How To Prevent Clothes Shrinking in the Dryer

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Doing laundry is a necessary chore that most people do regularly. However, despite being a routine task, there are common laundry mistakes that many people make. One of these frustrating laundry mistakes is when clothes shrink in the dryer. Most have probably experienced the disappointment of taking out their favorite shirt or new pair of pants from the dryer only to find out they no longer fit.

This common mistake is often the result of errors during the laundry process. In this blog, we offer helpful tips on how to stop your clothes from shrinking and how to take better care of your garments.

Why do clothes shrink?

Water and heat are the two primary reasons for clothes shrinking in the washer and dryer. Moisture causes relaxation shrinkage and is more prone to clothing fabrics made with all-natural fibers like silk, cotton, and linen. These fabrics are made from absorbent materials, which makes them swell with water after washing. When these fabrics get in the dryer, they retain their original size, but too much heat causes fibers to get compressed. Prolonged use of the dryer shrinks clothes.

How To Prevent Clothes from Shrinking

Prevention is better than cure in terms of laundry mistakes. Below are helpful laundry tips on how to prevent clothes from shrinking:

KDC-Clothing label with instructions

1. Read labels.

Clothes come with labels for a reason—to give you the proper care and wash instructions and keep them in top condition. These guidelines include recommendations that suit the garment’s fabric type: Do you need to hand wash or machine wash it? Or does it require dry cleaning? Some labels also indicate the recommended laundry cycle and temperature setting.

It’s best to familiarize yourself with the drying symbols on fabric labels to prevent clothes shrinking in the dryer.

Here are a few things to look for in labels and what they mean:

  • A square with a circle inside means the item is safe for tumble drying. If it has a single dot in the center, it should be in low heat; two dots indicate high heat. If it doesn’t have a dot but has a line under the square, it means to use the ‘permanent press’ setting. It means using a ‘delicate’ setting if it has two lines under it.
  • A crossed-over square means the clothes should not be tumble dried and let air dry instead.
  • A square with three vertical lines inside means drip drying or hanging up clothes after washing.
  • A square with a single line in the center indicates flat drying.
  • A square with a drooping line means hanging to dry your clothes.

You can look up for more guidelines on washing symbols online.

2. Know your fabric.

As mentioned above, fabric type is one factor that causes clothes to shrink in the dryer. It’s crucial to sort your fabric type before washing to avoid clothes from shrinking in the washer and dryer. It’s best to separate natural fiber fabrics like cotton, wool, and rayon from synthetic fabrics like nylon and polyester.

You can also avoid shrink-prone clothes and buy pre-shrink pieces that are less likely to shrink in the long run.

3. Avoid hot water.

For best results in your laundry, use the cold water setting on your washing machine. An ideal temperature would be 30ºC, which makes it not too hot when put in the dryer. In addition, make sure to dry your clothes on the lowest heat setting, as heat is the leading cause of clothes shrinking in the washer and dryer. Just make sure to avoid throwing your laundry in a hot dryer after washing your delicate clothes in cold water.

4. Opt for air drying.

KDC-Clothes hanging on a clothesline

The simplest way to avoid clothes shrinking in the dryer is not to use a dryer at all and opt for air drying. You can hang your clothes on a clothesline or place them on a drying rack to let them naturally dry. However, remember to avoid direct sunlight on hot sunny days to avoid excessive heat from the sun, which can also lead to shrinking. For indoor drying, make sure to keep your clothes from heat sources.

The only downside to this is that air drying tends to take a longer time to dry your clothes thoroughly. So if you’re in a hurry, you can use the lowest heat setting in your dryer.

5. Let experts do your laundry.

While it’s possible to do your laundry at home, there are certain situations where it might be necessary to have experts handle your laundry to avoid shrinking. For example, some fabrics like wool, silk, and cashmere require special care and handling to prevent shrinking. If you’re unfamiliar with the proper care for these fabrics, seek expert assistance.

How To Unshrink Clothes

In case you have already shrunk your clothes, good news: you can un-shrink your cotton and rayon clothes using the things you already have at home. You only need to soak your clothes in lukewarm water and pour 1/3 cup of hair conditioner or gentle shampoo for 30 minutes to let the fibers loosen. Afterward, place your garments inside a clean towel and squeeze it to remove excess water. Once damp, get another towel, lay the garments on it, and stretch it to its original size. Lastly, let it air dry properly.


It’s a shared experience having your clothes shrink in the dryer. As frustrating as this experience can be, it is preventable if you know how to stop clothes from shrinking. It’s essential to read the label to learn the proper washing and care instructions to keep clothes looking great for longer. Changing the water temperature and air drying your clothes would also do wonders. You might need help from professionals in dealing with delicate fabrics.

Get your clothes cleaned by professionals at Kelly’s Dry Cleaners.

Avoid getting clothes shrinking in the dryer and let professionals help you. For professional laundry services like no other, visit Kelly’s Dry Cleaners. We offer the best laundry services in Pagosa Springs, CO ! At Kelly’s Dry Cleaners, we take clothing seriously and ensure your clothes are safe with us! See it for yourself. Call us now.