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You're Not Imagining Things—Clothes Really Do Shrink

Nope, it's not because your pecs are getting bigger
by Mary Rose A. Hogaza | Jun 28, 2016
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It's every man's biggest nightmare: You have a favorite piece of clothing that fits you perfectly, but after a few washes, it has turned into your girlfriend's cropped top. What the hell happened? Did you get bigger in just a few days? The answer: No. Your clothes shrunk.

According to a paper published on Google, cotton shirts are made of woven threads which are in turn made up of cotton fibers. As the fibers are spun into thread and the thread is woven into cloth, the fibers they're made of get pulled, stretched, and twisted.

"As a result, in the case that clothes are made of a synthetic fiber, for example, acrylic fiber or polyester fiber, since the melting point of the synthetic fiber is relatively low, there is a problem that clothes shrink," the paper states.

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FHM stylist Arabela Vitug agrees. She says clothes made of natural fibers like cotton, wool, and mohair shrink more than other fabrics. "It's because of the tension that is applied to its yarn and fabrics during the construction of the clothing. The tension is released by heat from the washer, dryer, steam and even sunlight, which causes the fabric to be reduced to its natural size," she explains.

You should also know that there are three kinds of shrinkage: felting, relaxation, and consolidation. Felting happens when the clothes are made of animal fibers. When exposed to water and heat, the fabric will compress.

Relaxation happens when fabric is exposed to liquids or excessive moisture. "When fabric is placed in tepid water, the fibers will relax and if the fabric is absorbent (natural fibers like cotton, silk or linen) or modified to be absorbent (man-made performance fibers), the fibers will swell."

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Meanwhile, consolidation takes place when water, heat, and mechanical action join forces. The fabric had to release the stress caused by the said factors which can, in turn, cause fabric deformation.


To prevent shrinkage, one thing you can do is to avoid using the dryer, which combines water, heat, and mechanical action—exactly the things that cause shrinkage. If you have a piece of clothing that you absolutely don't want to shrink, the solution is simple: "Wash clothes by hand, use cold water instead of hot, and avoid using the dryer, instead let them dry on their own," recommends Arabela.

If you still insist on using the dryer, make sure to lower the heat level. It's also a good move to read labels to learn how to care for clothes. Simply follow the guidelines regarding home washing versus dry cleaning, water temperature, type of laundry cycle, and dryer cycle recommendations. Your clothes thank you for it.

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