Does Cotton Shrink? (Best Ways To Shrink & Unshrink Cotton)


Whether you’re just starting to sew or knit, or you’ve been at it for years and are still discovering new techniques every time you turn a stitch, there’s a piece of fabric that deserves your time and attention. 

Cotton is a fabric staple, but it can also be tricky to work with. Some people might experience extreme shrinkage when they leave the fabric in hot water, while others may find themselves not getting the authentic drape they want out of their cotton prints. If you’ve sewn it before, you’ve probably experienced its unpredictable nature.

If you’re feeling a little frustrated with your cotton fabric. When you buy cotton clothes and then wash them, they will shrink. This is because of a process called shrinking. This is where water molecules burst the fibers and the elasticity in the cotton material causes it to shrink down to its original size.

In this article, I will discuss the reason why clothes shrink when you wash them and what you can do to avoid this.

What Is Cotton Made Of?

Cotton is made out of spinning and twisting fibers together. A single strand of cotton is like a swimming pool, large in size and it will take up a lot of space. When cotton is spun into threads, the fibers will become more compact and therefore take up less space. Cotton threads can be thousands of feet long but they are still able to fit into such a small space when they’re twisted together.

Cotton is made up of 90% cellulose and 10% other fiber materials. Cellulose is a compound that contains lots of oxygen and hydrogen. It’s this combination that makes cotton so strong.

The more that the fibers are spun, the smaller they become, so when you start seeing 4ply or 8ply on garments, then you know that there has been a lot of twisting going on. When you wash your clothes, you are essentially shrinking the fibers.

Does Cotton Shrink?  

Yes, the cotton fabric will shrink when it is washed. The amount of shrinkage will depend on how much the fabric has been spun and twisted when it was made. When you see 4ply, 8ply or 12ply on garments, then this lets you know how many times the fiber has been spun together.

The higher the ply, the more compacted the fibers are. Cotton will always shrink up to 15% of its final size, but some fabrics may shrink by as much as 50%. A garment made of 100% cotton is advised, and a high ply will ensure that the garment shrinks to its smallest size.

This causes the water molecules to burst open the fibers. The elasticity will return them back to their original size, but this is now smaller than when it started. Cotton has a high rate of shrinkage when compared to many other fabrics, and it is recommended that you do not wash 100% cotton fabrics before wearing them.

Does Cotton Shrink in Wash?

Cotton fabric will shrink when you put it in the wash and then hang it out to dry. The fabric itself does not shrink, but the fibers will open up to let water molecules burst into them. This causes them to return to their original size, which is smaller than when they started out.

It is best to wash your cotton items on a cold water cycle. This will keep the fabric looking its best for longer. It is also advisable to use a natural detergent that contains no fragrances or brighteners in order to keep the fabric looking as pure as possible.

The higher the ply of cotton that has been used, the more likely that it is going to shrink in the wash. If your cotton is 4ply or 8ply, then you are most likely going to experience shrinkage when washing it.

It is best to wash a little bit of your cotton fabric before you wear it. This will mean that you can see how much the fabric is going to shrink, and then you can use this information when it comes to deciding how the garment should be washed.

How To Avoid Shrinking Your Clothes When Washing

The way you wash your clothes can play a big role in how much they will shrink when you take them out of the washing machine. You should avoid using too much soap – unless it is hand wash only. Then you will need detergent in order to get rid of stains and bacteria.

If you are washing your clothes by hand, then use a soft brush to get all the dirt and residue out of the cotton. This will also help to stop it from shrinking as much as possible.

Aged garments – vintage clothing that has been in storage for a long time will often shrink quite a lot on the first wash and need re-shrinking after this. If you are looking to own some vintage-inspired items, then make sure you wash them before wearing them in order to avoid any size changes.

If you experience wool shrinking, this is often caused by fiber in the wool which has become discolored with age. Some people might experience shrinkage in cotton as well, but this is more likely to be due to faulty sewing work and should not be permanent.

Most of the time, when clothes do shrink, it’s because of the structure and not because of natural shrinkage. It’s actually quite rare for fabrics to naturally shrink on their own.

Does Cotton Shrink In The Dryer?

You should avoid washing your cotton clothing in the dryer. There are many different fabrics out there that can be tumble dried on a low setting.

These fabrics have the ability to absorb water from the air and get much warmer than cotton, so they will shrink. You should avoid using synthetic fibers in your dryer because their molecular structure makes it difficult for them to absorb water, and this will cause them to shrink.

It is unlikely that cotton fabrics will shrink inside the dryer, but you should always check the label before you put it in to make sure. You should always wash your clothes by hand using a natural detergent and not put them in the dryer unless stated on the label.

How Do You Avoid Shrinkage?

The best way to stop cotton shrinking is by making sure that there is no shrinkage happening in the first place.

  • Your washer can be your best friend or your worst enemy when it comes to shrinking. You should always make sure that it is properly cleaned and that there are no clothes in the drum. You should also never use fabric softener in the washer, this will only cause more shrinkage to occur.
  • If you are washing your clothes at 60°C or below, then you will be able to get away with washing them without any shrinkage occurring.
  • You should always wait until your clothes are completely dry before you put them in the closet or drawer. This will keep the fabric from shrinking any further.
  • Avoid air-drying in sunlight and instead, use a warm dryer cycle instead. This will reduce the amount of shrinkage that can occur when you take your clothes out of the dryer.

How To Shrink Cotton

People shrink cotton fabric for many reasons, such as shrinking it to fit into a sewing project or shrinking it to make it more manageable. A basic way of shrinking textiles is by machine, and there are also instructions for hand-shrinking clothing. 

You would need to shrink this type of fabric in order to have enough length at the bottom of your pants or skirt so you can hem them appropriately. Clothing that is shrunk with a machine should be washed before being shrunk because the fabric will absorb water easier and you will get better results from the process.

you can shrink your cotton fabric clothes by using different methods,


Iron the fabric if it is not hot pressed. Place the iron on a low-temperature setting and start pressing your cotton fabric to apply heat evenly and prevent uneven shrinkage.

Start at one end of the cotton fabric, stretching it evenly. Once the length has been attained, turn the material over and continue from that point by carefully stretching as far as you can without adding any more heat to the material. 

Continue until you have reached your desired length in both directions of your fabric.

Steam ironing 

Steam the fabric in a steam ironing machine. Once this method is done, do not put the cotton fabric in a dryer. This method is ideal for shrinking cotton fabric made of soft materials since it allows for better heat distribution. 

Dryer working is much similar to washing clothes by hand. You need to use the heat of maximum temperature, preferably 60°C or above. However, this method is not recommended for light-colored fabric, especially for white cotton fabric.

Put cotton fabric into hot water

Hot water can also help you shrink your cotton fabric. To improve the effect, you can put it together with a soap bar or laundry detergent. Also, you can choose your fabric by washing it by hand or by machine washing. Moreover, it will be very helpful to put cotton clothes in hot water first, then put them in the dryer and iron them just after they are taken out.

Washing machine and dryer

If you don’t like hand washing or don’t have much time to do it, put your cotton clothes in the washing machine. For most people, using machines is a really fast method to shrink their cotton clothes. But if you want to keep your clothes in good shape, make sure to choose the delicate mode and avoid high heat. 

The process of shrinking cotton fabric can be done by hand. Some people prefer this method because they think it’s easy. Hand shrinkage requires the use of two things that are a little bit hard to find like a hair dryer and an iron. However, some people think machine shrinking is the best way to shrink cotton fabric because you only need a machine and about 15 minutes to shrink your clothes perfectly.

Use fabric softener

To shrink your cotton fabric, you can use a fabric softener with hot water. This is a safe and easy way. Mix about a tablespoon of the softener with water and soak your cotton clothing in it for about 15 minutes. Let it dry naturally in the shade.

Put the cotton fabric in the sunshine

This is an easy way to shrink your cotton fabric. Just hang your garment on the fence or any place where it can be exposed under the sun for 3 days. After that, you can put it in the dryer and then iron it so you will get a good result.

Does 100% Cotton Shrink?

100% cotton will shrink when it is washed, but you should always check the label before you put it in to make sure. It is best to wash your items by hand with a natural detergent to keep the fabric looking as authentic as possible.

  • You should make sure that 100% cotton fabrics are not tumble-dried on high heat.
  • It is best not to put 100% cotton into a drier because this will cause it to shrink more rapidly, and that in turn can cause damage.
  • If you are looking to wear vintage clothing that has shrunk in the wash, then you should re-shrink your clothes before wearing them.

How Much Does 100 Cotton Shrink?

The amount of cotton that will shrink is decided by the fabric’s ply and the method by which it is washed. It is best to wash your cotton items by hand and not use a machine because they are more likely to shrink when they get machine washed. 100% shrinks up to 5% when washed and tumble dried at low heat.

Cotton that is 4 ply or 8-ply will shrink more than 2-ply, which means that it is likely to get damaged faster. The best way to wash cotton is by hand, not in a machine.

If you wash 100% cotton at 60°C or better, then it will be unlikely to shrink. It is always best to check the care instructions on your clothes before putting them in the dryer. You should never use high heat when drying 100% cotton because this will cause more shrinkage than normal.

Does a Cotton Shirt Shrink?

Yes. 100% cotton shirts will shrink at the seams, and they can be very frustrating to put on and take off. However, you shouldn’t worry too much about it.

You should make sure that all cotton clothing is washed without fabric softener and tumble-dried on a cool setting. It is best not to put cotton fabrics in the dryer because they will shrink faster than when they are hung up to dry.

Shrinkage can be a problem in your favorite cotton shirts, but you can stop it by washing them properly and not putting them in the dryer.

Vintage shirts will often shrink too, and again, it can be a pain to iron out once your shirt is on anyway. However, you should make sure that you wash your clothes by hand with a natural detergent and not in a dryer. You should also try not to iron or use chemicals when wearing vintage clothing because this will damage the fabric.

How To Unshrink Cotton Fabric?

There are a lot more ways you can use it when it comes to unshrinking cotton fabric. You can use baking soda, vinegar, or just plain water. To get the best result, you need to soak your cotton fabric in hot water beforehand wash or machine wash. This will help lift the shrinking agent off your clothes and make them lose their coolness.

You can also try using mild bleach. You should check the label and know if it’s safe to use on fabrics before you choose it. If you do not want to bleach your clothes, then here are some other simple solutions you can try.

Soapy water

Bring a little bit of the mildest soap and mix it with water to form a sudsy solution. Soak your cotton fabric in the solution for about an hour. You can also use fabric softener if you want to soften your cotton fabric too. After that, just machine wash it like you normally do.


Bring a cup of vinegar for your next cotton laundry. You need to mix it with water to create a solution that’s just enough to soak your clothes. Let it stand for 30-45 minutes then wash as usual.

Baking soda

Baking soda is a very useful product when it comes to unshrinking cotton clothes, especially items made in India. Just mix it with a little bit of water and put it in an empty washer. Use your household soap to do the rest.

De-fluff your clothes

Using de-fluff is one of the easiest ways to unshrink cotton fabrics. You should just bring it close to your clothes, let them sit for 2 minutes, and then wash them in warm water with regular dishwashing detergent. Make sure that you rinse the clothes well before putting them in the dryer or drying machine.

Air dry your clothes

Drying your clothes with the help of an air blower is always the safest way to get rid of the coolness of your cotton fabric. You can do this by hanging your garment on a line or in a dryer. Make sure that you follow the instructions carefully and do not leave them on for too long.

Does Pima Cotton Shrink?

Pima cotton is a special kind of cotton that is grown in Peru and it is considered to be of the highest quality. It has a finer structure than normal cotton, and it can stay in good shape for longer.Pima cotton is more expensive than other kinds of cotton, and it can be harder to find.

Pima cotton is one of the only fibers that naturally shrink, even when it is washed. It will only shrink between 2-3%, but this can vary depending on the manufacturer or the style of clothing. Pima cotton shrinks at a slower rate than normal 100% cotton.

However, it does shrink quite a lot on the first wash, and you should expect to either have to re-shrink your clothes or avoid them all together if you are looking for vintage clothing.

Does Cotton Polyester Shrink?

Cotton polyester mixes are often used with cotton because they avoid any shrinkage from occurring. They are used as a way of making textiles stronger, more durable, and easier to handle.

They are commonly used in order to create denim. Shrinkage is a common occurrence when you are using cotton polyester blends, so you should always read the care label of your clothes before washing them.

Cotton and polyester mixes will not shrink on their own, but you should always check the label before you put it in to make sure that this does not happen. It might be worth washing them inside out so that the inner material is on the outside and the outer material is on the inside when they are being washed.

Which Clothes Will Not Shrink?

It is unlikely that wool or linen type fabrics will shrink. These materials can be tumble dried with no problem, and they will not shrink at all. Washing them properly in cold water will also ensure that they don’t shrink in the wash either.

The same applies to fine tweeds and other types of linen as well. These types of fabrics cannot be boiled in water to remove any sizing, and they will not shrink either.

It can be quite difficult to find a certain type of fabric that won’t shrink, especially if you are looking for something that is 100% cotton. The best way to do this is by buying a sample first before buying a large piece and then testing the wash on it first. You can do the same with wool garments as well.

FAQ About Does Cotton Shrink

Does Cotton Shrink Every Time You Wash It?

“Cotton shrinks as it is washed over, and over time.” This is the cotton shrinkage myth that gets repeated so often that many people have come to believe this common misconception. It is possible for any article of clothing made from natural fibers to shrink a bit if you wash it, but not because the fabric was damaged. 

Does Cotton Shrink In Hot Water?

If you have a washing machine that spins the fabric around in a very high speed, it is possible for your garments to shrink slightly as a result. In some cases, this can be prevented by using a lower heat setting or turning down the speed of the spin cycle. Many people wash their clothes in hot water without shrinking them at all, which is not surprising since cotton is one of the most durable of all natural fibers. It takes quite a lot to cause damage to the fiber structure or weaken it over time.

Does Cotton Poly Blend Shrink?

The cotton-poly blend is a special type of cotton that some people buy for its higher strength and resistance to shrinking. While this may be the case for a small percentage of the people who buy this type of cotton, it doesn’t mean you have to keep buying it. In fact, if you go out and choose the most durable cotton you can find in your area, you will likely have clothing that does not shrink no matter what machine you use to wash it with.

Does Heavy Cotton Shrink?

The problem lies with the different machines for washing cotton. Some spin at a faster speed than others, causing more stress on the fabric as it is washed. In fact, this is why some people believe that heavy cotton will not shrink as much as lighter cotton since the heavier fabric will be less able to move around inside while the machine is shaking and spinning it around.

Do I Need To Wash Cotton Recycled Garments?

It is best not to wash cotton garments that are made from recycled fabrics. These fabrics usually shrink when they are being washed, so make sure you check the label first. You should also avoid washing them on a cold water cycle, as this can make the fabric shrink more quickly and cause damage. It is best to wash your clothes using a natural detergent that does not have any fragrances or brighteners in it.

Does Cotton Shrink When Wet?

For the most part, cotton will not shrink when it is wet. However, some fibers are prone to shrinking and will inevitably shrink even if they are wet. This means that there might be more of a risk of shrinking when you are wearing your clothing than there is when you first get it. You should always have a look at the care instructions on the label before washing your clothing to make sure that it will not shrink and you should try to wash it by hand instead of using a machine.

How Much Does Cotton Shrink?

When cotton clothes are washed, they go through a process known as shrinkage. This is the moment when a material shrinks down to its original size. It’s easy to understand in theory, but hard to explain in practice. Let’s take a look at the different ways that cotton fabric will shrink.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, it is best not to worry about clothes shrinking. They will not visibly shrink until all of them have been washed and dried properly, and cloth washes can leave your clothing with fluctuations in size or shape from one piece to another.

However, cotton will shrink more if you wash it at a high temperature. It is best to avoid putting 100% cotton into the dryer as this will cause it to shrink more quickly than usual.


  1. AskAndyAboutClothes – How many times will cotton shrink?
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  3. Reddit – Do 100% cotton T-shirts shrink every time you put them in the dryer or just the first time?
  4. Quora – Why does cotton shrink when washed?
  5. Fixya – hot dryer shrink clothes
  6. City-data – 100% Cotton – Buy size that fits, or buy larger size and shrink?
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  8. Britannica – Understand why cotton fabric shrinks
  9. Head-fi – Do 100% cotton shirts shrink with every wash?
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