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How To Prevent And Reduce Dress Shirt Shrinkage

Lloyd Hughes

Dress shirt shrinkage: information and tips.

How To Prevent And Reduce Dress Shirt Shrinkage

It’s almost too easy to shrink cloth­ing acci­den­tal­ly, but it only takes a lit­tle fore­thought and care to avoid shrink­ing dress shirts. A great shirt fits well and feels fan­tas­tic, and you want to make sure it stays that way as long as pos­si­ble.

You may not be able to reverse the dam­age once a shirt has shrunk, but with the right care, you can min­i­mize dress shirt shrink­age in the first place.

Why do dress shirts shrink after washing and drying?

Most top qual­i­ty dress shirts are made of 100% cot­ton or linen, and both fab­rics are prone to shrink­age. It helps to under­stand why cot­ton and oth­er fab­rics shrink in the first place. Dur­ing the man­u­fac­tur­ing process, ten­sion is applied to the yarns and even­tu­al­ly the fab­rics as they are pro­duced.

Heat from the wash­er and dry­er, and the agi­tat­ing move­ment of the wash­er, release the ten­sion, relax­ing the threads some­what and com­press­ing them to a degree. In oth­er words, shrink­age.

How much should a dress shirt shrink?

Good qual­i­ty woven cot­ton will shrink an aver­age of 1 to 3 per­cent, and should shrink even­ly. It may not sound like enough to make a dif­fer­ence, but for a shirt that is about 30-inch­es long at a medi­um size, that trans­lates into near­ly a full inch off the length, and just under half an inch on a 15-inch col­lar. That’s enough to make it uncom­fort­able.

How To Prevent And Reduce Dress Shirt Shrinkage - around collar

The col­lar is one place where you can expect shrink­age

Washing and drying tips for your dress shirts.

Keep­ing the nature of the fibers in mind, the first rule in pre­vent­ing shrink­age lies in avoid­ing the aggra­vat­ing con­di­tions. When it comes to wash­ing, avoid­ing heat and agi­ta­tion can be accom­plished in two ways:

1. Hand wash­ing the shirt in cool or luke­warm water.

2. Using the del­i­cate cycle and cold water in the wash­er.

Be sure to choose a gen­tle laun­dry solu­tion made for nat­ur­al fab­rics.

How To Prevent And Reduce Dress Shirt Shrinkage: proper drying

Hang your shirts out to dry to reduce shrink­age

Dry cleaning tips and following the label on dress shirts.

Dry clean­ing is prob­lem­at­ic and not rec­om­mend­ed as a solu­tion to dress shirt shrink­age. It involves a two step process. The first step uses harsh chem­i­cals which aid in loos­en­ing and remov­ing dirt, but the chem­i­cals cause dam­age to the fibers.

Then, very high tem­per­a­tures are used in the dry­ing process which nat­u­ral­ly exac­er­bate shrink­age. The process is com­plet­ed with high tem­per­a­ture press­ing, which puts fur­ther duress on the fab­ric.

It’s still a good solu­tion for spot clean­ing of tough stains, or for the odd occa­sion. But it is far bet­ter to sim­ply allow the shrink­age to hap­pen nat­u­ral­ly, through the wash, dry and iron cycle. You’ll be doing your­self a favor by pro­long­ing their use­ful life.

If you do use the ser­vices of a dry clean­er, be sure to request hand rather than machine iron­ing to min­i­mize expo­sure to exces­sive heat.

How To Prevent And Reduce Dress Shirt Shrinkage: proper folding

Exercise caution when drying your dress shirts.

The dry­er is the most sig­nif­i­cant source of heat in clean­ing shirts, and shrink­age can hap­pen even at low set­tings. Com­plete­ly avoid­ing it is the best way to min­i­mize dress shirt shrink­age.

Some use­ful tips:

1. Avoid wring­ing the fab­ric, since this only serves to com­press the fibers and may lead to uneven shrink­age – which is what you’re try­ing to avoid. It also pro­motes wrin­kling.

2. Shirts made of lighter weight fab­rics such as broad­cloth or poplin can be dried by hang­ing them on non-met­al hang­ers, prefer­ably with round­ed ends to retain a more nat­ur­al shape. This also helps pre­vent exces­sive wrin­kling.

3. A series of fold­ing tables can also rep­re­sent a good solu­tion, espe­cial­ly for heav­ier fab­rics like twill or Oxford cloth. First, you’ll add a lay­er of tow­els to absorb the mois­ture. Shirts should be but­toned up at least par­tial­ly and dried flat, turn­ing two or three times per side. The tow­els may need to be replaced if the shirt was par­tic­u­lar­ly wet to begin with.

4. Avoid dry­ing your dress shirts out in the sun, which is just anoth­er source of heat.

How To Prevent And Reduce Dress Shirt Shrinkage: proper ironing

Iron­ing can intro­duce a lot of heat and be a cause of shrink­age

Using the right ironing techniques to prevent shrinkage.

When iron­ing, it’s essen­tial to use the low­est pos­si­ble tem­per­a­ture set­ting. Pass the iron back and forth over the fab­ric as quick­ly as pos­si­ble, rather than press­ing down more heav­i­ly.

Wrin­kle-free fab­rics may seem like a good option, but they are actu­al­ly pre-treat­ed with chem­i­cals like formalde­hyde, and aren’t rec­om­mend­ed as a replace­ment for prop­er care.

Reduce dress shirt shrinkage with the right method.

This whole process may seem daunt­ing at first, but once you’ve got a rhythm going, it will be quick and pain­less. Aside from min­i­miz­ing shrink­age, you’ll pro­long the life of your shirts and save mon­ey in the long run. Mon­ey well spent on new dress shirts.


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