It's very disheartening when your clothes shrink after you wash or dry them. This phenomenon is common as most clothes produced today have low tenacity, resilience, and durability.
Washing and drying your clothes can cause most fabrics to reduce in size. When the textile fibers receive damage while doing your laundry, your clothes become unwearable a lot sooner than they should.
To save time, money, water, and energy, take care of your wardrobe and household textiles the right way. Properly doing your laundry is one of the best ways to preserve your clothing quality.
Make the garments you already own last longer by avoiding some disastrous mistakes most people make when washing or drying their clothes, towels, and bedding.
Let's first look at why your clothes may shrink in the washing machine or dryer to find out how to prevent clothing from shrinking.
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Why your clothes may shrink when doing laundry
Putting clothing in the dryer, washing your clothes at high temperatures, and iron your garments too much can result in shrinkage. Not all clothes shrink, but a lot of materials do.
Many types of fabrics are very delicate and require special attention. Some aren't chemical-resistant and can also melt under high temperatures.
Many fabrics are machine washable while others aren't. Some detergents such as chlorine-based detergents can permanently damage your clothes and make them unwearable.
You don't want to soak anything fragile for too long, and high temperature can melt fibers, dyes, and damage fabrics. Some clothing pieces also have a preferred temperature for both the washing and rinse cycle.
Doing laundry at high temperatures not only consumes an unnecessarily high amount of energy but can also degrade many textile fibers. Delicate fabrics require the lowest temperature setting.
How you should take care of your garments depends a lot on composition. The correct washing instructions vary according to the fabric blends.
In general, fabric softeners can damage towels, fragile synthetic and semi-synthetic fabrics, such as those used in athletic sportswear.
High spin speeds also deteriorate your clothes as many fabrics may become very creased. And many clothes don't go through a tumble drier very well. The combination of heat and tumbling can be devastating for your clothes.
To help you take better care of the textile products you already own, here are seven useful tips on how to properly clean your clothes and prevent them from shrinking when washing, drying, and ironing.
1. Check the care labels for instructions
Before washing, drying, or ironing any garment, read the care instructions you can find on the care label. It's the best way to determine if each fabric is washable.
Care tags are also useful to find out the preferred temperatures for both the washing and rinse cycle and if you can put your clothes in a tumble dryer without them shrinking.
Most clothes are safe to wash and dry. You can place them in the washing machine or dryer at moderate temperatures.
However, many garments are delicate are require special attention. Some even need to be hand washed or dry-cleaned.
If you don't care to read the proper instructions, you risk damaging the fabrics, and your garments may shrink.
2. Sort your clothes by colors and fabrics
Some textile fibers and dyes are very resistant, while others aren't. Clothing made of delicate fabrics and colors should be cleaned by hand, with cold water, and air-dried to avoid color fading and shrinking.
Make sure to separate light from dark colors to avoid dye bleeding. And clean delicate fabrics separately with low water temperatures. They have low thermal resistance and will shrink or melt under high temperatures.
Before washing, drying, and ironing any garment, test if it would bleed by dampening a hidden spot and blotting it with a white cloth.
Fabrics with light colors generally support heat better. Choose lower temperatures for dark colors. Many textiles are washable but don't resist heat very well.
3. Don't use too much detergent
Make sure to measure the right amount of detergent, liquid, or solid before putting it in the washer. The amount of detergent you can use varies depending on the type and how many clothes you plan to wash. You need more detergent for heavier loads.
Avoid any chlorine-based detergent as it can melt fibers, dyes, damage fabrics, and make them shrink. And skip fabric softeners for fragile synthetic textiles.
Instead, use eco-friendly laundry detergents to protect your clothes and the environment. The best affordable and eco-friendly laundry detergents replace the synthetic chemicals found in traditional soaps with natural and plant-based ingredients.
You can also add a fabric softener to soften fabrics and reduce static cling. Some even add a scent to your laundry. But they are optional.
4. Use cold water as much as possible
If you wash your clothes in cold water, they will be safe most of the time. Many fabrics are washable but don't resist heat very well. Warm or hot water can melt fibers and dyes and also damage textile fibers.
It's best to use lower temperatures when washing, drying, and ironing your clothes if you want to preserve their longevity and wear them for longer.
A lot of garments have low thermal resistance and will shrink or melt under high temperatures. Use cold water most of the time, especially for fragile synthetic and semi-synthetic textiles.
5. Use a gentle washing cycle
Use a gentle washing and tumbling cycle and avoid high spin speeds as much as possible. Otherwise, many fabrics may become very creased or shrink.
Make sure to soak your clothes for the least amount of time to prevent fabrics from shrinking.
Cold-water and gentle cleaning mean that clothing is less likely to form lines and ridges and shrink. Textile fibers will keep their strength, length, and shape.
Clothes that get washed with cold water are less prone to wrinkling and shrinking. Adjust the cycles of your washing machine and tumble dryer, according to whites and colors, and light or heavy fabrics (cotton or wool).
6. Air-dry your clothes
To save money on electrical bills, reduce carbon emissions, ensure your clothes last longer, and prevent them from shrinking, air-dry your clothes whenever you can.
Many fabrics don't go through a tumble dryer very well. They have low thermal resistance and will shrink or melt under high temperatures.
Cotton blends can usually withstand higher temperatures. Choose medium heat for clothes that are easy to care for, such as polyester and nylon blends. Delicate fabrics require the lowest temperature setting.
The dryer isn't the most environmentally friendly device in your home. It consumes an absurd amount of energy and can shrink or damage your clothes. And clothes that go into the dryer are more prone to wrinkling.
Air-dry your clothes if possible. You can lay your garments down on a towel for a while, then flip them over. Or you can hang them up on a hanger to help them dry naturally.
7. Only iron clothes when necessary
Many fabrics don't like being ironed altogether. Don't iron clothes that don't need it. Ironing your clothes is optional, and too much ironing can shrink and eventually damage fabrics.
Many kinds of clothing items may don't need to be ironed after drying. Ironing too often or for too long may cause irreversible damage to your clothes.
If you decide to iron your clothes, use the lowest temperature setting. Many types of fibers can easily shrink or dissolve under high temperatures.
Don't forget to use a spray bottle with water. Put the piece of clothing flat on the ironing board and spray the garment with water slightly before applying pressure on the fabric with the iron face.
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About the Author: Alex Assoune
Alex Assoune (MS) is a global health and environmental advocate. He founded Panaprium to inspire others with conscious living, ethical, and sustainable fashion. Alex has worked in many countries to address social and environmental issues. He speaks three languages and holds two Master of Science degrees in Engineering from SIGMA and IFPEN schools.