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Shrinkage Prevention

Posted on November 13, 2011 by Lyndsee Campbell

Think about the last time you pulled a much loved article of clothing from the washer or dryer, only to find that it had shrunk to a size that would prevent you from ever wearing it again, unless you managed to drop a hundred pounds and shrink yourself by at least eighteen inches. Frustrating, right? We’ve all been there, but we don’t have to go back. Keep reading for everything you need to know about the causes of shrinkage and how to prevent it.

Heat is not your friend if you’re trying to avoid shrinking your clothes, especially those which are made of natural fibers like cotton, wool and mohair. However, don’t make the mistake of thinking that you can avoid it by simply reducing the heat in your dryer or by using a clothesline. The truth is that your washing machine is equally capable of shrinking your clothes, and not just with the wrong water temperature. Agitation is what causes animal fabrics like wool, mohair and cashmere to shrink, which is why it’s best to have them dry cleaned.

Cotton, while not an animal fabric, is a natural one and can therefore present certain challenges when trying to prevent shrinkage. Cotton shrinks because of the tension that is applied to its yarn and fabrics during the construction of the clothing. The tension is released by heat from the washer, dryer, steam and even sunlight, which causes the fabric to be reduced to its natural size. This is why most cotton clothing will shrink during its first washing. The best way to avoid shrinkage is to wash them by hand or to use cold water and the delicate cycle of your washing machine. Ideally, your clothes that are made of natural fibers should never see the inside of your dryer. Invest in a couple of folding tables, so you can lay your clothes flat and let them dry on their own. Cotton clothing can be dried on hangers. If you must use the dryer for your cottons, use the lowest heat setting possible.

“Oops, I did it again.” If you find yourself saying this in the future, consider using the non-wearable clothing for other things around your house. When I was growing up, my mother used old white t-shirts to dust the house. They’re gentle on wood surfaces and will leave them clean and shiny. If you’re looking for a more creative solution for your clothing mishaps, consider turning them into dog clothes. The mother of one of my high school friends once turned a shrunken tube top into an outfit for her portly Pekingese, but my wish for you is that your pets don’t end up with your hand-me-downs.

Happy washing!