How to Prevent Your Clothes from Shrinking or Stretching Out

Even if you follow all the rules of doing laundry, your clothes can still sometimes feel either too snug or too loose after a washing – and the answer lies in the fabric itself.

In fact, clothes react to different temperatures and chemicals in different ways, and this reaction is already in place long before you even decided to buy that particular item. For instance, while natural fibers like cotton and wool can handle a better amount of stretch than other types of fabrics, such as polyester and acrylic, but they can shrink just as easily or tighten up when exposed to factors like water and heat.

While reading the care label is a good start, it’s also important to keep a few things in mind so you don’t have to keep looking for the tag when cleaning your favorite shirt or blouse – especially when there isn’t one. Here’s what you can do:

Look closely at the label. Some clothing manufacturers have a practice of using less fabric by stretching the fibers in garments as far as they can, so if the fabric itself is already shrunk beforehand, you don’t have to worry as much about any further shrinkage.

Use cold or warm water. Most clothes are fine being washed with cold or lukewarm water, since these temperatures don’t always affect the fabric. While they don’t always prevent shrinkage, they are far less damaging to your clothes than hot water.

Use the gentle setting. While the lowest setting isn’t always the quickest way of getting your clothes and other types of fabrics cleaned, it’s much less damaging than the other types of wash cycles that use higher rotations and have longer agitation.

Let clothes air dry. Air drying is perhaps the gentlest drying method that helps prevent shrinkage or stretching in fabrics, and is definitely the best option in the case of fabrics with loose weaves or knits.

Shrinking or stretching clothes on purpose. The reverse of shrinking or stretching clothes on purpose is possible depending on the fabric as well as a combination of the following: using hot water, setting the laundromat or washing machine on a higher cycle, and using a hot drying cycle for your clothes.

However, keep in mind that this won’t always work for all types of fabrics since they can shrink, stretch, or warp in ways that you won’t be able to expect.

If you need to make certain clothes fit your size better, the best option is to take them to a professional tailor and have them altered to fit you. This not only gives you a better end result, but it also saves the fabric.

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