Does polyester shrink? How to avoid shrinkage or how to embrace it

When choosing your clothes, there are many different types of fabric you can choose from. They are made with different fibers, either natural or synthetic, or even combined.

Each of them has its own characteristics and has to be taken care of following specific instructions. In general, and especially when buying branded clothes, you can find a label with indications to avoid any damage on your items of clothing.

One of the possibilities when not looking at the instructions is having your clothes shrunk. But does polyester shrink? Let’s take a look at how to avoid and how to use it in your favor.

How is polyester made?

Polyester is a synthetic fabric that is man-made. Its basic component is plastic, the same used for making bottles and other packaging items.

Pieces of plastic are stretched into super thin strands like threads, which are later used for weaving fabrics, later turned into items of clothing.

These strands are sometimes combined with natural fibers such as cotton or linen to provide the fabric with some specific characteristics, such as breathability, softness or resistance.

Of course, besides the benefits of mixing fibers, you might also get some downsides, based on each of the types of fabric used.

One of these downsides could be shrinkage. But will polyester shrink under certain conditions? Let’s see.

Does polyester shrink?

The basic answer is yes, but how? Remember polyester is made of plastic? Have you ever put a plastic container too close to the stove (accidentally, of course)?

If you haven’t, let me tell you that plastic will start to melt and shrink into a wrinkled ball of plastic. Considering polyester is also made of plastic, the same can happen to your clothes if you are not careful.

Shrinking in polyester clothes is not too common, but it can happen in too harsh conditions. Fortunately, 100% polyester is far more resistant than other fabrics, but it still needs to be taken care of.

How do I need to care for polyester fabrics?

The first thing you need to keep in mind is that polyester can be mixed with cotton, rayon, spandex and many more.

The fabric composition may change its characteristics.  We are currently talking about 100% polyester fabrics, and we’ll later take a look at other combinations.

As with any other type of fabric, polyester’s biggest enemy is heat. Its composition makes it more resistant than, for instance, cotton, but still you need to be careful.

The best advice we can give you is, to use lukewarm water for washing. Can you put polyester in the dryer? Yes, it tolerates the hot air, but again, don’t keep them there for too long a time.

Make sure you only leave it there for just the time necessary for drying, not more. Besides, use a lower temperature, as it will prevent your clothing not only from shrinking but also losing color or tearing.

So, does polyester shrink in the dryer? Not if you are careful.

What happens with polyester-cotton compositions?

Cotton-polyester is a great combination of fabrics. You’ll get the best of both worlds! Cotton provides breathability and makes clothes less prone to cause allergies, while polyester makes it more resistant and soft.

Cotton, on its own, is very likely to shrink in the dryer. It’s very common not to realize your clothes are 100% cotton, mixing them with other items to put in the dryer and finding out your nice t-shirt is now suitable for your baby daughter!

There are some techniques to get back your clothes’ original size, but it’s better to avoid it from scratch by using cotton-polyester combinations.

This mix is more resistant than 100% cotton, but it is not as damage-proof as 100% polyester. We recommend following the same recommendations mentioned above, but even more carefully.

How to shrink polyester on purpose?

We usually try to prevent our clothes from shrinking, but we shouldn’t fear it, as it can also be a very useful tool.

Here are some situations when you may need to shrink your items of clothing:

  • Your clothes have worn off
  • You have lost weight
  • You’ve bought second-hand clothes

Even polyester textiles wear off with time. They take longer, and they are more resistant than other fabrics, but it still happens after a long time. One of the most common signs of wearing off in clothes is stretching.

Fabrics lose their stretch, and they won’t get back to their original shape. You may see your shirts fit bigger than they used to, or your jeans are not as skinny. This is when shrinking your clothes can be useful.

In fact, you are not really shrinking them, but giving them back their original tension. You will feel the fabric is firmer and not loose as it used to.

The same happens when your clothes are too big. You might have lost a bit of weight and your clothes fit just a little bit bigger than they should.

In these cases, taking your clothes to a seamstress might be too much, so your washing and drying machines can be your best friends.

This is also useful for thrifting. Next time you find a jewel at your local thrift store that you have fallen in love with, but it’s a bit big, take it home anyway and shrink it with your washing machines.

Will polyester shrink permanently?

This is something you need to keep in mind. When you are shrinking items on purpose, remember that they will eventually get back to their original size as you wear them, but you can simply shrink it again.

To do so, just don’t follow our recommendations above! Use hot water for washing and leave the clothes in the dryer for a longer time than necessary.

Remember not to exaggerate with the temperature, or the plastic fibers won’t only shrink, but also harden.

So, to conclude, does polyester shrink? Yes, it does, but you can avoid it by being careful and even use it in your favor!