Will Polyester fabric shrink in the wash?

100% polyester care label that helps to prevents shrinkage in polyester

No; Polyester does not shrink under normal circumstances. ie when it is washed in cold water and ironed at low heat. Polyester fabric is made of synthetic fibers and has good dimensional stability and resists shrinkage – which is in direct contrast to all other natural fibers like cotton and linen.

Shrinkage resistance of polyester fabric during the
normal wear and care including washing and drying is one of main attractions of polyester fabric. 

Most people buy polyester bed linen, draperies, and clothes because of ease of care and other positive qualities like almost indestructibility and long years of use. But then they are concerned whether they will fit the same way after washing them. If shrinkage is the concern, they need not worry. Polyester fabric does not shrink unless it is made of blended fibers (with natural fibers)

When does Polyester fabric shrink?

Polyester blend fabrics like poly-cotton can shrink in the wash due to the presence of natural fibers. ie when polyester fibers are blended with other natural and manmade fibers which shrink, the final blended fabric will show a propensity to shrink. Cotton-polyester, linen-polyester, polyester-rayon are all shrinkable fabrics, because the natural fibers in these fabrics will shrink. 

If you do not pre-wash these fabrics before sewing them into clothes, they will shrink on you. How much they will shrink depends on the other fibers present in the blended fabric.

fabric care lable of a polyester -cooton blend fabric

The fabric care label on a polycotton fabric shows how the garment should be cared for to maintain it without shrinkage or color loss.

fabric care label fr washing of polycotton

This symbol above means – Machine wash in maximum temperature of 30ºC with minimal agitation.

fabric care label for polycotton

This symbols means Do not tumble dry.

fabric care label -ironing

This symbol of an iron with one dot means iron only at a low heat maximum temperature of 100ºC (230F). 

fabric care label

This means Do not bleach.

100% Polyester vs Other fabrics – in shrinkage 

I buy a dress in cotton and I love it – it is everything I want in a dress and fits me to a ‘T’ – great. But after the first wash, I begin to wish I was thinner or that I had bought a bigger, looser size. The dress has gone one size smaller in the wash! This would be the case if the fabric of the dress was linen, wool or silk. But if it was a polyester one, I needn’t have despaired.

Polyester clothes do not generally shrink in the wash; at least if you treat it as it should be – that is, wash it in cold water.

There are many things to love about polyester. It is so easy to maintain clothes made of polyester. If I hang the polyester shirt as soon as it is washed, no need to even iron it. That makes me a convert as I dislike ironing.

And no color bleeding or fading; Nor does it tear easily; not to mention – non-attackable by insects and molds.

And then there comes the question of shrinkage! No, it doesnot shrink. Which can be an plus or minus according to what you are looking for.

What temperature is preferred for washing polyester?

Cold water wash is preferred but if you want to wash in a more warmer water, a wash temperature of 40°C is preferred for polyester fabrics. Low temperatures should be used for softer polyesters (the kind that looks like silk or rayon). If your machine has a permanent press setting this is ideal for pleated polyester garments. In LG washing machiines the name for the setting for polyester fabric is ‘Easy Care’.

Polyester microfiber clothing are always washed in cold water and with a gentle cycle. If you have polyester fleece blankets or clothing look for a setting called ‘fuzzy’. 

How to shrink polyester?

There are some circumstances when you want the polyester fabric to shrink – like you have a dress which you like but it is a little big and you wish that it will be a size smaller to fit you rather than making any complicated sewing alterations on it ; or you have a piece of fabric that you want to shrink to fit your pattern.

It is difficult for the fabric to shrink but you can try.

If you want to shrink polyester, you have to apply heat. By bringing the fabric into contact with hot water you may be able to shrink the fibers of polyester to a degree. 

Use hot water setting (highest) in your washing machine with the longest wash cycle. You can then use the heat setting in the dryer to further shrink the fabric. There is no guarantee that the heat will not deform the fabric, or make the fabric look worse though. A pressing with a moderately hot iron (not too hot and also use pressing cloth) can follow this for greater shrinkage

(Do not try this with smooth faced polyester fabric clothing, like a polyester satin. You may destroy the soft feel of the fabric).

Risks in trying to actively shrink polyester fabric.

Please be aware that with high heat Polyester will shrink but then it melts; it melts in high heat. It could melt if you accidentally set your iron heat a little higher. If you leave the polyester garment in the dryer a little longer than necessary, the wrinkles will set almost permanently.

Related posts 

How to shrink fabrics and clothes- 6 methods 

How not to shrink Polyester?

This is the opposite of the first question. Tips to clean/ wash polyester so that it doesnot shrink?

Basically you just have to wash polyester fabrics or clothes in cold water, that is all. Wash Polyester in normal cycle in the washing machine or by hand in cold water or mild warm water with mild detergent ; inside out

How to wash polyester so that you do not shrink it?

polyester care label - wash and dry inside out; do not bleach

Read the care label on your polyester garment care label and follow. For more details on fabric laundry care labels, checkout the post on the different washing care labels. Some of the most important wash care labels are as follows ; your polyester garment should be checked for this label and cared for accordingly.

fabric care symbols for washing and drying and ironing for polyester fabric will be given on the fabric care label of all polyester garments

Check out the post on washing clothes in the washing machine for some more tips on washing

Dry as normal. If you can skip the dryer altogether, well and good; just hang to dry. The fabric dries fast enough, without all the wrinkles after being cooped up in the dryer.

Heat can cause shrinkage and hardness to this fabric as well as color fading. Anyways why should you use heat on polyester when cold water washing does a good job?

The best way to reduce the size of a garment is to alter it – if you have a dress or a blouse that you want to take down a size, make darts at the right places or add a tuck or two. 

Related posts: Properties of polyester fabric; How to not shrink fabrics and clothes.  ; Safety of polyester as a dressmaking fabric 

Updated on November 5, 2022 by Sarina Tariq

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