​​Does Heavy Cotton Shrink? (Explained)

If you have ever encountered a situation where you suddenly find any one of your clothes too tight, then you have experienced shrinking of your clothes.

Cotton, being one of the finest fabrics for clothes, is naturally breathable, comfy, and long lasting. It naturally wicks moisture away from the skin, keeping you cool and comfortable regardless of the season. 

Cotton, like other clothes, requires adequate care to stay in good condition. You have to understand the consequences of washing and drying your cotton garments before doing the laundry, as cotton is highly prone to shrinkage. But here in this article, we’ll provide you with a few tips to prevent your cotton garments from shrinking.

Heavy cotton or garments made of 100% cotton are prone to shrinkage. This is due to the fact that cotton fibres are stretched firmly when spun into thread, and heat can relax that tension, causing the fibres to compress somewhat.

​​Does Heavy Cotton Shrink

So what causes your cotton garment to shrink? 

Cotton clothes are not heat or water resistant, and that is why they usually shrink after a wash. Clothes composed of natural plant based fibres shrink as the tension in the individual threads is released by warm water or steamy air of the dryer.

This occurs because the process of twisting cotton fibres into threads stresses the filaments, and heat releases part of that tension, causing the fibres to shrink.

Because their fibres are frequently heat-set during the manufacturing process, synthetic fabrics do not shrink as much in the wash. The heat from the washer and dryer have the greatest influence on natural fabrics like cotton and silk that may absorb water.

How much does heavy cotton shrink?

If you see your garment label and it mentions “pre-shrunk”, do not be confident that it will not shrink anymore. Heavy cotton fabric that is already pre-shrunk is still prone to shrinking.

In a heated washing machine, heavy cotton can shrink up to 3%, while untreated cotton can shrink up to 20% when subjected to high heat.

However, there are other elements involved too that influence shrinking, including the style of the garment and the tightness or looseness of the weave. 

Therefore, the first time you wash a cotton garment is the most risky part. Heat, moisture, and friction from the rotating washing machine can all work together to release some of the built up tension in the cotton strands, causing your garment to shrink.

But the second time you wash your cotton clothing, it will be less likely to shrink, but you should still avoid using hot water or a high-heat dryer setting. Even pre-shrunk cotton might contract more depending on the quantity of heat it is subjected to. 

See also: Are Cotton Shirts Better Than Polyester?

Does the temperature of water determine cotton shrinkage?

Cotton fabric shrinks no matter what, as you may have already discovered by reading this far. 

But does it stretch? 

Yes, it does stretch. Cotton is a fabric that shrinks and stretches. It stretches when it gets wet and shrinks as it dries. But it is always advisable to wash your cotton garment in cold water. 

Tips to prevent your cotton garment from shrinking

With a little additional care, it’s simple to keep your cotton apparel in good condition. When you buy new cotton clothes, you should hand wash it with cold water and air dry it first to prevent shrinking and let the clothing settle.

Following that, there are a few keys points to remember while washing cotton clothing:

1.) Hand wash your cotton garment- Whenever possible, hand wash your cotton garments. Use a mild detergent and cold water, and soak the garment in the solution for sometime.

If your cotton clothes are not dirty and require moderate cleaning, it will not take much time. But if your clothes are filthy, it might take longer. After they’ve soaked, properly rinse the garments in cool water. 

2.) If you’re machine washing it- You can wash your cotton garment using the washing machine if you don’t have time to hand wash.

Cotton garments should be washed on a gentle cycle in cold water to avoid shrinkage. This reduces the possibility of excessive friction and agitation, which can lead to shrinkage as well as pilling. 

3.) Air dry your cotton garment- It is always advisable to air dry your cotton garment instead of drying it in the dryer or in direct sunlight.

Whether you hand wash or use a washing machine, drying your cotton items without heat yields the finest results. Cotton clothing shrinks the quickest when exposed to high temperatures. 


Will your cotton garment shrink every time you wash it? 

Yes, a cotton garment may shrink the most on the first wash, but it may continue to shrink in lesser amounts for 1 or 2 additional cycles. Cotton might shrink with each wash if it is exposed to hot water or high dryer heat settings.

By taking the necessary care, you may prevent causing damage to your garments. Cotton’s intrinsic absorbency, on the other hand, means it will always be prone to shrinkage. Purchasing pre-shrunk items and washing with care can help avoid excessive shrinking.

Are cotton blended fabrics prone to shrinking?

Some cotton blends shrink far less than 100% cotton, while others shrink considerably more in the washing and dryer, because it all relies on the fibres used in the combination. Poly-Cotton resists shrinking since it is made up of 50% polyester fibres.

Polyester, as a synthetic fabric, does not shrink readily. Similarly, a garment composed of 60% cotton and 40% polyester will not shrink quickly, even when washed in hot water.

Just in case you have accidentally shrunk your cotton garment, now what would you do? 

First of all, we wouldn’t want you to worry because here we bring to you a few hacks on how to unshrink your cotton clothes. 

1.) Fill a clean bucket or sink with lukewarm water. 

2.) Add mild detergent or baby shampoo to the water. 

3.) Put the clothes in the water and let it soak for at least 30 minutes. 

4.) Drain the sink and squeeze the excess water out of the garment carefully. 

5.) Place the garment on a towel and gently stretch it to reshape it to the proper size. 

6.) Stretch the garment gently every couple of hours while it dries, and you can use a fan to speed up the drying process. 


While we know cotton comes with a lot of benefits, it is an ideal fabric for those hot, humid days. But it does have shrinking problems. Even the ones that are pre-shrunk. Although, you can always take proper measures to reduce the shrinking issue. 

Cotton requires you proper care and in return, it does give a whole lot of comfort and it lets your skin breathe. 

Stephen Luettgen
I have 12+ years of experience in construction, inspections, handy work, and currently working as a Construction Site Manager. In today’s day we spent a significant part of our time at workplace and a right work gear can have significant impact not only on your safety but also work quality.

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