Does Polyester Shrink? Surprising Answer

does polyester shrink

Known for its superior performance and moisture-absorbing properties, polyester has always been considered to be the world’s top synthetic fabric. This material is used in almost half of all clothes produced across the world.

Unfortunately, many people don’t know how to take care of their polyester apparel, with some even arguing about whether this material shrinks. This article will address the following concern: Does polyester shrink?

What Is Polyester?


Image source: Pinterest

Polyester is a type of fabric made of polyester fibers. The term “polyester” is the short form of “polyethylene terephthalate” – a plastic material. Very few types of polyester materials are obtained from plant materials; most of them are petroleum-based.

This fabric can also be mixed with other types of fabric. Polyester has existed for over a century, with many apparel manufacturers using it to produce different types of attires. This fabric has established itself as one of the most practical and versatile clothing materials in the world.

If you look around your closet or even the entire house, you’ll definitely find something made of this fabric, including clothes, curtains, bed sheets, lamp shades, couches, pillows, pillowcases, etc. Basically, polyester is a superfine plastic fur that’s woven into different yarns that are then used to create fabrics.

Unlike natural fabrics like wool, linen, silk, cotton, etc., polyester is more resilient, durable, and versatile. That’s why most sports apparel, outdoor gear, and athleisure materials are made with polyester. Its pocket-friendly price is another major reason why polyester is so popular among cloth manufacturers.

This fabric is easy to dye or treat with special chemicals to make it more fire-retardant and anti-microbial. That’s why it’s the top choice for manufacturers and other businesses globally. Polyester can be either thermoset or thermoplastic, depending on its chemical structure.

Does Polyester Shrink? Why?


Image source: Pinterest

The short answer to this question is yes. If you regularly wash your 100 percent polyester fabric in hot water and dry it at very high temperatures, it will shrink slightly. To avoid this problem, you need to follow the right instructions on cleaning polyester garments.

For instance, you should use cold water and cool temperatures. You can also press-dry your polyester garments to prevent them from shrinking. If you wash your polyester clothes with hot water and dry them with hot air five times, they’ll shrink to some degree.

The shrinking doesn’t have to be full-size or half-size, but it’ll definitely happen. This is surprising because polyester isn’t known to shrink easily when exposed to high temperatures. Actually, many fashion designers advertise their polyester products as anti-shrink properties. But experiments have revealed that no polyester garment can withstand multiple hot washes and dries.

Does Polyester Shrink in the Washing Machine?

Generally, polyester clothes don’t shrink in the washing machine, especially if you wash them with cool or warm water. But shrinkage can occur under extreme washing conditions like using extremely hot machine cycles. Experts recommend washing machine cycles for polyester garments to remain under 230F.

Anything above 230F will potentially cause your polyester clothes to shrink slightly. If you’re not sure about choosing the right temperatures for your polyester garments, use cool water. This is particularly important for clothes made of polyester mixtures. You should also check the label of your garment for tips on how to wash them.

Cloth manufacturers often offer tips on how to maintain their polyester products. For instance, they encourage their customers to turn their polyester garments inside out when loading them into their washing machines to avoid tears and fading. You should also set your washing machine to a permanent temperature press, especially if you wash polyester garments regularly.

Choosing this setting will not only save you money on your monthly utility bills, but it’ll also protect your polyester garments from shrinking. Make sure your cleaning detergents are gentle and lax enough to prevent your garments from shrinking.

Does Polyester Shrink in the Dryer?

Your polyester garment will shrink if you use extremely high temperatures to dry them. Luckily, clothing brands put instructions on their products to help you learn how to take care of them. Therefore, you need to check the tags on your polyester clothes to know the ideal drying temperature.

Following these instructions will keep your expensive garments looking fresh all the time. As long as you set your dryer’s temperatures properly, your polyester garments won’t shrink. But you have to understand what the right temperature for your clothes is to set the dryer properly.

For instance, you shouldn’t use more than 100F to dry your polyester clothes. Since most dryers come with multiple temperature levels, you might have difficulty choosing the ideal setting for your polyester garments.

That’s why it’s good to seek help from a relative or friend who understands how to set temperatures on dryers. If there’s no one to assist you in selecting the right drying temperature, choose the lowest setting.

It’s also important to use the manufacturer’s manual for guidance when you’re confused by the different temperature settings. Most modern dryers come with a cool, dry setting. Choose this setting for your polyester garments to prevent them from shrinking. Polyester materials dry quickly, allowing you to tumble dry your polyester clothes.

Tumble drying works just as effectively as heat drying. That way, you can dry your expensive clothes without worrying about shrinking due to high-temperature levels. If you’re still concerned about drying your polyester garments, you should entirely do away with the idea of drying them in the dryer. Instead, just hang them out to dry.

Unfortunately, this drying method may not be the ideal alternative to using a dryer if you’re washing large bundles of clothes because you may not have the time and space to hang-dry all your clothes. In this case, you need to set your dryer at 100F or below to prevent your polyester clothes from shrinking.

How Much Does Polyester Shrink?

Polyester Shrink

Image source: Pinterest

Since it’s now clear that polyester garments can shrink when exposed to extreme heat, the next major concern would be the degree of shrinkage. The truth is that the degree of shrinkage depends on the heat levels you select on your washing machine and dryer. Compared to other types of fabric like cotton, polyester tends to shrink easily at lower temperatures.

Research has shown that when a polyester garment shrinks, it can decrease in size from ¼ to ½ depending on the level of temperature it’s exposed to. Regular exposure to warm water or air can cause slight shrinkage. Also, use mild detergents to wash your polyester to avoid significant shrinkage.

How to Care for Your Polyester Clothing

When your polyester garments shrink, they’ll become uncomfortable, rough, and unattractive. Therefore, you need to take good care of them and ensure they remain vibrant and comfortable to wear. Here are tips on how to take care of your polyester clothes.

1. Permanent Press Setting

As noted above, your polyester clothes will shrink if you set the temperatures on your washing machine above 230F. Since modern washing machines have multiple temperature settings, you might accidentally set it above 230F, putting your polyester garments at risk of shrinking. To avoid this, you should choose the permanent press setting on your washing machine.

2. Use Warm Water

Although cold water doesn’t cause polyester to shrink, it doesn’t clean certain blemishes properly. Hot water, on the other hand, will clean most stains but it causes shrinkage. Therefore, use lukewarm water to wash your polyester garments. It helps you to clean your clothes thoroughly without causing them to shrink.

3. Use Fabric Softener

Adding a liquid softener to every wash cycle before you start spinning your polyester clothes helps to reduce static cling, especially if you’re using hot water. You can also reduce the risk of shrinkage by using mild detergents.

4. Use Low-Heat or Open-Air Drying

Drying your polyester garments under high temperatures will lead to shrinkage. So, set the temperatures on your dryer low or hang the clothes in the open to dry naturally. If you don’t know how to set temperatures on your dryer, check the owner’s manual or seek help from a relative or friend.

5. Add Vinegar

Aside from shrinking, your polyester garments are also likely to fade if you use very high temperatures to wash and dry them. But you can prevent them from fading by adding vinegar to every wash cycle. Vinegar also prevents color bleeding, keeping your garment looking new for a long time.

Gretchen Walker
Gretchen is a homemaker by day and writer by night. She takes a keen interest in life as it unfolds around her and spends her free time observing people go about their everyday affairs.