How to Prevent Clothing Shrinkage & Tearing

It’s a scene straight out of a sitcom – the young wife loads up the laundry, only to discover she’s shrunk an adult sweater to infant-sized on accident. While garments rarely end up like these exaggerated shrinky-dinks unless they are made of wool, there are ways you are ruining your clothing without realizing it as you wash and dry it. This article will walk you through the ways to keep your clothing from shrinking and tearing in the wash.

Don’t Wash Your Jeans And T-shirts In Hot Water.

Just like washing your hair, your clothing should mostly be washed using cold water. This is actually most important for jeans and cotton fabrics. While you’re aware that clothing can shrink the dryer, you can also shrink them in the washing machine by using hot water. When cottons are exposed to any type of heat, even direct sunlight, it can shrink.

Unless the article of clothing is “pre-shrunk” or “pre-washed” – use cool or cold water, and allow it to air dry (if possible.)

Zip All Zippers Up Before Washing.

You already know to empty your pockets (those ink pen stains never come out!) But did you know that you need to zip up all your zippers too? Delicate fabrics can get caught on unzipped zippers, causing them to snag or tear. 

If you can, it is actually better to hand wash items with zippers so that they don’t get tangled up with your other clothes.

Use A Gentle Laundry Cycle.

When using a machine, always choose the delicate cycle (especially if you are washing delicates!) This prevents too much stress on the fabric, which helps prevent stretching and tearing for your clothes. 

Buy Pre-Shrunk Clothing.

If you are not the one who wants to read every label for every clothing item, but items that are already shrunk. This means the manufacturer has already washed the item, so there is very little chance the fabric will shrink – even if you accidentally wash it on the hot setting, or throw it in the dryer.

Look For Front-Loading Washers Instead of A Center Agitator. 

For those of you who do laundry in the laundromat – you are in luck! Those front-loading machines are much nicer on our clothing than traditional center agitator models. The tumbling action is much easier on your clothing (and much less likely to tear) than the rough action produced by center agitators. 

Air-Dry, When Possible.

Air-drying is the most eco-friendly way to dry your clothing and prevent it from shrinking. That being said, letting every item of clothing air dry might just not be possible. If you can’t air dry, use the lower heat settings on the dryer. Even if it takes a little longer to dry, the money you will save by keeping your clothing in good condition longer makes it worth it. 

Remember, if you have already shrunk a piece of clothing, rewashing it and reshaping it while wet may help. If it is a woven cotton or linen item, using an iron may help loosen tightened fibers. That being said – if something is too shrunk, it can be almost impossible to save. So be sure to take care of your clothing from the beginning so you can avoid these scenarios. 

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