Ned Ludd » What Fabrics Types Shrink & What Types Not? (List)

What Fabrics Types Shrink & What Types Not? (List)

Unfortunately, many fabrics shrink in the washer and dryer, which is frustrating and costly. The only way to prevent such an inconvenience is to learn about different fibers and understand what fabrics shrink before washing your clothes. Only that way will your clothes stay in their original shape for a long.

The rule of thumb is that natural fabrics are highly susceptible to shrinkage. On the other hand, you won’t have a problem with most synthetic materials that can retain their original shape for years without shrinking. Even though fabric shrinkage potentially ruins clothes, you can take advantage of this feature when planning to reduce a piece of clothing by one size.

Why Do Clothes Shrink When You Wash Them?


What Fabrics Types Shrink and What Types Not

The fabric type directly affects its shrinkage rate, so you should be careful with clothes made of natural fibers. On the other hand, most synthetic materials will remain the same regardless of washing and drying.

General fabrics’ shrinkage

Fabric type Shrinkage percentage
Artificial cotton 10%
Labor cloth 10%
Artificial silk 5 to 9%
Cotton 4% to 10%
Chemical fiber 4% to 8%
Twill 4%
Cotton polyester 3.5% to 5 5%
Modal fabric 3% to 6%
Poplin 3% to 4.5%
Natural white cloth 3%
Tencel fabric 2 to 4%

Fabrics that shrink

You probably know that fabrics made from natural fibers, like cotton, silk, wool, hemp, and linen, have a higher shrinkage rate.

1. Cotton


Cotton clothes shrink more during laundry and drying than pieces made of other materials. This fabric is highly tense during production, and heat from washers and dryers releases its tension.

Therefore, you can expect the cotton to restore its original size during the first wash after shrinking for approximately 4% to 10%. The only way to avoid significant shrinkage is to wash these pieces of clothes by hand or use cold water while washing them in the washing machine.

2. Wool

Image: silverbobbin

Sheep, rabbit, and goat hairs are durable, but their wool is susceptible to shrinkage when you wash knitted clothes in warm water. It is particularly significant when you try to wash them in the washing machine or dry them in a dryer. The best options with this fabric are hand-washing and dry-cleaning.

3. Silk


Silk is a delicate, luxurious material that can quickly shrink during improper maintenance. For instance, you can expect those natural protein fibers to damage and shrink at high temperatures.

Remember that pre-washing silk clothes for longer than five minutes before washing at higher temperatures leads to fiber tightening. The only way to prevent such damage is to hand-wash your silk garments in cold water and dry them in the air.

4. Linen


Like other natural fabrics, linen made from flax plant fibers will shrink when exposed to high temperatures for the first time. It is wise to wash clothes made of this material by hand in slightly warm water. Another option to preserve their quality is to have them dry-cleaned.

5. Stretch fabrics

Stretch fabrics
Image: pinecrestfabrics

Nylon is a stretchy fabric that shrinks a bit when washed and dried at high temperatures. Otherwise, it will remain the same for a long. On the other hand, spandex will never shrink unless the manufacturer mixes it with another material.

However, mixing natural fibers in the proper ratio with artificial ones will lower their shrinkage rates. That way, both fabric types overcome most weaknesses they have.


Materials that shrink in the washer

Materials that shrink in the washer
Image: mrappliance

It can be challenging to determine which fabric type shrinks the most during the washing process. It depends on several factors, including temperature, friction, and material shrinkage.

The rule of thumb is that natural plant and animal fibers shrink the most unless they are treated with chemicals that decrease their shrinking rates. On the other hand, synthetic fabric, like polyester, spandex, and nylon, won’t significantly shrink during washing.


Materials that shrink in the dryer

Using the dryer is not the best option for fabrics that tend to shrink. For instance, cotton will shrink by 4% to 10% in the washing machine, but that percentage is 20% when you dry clothes made of this material in a dryer.

You can expect natural fibers to lose size and shape under high temperatures in the dryer. Most other materials, including viscose and rayon, also can’t stand the heat in this machine. Remember that some artificial fabrics, like spandex, won’t shrink during washing, but they will in the dryer.

Dri-fit materials, like microfiber, are resistant to drying in the dryer. On the other hand, polyester won’t shrink but melt. You should pay particular attention to cotton blend materials since they act like both fabrics and may unpleasantly surprise you.

The most sensitive materials to this drying type are:

  • Cotton and linen
  • Cashmere and wool
  • Viscose and rayon
  • Silk and lace
  • Elastic and spandex
  • Natural and faux leather and suede
  • Canvas


Fabric that never shrinks

Every material will shrink under certain conditions, but some will resist shrinkage for a long because of the chemicals used in their creation. However, the high temperatures will overcome those chemicals over time and cause even synthetic fibers to shrink.

The list of materials that don’t shrink, except under high heat, is short and includes:

  • Acrylic
  • Polyester
  • Nylon
  • Acetate


What Makes Fabric Shrink?

What Makes Fabric Shrink

The most significant factors that affect fabric shrinkage include the following:

1. Raw materials

As expected, different fabric shrinkage depends on the used raw material. For instance, fibers with high hygroscopicity, like viscose, have a significant shrinkage rate because the fabric diameter increases and its length decreases.

On the other hand, a fabric made of synthetic and blended fibers with low moisture absorption has an insignificant shrinkage rate. Remember that materials containing spandex have a lower shrinkage rate than those without it.

Cotton fabrics are in the middle, and it is not wise to wash and dry clothes made of this material at high temperatures. Since woolen garments as highly prone to shrinkage, you shouldn’t wash them but choose dry cleaning as the best method.

2. Fiber composition

You can recognize fabrics with three fiber composition types that absorb moisture differently, affecting their shrinkage rate:

  • Natural plant fibers, like cotton and hemp, quickly expand after absorbing moisture, making their shrinkage rate high
  • Plant-regenerated fibers, like viscose, expand after absorbing moisture, making their shrinkage rate pretty high.
  • Synthetic fibers, like acrylic and polyester, have a low water absorption capability, so their shrinkage rate is low

3. Yarn thickness

The yarn thickness also affects fabric shrinkage. Materials with thick yarn have a more significant shrinkage rate, while it is lower in fabric with fine yarn.

4. Fabric structure

Woven fabrics have better dimensional stability than knitted ones since this feature is higher in high-density materials than in those with low density. Therefore, woven fabrics will shrink less when washing than a knitted type.

5. Production method

Interestingly, the production process will also affect the fabric shrinkage rate. While the fabric goes through the long process of drying, weaving, printing, and finishing, its fibers stretch numerous times.

In such a case, you can expect the final product with high tension to have a high shrinkage rate. The reason is a quick fabric tension release after contact with water. The best solution to this problem is when the manufacturer uses a pre-shrinkage process before selling the product.

6. Fabric maintenance

Clothes care includes processes that directly affect fabric shrinkage rate, such as:

  • Washing

Each step and the temperature levels affect the fabric shrinkage to a certain extent. For instance, hand-washed clothes’ dimensional stability is always better than those washed in the washing machine. Be aware that the higher washing temperature will worsen that stability.

  • Drying

The drying method’s influence depends on the way you dry your clothes, including:

    • Hanging drying method
    • Rotary arch drying method
    • Drip drying method
    • Tumble drying method
    • Metal mesh tiling method

The rule of thumb is that the rotary arch drying method significantly impacts the fabric size, while the drip drying method insignificantly affects its shrinkage.

  • Ironing

Finally, a high ironing temperature can negatively affect the fabric and increase your clothes’ shrinking. Therefore, you need to adjust the ironing temperature to the material type used for a particular piece of clothing.


Way to Calculate Fabric Shrinkage

You can calculate each fabric’s shrink rate by measuring your clothes before and after washing and drying it.

Weft shrinkage

(WLAW – WLBW) / WLBW x 100%

WLAW – weft length after wash

WLBW – weft length before wash

Warp shrinkage

(WLAW – WLBW) / WLBW x 100%

WLAW – warp length after wash

WLBW – warp length before wash

If the calculated value is negative, you will know that the fabric has shrunk during washing.

You can use lost inches to calculate the material shrinkage rate. For instance, your piece of cloth has shrunk by 1% if it is 1/8 inch (3 mm) shorter after laundering. If it is 5/8 inch (16 mm) shorter, you will know that the material has shrunk by 3%.



Most natural fabrics shrink while washing and drying, but you won’t have such a problem with most synthetic materials. However, some artificial fibers are not resistant to heat and can lose their initial shape in a dryer. Fortunately, once a piece of cloth shrinks, it shouldn’t shrink again.


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