What Temperature Water Shrinks Clothes?

Your washing machine can be the main reason your clothes shrink. But how hot does the water have to be for this to happen? Let's take a look.

In most washing machines, the hot water setting is around 130 degrees Fahrenheit or more. This is hot enough to cause the fibers in your clothes to break, which can lead to shrinkage. When in doubt, use a lower temperature setting to avoid shrinkage.

It can be frustrating when your clothes come out of the wash shrunken. In this article, we will discuss how to prevent clothes from shrinking in the wash. In addition, we will answer other frequently asked questions about washing clothes, so read on!

Why Is My Washer Shrinking My Clothes?

Laundry inside a washing machine drum loaded with clothes

After doing a load of laundry, you may find that some of your clothes have shrunk. This often happens with new clothes or delicate items, such as wool sweaters. In most cases, the cause is simply washing the clothing in hot water.

The hot water setting on most washing machines is between 130 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature is hot enough to cause the fibers in your clothes to weaken and, as a result, shrink.

In addition to wool, other materials such as linen, cotton, and silk are also susceptible to shrinking in hot water. If you're not sure what temperature to wash a particular item, it's always best to err on the side of caution and use a lower setting.

However, even a warm setting can shrink delicate items, so it's always best to check the care label before washing. The care label will give you specific instructions on how to wash the clothing without causing damage.

In fact, warm water settings may gradually shrink clothing over time. For example, after washing a cotton shirt on a warm setting several times, you may notice that the shirt is slightly smaller than it was when you first bought it.

If you accidentally shrink a piece of clothing, there are a few ways to try and fix it. Keep reading to learn what you can do to unshrink clothes.

How Can I Unshrink Clothes?

View Looking Out From Inside Washing Machine Filled With Laundry colored clothes, What Temperature Water Shrinks Clothes?

If your clothing has shrunk in the wash, don't panic! Follow the steps below to try and unshrink your clothes.

  1. One method is to soak the clothing in warm water and baby shampoo or laundry soap for 20-30 minutes.
  2. Then, ring out the excess water, and lay the clothing item flat on a towel.
  3. Use your hands to gently stretch the fabric back into its original shape.
  4. Lastly, allow the clothing to air dry.

This method doesn't fix every shrunken article of clothing, but it's worth a try! The best materials to try this method on are wool, cotton, silk, and linen.

Does Cold Water Shrink Clothing?

Happy Asian senior older man helping his wife put clothes in washing machine in laundry room

As you have probably guessed, washing your clothes in cold water is less likely to cause shrinkage than in hot water. In fact, most care labels recommend washing delicate items in cold water.

While cold water won't shrink your clothes, it's not as effective at removing dirt and stains. So, the colder the water you wash your clothes in, the more detergent you will need to use.

On the other hand, cold water will reduce wrinkles and static cling. In general, it's best to use cold water for delicate items.

In addition, if you are worried about your clothes fading, cold water is the way to go. Hot water can cause colors to bleed, so it's best to avoid using it on brightly colored clothing.

What Clothing Materials Won't Shrink In Hot Water?

Boiling water in a cooking pot an a pan on a induction stove

If you are looking for materials that are less likely to shrink in the wash, consider these options:


Polyester is a man-made fabric that is less likely to shrink than natural fibers. In addition, it is wrinkle resistant and doesn't fade as easily as other materials.


Like polyester, acrylic is a synthetic fabric that is less likely to shrink than natural fibers. In addition, it is resistant to stains and wrinkles.


Nylon is another synthetic fabric that doesn't shrink as easily as natural fibers. It is also strong and durable.

However, there are some drawbacks to these materials. For one, they can produce static electricity and may not be as breathable as natural fibers such as cotton.

Will Denim Jeans Shrink In Hot Water?

Stack of folded colored clothes in a laundry of denims

If you want to shrink your denim jeans, washing them in hot water is a good option. Denim is a sturdy material that can take heat without shrinking too much.

In general, it's best to avoid washing your jeans in hot water more than once or twice. After a few washes, you may notice that the fabric starts to fade and the jeans become less comfortable.

If you are looking for a more permanent solution, consider shrinking your jeans in the dryer. This method will produce better results than washing them in hot water.

To shrink your jeans in the dryer, wash them in hot water and then put them in the dryer on high heat. After the jeans have shrunk to your desired size, continue to wash them in cold water and let them hang dry.

Is It Okay To Wash Towels In Cold Water?

Washing towels in cold water is perfectly fine! In fact, it's actually better for the towels. Towels are made of absorbent materials that can shrink when exposed to heat. Washing them in cold water will prevent them from shrinking and preserve their absorbency.

In addition, cold water is less likely to cause colors to bleed. So, if you have colored towels, it's best to wash them in cold water.

Also, you will save energy by choosing to wash your towels in cold water. Washing them in hot water takes more energy and can raise your utility bills.

If you are looking to save money and conserve energy, washing your towels in cold water is the way to go!

Does Using A Dryer Shrink Your Clothes?

A caucasian woman is folding clean dresses on a wooden desk

Like the hot water cycle on your washer, using your dryer can also shrink your clothes. The heat from the dryer is what causes the shrinkage.

However, not all fabrics will shrink when exposed to heat. As mentioned earlier, synthetic materials such as polyester and nylon are less likely to shrink than natural fibers such as cotton and wool.

Also, if you put your shrink-prone clothes in hot water and then in a hot dryer, the shrinkage will be more significant. So, if you are worried about your clothes shrinking, it's best to avoid using a dryer. Instead, hang your clothes up to dry or lay them flat to prevent them from shrinking.

What Is The Best Water Temperature For Washing Colored Clothes?

Woman hand washing knitted woolen laundry in grey plastic basin

For optimal cleaning and to prevent colors from fading, it is best to wash your colored clothes in cool water. As we mentioned earlier, cold water has a harder time removing fabric stains and dirt.

In comparison, hot water can shrink clothes and cause colors to fade. Thus, the mixture of hot and cold water is ideal for washing colored clothes.

By doing this, your clothes will come out clean and vibrant. Moreover, they will last longer since the colors won't fade as quickly.

Does It Matter What Temperature To Wash White Clothes?

White clothes can be tricky due to being the easiest to stain. With that said, hot water does the best job of removing stains and dirt from white clothes.

The problem is that if your white clothes are made of natural fibers, they can shrink in hot water. To avoid shrinkage and effectively clean your clothes, it is best to soak them in white vinegar and castile soap before washing them in cool water.

Castile soap is a gentle, all-natural soap that will not damage your clothes. White vinegar is an effective stain remover and will also help to brighten your whites.

So, give this a try next time you wash your white clothes. Your clothes will come out clean and bright, without shrinkage!

Final Thoughts

View Looking Out From Inside Washing Machine Filled With Laundry colored clothes

As you can see, washing clothes can be a bit more complicated than just throwing them in the washing machine. There are a few things you need to take into consideration, such as the type of fabric, the color of the clothes, and the water temperature.

By taking these factors into account, you can ensure that your clothes are cleaned properly and that they don't shrink in the process.

Made it to the end? Here are other articles you might find helpful:

Kenmore Washer Not Spinning Clothes Dry – What To Do?

How To Remove Paint From Clothes With Baking Soda [Step By Step Guide]

Why Do The Clothes In My Drawer Smell?

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