Cotton is soft, breathable, and made of natural fibres, making it the perfect material for clothes. Unfortunately, cotton is also well-known for shrinking in the wash.
Nowadays, many cotton garments are pre-shrunk to prevent this shrinkage from occurring after the item has been purchased.
Pre-shrunk cotton is exactly what it says on the tin: a form of cotton that has been shrunk before being made into a garment to prevent shrinkage later on. This is done using a combination of moisture, heat, and agitation to constrict the fabric.
The process supposedly guarantees that your clothing will remain the same size as when you bought it, but is this true? Or does pre-shrunk cotton shrink? Read on to find out!
Does Pre-Shrunk Cotton Shrink?
As pre-shrunk cotton has already been shrunk, many people think it will not become smaller when they wash it at home.
Unfortunately, this is not entirely true! It is still possible for pre-shrunk cotton to shrink by 3-7% when washed and dried, but this change is so small that it usually isn’t noticed.
The trouble arises as you often won’t see “pre-shrunk cotton” on clothing labels. High-quality cotton clothing is typically assumed to be pre-shrunk, so people often wash and dry their cotton clothing in the machines without a second thought. However, this isn’t always the case, and much to the wearers’ dismay, their cotton garments shrink!
While pre-shrunk cotton doesn’t shrink enough to usually matter, identifying whether or not your garments are made from 100% pre-shrunk cotton is challenging.
If you buy your clothing online, the product description will state whether the item is made from pre-shrunk cotton. In some instances, it will also say on your garment’s label, but this is rare.
How Do You Prevent Cotton Shrinkage?
If you want to avoid any accidental shrinkage of your pre-shrunk cotton clothes, there are a few precautions you can take. Bear in mind that these do not guarantee your clothing won’t shrink, but they will make it less likely.
- Always wash and dry your garments according to the care label instructions.
- If unsure, always wash your cotton in cold water.
- Lay your garments out to air dry in the sun (if possible).
- When using a tumble dryer, always use the lowest heat setting possible and regularly check that the item hasn’t overdried.
- Gently stretch your clothing when it comes out of the machine to get them back in shape if shrinkage does occur.
How Do You Shrink a Pre-Shrunk Cotton Tee?
Although people typically buy pre-shrunk cotton clothes to prevent shrinkage, there are some situations in which the slight shrinkage of our clothes is necessary.
For example, you may have accidentally brought the wrong size, recently lost some weight, or been given the item as a gift. Either way, it is possible to safely shrink your pre-shrunk clothes to a certain degree.
As we’ve already stated, pre-shrunk cotton will only shrink a further 3-7%. However, this small amount can still affect how well a garment fits.
The two main ways of shrinking cotton are detailed below, but feel free to take your clothing to a professional dry cleaner instead if you have any doubts.
Method 1: Washer and dryer
You can shrink a cotton garment using your washer and dryer by following these steps:
- Wash the garment inside out at the highest temperature possible. Make sure no other laundry is in the machine at the time to prevent accidental shrinkage of another item.
- Place the garment into the tumble dryer immediately after the wash cycle. Set your tumble dryer to the highest heat setting and leave the garment to dry for a whole cycle.
- The heat and spinning should cause the cotton to shrink slightly. Try the garment on for size, and repeat the process if necessary.
Method 2: Shrinking by hand
To safely shrink your cotton garments by hand, follow these instructions:
- Roll your garment into a loose ball. Do not tie or twist your garment together, as this will cause uneven shrinkage.
- Boil a pan of water and gently lower the garment into the boiling water. Ensure each piece of clothing is fully submerged, then leave to soak for between 5 and 30 minutes.
- Carefully remove the garments from the water and let them cool for a few minutes until they can be safely handled.
- Once cool enough, lie the garments out flat on a clothes airer to dry OR use your tumble dryer on its highest heat setting to further shrink the garment if needed.
- Try your cotton clothes and see if they fit better. You can repeat the above steps for more shrinkage if necessary.
Hannah is a freelance content writer with a passion for cleaning. She worked her way around Australia by cleaning hostels in exchange for free accommodation and used her cleaning skills to bag her a job as a chalet host for a luxury ski company in France.