Does acrylic shrink

Does Acrylic Shrink?

Acrylic is often perceived as an unshrinkable material that’s cheap yet expensive-looking.

But how accurate is this perception of acrylic?

While it is durable, acrylic can be prone to shrinking if subjected to improper cleaning and drying practices. Discover more about this versatile material below.


Does Acrylic Shrink in the Washing Machine or Tumble Dryer?

Acrylic is supposed to mimic the look and feel of natural materials. However, it has been designed not to shrink as much as natural fibres like wool, silk and cashmere, for example.

That said, acrylic is not completely immune to shrinking. If the material is washed and dried under the wrong conditions (excessive hot water and an extremely hot dryer) it will shrink. Maybe it won’t shrink a huge amount, but it’ll go slightly smaller nonetheless.

In addition to shrinking, excessive heat and long washing/drying cycles can lead to uneven shrinking and can cause an acrylic garment to go out of shape or stretch.

This tends to happen more if you’ve washed your garment at a high spin speed. The acrylic fibres get pulled and stretched as the item is vigorously agitated in the drum.

As you’d expect, if you couple this with hot water, your acrylic garment won’t do too well.

These effects can be worsened if you’re cleaning an acrylic blend. For example, if you’ve got an acrylic and wool blend jumper, the acrylic parts of the jumper may be able to withstand some of the harsh washing/drying conditions, but the wool aspect won’t.

For example, if you expose the jumper to too much hot water, the wool will absorb the hot water and then contract as it dries.

In other words, the wool won’t hold up in the hot temperatures and will shrink in size. The jumper might also feel stiffer than usual because it’ll have lost some of its smoothness.

When cleaning acrylic blends, I find it easier to wash the garments in a way that suits the most delicate material. So, if you have a wool and acrylic blend, you’d launder the garment as if it were wool. In this case, you’d either handwash the garment or choose a gentle washing cycle to clean it.

In addition, you’d need to use a suitable detergent to clean the item. Ideally something like Woolite that’s been formulated to clean delicate garments. These extra steps might seem needless, but they’re a way of protecting your clothes for longer.

Another issue you should be aware of when it comes to acrylic fibres is that they are essentially plastic. So, if you expose this plastic to too much hot water or heat over a long period, the fibres could melt. Of course, the item would have to be fairly hot, but it’s still something to consider.

The easiest way to stop acrylic clothes from shrinking is to wash them using cold to lukewarm water and to dry them naturally. You should avoid using hot temperatures in both the washing machine and tumble dryer.

Acrylic sweater care label


How to Stop Acrylic Shrinking

Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Always adhere to the instructions on the care label.
  • Wash your items in cold or lukewarm water. This won’t put as much stress on the acrylic fibres. In turn, they won’t shrink or stretch out of shape.
  • Choose a gentle washing cycle. The less spin, the less strain is put on the acrylic. It should, therefore, hold its shape better.
  • Don’t put too many items in your washing machine’s drum when running a cleaning cycle. Overloading can lead to your acrylic item being squished inside the drum and being pulled out of shape during the wash.
  • When drying acrylic items, dry them naturally wherever possible.
  • If using a tumble dryer to dry an acrylic garment, use a short, low-heat cycle.
  • Always remove your acrylic items from the tumble dryer when it finishes. This will limit how much time the garments have to sit in a hot environment for.

Acrylic clothing care label


How to Clean Acrylic Clothing

Caring for acrylic items isn’t too difficult. All you need to do is check the care label for washing and drying instructions and adhere to them.

For example, you’ll either be able to hand wash or machine wash your garment. Or, on a very rare occasion, you’ll have to take your item to a dry cleaning store.

If you’re hand-washing your item, fill a bowl with cold to lukewarm water, add detergent, and gently agitate your item in the bowl. Then, rinse your garment with cold water and move on to the drying phase.

If machine washing your item, turn it inside out, then pop it in the drum alongside a few other garments (not too many, as you don’t want to overload the appliance).

Choose a delicate/gentle cycle, make sure there’s minimal spin and a low water temperature, pop your detergent in and start the wash. Move onto the drying phase when the wash is over.

To dry an acrylic-based item, roll it up in a soft, neutral-coloured towel to remove moisture from it.

Do not wring the piece because you’ll pull it out of shape! Pop the acrylic item on a flat surface out of direct sunlight to dry and reshape the garment.

If tumble drying, ensure you choose a low heat setting and short cycle.

Some additional steps you could take include:

  • Fold your acrylic items instead of hanging them up in the wardrobe. This can help keep the garments in shape and stop them from sagging and stretching.
  • Always treat stains as soon as you see them so they don’t have time to bed in and become more challenging to remove.
  • De-pile your acrylic clothes and blankets so they aren’t tainted by lots of bobbly bits.