Which Fabrics Will Shrink in the Dryer?

The nightmare is familiar to many – putting a well-loved shirt or dress into the dryer only to return and find it now fits your daughter’s favourite teddy bear. The blame is often placed on polyester, but actually, polyester doesn’t shrink at all – it is a very durable fabric, designed to resist shrinkage. The real culprits are the natural fibres: cotton, hemp, and wool.

Taking Care of Natural Fabrics in the Dryer

Shirts, dresses, pants, and sheets made of cotton may actually shrink up to 20% every time you put them in the dryer. Cotton will expand in size when made wet, and shrink when drying. The same phenomenon can also apply to denim garments that use cotton weaves, which is why your jeans often feel a little bit tighter after they’ve been dried on a high temperature setting. Denim usually contains a number of fibres weaved and twilled together, such as cotton and nylon. Luckily, the modern stretch blends seen in today’s denim garments generally allow for expansion and recovery of the original garment shape.

Hemp is popular with environmentally conscious consumers thanks to its eco-friendly properties, cooling qualities, durability, and pleasant feel.  Hemp too can experience shrinkage when dried on a high heat setting.

Wool does not shrink. Instead, it undergoes a process known as felting. This means that the presence of heat, steam, and repeated agitation cause the yarn fibres to move closer together, giving the dramatic appearance of shrinkage.

How to Reduce Garment Shrinkage When Using Your Dryer

Get to know your garment care tags. Every fabric product should have a care tag which indicates through symbols how it should be washed and dried. The drying symbol is a square with a circle inside. If you see this symbol with a cross through the middle of it, avoid placing that garment in the dryer. If the circle is black, you can tumble dry the fabric on a no heat setting. A white circle with one black dot inside indicates a low heat setting, two dots refer to a medium heat, and three dots indicate that the high heat setting is suitable. The medium heat setting on your dryer might be fine for cotton and hemp. Most wool garments are best dried flat.

If your dryer is continually shrinking your clothes despite cooler settings, you might consider getting a professional opinion. For a home consultation in the city or inner west suburbs of Sydney, call our professional team at Matic Service on 02 9709 6188.