How to Prevent Clothes from Shrinking

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Have you ever found that shirt or dress that fits just right only to wash it the first time and have it shrink a full size? Or maybe it was your favourite blouse, the one you save for those special occasions that now looks like it was meant for a toddler to wear.

Frustrating, right?!

For most of us, this has happened more than we really care to admit. The disheartening part is, even when following all the instructions clothing can still shrink. Like me, I am sure you’re not willing to just accept that your next wash could destroy your favourite clothes.

So what can we do?!

Steps to prevent clothes from shrinking

1. Choose the Right Laundry Machines

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If you are currently in the market for a new washer and dryer it may be worth considering front loading machines as they are less damaging and will cause less shrinkage than the standard top loading machines. The reason being is the natural tumbling action in the front loaded machines is much more gentle. Whereas the standard top loaded machines will cause more stress on your clothes because of the central construction.

2. Read and Follow the Labels

This may seem like a no brainer but how often do you actually check the label. Most labels will specify the best way to wash your clothes to avoid shrinking. Whether this means dry cleaning, washing at home, water temperature or the laundry cycle. If the label indicates it has been pre-washed it will not shrink as much over the course of its life.

3. Wash with Cold Water

While this does not guarantee that your clothes will avoid shrinking, cold water is not as damaging on the fabrics as warm and hot water are. Hot water can cause your clothing to relax and release tension which will result in the fabric becoming misshapen. Most modern washing machines and detergents can remove dirt as easily in the cold water setting, but to ensure they are properly cleaned add a bit more detergent in your wash next time.

4. Choose a Gentle Laundry Cycle  

One of the reasons clothing will shrink is because of stress on the fabric and seams, this is why it is important to select gentle or delicate cycle settings. The longer the spin cycle the more agitation your clothing will be exposed to. This is particularly important when washing natural fibers like cotton, wool and cashmere.

Hand Wash Your Delicate Clothing

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Alternatively you can hand wash the clothes you are most concerned about to ensure that they are not damaged. Hand washing can help to extend the life of your clothing, keep the colours vibrant and protect the shape. While it is time consuming it is certainly worth it for your most precious clothing.

Air Dry Your Clothing

If you really want to do your best to prevent shrinkage, it is best to air dry your clothes. This is the safest method. If you have any loosely woven or knitted clothing it is best to roll it out in a towel and leave it on a flat surface to dry.

If you prefer not to air dry your clothing but still want to ensure it does not shrink then select a lower heat setting on the machine and take the clothes out while still a bit damp. This will prevent the clothes from over drying which is harmful.

Reduce the Amount of Washing Needed

Washing and drying your clothes often will damage the colour and fit. The best way to combat this is to keep your clothes clean so you won’t need to washing them as often. While this again seems very obvious most people do not wear undershirts to protect from sweat stains. The right undershirt can keep your clothes clean so you can confidently wear it several times before it becomes necessary to wash them. This is one of the best ways to extend the life of your clothes and avoid shrinking.

Follow these tips to ensure that your clothes last as long as possible and not unduly damaged from shrinkage.