When it comes to drying your clothes, there are probably times where you’ve been worried about shrinking some of your clothes.
You know that dryers can get pretty hot when they’re being used. Does this heat cause shrinking?
If you saw my most recent piece about jeans in the tumble dryer, then you know that jeans and denim are very likely to shrink during drying, and sometimes this is actually intentional!
But what about the rest of your clothes?
A tumble dryer definitely has the capability to shrink clothes. The temperatures produced inside a tumble dryer can be high enough to alter the textiles and fabrics, causing them to constrict. This is the opposite of removing your clothes from the washing machine, where the water that has been absorbed can make them appear larger than before.
So you have the answer, and that is that clothes definitely can shrink inside your tumble dryer.
Read on to find out why, which clothes are the worst for it and how to avoid it overall.
Why Do Clothes Shrink in the Tumble Dryer?
If you know why the tumble dryer can shrink your clothes, you can make a more informed decision on what to dry in the dryer.
There are two main factors which cause clothes to shrink in the tumble dryer.
The first is the heat used to dry the clothes. The high temperature produced inside the dryer is enough to shrink the fibres of the clothing.
The heat causes the fibres to contract, which leads to shrinking of the overall clothes.
This is also a risk in the washing machine if you use particularly high heat cycles.
The other factor is the movement. The spin cycles on dryers are incredibly fast (otherwise they wouldn’t really do much) and the tossing motion of the drum can also cause clothing to shrink.
The tossing motion can also cause other damage to your clothes.
So you know the cause, are there clothes that are really susceptible to shrinking?
Are Certain Fabrics More Likely to Shrink?
You’re probably thinking that there must be a difference in shrinking between different clothes, since not all clothes are made from the same materials and you’d be right.
The general consensus is that lighter fabrics are among the worst offenders.
This includes delicate materials such as cashmere, lace and silk clothing.
Even more prone to shrinking are natural fibres such as wool and cotton. Clothes made from these materials are very likely to be severely shrunk by the dryer.
This means that winter clothing items like fluffy jumpers or cardigans, which are usually mostly made from wool should be avoided when drying.
Synthetic fibres such as polyester are actually quite resistant to shrinking and other damage which can be caused by tumble dryers. This is not the case if you happen to be using much higher temperatures than normal though.
Denim does tend to shrink, but the end contraction in size isn’t as bad as a lot of other fabrics.
Some people actually intentionally shrink their jeans because every day wear can cause jeans to stretch out. Tossing them in the dryer can cause them to shrink back to their original fit.
There is actually some other damage that can be caused by tumble dryers and that is colour fading.
At higher temperatures, colours can be stripped from one piece of clothing to another, sort of like leaking.
This can cause your clothes to start to appear dull and faded.
So you know now all the damage that can be caused from drying your clothes.
But how do you avoid all this damage?
How to Avoid Shrinking Your Clothes
It is actually fairly easy to avoid shrinking your clothes in the dryer, otherwise everyone would be walking round with clothes that are too small!
Check the labels: The first port of call is always to check the labels on the clothes. These will tell you pretty much everything about how to wash and dry the clothing.
This will also tell you if you straight up can’t dry a certain item of clothing in the dryer.
Avoid long dryer cycles: Using a shorter drying cycle will mean your clothes are exposed to the heat for a shorter time, reducing the risk of any shrinking.
As well as this, they will be exposed to less rotation throughout the drying, meaning there is less damage potential.
Avoid hot washer cycles: Using colder washing machine cycles is better for the environment (and your wallet) and can also save your clothes from damage and shrinking in the dryer.
This way, the clothes will go into the dryer at a lower temperature than normal, meaning that they are more likely to retain their shape throughout the drying process.
Use a low heat drying cycle: As well as using a shorter cycle to reduce any potential damage to your clothes, you can use a lower temperature to do the same thing.
Though, if you want to end up with clothes that are dry at the end, it’s probably best to do one or the other. You can check the label and if the clothes are particularly susceptible to heat you can lower the heat.
Empty the dryer immediately: It’s always best to empty the dryer straight away after the cycle is finished.
This avoids further heat damage and can also help with smells as clothes left in a pile can start to smell bad eventually.
Of course, the one hundred percent fool proof way to avoid damage from a tumble dryer is to not use one!
There are plenty of ways to dry your clothes which don’t involve a tumble dryer and none of these will cause heat damage to your clothes.
A lot of labels on clothes, especially delicate clothing, will tell you not to tumble dry so the best way to deal with these clothes is to line dry them.
This also helps with creasing as hanging the clothes keeps them straight and flat.
So that should answer any questions you had about tumble drying your clothes!
There are plenty of things you can do to avoid damage to your favourite outfits while tumble drying.
As I mentioned, you can also use a tumble dryer to shrink your jeans back into shape if they’ve been stretched from every day wear.
If you’re not confident in using a dryer, you can go the line drying route and fully avoid a tumble dryer, which will mean there is no risk of heat or spin damage to your clothes.