Does cotton shrink after washing?

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Cotton is an incredibly versatile fabric used to make clothing, bedding, towels, and more. It’s often the preferred fabric for these items because of its breathability, durability, and soft texture. While man-made, synthetic fibers have come a long way, cotton has withstood the test of time and continues to be one of the most popular and accessible textiles.

Although cotton is a resilient plant-based fabric, it can start to wear down or shrink if you don’t care for it the right way. So, how can you keep your cotton bedsheets and clothing in the best shape? Here’s what you need to know about the best care practices and how to prevent cotton from shrinking.

Whatever you’re looking for, Southshore Fine Linens has everything you need to create the perfect bedding set.

How much does cotton typically shrink?

All fabrics made of plant-based fibers have a tendency to shrink when washed, including cotton. When the threads used to make the fabric become wet, they can shorten slightly when drying. As explained by Online Clothing Study (OCS), cotton can shrink anywhere from two to seven percent, depending on the quality of the fabric and construction. However, you can greatly reduce shrinkage by washing the bedding in cold water when you first receive it.

Why does cotton shrink when washed?

Cotton fabrics and textiles are made from spun threads of cotton fiber. When cotton is spun, it is stretched out to create tension that allows the threads to be woven together tightly. When the cotton gets wet or is heated in a dryer, that tension is slightly released, which results in the fabric shrinking.

Applying heat to plant-based fibers causes them to lose tension. This is why it’s a good idea to use cold water to wash your cotton clothes, cotton duvet covers, cotton quilt sets, and any other cotton items if you’re trying to avoid shrinkage.

How much will a cotton shirt shrink in cold water?

How much a cotton shirt shrinks in cold water will depend on several factors:

  • If the shirt is pre-shrunk
  • The quality of the fabric
  • The temperature of the water
  • If there are other fabrics in the shirt
  • The tightness of the initial weave

You might not notice very much shrinkage at all if you have a pre-shrunk, high-quality shirt washed in cold water. You should also consider the heat level of your dryer if you want to keep your shirt in good shape. Tumble dry low or air dry on a drying rack for the best results.

Will cotton blends shrink?

Some cotton bedding or clothing is a blend of cotton and synthetic fabrics, such as:

  • Polyester
  • Spandex
  • Linen
  • Rayon

These blends may not shrink as much because synthetic fabrics don’t absorb as much water as cotton. With not as much water to release the tension in the fabric, the less shrinkage you’re likely to experience. However, it will also depend on the quality of the threads and how well the fabric is made.

Does cotton continue to shrink over time?

For the most part, cotton will typically shrink the most with the first wash. After that, your cotton items should maintain their size and shape until they become worn down or torn. How you care for your cotton fabrics will also make a difference with how much they warp with time. You should always wash your clothing or bedding according to the instructions provided by the manufacturer and try to avoid overwashing when possible.

Does pre-shrunk cotton shrink?

Pre-shrunk cotton goes through a process to shrink the fabric prior to purchase. This takes care of the bulk of shrinkage that can occur after washing cotton items for the first time. However, that doesn’t mean that pre-shrunk cotton won’t shrink at all. There is still the possibility that pre-shrunk cotton clothing or linens will shrink a little more if you don’t follow the care instructions or expose the fabric to moisture and heat.

Can cotton shrinkage be reversed?

While it can be distressing to find your favorite shirt or sheet set suddenly miniaturized as you pull them out of the washing machine, you may be able to reverse some of the shrinkage with these steps:

  1. Thoroughly wet the garment by submerging it in water.
  2. Squeeze out excess water without twisting or wringing the item.
  3. Place the fabric on a flat surface.
  4. Gently use your hands to stretch the wet garment in small sections without warping the overall shape of the item.
  5. Allow the garment to air dry.

When stretching the fabric, be very careful not to pull too hard on the threads. You may damage the fabric or change its shape if you stretch it too much.

Does cotton shrink in dryers?

The laundry process, including cleaning in the washer and dryer, has the potential to shrink cotton because water and heat are involved. The combination of moisture and heat can result in cotton fibers tightening or constricting as tension is released and the cotton returns to its original size. This is why many people find that their cotton fabrics are smaller when they pull them out of the dryer.

What is the best way to prevent cotton shrinkage?

With the right care, cotton bed sheets and clothing can last a long time without any significant shrinkage. Here are some tips and best practices for cotton linens to get the most out of your purchase:

  1. Purchase pre-washed or pre-shrunk cotton items.
  2. Always follow the care instructions provided on the item’s tag.
  3. If something is 100% cotton, wash it in cold water.
  4. Avoid the dryer. Instead, reshape the garment or sheet and allow it to air dry.
  5. If you choose to line dry, avoid direct sunlight.
  6. When using the dryer, set it to a lower heat setting.
  7. Use a gentle detergent and the delicate cycle on your washing machine.

Quality Bedding to Prevent Cotton Shrinkage

300 Thread Count Cotton Percale Duvet Cover Set

Purchasing the best cotton materials will help to avoid shrinkage that comes with lower-quality fabrics. Southshore Fine Linens carries a variety of cotton bedding, including sheets, quilts, duvet covers, and other bedding, to create the perfect setting for a restful sleep. To learn more or find what you’re looking for, visit Southshore Fine Linens today!