How do clothes shrink in the dryer?

We all know. Clothes can shrink in the dryer.

How is that possible?

A combination of heat, moisture and mechanical agitation can cause clothing to shrink. When clothes are exposed to high temperatures in the dryer, the fibers in the fabric can relax and lose their shape.

The moisture from the wet clothing also causes the fibers to swell, which can cause the fabric to shrink. The mechanical agitation of the dryer drum and tumbling action can cause the fibers to contract, which can further contribute to shrinkage. You will have less of this with the better dryers with an adapted drum.

The extent to which clothes shrink in the dryer depends on several factors. Such as the type of fabric and the length of time they are exposed to the rather considerable heat and moisture and the intensity of the mechanical agitation. Some fabrics are more prone to shrinking than others, such as cotton, wool, and linen. Clothing that has already been pre-shrunk when purchased will not be affected by further shrinkage in the dryer.

How to prevent shrinkage as much as possible?

To minimize the risk of clothing shrinking in the dryer, it is important to read the care instructions on the clothing label. Not only read, of course, you also have to follow it.

Some fabrics require air drying or low temperature drying to prevent shrinkage. It's also a good idea to take garments out of the dryer as soon as possible and not overdry them as this can lead to further shrinkage and damage to the fabric.

Drying your clothes on the washing line is still the best solution to avoid shrinking.

Which fabrics do not shrink?

Or at least as little as possible.

  • Polyester: Polyester fibers tend to hold their shape. They are much less prone to shrinkage than natural fibers such as cotton or wool.
  • Nylon: Nylon is a synthetic fiber. And it is very resistant to shrinkage. The fibers can melt if you dry at too high a temperature. So dry at a low temperature.
  • Rayon: Rayon is also a natural fiber. But then a fiber that does not shrink much in the dryer.
  • Acrylic: Acrylic is a synthetic fiber that also resists shrinkage in the dryer.
  • Spandex and elastane: These synthetic fibers are stretchy fibers and also resist shrinkage in the dryer. But not at too high a temperature. Because it can damage the fibers.
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