culprit in most cases of clothes shrinkage. When washed in hot water or dried in a hot dryer, tension applied to the material during manufacturing is released, the fibers in the fabric coil tightly, and the owner comes out with a brand new outfit for a preschooler. Wool, linen, and rayon are all fabrics that are particularly prone to shrinkage, but cotton and other non-synthetic materials may as well.

How to Prevent It

The first line of defense in preventing clothes from shrinking is actually reading the label. Most of today’s cotton clothing comes already pre-shrunk, but some may not, and it’s better to know before hand than when faced with a tiny t-shirt. Any especially delicate items should be dry cleaned or hand washed. At-risk items like those made of wool, linen, or rayon, should be machine washed in cold water and left to air dry. Other items should be ok to machine wash in cold water and machine dry on low heat setting.

How to Reverse It

Even knowing all this, sometimes mistakes still happen. When faced with a fresh load of shrunken laundry, there are a few remedies that can be employed as a first response. Wool, cashmere, and cotton knits are the most responsive to restoration, but success may be had with other materials as well. Shrinkage is caused by fibers retracting, so logically it makes sense that it could be remedied by stretching them out again, right? To restretch a shrunken item, begin by getting it thoroughly wet. You’ll need to ensure the every inch is soaked so that the fibers are primed and ready for stretching. Next, begin to gently coax the garment back into its original shape, tugging at it gently and being careful not to pull in any one place too hard to avoid warping or deformation of the item. If the fabric is resistant, using a steamer may help loosen it up a bit. You may also try using a similar item as a sort of pattern to make sure the shrunken item is stretched to the appropriate size and not misshapen. once the stretching is complete, weigh down the item with any heavy objects, leave it to dry, and be more careful next time!

Doing the laundry has a host of difficulties and disasters just waiting to happen, but you can strike one off the list with a little foresight and planning. Pay attention to clothing labels, drying techniques, and washing temperatures, and you’ll never have to worry about shrinking clothes again!