How To Prevent Clothes From Shrinking In The Washer

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When you find clothes you like, you want to keep them in good condition, so it can be very frustrating if they shrink in the wash. Fortunately, by using proper washing and drying techniques and understanding what to do in the event of accidental shrinkage, you can keep your wardrobe looking new and fitting perfectly.

Pay attention to clothing labels

First and foremost, you need to be paying attention to your clothing labels when using your washer. Some fabrics such as rayon and wool are more prone to shrinking than others.

Read the care instructions on the care label before washing, drying, or ironing any garment. It’s the best way to tell how you should be washing your garment, or even if it can be washed at all. Care tags are also useful for determining the preferred temperatures for the wash and rinse cycles, as well as whether your clothes can be tumble dried without shrinking.

The majority of clothes are safe to wash and dry and can handle varying temperatures in the washer or dryer depending on the fabric. Some garments, however, are delicate and require special care. Some even require hand washing or dry cleaning.

If you do not read the instructions, you risk damaging the fabrics and causing your garments to shrink.

Select water temperature carefully

Once you have determined that your clothes can be washed in the machine, you need to ensure you are washing them at the correct temperature to prevent shrinkage. 

Most of the time, washing your clothes in cold water will keep them safe. Many fabrics are washable but not heat resistant, and warm or hot water can cause fibers to melt or shrink. Sometimes a garment will say on the label that it can be washed in hot or warm water. However, it is always safest to use lower temperatures, especially for a favorite piece of clothing that is worn and washed often. 

As well as preventing shrinkage, using cold water prolongs the life of your clothes.

Pay attention to spin speeds

While using hot water is the best known cause of clothes shrinking in the washer, another cause is high spin speed. This is because agitation of some fibers, such as wool, can cause them to melt or stick together, making the garment smaller. Use a gentle washing and tumbling cycle and, as much as possible, avoid high spin speeds.

Take care when soaking

Soaking clothes in water that is too warm is another common cause of shrinkage. If you have clothes that are stained or discolored and wish to soak them with a stain remover before washing, make sure that the water is lukewarm, not hot. Alternatively, you can use a spray-on stain remover to spot-remove stains before putting your clothes in the washer. 

Choose your detergent carefully

Before loading the washer, measure out the appropriate amount of detergent, liquid, or solid. The amount of detergent you can use depends on the type and number of clothes you intend to wash. For heavier loads, use more detergent.

Any chlorine-based detergent should be avoided because it can melt fibers, damage fabrics, and cause them to shrink. For delicate synthetic textiles, avoid fabric softeners as they can cause a residue and lead to stiffness.

For wool garments, fabric softeners can be beneficial, as they relax the fibers and help to prevent shrinkage. 

Wash different types of clothing separately

Some textile fibers and dyes are extremely resistant to shrinking, while others are not. Although it can be tempting to throw everything in the washing machine together, this is a recipe for disaster. Make sure you separate the clothing into delicate and regular loads in order to avoid shrinking your delicate materials.

Take care with how you dry clothes afterward

Every piece of clothing is not intended for the dryer. Allowing your clothes to air dry is one of the most effective ways to keep them from shrinking. If air drying isn’t an option, use the dryer’s lowest heat setting. Remove your clothes while they are still slightly damp, then air dry them the rest of the way. 

Fixing clothes that have shrunk

Sometimes, despite your best intentions, you may accidentally shrink one of your favorite items of clothing in the washer. If this happens, don’t panic! Here are some techniques for fixing your mistake:

  • Fill a sink or tub halfway with warm water and a capful of hair conditioner. You could also use the same amount of laundry detergent designed for delicate cycles.
  • Soak in the tub for up to 30 minutes. The fibers will begin to loosen at this point.
  • Carefully squeeze the water out of the clothing. After 30 minutes, gently squeeze the water out of the clothing but do not rinse it.
  • Place the garments on a flat towel. Roll the towel around the clothing, gently squeezing to release more water until the clothing is damp rather than wet.
  • Place the clothing on a dry, flat towel. Stretch it carefully back to its pre-shrunk size as you place it on the towel.
  • Let the clothing air dry. It should hopefully be back to its original dimensions.
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