Will Cotton Fabric Shrink in a Dryer?

Cotton fabric does shrink in the dryer, though certain types of cotton fabric will shrink more than others.

Cotton Garments

Cotton can shrink in the dryer.Cotton can shrink in the dryer.
For instance, 100 percent cotton fabric will shrink more than cotton mixed with synthetic fibers. Also, prewashed cotton fabrics will shrink less than others because they have already been washed and shrunk before you purchased them.

Cotton garments may be 100 percent cotton, meaning that they contain no other types of fibers. These garments are more likely to shrink, stretch and lose their shape during garment care or when you wear them. Garments that contain synthetic materials will be less likely to lose their shape or shrink in these ways than 100 percent cotton. Garments with synthetic fibers can shrink more easily than 100 percent cotton in the dryer when overheated.

Cotton Care

Always follow the instructions on your garment's label. These instructions should ensure that you do not damage your garment and that it lasts longer than it would if it were improperly cared for. Cotton fabric can bleed dyes easily, so similar colors should be washed together. Also, fabric softener should not be used on cotton, as it can coat the natural fibers. Different cottons need to be washed at different temperatures, so follow the label instructions. Cotton can be ironed.

Why Cotton Shrinks in the Dryer

One-hundred percent cotton garments can be subjected to a wide range of temperatures during garment care without much shrinkage, but according to a study performed by Cotton Incorporated, the tumbling action of the dryer may cause them to shrink. If you do not want your 100 percent cotton garments to shrink, wash them as directed by the labels and then place them in the dryer for about five minutes to remove wrinkles. After five minutes, remove the garments and hang them or lay them flat to dry.

If You Want to Shrink Your Cotton

One-hundred percent cotton garments are easy to shrink by accident or intentionally. If your cotton garment is too large and you want to shrink it, wash it on hot and then tumble dry the garment on hot. You may need to repeat this process multiple times to reach your desired shrinkage. When trying to shrink sweaters, wash them in warm water, lay them flat to dry and repeat as necessary.

About the Author

Based in Portland, Ore., Miranda Sinclair has been writing professionally since 2009. She holds a B.A. in English and theater from the University of Oregon, as well as an M.A. in English and certificate in teaching college composition from San Francisco State University. Sinclair works as a tutor and teacher of writing.