How To Prevent Clothes Shrinking in The Dryer: 5 Top Tips

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Dryers are really convenient appliances to have—especially during the cooler months of the year. But one common problem people experience when using their dryer is that their clothes shrink!

Clothes shrink in the dryer due to the high temperatures and agitation that occur when you dry your clothes in the dryer. It can also be the result of washing and drying your clothes too frequently—especially if they are made from fabrics like cotton, linen, and wool.

Thankfully, there are a few things you can do to prevent your clothes from shrinking in the dryer. We’ll finish by giving you step-by-step instructions for how to reverse shrinkage if your clothes have recently shrunk in the dryer.

Let’s get started.

1. Check the labels on your clothes

The first tip is a simple one. Always check the labels on your clothes before you do your laundry. On the tag, the manufacturer will have a set of instructions for how to properly launder them. For example, if the tag says “dry clean only”, this obviously means you shouldn’t wash the garment in your washing machine and dry it in the dryer. 

There should also be instructions for what temperature to wash the garment and whether it can be dried in the dryer or not. If your clothes don’t have a tag with washing instructions, you can look up the fabric type and whether or not it should be dried in the dryer.

2. Wash your clothes in cold water

The next tip is to wash your clothes in cold water if you can. This is because hot water heats your garments, which causes shrinkage even before they go into the dryer. It’s also a good idea to avoid using the heavy-duty wash cycle and high spin speeds as these can also cause your clothes to shrink. 

As mentioned above, make sure you check the tag for washing instructions as these will include what temperature to wash the item at.

3. Use the air-dry setting

When drying your clothes—especially delicate items—the best setting to use is air-dry. The air-dry setting dries your clothes at a lower temperature. This will help reduce the chances of your clothes shrinking and the fabric fibers wearing out. If your dryer doesn’t have a specific air-dry setting, use the lowest temperature setting that it has. 

4. Don’t over-dry your clothes

The next tip is to not over-dry your clothes. When you dry your clothes for longer than needed, they will be exposed to hot air for longer and as a result, they will start to shrink. It’s a good idea to set your timer for half the time you think will be required and, when that ends, check your laundry to see how much longer will likely be needed. It’s also important to take your laundry out of the dryer as soon as it’s dry to help it cool down quicker.

5. Consider not using your dryer

The final tip is to try not to use your dryer if it can be avoided. Drying your clothes the natural way will avoid shrinkage and help your clothes to last much longer. This especially applies when you need to dry very delicate clothing items like linen t-shirts. As convenient as using a dryer is, it does damage your clothes, so try to reduce the number of times you dry them in a dryer so they last longer. 

How to unshrink your clothes

If your clothes have already shrunk in the dryer, you can reverse the shrinkage. Do this by soaking your clothes in warm water with a couple of tablespoons of hair conditioner for a while. Then manually stretch them out before air drying them.

Here’s how to unshrink your clothes:

  • Start by filling up a bucket (or your sink) with warm water.
  • Add two tablespoons of hair conditioner.
  • Put your shrunken clothing item into the water. Make sure it is fully covered in the water.
  • Leave your clothing item to soak in the water for 20–30 minutes.
  • Remove your clothing item and wring out the water. Try to get them as dry as possible.
  • Lay a dry towel down on a bench and then place the clothing item onto the towel. Roll the towel up and then push down on it to help dry the clothing item.
  • Stretch the clothing item as much as possible.
  • Let the clothing item air dry.
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