It’s happened to us all. We’ve carelessly thrown a woolen sweater or pair of stretchy jeans in the washing machine or tumble dryer, and they’ve come out a third of their original size. Sure, you might be able to salvage the item by stretching it out, but it’ll never be quite the same again. Well, work these pointers into your laundry routine, and you’ll never ruin another sweater, sports top or t-shirt again!
Why clothes shrink
Clothes are made from stretched-out fibres like cotton, wool, or synthetic. Heat, water and agitation from drum movements all have a knack for releasing that tension. So, expose your garment to too much heat at the washing or drying stage, and all those little fibres will relax. Suddenly that size 8 dress is a size 2, and you’ve learned an expensive lesson.
Steps to prevent shrinkage
Shrinkage can result from exposure to heat and liquid, as well as agitation, which means it can happen at either the washing or drying stage of your laundry routine. So be mindful of the points below to avoid the heartache of ruining another beloved item of clothing.
Step 1: Read your garment’s care labels
Care labels tell you all you need to know when it comes to looking after your garment properly. They explain how to wash it, dry it, and what you can and can’t do to it. The only problem is, all this information is represented by a series of symbols which aren’t that intuitive to understand. You can take a look at this guide to help you get your head around care label symbols, and once you do, you’ll be taking care of your clothes like a pro!
One of the most important indicators you’ll find on the care label is the temperature you can wash and dry your garment at. If you’re particularly worried about some garments, you can always wash and dry them on a lower heat, say 85 °F. While lower temperatures won’t prevent all shrinkage, it will significantly reduce it.
One other thing you might see on a garment label is the phrase “preshrunk”. As the label suggests, these items will have been shrunk before being sold, so they should stay the same size after a washing and drying cycle.
Step 2: Sort it out
Getting into the habit of sorting your laundry according to color as well as washing temperature will help avoid shrinkage. Remember too that your washing machine and tumble dryer might offer programs for specific fabrics as well, like a jeans cycle. Sort your laundry accordingly if you’re going to use one of these fabric-specific cycles. For more laundry tips, check out our guide on how to load your washing machine and tumble dryer properly.
Step 3: Choose the right cycle
This goes hand in hand with choosing the right temperature, as certain cycle will automatically set the washing temperature.
If you’re washing woolen items for example, be sure to choose a woolens cycle if your washing machines offers one. Not only will this cycle reduce the washing temperature, it will reduce the spin speed, resulting in a gentler wash and less shrinkage.
Hand washing is another option, and it might even be the instruction the care label gives you. This is certainly the least damaging method of washing your clothes, but of course, the most labor-intensive.
Step 4: Be smart when it comes to drying
Again, paying attention to care labels is key here. If the label indicates that the garment isn’t suitable for tumble drying, it’s not worth risking it. However, if it indicates that the item can be tumble dried, make sure you choose the right temperature setting. Drying clothes which require a low heat on a high heat setting is likely to result in shrinkage. Again, if your tumble dryer offers fabric-specific programs, be sure to use these.