Around 60% of clothing around the world is now made from polyester. So if you look in your wardrobe, chances are you have at least a handful of items made out of this fabric. With that in mind, knowing how to take care of it — and avoid shrinkage — is a must.
If you're unsure how to keep your clothes looking great, you've come to the right place. In the following guide, we will cover whether polyester shrinks, how you can take care of it, and how you can shrink it safely, should you want to do so. Here's what you should know.
What is polyester?
First things first, what even is this material? Polyester is a synthetic polymer frequently used in textiles, including apparel, upholstery, and bedding. Now for the technical side: It results from a chemical reaction between ethylene glycol and terephthalic acid.
The reaction produces what's known as a "polymer". That material is malleable and may be heated and moulded into many configurations. Polyester is well-known for being affordable, long-lasting, and resistant to shrinking and wrinkling. In addition, it is a popular material for outdoor and sporting clothing because it is moisture-resistant.
Does polyester shrink?
If you have Polyester items in your wardrobe, you will want to take care of them as best you can. So let's briefly examine whether the material shrinks and why.
Does polyester shrink in the wash?
Polyester is generally known for its resistance to shrinking, as it is a synthetic material that does not absorb water like natural fibres. However, some types of polyester may still shrink if exposed to high temperatures during washing.
Aggressive movement during the washing process, such as a vigorous cycle or rough handling, can also cause the fibres to compress and shorten. That may cause shrinkage.
In some cases, Polyester garments may shrink due to poor manufacturing processes. For example, if the fabric was not correctly pre-shrunk or low-quality fibres, there might be a higher risk of shrinkage when exposed to water and heat during washing.
If you are worried about your polyester shrinking, wash the garment in cold water. This approach will help prevent any shrinkage or damage to the fabric while conserving energy and reducing environmental impact.
Does polyester shrink in the dryer?
Sometimes! Polyester fibres are sensitive to high temperatures. When exposed to heat in the dryer, the fibres can contract, causing the fabric to shrink. In addition, the heat causes the polymer chains in the polyester to tighten and contract, reducing the fabric's overall size.
It doesn't end there. The tumbling motion of the dryer can also contribute to shrinkage. As the Polyester garments tumble and rub against each other, the friction and mechanical stress can cause the fibres to compress and shorten, resulting in shrinkage.
Worried about Polyester shrinkage? Consider removing the garment from the dryer while it is still slightly damp and allowing it to air dry. That will help to prevent any further shrinkage or damage to the fabric.
Most Polyester clothing can be tumble-dried on low heat or air-dried. However, it is best to avoid high heat settings, as these can damage the fabric and cause it to shrink or melt.
Does polyester shrink in hot water?
Polyester fibres are thermoplastic, so they can shrink thanks to heat exposure. For example, when you use hot water on this fabric, the heat causes the polymer chains in the polyester to loosen and relax, allowing them to move more freely. As a result, the fibres contract and shrink.
The structure of Polyester fibres also plays a role in their response to hot water. Polyester change comprises long-chain synthetic polymers (hydrogen bonds), which provide the fibre with strength and stability. However, these hydrogen bonds weaken when heated, making the fibres more susceptible to contraction and shrinkage.
Unlike natural fibres like cotton, polyester has limited elasticity, so the threads cannot quickly recover their original shape and length when subjected to heat and tension. That means that they may permanently shrink and lose their actual dimensions.
With that in mind, it is generally best to avoid washing polyester clothing in hot water, typically around 60-90 degrees Celsius (140-194 degrees Fahrenheit), as this can cause the fibres to shrink or melt.
If you need to wash a polyester garment in hot water, it's best to check the care label first to see if it is safe. Some types of polyester can withstand high temperatures, while others may be more delicate and require cooler temperatures to avoid damage.
How to stop polyester shrinking: care tips
Want to stop your Polyester clothes from shrinking? If you're worried about ruining your clothes, you've come to the right place. Here are some simple care tips you can use:
Follow the instructions
Here's a simple one! Always check the care label on your clothing before washing it, and follow the instructions carefully. Most Polyester clothing can be machine washed in warm water and tumble-dried on low heat, but it's essential to follow the specific instructions for your garment to avoid any damage or shrinkage.
Use a gentle cycle
Be gentle here. When washing Polyester clothing, use a delicate cycle to avoid excessive movement that can damage the fabric. It will help keep your clothing looking new and prevent shrinkage or stretching.
Air dry or tumble-dry on low heat
It's best to air dry your Polyester clothing or tumble dry it on low heat to avoid shrinkage. Avoid using high heat settings, which can damage the fabric and cause it to shrink or melt.
Polyester is a synthetic material typically wrinkle-resistant, so you generally do not need to iron it. However, if you must iron polyester clothing, use a low heat setting and avoid pressing too hard, which can damage the fabric and cause it to shrink.
How to shrink polyester safely: 3 options
Okay, but what about if you want to shrink your Polyester clothing? If you need a better fit, there are some safe and effective methods you can try:
1. Heat exposure
Polyester can shrink when exposed to heat, so try washing the garment in hot water and drying it on a high-heat setting. It will cause the fibres to contract and shrink the garment slightly. Remove the garment and rinse it in cool water to stop shrinking. However, check the care label on the garment first to ensure it can withstand high heat.
2. Combination method
You can combine the hot water wash and high heat drying methods for more significant shrinkage. As mentioned above, wash the garment in hot water and then transfer it to the dryer set on high heat. Monitor the process closely to achieve the desired level of shrinkage.
3. Tumble dryer
Another way to shrink polyester is to put it in the dryer on a high heat setting for several minutes. Check the garment every few minutes to ensure it is not shrinking too much, and remove it from the dryer once it has reached the desired size.
Shrinking polyester can be risky. This clothing is often designed to maintain its intended shape and size, making this outcome unpredictable. Additionally, excessive heat or prolonged exposure to high temperatures can cause damage or deformation to the fabric.
Polyester is a hugely popular fabric, so you likely have some clothing made from it. You need to learn about this material to ensure you keep your clothes safe. You can quickly shrink the material at home to make it smaller. However, you should always read the instructions on the label first. On the other hand, if you want to avoid shrinking your clothes, taking proper care of them is essential.
Looking for some more answers? We've got you covered. Here are some of the answers to the frequently asked questions on this topic:
Does polyester shrink at 30 degrees?
Most of the time, polyester will not shrink at 30 degrees. The fabric is relatively robust and will only shrink at high temperatures. However, you should always read the labels before putting them in the washing machine.
What is the best way to shrink 100% polyester?
Shrinking polyester on purpose can be difficult. You don't know whether the clothing will retain its shape. However, in this guide, we have given a few examples of ways to shrink polyester for yourself. You may use heat or a tumble dryer, for example.
Can polyester be ironed?
Most of the time, you don't need to iron Polyester items. That is because they are crease-resistant. However, you should take care ironing these pieces as they can be delicate and may melt under the heat.
Have you got any more questions? Leave a comment below!