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How to Avoid Shrinking Clothes

Clothes getting too small? It might be your laundry technique. Here's how to prevent this

The scoop on keeping your clothes from shrinking in the laundry

You discovered a sweater, dress, or shirt that fits you perfectly. That is until you’ve gone to the trouble of washing it, and now you find it way too tight. What in the world went wrong?

This may sound familiar to those who have done laundry before where the inevitable happens; they shrunk a favorite piece of clothing. Surely, you do not want a garment coming out of the washer that will only fit your doll, do you?

Do not feel singled out. Shrinking laundry is a common occurrence.

Business Insider found that in most cases, it is due to laundry that gets too hot. When you wash clothing in very hot water, it will most likely shrink the fabric. Polymer or fibers are naturally short. Once you make clothes out of these, they are all stretched out. So, if you apply heat to it, the tension will be released, and the fibers would naturally return to its former condition (shorter). Therefore, you will end up with miniature shorts and shirts.

Why Do Clothes Stretch and Shrink?

Even if you religiously adhere to all the rules in the book regarding laundry, sooner or later you will deal with stretching and shrinking. A lot of clothing reacts during a strenuous cleaning session involving heat. The fiber type, weave, and manufacturing methods will dictate how the clothes will perform post wearing and washing.

There are different types of clothing that all react in their own way. We are talking about natural fibers such as bamboo, cotton, or wool that tend to feature more of a stretch than human-made fibers like nylon, acrylic, and polyester materials. While loose fabrics stretch more than tighter fabrics, they tend to shrink or tighten more once exposed to heat and water than what would happen to a sturdy weave.

By making use of proper laundry techniques, you can make a difference how your clothes turn out once they have been cleaned, and you can minimize the chance of them stretching and shrinking. Having said that, just about all garments are inclined to stretch or shrink at some point.

How to Prevent Stretching and Shrinking

Following are some useful tips to avoid dealing with any shrinking or stretching issues:

  • Read all labels before buying clothing. Natural fibers should feature the word “preshrunk” on it. This way, the fibers of the fabric will be preshrunk before the garment has been cut and sewn and result in fewer shrinkage issues down the line.
  • Take a look at the labels to ensure you know how to care for your clothes and strictly adhere to the instructions concerning the right water temperature. This will explain what setting and water temperature you need, or whether it should be dry cleaned.
  • While there is no guarantee that washing in cold water will not lead to shrinking problems, it is usually far less damaging than using hot water.
  • The gentle, hand washing cycle is also less damaging than setting your machine to a cycle that features higher rotation cycles to extract water.
  • If you have a top-loader or front loader that is a high-efficiency washer without using a center agitator, then the chances are minimal that your clothing will shrink or stretch compared to using a standard washer. This is due to the effective tumbling action of these machines.
  • You can prevent shrinkage by allowing your clothes to air dry.
  • If the former is not possible, then make use of a lower heat setting on your tumble dryer and be sure to take the clothing out while still slightly damp and let it air dry. Excessive heat is tough on fabrics.
  • Do not wear a piece of clothing such as cotton jeans for extended periods before you wash these. Doing so will relax the fiber and result in the material stretching. When you wash regularly, you can avoid any stretching issues.

Making Clothes Fit Utilizing Stretching or Shrinking Methods

Occasionally you will find there is someone out there who discovered the right outfit, but it is too big for them. They want to know what they can do to shrink it. What you need to do is the reverse of what gets done to jeans. Make use of very hot water and a hot drying cycle.

The only trouble is that you cannot guarantee the exact outcome as it may shrink a bit too much. Instead, take your garment to a professional tailer and have the outfit altered accordingly.

The same principle applies to garments you want to stretch. Most fabrics cannot withstand too much stretching, and the fibers will break eventually. Rather, have it professionally done by a tailor as they would let the seams out.

Resources - Readers Digest, The Spruce

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