Do Washing Machines Shrink Clothes?

One of the most frustrating parts of doing laundry is having your favorite clothes ruined by your machines.

Most think that dryers are solely responsible for shrinking our clothes, but do washing machines shrink clothes too?

Washing machines can shrink clothes if you aren’t setting up your washing machine according to the clothing you’re washing. Certain fabrics are best washed on gentle cycles or with cold water as opposed to hot water. 

You don’t have to take all your clothes to the dry cleaners to avoid shrinking; you just have to make sure you pay attention to the clothes you’re putting in your washing machine before you pick your settings. 

Can Washing Machines Shrink Clothes?

Washing machines can shrink clothes when they are washed with the wrong temperature water, or are washed in a high-velocity cycle when they need a gentle wash.

The fabric is a major factor that will determine whether or not clothes will shrink in the washing machine, but it’s not the only factor. 

A combination of fabric, temperature, and tumbling speed will all contribute to shrinking clothes. Heat is not very friendly to clothing from both the washer and dryer.

If you can avoid heat by using cooler temperatures when doing laundry, you can circumvent a lot of shrinkage. 

Some fabrics and garments, such as silks, lingerie, wool, structured jackets, and leather shouldn’t be put in the washing machine.

Instead, these items should either be hand-washed or sent to the cleaners. Reading the label on your specific garments can help you determine how they need to be washed. 

What Makes Clothes Shrink In The Laundry?

Sometimes, we’re simply too busy to bother reading our clothing labels before chucking them in our washing machines.

When mixed with the high heat of the dryer, some of our clothes have no chance to avoid shrinking if we’re not careful. 

Fabrics are woven together, typically very tightly, in order to produce a garment.

For some types of fabrics like cotton and other naturally-sourced fibers, exposure to heat and water causes the tight fibers to curl, changing the shape of a garment and ultimately causing it to shrink. 

This doesn’t happen with synthetic fibers, but you need to watch out for clothing that is made with both natural and synthetic fibers.

A mixture of fabrics is much more common in clothing than it used to be, making it all the more important to read your labels before throwing clothes in the washing machine. 

How Can You Prevent Shrinking Clothes In A Washing Machine?

Fabrics that are more sensitive to laundry machines, such as cottons and synthetic fabrics, should be washed on a gentle cycle.

These fabrics will stretch and constrict when washed and dried, but this activity won’t be as frequent when your clothes are washed on a gentle cycle. This helps reduce the amount they shrink. 

Additionally, you should consider using cold water to wash your clothing as much as possible.

Cold water is able to efficiently clean your clothes just as hot water does, and doesn’t engage those fibers that end up constricting to shrink your garments.

To ensure a more thorough clean, you can find laundry detergent that is made specifically for cold water. 

Final Thoughts 

Washing machines can contribute to shrinking clothes; it’s not just your dryer.

The heat mixed with the cyclical nature of washing machines can wreak havoc on your clothes, especially if they’re made with sensitive fabrics.

As long as you read your labels and do your best to follow washing instructions, you can easily avoid losing your clothes to the power of a washing machine.