Clothes may become smaller in the dryer.

Clothes may become smaller in the dryer by Topline Clotheslines


Here is a common scenario. You have an important event coming up. You buy some unique clothes for the retreat, going all out on cotton tops and linen pants or woollen clothes depending on the weather. You wash the clothes and pack them well. Once you reach the destination and want to flaunt the new wardrobe, you find yourself in an embarrassing situation where the clothes are small for you? Do you believe that there was a glitch in the measuring system, and the clothes became smaller? Or do you think that you have put on weight in the duration or a fairy shrunk your clothes?

This common phenomenon, especially in cotton and other natural fibres, is due to shrinkage of the fibres while being washed. Not all fibres shrink. It is essential to realize that fibres produced using natural agricultural or animal elements like cotton, linen, hemp, and wool tend to shrink more due to the high temperature in the washing machines. In contrast, chemical-based synthetic fibres do not. 

Now let us see the how's and why's and the simple methods to prevent the same.

Shrinkage is basically the change in the size or dimension of the fabric. The garment may change shape due to high temperatures, chemicals, or harsh treatments.


Felting, relaxation, and consolidation.

Felting, reFelting, relaxation, and consolidation. - why clothes shrink in the dryerlaxation, and consolidation.


Felting happens in clothes with animal hair fibres, like wool. These have scales along the surface and compress and mesh together when exposed to moisture or excessive heat. 

Compression shrinkage happens if the garment is not washed according to instructions.

Some fibres absorb water and relax, leading to relaxation shrinkage. This happens most commonly in natural fibres like cotton and silk, and linen.

Relaxation shrinkage is the cause of shrinkage in silk garments. Hand Wash a silk blouse in cool water with a gentle detergent using minimal agitation or wringing action. The blouse should be allowed to air dry flat on a well-ventilated surface out of direct sunlight or heat. The change in size will be minimal. 

The fibres go through a lot of tension during the manufacturing process, from the raw material to the yarn stage. When the fibres are exposed to moisture, heat, or mechanical forces like washing in a machine, the tension may be released but unfortunately may also lead to misshapen garments. The stitched clothes are created using the stretched fibres, and upon further washing, the clothes become ill figured. Now the clothes may be woven or knitted, and that also decides how the clothes are to be washed.

You might have seen this if you washed a silk blouse in the machine with other clothes and that too at a high temperature. This usually happens when we disregard the label's instructions and then wonder what happened to the garment. 

The synthetic fibres, on the other hand, are created in factories and are heat set. So, these are stabilized and do not lose shape easily. The clothes also shrink based on the fabric content and its weave to create a piece of cloth. Usually, the fabric is either knitted or woven using different types of yarns. For example, a pair of jeans and t-shirts both use cotton fabric, and yet their weave makes the fabric shrink or not shrink. 

Woven fabric may be more stable against factors that lead to shrinkage. Preshrunk fabric is another variety. The fabric is exposed to shrinkage before being cut and sewn into garments.

Now that we know why the clothes shrink in the dryers let us see how we can prevent damage to clothes and preserve your favourite ones for a long time. 


  1. These clothes come with clear instructions on washing and drying. Follow the instructions carefully. If the label says 40 degrees temperature, then wash them at that heat setting only. Alternatively, if it mentions dry cleaning or hand wash, you are expected to do it. You cannot ignore the instructions and then feel bad about the shrinkage.
  2. Some dryers are powerful and use very high temperatures to dry the clothes. If the care label says that the clothes should be dried naturally, then use that method. You can use clotheslines or indoor clotheslines to dry the clothes instead of a dryer.
  3. Tumble drying is also another process that may lead to shrinkage. The clothes are already stressed out and may go through a lot of heat and pressure together in the tumble dryer. This will shrink the clothes and decrease their life too over some time. Again, the solution is simple, use natural drying methods such as delicate clothes that you cannot dry in a machine dryer.
  4. Using cold water for washing clothes is a good idea. Similarly, you can dry the clothes in a dryer with a cool setting.


These are a few points that can help you preserve the wardrobe for a long time. Apart from buying synthetic clothes, the best option is to follow the care instructions to the tee. Save the clothes from high tension, high temperature, and pressure of electric dryers.