Does Polyester Shrink? We Find Out

Polyester is a synthetic polymer that is made from polyethylene terephthalate, a type of petroleum. It is often used in clothing because it is strong and can withstand a lot of wear and tear. But, does polyester shrink when you wash it?

In general, with normal washer and dryer settings and use, polyester will not shrink. However, if you use very hot water setting on your washer or dryer, or dry your garments for an excessively long time, it is possible for the fiber to shrink slightly.

Red, blue and green polyester cloth

Let’s further investigate this topic below so that you can rest assured that your polyester clothes will not shrink when you wash it.

Can You Shrink 100% Polyester?

Does polyester shrink in its pure form? Usually not. Polyester fabric is designed not to shrink when it goes through the laundry.

This type of fabric is made by combining two synthetic polymers: polyethylene terephthalate (petroleum) and ethylene glycol (alcohol).

The combination of these two substances creates a fabric that is resistant to shrinking and stretching. It becomes a form of plastic in liquid form, and then it is spun into a fiber that retains that plasticity.

This material is extremely durable and has been tweaked and perfected since its invention in the 1930s, so most of its performance kinks have been ironed out.

That said, if you subject 100% polyester fabric to extremely high heat, like temperatures found in a commercial dryer or an industrial washing machine–there is always the potential for some shrinkage.

The melting point of polyester is 482 degrees Fahrenheit, so it is unlikely that you will reach this temperature in your household washer or dryer if you’re worried about any major damage to the fabric.

If you do accidentally expose 100% polyester fabric to high heat, it is possible that the article of clothing could shrink by as much as three percent.

What about Polyester Blends?

Shrinkage usually only becomes an issue when mixed with other materials like cotton or wool. When blended, the shrinkage potential for all fabrics in the blend increases.

This is because the different fibers in a blend will react differently to water and heat. The natural fiber, such as cotton, absorbs more water and then swells. Synthetic polymer, on the other hand, does not absorb as much water.

That said, if you are careful about the type of machine wash and dry cycle that you use on your polyester/cotton blend clothing there will be no problem with shrinkage. The key is to use a cool or warm water setting and a low tumble dry or air-dry cycle.

What You Can Do to Prevent Polyester Fabric Shrinkage

In general, if you are careful about the way you launder your polyester clothing, you should not have any problems with shrinkage.

However, there are a few things that you can do to help minimize the chances of your clothes shrinking.

  • Make sure to take a look at the fabric labels. This is one of the easiest ways to determine if your clothing is 100% polyester and therefore, safe to machine wash and dry.
  • If you have any doubts, it is best to hand wash the garment in cool water and then line dry it. This will help prevent shrinkage no matter what type of fabric the item is made from. Using cold water in the washing machine is also a good way to keep shrinkage at bay. Polyester is more likely to shrink if it is washed in hot water.
  • If you are using a detergent that contains bleach, make sure to use the lightest load setting possible so that the fabric will not be over-washed and damaged.
  • Avoid drying your clothes for an excessive amount of time. Polyester is more likely to shrink if it is dried at a high temperature for an extended period of time.
  • If you are using a dryer, make sure to use the cool down or air-dry setting so that the fabric will not be damaged by excessive heat.

With these tips in mind, your polyester fabric will last longer and you can avoid the hassle of dealing with shrunken clothes.

Pros of a Polyester Garment

A polyester clothing item is a good choice for someone who wants to avoid shrinkage. Here are some other reasons why this could be a good choice for your wardrobe:

Polyester is Wrinkle Resistant

Due to the smooth and tightly wound synthetic fiber in polyester, this fabric is less likely to wrinkle than natural fabrics like cotton or wool.

This means that you can take your garment out of the dryer and put it on without having to worry about needing to spend time ironing it. You can also hang it up on a hanger and it will look as good as new.

Polyester Holds Up Well in a Washing Machine

Polyester is a durable fabric and it will hold its shape even after multiple washes. It’s the perfect material for people who don’t want to worry too much about reading the labels on their clothing or separating their laundry into different loads.

It is less likely to tear or rip than natural fabrics and is often used in outdoor clothing because of its ability to withstand harsh weather conditions. This is why polyester is used for more than just clothes. It is also a popular fabric for making bedding and curtains.

Color Stays Vibrant on Polyester Fabrics

Polyester is often used for clothing because of its ability to hold color well. The colors will not fade or wash out as quickly as they would with natural fabrics.

This means that you can buy polyester clothes in any color and it will stay bright and vibrant for a long time. This material is resistant to being faded by the washing machine, sun, or any other ways in which your clothing can be damaged.

Polyester Is Affordable

Polyester is a less expensive fabric than natural fabrics like cotton or wool.

This means that you can buy more polyester garments for your wardrobe without breaking the bank. It is also easy to find affordable polyester clothing in a variety of styles and colors.

It Can Be Blended with Many Other Materials

Polyester garments can be blended with other materials to create a unique look and feel for your garment.

This means that you can find the perfect fabric blend for your needs, whether you are looking for something that is wrinkle resistant, holds its color well, is warm in winter months, or is affordable. You can also find blends that include spandex or any other synthetic fiber to create a stretchy, form-fitting garment.

It Has a Silky Feel

Polyester has a silky feel that is often associated with expensive fabrics.

This means that you can enjoy the luxurious feeling of silk without having to spend a fortune. Polyester outfits often look and feel high-end, even if they are not designer brands. They feel smoother than many natural fibers because of the way that the synthetic fibers are woven together.

It’s Water-Resistant

Since polyester is a synthetic fabric, it does not absorb moisture the way that natural fabrics do.

This means that it will keep you cool in the summer and warm in the winter. It is also less likely to show sweat stains, making it a good choice for people who are active or who live in hot climates.

Cons of a Polyester Garment

However, there are some potential downsides of polyester clothes that are important to consider before making your final decision:

Polyester Can Cause Allergies

Some people are allergic to synthetic fibers in polyester. If you have ever had a reaction to wearing clothes made of nylon or acrylic, you may want to avoid polyester clothing as well.

The Fabric Can Be Static-y

Polyester fabrics often have a static charge that can be annoying and uncomfortable. It can also cause your hair to stand on end if you are wearing a polyester outfit when the charge becomes too strong.

Fabric softener and dryer sheets can help to reduce this.

You may also experience pilling with polyester clothing, which means that the fabric will start to ball up and look fuzzy. This is often a sign that the garment is no longer in good condition and should be replaced. Avoid hot wash cycles to help minimize pilling.

It Is Not as Breathable as Natural Fibers

Polyester is not as breathable as natural fibers, which can cause you to feel overheated and sweaty when wearing it in warm weather. This is because polyester clothing is more tightly woven than natural fabrics, which prevents the air from circulating.

It Can Hold Odors

Polyester can also hold onto smells, which can be difficult to get rid of. This is especially true if you are not able to wash your garment as often as you would like.

Washing polyester regularly will help prevent odor build-up and you can use vinegar in the washing machine to help reduce any unwanted scents. Wash polyester fabrics in a warm washer setting for the best results.

It Can Be Hard To Shrink Polyester Fabric

Shrinking polyester is difficult because the material does not absorb moisture the way that natural fabrics do. You may need to use a special type of laundry detergent or a hot water wash cycle to get the fabric to shrink properly. Even then, the shrinkage will only be partial.

It Isn’t Sustainable

Since polyester is made out of petroleum and alcohol, it isn’t considered a sustainable product. In fact, it takes several billions of oil barrels to produce many of the polyester items we use today. This means that it is not a good choice for people who are looking to reduce their environmental impact.

Synthetic fabric such as polyester isn’t very biodegradable either, meaning that it will sit in landfills for many years after it is no longer useful.

Does Polyester Shrink If I Need a Smaller Clothing Item?

So, does polyester shrink? The answer is yes and no. Polyester fabrics can shrink, but shrinking polyester is difficult to do so and the shrinkage will be only partial.

How To Shrink Polyester

If you do decide to purchase a polyester garment and need it to be smaller, there are a few things you can try.

You can wash the fabric on a hot water cycle or use a special type of laundry detergent designed to shrink synthetic fabrics. You will want to make sure that the water is at least 140 degrees Fahrenheit to start shrinking polyester.

If you want to shrink polyester by washing your clothes by hand, you can boil water and submerge the clothing into the pot. Let it sit for about 5 to 10 minutes, then remove the clothing carefully with tongs.

This is the quickest way to shrink polyester, but it can also be the most dangerous because of the extreme heat. Keep an eye on your clothing throughout this process to make sure there isn’t any damage to your items.

You can use your dryer to slightly shrink your polyester clothes as well. Simply set the dryer to its highest heat setting and dry the garment for at least 30 minutes and preferably up to an hour.

This will help to remove some of the fabric’s stretch and may cause it to shrink in size.

You can also use an iron to shrink polyester. Set the iron to high heat and press the fabric for several minutes. This will cause it to become tighter and more fitted.

Can I Shrink Polyester Blends?

White label of a cloth that reads 60% cotton and 40% polyester

A polyester blend is a material that is made up of several different fabrics, including polyester. These blends are sometimes easier to shrink than 100% polyester fibers because the natural fabrics in the blend will absorb moisture and shrink.

Some common polyester blends include cotton-polyester, rayon-polyester, and nylon-polyester. If you are trying to shrink a blend of fabrics, it is important to test a small piece of the fabric before you start shrinking the entire garment.

This will help you determine how much the fabric will shrink and what type of laundry detergent or method will work best. You can try the above-mentioned techniques or research the best shrinking process for that specific fabric blend.

The Bottom Line

So, does polyester shrink? Not much, but you may have success shrinking polyester clothing if you’re using the methods mentioned above.

Remember that when you’re using something stronger than medium heat you might be damaging the clothing. If you’re not happy with the size, try shrinking a polyester blend which will have better results.

Image showing a brown colored polyester clothand text overlays that read Does Polyester Shrink

About Emma

Hey there! I'm Emma. When I'm not wrangling kids I like to walk aimlessly around hardware stores and watch HGTV for hours on end.

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