Why 100% Cotton Shrink? The Best Practices to Care Cotton Shrinking

Clothes are made of synthetic and natural fibers, while polyester, nylon, and acrylic are some of the most used synthetic fibers. It is best to have cotton clothes as they are comfortable and durable but do 100% cotton shrink? Do you have the same doubt? The answer is Yes, 100% cotton shrink, and they shrink up to 5% of their original size.

Why do 100% Cotton Shrink?

Most of you must be having this question. Hey, why do 100% cotton shrink? The reason lies in how the cotton is made, the process. Initially, the cotton is spun into thread, and the raw fibers are then stretched to make the weave. The process involves tension to create the final fabric, and when you wash the cotton fabric, the exothermic reaction produces heat which reduces the tension and then leads to shrinkage of cotton.

How much do 100% cotton shrink?

Cotton shrinks when it is combined with an exothermic reaction/heat and when you use hot water. If the temperature of the water is above 130 Fahrenheit, the cotton fabric will shrink up to 20%, but this depends on the temperature of the water. On the other hand, if you use lukewarm water, the shrinkage percentage falls to 8-10%, which is a comparatively good washing technique than using hot water. Contrary, the best practice to wash the cotton is to use cold water, which has the minimum shrinkage.

Washing is not the only problem that will lead to a shrinkage of 100% cotton fabric. Ironing can also lead to shrinking in cotton and which is why most of the iron has a separate setting for ironing cotton fabrics. This is done because, as the iron is heated along with time, it reduces the tension between the weaving and the cotton cloth shrinks to a smaller size. But with a particular setting of iron, especially for cotton, the temperature is continuously controlled, and this is done to make sure it is not heated too much and leads to a smaller size. But did you know washing your cotton clothes in the dryer can also lead to a shrink of cotton fabric?

Does Washing Cotton Clothes in Dryer Shrink them?

Yes, 100%. Cotton clothes will shrink in the dryer, and there is a scientific reason for this. Dryers are always in continuous spin motion due to which heat is produced, and this heat is responsible for your cotton fabric shrinking. Try not to use the dryer, and as an alternative, use other ways where heat is not involved for drying your cotton clothes.

If you still wish to use a dryer, try looking for cotton clothes or fabrics that have a Sanforized label. The sanforized label signifies that the cotton fabric is made along with manmade substances such as nylon, polyester, or other synthetics, which do not shrink when used in the dryer or washed in warm or hot water. This is also one of the reasons why fabric manufacturing units do not produce more pure cotton fabric. The synthetic that works around with the cotton creates a more stable bond and reduces the shrink.

Pre-Shrinking 100% Cotton

It has been a long-time ritual for the manufacturing units to use pre-shrink. In this technique, the fabric is pre-shrunk using a trademarked process which ensures that the cotton fabric does not shrink when it is washed in hot water or used in the dryer.

However, this technique does not guarantee a 100% shrink-proof to your cotton fabric. There is a maximum of 5% shrink when the fabric is washed in hot water or used with the dryer. On the other hand, a cotton fabric that is not pre-shrunk is washed with hot water or used in a dryer, and you can see a clear shrink of up to 20%. To be precise, almost one size is reduced from the original size, which is the reason why a non-pre-shrunk cotton fabric is not usually found in offline or online markets.

The ones which are found are usually used as pillow covers or for other essential purposes but not for outfits or dressing.

How to Prevent 100% Cotton from Shrinking?

You can prevent cotton from shrinking, and there are a few ways you can do that. The first and most important thing is to read the washing instructions. Most people miss reading the label for washing instructions and then wash their cotton fabric in hot water or dryer and then have a shrunk fabric left with them. The reading instructions have the step by step procedure on how to wash your cotton fabric. Most of the time, the cotton is mixed with synthetic fabrics to prevent shrinking, and there are special instructions on how to wash these fabrics with a minimal shrink.

Usually, the cotton fabrics are easy to care for, and there are no additional efforts that are needed to maintain the fabric. There is usually a specific temperature mentioned in the special instructions found on the label, which is to be maintained. If you are unsure about maintaining your washing machine's temperature or your washing machine has no specific controls for temperature, the best way to wash your cotton fabric is to use the traditional wash with your hand's methods. This is the safest method to wash your cotton fabric, but make sure not to rub too hard, or you will lose the threads.

Another thing to do is never thoroughly dry your cotton fabrics. Drying cotton fabrics thoroughly is one of the biggest mistakes as it reduces the tension, which acts as the bonding between threads. Instead, take them out of the dryer when they are soggy and then air dry them to avoid loosening up the threads. This is the best way to avoid shrinking cotton but remember air drying will leave wrinkles and later shrink the cotton fabric.

The next step to take to avoid or prevent the cotton from shrinking is do not to iron with the regular setting. Ironing is one of the important steps, and most people usually miss out on ironing and focus only on washing. If the cotton fabric is ironed with regular settings, there is a 100 percent chance of cotton fabric shrinking. Most irons these days are advanced, which comes with fabric-specific settings as most fabrics shrink when they are ironed. Find the cotton fabric option and iron the fabric; make sure not to press the cotton fabric continuously; give some time before ironing the same place, or the region will loosen up.

100% Cotton Fabric in Cold Water and Hot Water

Hot water is the major culprit in reducing the cotton fabric's size, and it is because of the temperature. Hot water, usually about 130 Fahrenheit, will lose up the cotton fabric and reduce the size. The fabric has a label with special instructions and the specified temperature for washing the cotton fabric. So is cold water best suited for washing cotton clothes? Normally, Yes, cold water is best for washing cotton fabrics.

However, do not soak the cotton fabric for a longer time in either of the water. Soaking cotton in water for a long time will damage the fabric, and besides, it is also one of the reasons why the fabric loses color. However, Hot water is not always to be avoided; if the fabric is heavily dirty, wash it quickly in hot water and air dry it. Do not use the dryer as the fabric is already being treated with a high temperature from water. 

Prefer using handwashing and quality detergent for cleaning the cotton fabrics. The process is simple -

• Take a clean tub and add lukewarm water to it.

• Use the right amount of detergent and ensure the detergent you use does not wear off the clothes or fade their color. The best practice is to use a quality detergent and wash cotton clothes separately.

• Soak for a few minutes and agitate the clothes gently. Do not hush the process and keep it gentle.

• Once done, rinse the cotton fabric and air dry it in the shade.

Final Words

100% Cotton fabrics shrink, and the shrinkage is between 5% to 20%, depending upon the synthetic added or the temperature involved. Hot water is a bad choice to wash your cotton clothes; they loosen the tension between the threads and shrink the cotton fabrics much faster. In addition, cotton fabrics are also not to be used in the dryer, or the cotton fabric will shrink due to the temperature emitted by the continuous spin of the dryer.

The best practice is to use lukewarm water or the temperature specified by the fabric company and handwash your clothes. You can air-dry the clothes instead of using the dryer to avoid shrinkage. Shrinking is not always a bad option; most people shrink cotton clothes when they lose weight.