Does Washing at 60°C Shrink Clothes?

Lots of people worry that washing clothes at 60°C will shrink them, which could be true in some cases. Whether or not you should wash clothes at this temperature depends entirely upon the fabric of your garments.

Washing at 60°C will not shrink every type of clothing, but may shrink items made of natural fibres such as cotton and wool. Natural fibres are much more likely to shrink than fibres such as polyester, due to being stretched more during the manufacturing process and then returning to their natural state when submerged in hot water.

It’s worth noting that it’s not just the washing temperature alone which shrinks clothes – the agitation of the fabric during the washing cycle also adds to shrinkage, so some clothes made of natural fibres such as wool may also shrink on a lower temperature wash at 30°C or 40°C.

To summarise, it’s generally fine to wash synthetic clothing at  60°C, but you should wash natural fibres like cotton and wool at a lower temperature. In general, it’s best to err on the side of caution and wash clothing at 40°C, which is warm enough to clean clothing well as long as you use good laundry detergent.

Upset woman holding blouse shrunk by washing machine


Tips for Washing Clothes Made from Natural Fibres

There are a few great tips for keeping your woollen clothes looking and feeling as good as new. Your washing machine has multiple settings for specific materials for a reason, so use those cotton and delicate cycles when needed! If you’re in doubt about how to wash your favourite jumper or pair of cotton trousers, then check the manufacturers washing instructions on the label.

Here are some general tips on how to clean wool clothing:

  • When possible, wash wool items less – it is a self-regulating material which does not need to be washed as frequently as other textiles.
  • Hang wool items outside to air after wearing.
  • Always use cool temperatures to wash wool.
  • Spot cleaning is perfect for any stains – just dab gently over the area you want clean and don’t rub.
  • Use the gentle settings on your washing machine (some machines will have a specific wool setting you can use, others may call it a delicate or hand wash setting).
  • Use a gentle detergent – products like Woolite (available on Amazon.co.uk here) have been developed specifically to care for wool and other delicate items.
  • Wash wool items inside out.
  • Soak the woollen garment in cold water before placing into the washing machine – this can minimise any agitation occurring in the washer and reduce the chances of shrinkage.
  • Let your wool items dry outside – preferably in the sunlight.
  • Never tumble dry wool!