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Does Cotton Shrink & How To Avoid It?

Cotton is one of the materials with the most applications today when it appears not only in the fashion field but also in furniture such as blankets, pillows, and cushions. The cause of its popularity is primarily based on advantages such as coolness, and high durability. So, does cotton shrink? The answer is yes. This one is fully shrinkable due to the stretchy nature of the fibers inside.

Not everyone understands and knows how to handle this problem. Now, let’s find the complete guide through the information below.

Does Cotton Shrink In Wash And The Dryer?

Cotton can shrink in the wash. In some exceptional cases, cotton can shrink up to 20%. The cause of the above significant shrinkage is not properly washing or drying this material.

In Wash

You cannot prevent the tendency to shrink during washing, especially in hot water and with thermal impact.

Natural fibers in the above condition will stretch significantly instead of being wrapped tightly as in the weaving process. And it is this reaction that can cause the fibers to shorten.

If you wash in cold water, can you limit the shrinkage of cotton items? The truth is that you can modify it, but as stated, you cannot wholly avoid the yarn stretching because of contact during washing.

The degree of shrinkage also depends quite a bit on the material. Specifically:

  • Poly: 50/50 with 50% polyester yarn is the most popular formulation as the most shrink-restricted synthetic one available today. Even with a lower polyester ratio, like 40%, this fabric is still not prone to shrinkage even when you use hot water to wash it.
  • Tri-Blend is a mixture of three fibers, including cotton items, rayon, and polyester.
  • Rayon: although quite effective when present on Triblend, when appearing alone, this fabric can have

Not only based on the formula but the shrinkage is also greatly affected by the frequency of washing.

During the first wash, you will notice the cotton shrinks considerably. And you can also face the tendency to shrink forever if not handled properly.

In the Dryer

The dryer blows hot air drys wet clothes and blankets quickly. Under these conditions, heat-sensitive materials will easily break and shrink. And the clothes are one of them.

Besides, the friction in the dryer easily crushes the fibrous tissue. Therefore, it is difficult to understand when the dryer is the top enemy of 100% cotton shirts.

Why Does Cotton Fabric Shrink?

As you probably already know, washing and drying are the two leading causes of fabric shrinkage. Yet, many external factors can change the size of your fabric. The leading cause of elasticity comes from the elasticity of cotton clothes fibers.

Specifically, in the process of spinning and weaving, workers will sulk, pull, and twist – exerting great force on cotton fibers to create a certain tension. And heat and more muscular impact can destroy this perfect stretch, causing the cotton yarn to return to its natural state.

How Much Does Cotton Shrink?

Cotton shrinkage depends on many factors: from the percentage of Cotton, to whether the item shrunk before being sold. In particular, each activity can affect cotton clothes to different degrees with washing and drying.

In Wash

Most 100% cotton clothing will only shrink about 3% after washing. The above textile samples will undergo a healing process, and withstand a specific friction force to keep the same size in the future. With products using this cloth, you may find stickers that say you can treat the material with warm water or a dryer.

As for untreated materials, if you wash them with hot water, the material can shrink by about 20%. The above number is quite large, enough to make you not fit into your 100% cotton clothing or make the cotton bed sheet significantly smaller.

To avoid the above situation, in addition to washing, drying, and maintaining the proper techniques, you can also consider buying clothes and furniture that are a bit larger than the size you need.

In the Dryer

Temperature is the leading cause of the stretch break in cotton garment yarn. And with the dryer, at a much higher temperature than washing cotton in cool or warm water, the impact on the size of the fabric is much more pronounced than you think.

With 100% cotton clothing fabric, if you leave it in the air dry for about 45 minutes, the cloth will shrink by about 20%.

How Can I Avoid Cotton Shrinking?

Best way to avoid shrinking

No one wants their favorite shirt down to 20% in size. Fortunately, you have valuable measures to minimize the elasticity of natural fabrics in general, mainly cotton clothing fabrics.

Hand Washing

In today’s busy life, hand washing becomes a task that seems both time-consuming, labor-intensive, and unnecessary.

However, if you have the conditions, try hand washing your clothes, blankets made from most cotton clothing. You will undoubtedly notice significant changes in the fabric.

  • Dip the garment in water, add a gentle detergent, and soak the material for about 5 minutes.
  • With stubborn stains, you may have to wait about 30 minutes to start rubbing and rubbing lightly. You should also be patient and gently rub and hold the fabric by hand as many times as necessary.
  • After the cleaning step, you can squeeze excess water out and enter the drying phase. With this step, you need to note that your squeeze force should not be too strong. Vigorous wringing may not shrink the length of the fabric but will undoubtedly cause a large number of wrinkles that are pretty difficult to iron.

Use the appropriate washing machine settings.

If you do not have time and want to save effort, using a washing machine is also a way to clean textiles but does not cause shrinkage if you know how to handle it properly.

The secret to fabric always looking like new with the ideal stretch even when using the washing machine is to set the wash cycle on a delicate process with a water temperature that is not too high.

Most washing machine models today provide you with the above optimal washing options. And prioritizing using this mode helps reduce friction and adverse effects on fabrics and avoids unwanted clumping and abrasion.


Drying – the step of treatment immediately after cleaning also significantly affects the state of the fabric. And like the cleaning step, the natural, manual drying method is always the best choice because it does not generate heat, does not bring friction, so there will be no shrinkage.

  • With not using a dryer, the best solution to air-drying is to let the material dry naturally in the air. You may need the help of specialized hangers, clotheslines, and, more importantly, a dry environment with as much airflow as possible to facilitate dehumidification.
  • When choosing a drying environment, you will avoid placing the fabric on a flat surface because you can both inadvertently restrict the flow of air from many different sources to the material and cause the surface to become damp with an unpleasant odor.
  • Usually, under ideal conditions, you will have to wait about 12-24 hours for the fabric to completely dry. It will take you longer with specific items such as blankets, pillows, mattress covers, or thick cotton garments.
  • A final note with this manual drying method is that you need to ensure your textile is completely dry before storing or continuing to use.

Because just a little moisture remains on the material, you can already face the risk of mold growth. Compared to shrinkage, mold is a lot worse as you might have to throw the product out altogether.

Run the Dryer with No Heat

Like washing, you can completely opt to have the automatic help of the machine, as long as you know how to handle it. And drying with a dryer without heat is one of them.

However, since no or very little heat is required, this workaround is ineffective as air drying. It would help if you only chose to dry cotton fabrics without using heat when the number of items is in the range of 1-2 items.

If you have too many clothes, blankets, and clothes, leaving them all in the dryer with low heat will take a long time to dry completely.

How To Unshrink Cotton Fabric?

Cotton shirts can shrink 20% from the original – a pretty terrible number. But in fact, you can still restore it to its original size to get clothes, blankets, and mattresses that fit perfectly.

Of course, the way to restore it will be pretty laborious. But if you don’t want to throw away your sheets, towels, shirts, etc. or any of your favorite cotton fibers, you should still try one of these two techniques:

Soaking Method

Cool water is your lifesaver if hot water is the number one enemy of 1005 cotton and polyester blend. The main principle of this technique is that the temperature of the water and the gentle chemicals can cause the cloth to expand. Here are the specific steps:

  • First, prepare a large amount of cool water to pour into the sink. Large items such as sheets, large amounts of clothing will require a larger share of water, and you can use your tub as a full-sized sink.
  • Next, put baby shampoo, conditioner, or any other mild and nourishing cleanser into the sink. Soak the fabric in the mixture for a minimum of five minutes, up to 30 minutes.
  • After the above soaking time, your fabric will expand significantly. At this time, rinse the cloth once with cool water, removing all excess detergent and conditioner on the fabric.
  • After using cold water to expand the material, you’ll continue the process of correcting your shrinkage by placing the material on a flat surface and then holding the edges in place to ensure the fabric will stretch significantly as it dries.

You have quite a few options for holding in place, from water glasses to paperweights, as long as the material is heavy enough to create a certain amount of tension.

Stretching Method

As the name suggests, this technique requires you to stretch the material.

This technique is quite similar to the last step of the cloth above soaking. However, to do it, you have a few more steps and new notes.

  • In the first step, you will moisten the cloth to improve elasticity. Of course, you have quite a few ways to wet the cloth, from rinsing with cold water to using a spray bottle.
  • Once the fabric is damp enough, you will determine the area you want to stretch, hold the opposite sides, and begin to stretch. In addition to paying attention to the right amount of traction, you should also take periodic breaks when pulling so that the fabric does not stretch too much.
  • Once you’ve achieved the desired stretch, dry the garment using the safest methods, such as letting it dry naturally or using a dryer without heat. Do not leave the fabric in the dryer and use it as usual because the high temperature and friction will make all your previous remedial efforts meaningless.


Cotton shrink is a pretty simple issue to answer. However, from choosing one to preserving and handling the material, related matters are not so simple.

There are still quite a few problems to be solved regarding cotton elasticity, and here are some typical issues that you can refer to how to solve:

How to Shrink Cotton Fabric?

Compared to stretching, shrinking the fabric is an easier job. And in contrast to the fabric stretch process, you will use hot water and high temperature, specifically:

Hot water method

You need to be aware of one caveat before doing this: This method does not allow you to shrink a specific part of the product, for example, sleeves, or collars. Please refer to the second method also introduced below if you have the above particular needs.

Back to the manipulations of the technique:

  • You will first need a large amount of water to boil, then put it in a pot or container.
  • Next, use tongs to drop the fabric into the hot water gently. You need to be careful not to get splashed with boiling cold water in this step.
  • As the water cools, you can touch and check the shrinkage of the fabric is just what you want. If the results are still not satisfactory, you can put the material in the dryer, taking advantage of the heat to shrink the fabric.

Steam iron method

Other than the hot water technique, you can focus on specific fabric parts when using the steam iron method. If you want to deal with specific details of your outfit, the feat of implementing this method will certainly not be difficult for you.

  • The first step is to fill your iron or hand steamer with water. Then set the iron to the hottest setting.
  • In the second step, wet the surface on which you intend the fabric to be (press fabric, bed sheet). Next, determine the area to be treated, then use the iron.
  • Once the desired effect is achieved, you can turn off the machine and dry the fabric as usual.

How Much Does 100% Cotton Shrink?

As mentioned, 100% cotton is the fabric that shrinks the most compared to other cotton-containing materials.

Specifically, with pre-treated products, the maximum shrinkage will be 3% if you use the hot wash, high-temperature drying cycle regularly.

Meanwhile, with untreated fabrics and often exposed to high temperatures, the shrinkage rate will be up to 20%.

The above number is for reference only because the product’s elasticity is also based on the style, tightness, or looseness of the textile fabric, and frequency of use.

How Much Does Cotton Shrink If It’s Organic?

Organic material is an untreated fabric. Therefore, the shrinkage of this fabric will range from 10-20%, depending on how you use and store it.

Will 100% Shrink in Cold Water or Hot Water?

Sure 100% cotton will shrink. However, the above process won’t make too much of a difference for cold water. Meanwhile, hot water for a long time can damage the size and fade the fabric.

What Does Sanforized Mean?

‘Sanforized’ is a label that often appears on bed linen, and clothing made of 100% cotton.

The label above indicates that the fabric has undergone annealing and other unique processes that are safe to use in the washing machine and dryer without alteration.


With the above useful information, you probably answer the problem of stretching cotton fabric more easily.

In some cases, the stretch of the fabric is not necessarily a negative characteristic. As long as you know how to properly store and handle your clothes, pillows, and bed linen, always fit and be as comfortable as possible.

We hope that the above sharing is enough for you to do well with the above requirements so that Cotton is always one of your favorite materials – both breathable, durable, and aesthetically pleasing.

David Elkie

David Elkie

David Elkie is the CEO at Banner Mattress. He has been in the writing and editing business for the mattress, bedding accessories and décor industries for over 20 years.