Clothes Airers

What Causes Clothes to Shrink: Washing or Drying?

Causes Clothes to Shrink

Have you ever wondered why your pants or favourite jumper feel tighter after a few months or weeks? There’s no more tragic than taking a garment out of the laundry only to realise that it’s now too small for you. So, what causes clothes to shrink?

Laundry can shrink your favourite clothes, but what causes it? Is it the washing of your clothes, or perhaps it occurs when you’re drying them?

To fully understand this problem, you first need to understand fabric shrinkage. After that, you will learn the real deal about what causes clothes to shrink after laundry and some tips on how you can keep them from shrinking.

What Causes Clothes to Shrink: What Is Fabric Shrinkage?

There are many reasons why fabrics shrink, if you want to know more about them, read further down below. 

Fabric Shrinkage

Fabric shrinkage simply refers to changing the dimensions or sizes of a particular cloth, fabric, or garment. The change can either be losing size or growth in the sizes of the material. 

Types of Fabric Shrinkage

There are different types of shrinkage, and each depends on the kind of fabric the cloth has. It is a significant factor to consider so you know how you can take care of them. Here are the types of shrinkages and what causes clothes to shrink:

  • Felt or Progressive Shrinkage

Felt shrinkage happens to clothes made from animal hair fibres like wool or mohair. Wools or other animal hair fibres have microscopic scales on their surface that compresses and mesh when exposed to intense moisture and excessive heat, thus the shrinkage known as the skinny sweater syndrome. This type of shrinkage can be called progressive shrinkage because every time the fibre is washed, it will continue to shrink.

  • Relaxation shrinkage

Relaxation shrinkage occurs when an absorbent fabric like silk, linen, cotton, or synthetic performance fibre is exposed to excessive moisture.

What happens is that the fibres will soak all the water, which will make them swell. This scenario causes garments to shrink. Generally, this type of shrinkage is minimal. It is possible not to notice the size difference, and it won’t influence the clothes fit.

Consolidation Shrinkage

When you combine moisture, heat, and mechanical action like agitation from washing and drying spins, consolidation shrinkage happens.

 Combining these factors makes the fabric’s fibres release the tension from manufacturing the clothing. Because of this, it relaxes the fibres, letting them return to their original state, which is always smaller. Commonly, this type of shrinkage occurs dramatically during the garment’s first wash cycle.

The Great Question: What Causes Clothes to Shrink? Is It by Washing or Drying?

With the different types of shrinkage, the answer to this question still varies. In general, If you wash your clothes using a washing machine, washing can cause your clothes to shrink. 

If you dry your clothes using a drying machine or a tumble dryer, that could lead to fabric shrinkage. Shrinkage happens when your cloth or fabric is exposed to excessive moisture and heat. 

However, you might ask, how can you avoid these things since it’s normal for your clothes to be exposed to moisture and heat because you wash and dry them?

Tips to Stop What Causes Clothes to Shrink

There are different ways to keep your clothes from shrinking whenever you wash them. Here are just a few of what causes clothes to shrink:

  • Hand Wash Delicate Garments

Check the tag of your clothes and separate the ones that will shrink when you let them run through the washing machine. Handwash the clothes instead. This method will save your delicate clothes from the harsh agitating machine movement of the washing machine.

  • Use Cold Water When Washing Clothes

Only some people have the time to handwash their clothes, especially if there are many clothes to wash. 

What you can do when you run your clothes in a washing machine using cold water instead of hot water. 

Hot water puts more pressure and also causes clothes to shrink. Using hot water also requires more energy, costing you a lot more than just cold water.

  • Air-Dry Your Clothes

Tumble dryers or drying machine uses excessive heat and spinning movement for your clothes to dry. Among households, it is one of the known as what causes clothes to shrink.

To avoid this problem and prolong your clothes’ life, you can air dry them. You can let your clothes dry under the sun’s heat in your backyard.

 If you don’t have that space, you can buy a clothes airer and hang them indoors, maybe in your laundry area or bathroom. Ditching your tumble dryer and using a clothes airer can also save you a lot of money because a tumble dryer is expensive to run. 

If you are worried about the drying time, you can always choose an electric clothes airer over a regular drying rack like ABIS 3-Tier Heated Clothes Airer.

 It has an energy-efficient radiator capable of emitting warm air for your wet clothes to dry faster at a low cost. You won’t need to worry about the operational expense for ABIS 3-Tier because the overall monthly fee is low compared to a tumble dryer.

Frequently Asked Questions

If you have further questions regarding what causes clothes to shrink, you might find the answers down below. 

What Are the Different Types of Fabric Shrinkage?

There are three different types of fabric shrinkage. These types vary from fabric to fabric. 

The first one is felt or progressive shrinkage, also known as the shrunken sweater syndrome, relaxation shrinkage, which shows minimal changes and consolidation shrinkage when mechanical action, heat and moisture are combined.

What Is Fabric Shrinkage?

Fabric shrinkage changes the dimensions or sizes of a specific cloth, fabric or garment after washing or drying. 

Fabric shrinkage can happen in two ways. Your cloth can either become smaller or bigger. To avoid fabric shrinkage, always check your clothes’ tags and see if they can handle being put on the washer and dryer.

How to Avoid What Causes Clothes to Shrink?

There are different ways how to avoid fabric shrinkage. Here are just some of them:

Handwash delicate clothes so they won’t be exposed to excessive moisture, heat and mechanical movement.
Use cold water when washing clothes.
Instead of using tumble dryers, air-dry your clothes.


Fabric shrinkage is just one of what causes clothes to shrink and other laundry problems that you will encounter from time to time. To solve this problem, you first need to understand and learn the technicalities of fabric shrinkage. 

Then, you can finally move forward by doing the tips provided above. Be sure to get ABIS 3-Tier Heated Clothes Airer because it will not just save your garments in the long run. It can also help you with a lot of money.