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How to Prevent Clothes From Shrinking


We’ve all been there. You wash your clothes, take the laundry out of the dryer, and your favorite shirts or most comfortable pair of pants has shrunk several sizes too small. You’re now faced with a frantic search for ways to get your favorite piece of clothing back to its original size. But this leads to the question…how do you prevent clothes from shrinking in the first place?

Here at Mulberrys in Minneapolis and San Francisco, we are frequently asked about how to prevent clothes from shrinking. Taking your clothes to a dry cleaner can be one way to avoid shrinking clothes, but there are also some extra steps you can take in your laundry room. Keep in mind that it is much more difficult to reverse shrinking than it is to proactively take simple steps to prevent shrinking when you wash and dry any piece of clothing.

How to keep your clothes from shrinking.

Tips to Prevent Clothes From Shrinking

The best way to prevent your clothes from shrinking is to take some simple preventative measures before tossing your laundry in the washer or dryer.
    • Wash with cold water:  Cold water can be less damaging to your clothes. Hot water can cause your clothing to relax which will result in shrinking.
    • Air dry or tumble dry your clothing: Instead of using the dryer, consider hanging up your clothes to dry. Air drying outside of your drying machine will obviously take more time, but it can be effective for clothing that is particularly fragile or sensitive to shrinking in your dryer.
    • Spin on gentle cycle: The gentle cycle will help keep the fabric of your clothes in shape.  The longer the spin cycle, the more your clothes are likely to get agitated and shrink.  Some dryers have a “tumble” setting.  This setting will spin dry your clothes using only motion, not heat.
    • Hand wash:  If your washer or dryer does not have a gentle cycle, consider hand washing your clothes.
    • Read labels:  Fabrics like cotton and wool that have a tendency to shrink will have explicit washing and drying directions. Always read the clothing labels.
    • Check your washer and/or dryer settings. Sometimes the problem can be your washer and dryer.  The temperature and settings may not be working properly, causing your clothes to shrink despite taking all the necessary steps.  

How to keep your clothes from shrinking

Why Do Clothes Shrink When They’re Washed?

Clothes can shrink for a variety of reasons, many of which are due to washing techniques. But there are other factors in shrinking that can start all the way back at the manufacturing process for your piece of clothing. Different types of fabrics and materials can be more or less prone to shrinking, and the way a piece of clothing was made can also play a role. Certain fabrics are more susceptible to shrinking, with natural fibers able to stretch more than man-made fibers and materials.

When to Consider Dry Cleaning

Another option to prevent your clothes from shrinking is to take them to a professional dry cleaner. Dry cleaning is recommended for many sensitive fabrics or materials, such as clothing made of natural fibers. Mulberrys dry cleaners use processes that specifically avoid shrinking your clothes and other laundry items

Mulberrys uses award-winning dry cleaning processes and services to remove spots and when you get your clothing back, you’ll know your clothes were not victims of shrinking.  We recommend always bringing in your clothes that are made of natural fibers, such as wool, to be dry cleaned.  It’s the best way to avoid shrinking your favorite items.  Our wet cleaning services use new, gentle washing methods and biodegradable soaps and conditioners to ensure your clothes are properly cleaned.

All our locations in Minneapolis and San Francisco are staffed with dry cleaning and laundry experts. We also offer incredibly convenient dry cleaning delivery to save you some time.

Learn more about taking care of your clothes.

FAQs to Prevent Clothes From Shrinking

Does dry cleaning shrink clothes?

Dry cleaning typically does not shrink clothes. The dry cleaning process involves using a chemical solvent, such as perchloroethylene, to clean garments instead of water. This process is generally gentler on fabrics and less likely to cause shrinkage compared to washing in water. However, certain fabrics or garments with delicate trims or decorations may be at risk of damage during the dry cleaning process, which could affect their size or shape.

Does the washer or dryer shrink clothes?

Both the washer and dryer can potentially shrink clothes, but it depends on several factors:

  • Fabric type: Natural fibers like cotton and wool are more prone to shrinking than synthetic fibers like polyester. Cotton, in particular, can shrink significantly if exposed to hot water and heat in the dryer.
  • Water temperature: Using hot water during washing can contribute to shrinkage, especially for garments made of natural fibers. Cold water is less likely to cause significant shrinkage.
  • Heat in the dryer: The combination of heat and tumbling in the dryer can cause clothes to shrink, especially if they are made of materials prone to shrinking. Using a lower heat setting or air drying can help reduce the risk of shrinkage.
  • Over-drying: Leaving clothes in the dryer for an extended period can also increase the likelihood of shrinkage. Removing clothes from the dryer promptly when they are dry can help prevent this.

Does air dry shrink clothes?

Air drying, such as hanging clothes to dry on a line or laying them flat, is less likely to cause shrinkage compared to using a dryer. This method allows the garment to dry at room temperature without the heat and mechanical agitation of a dryer, reducing the risk of shrinkage. However, some fabrics, especially natural fibers, may still experience minor shrinkage when air-dried, but it is generally less noticeable than if they were machine-dried with heat.