Does Knit Fabric Shrink? (And How to Prevent It?)

You just bought the most beautiful sweater, which fits you like a glove. But then you wash it, and it shrinks in two sizes. What gives?

Does knit fabric shrink? The short answer is yes, and the knit fabric can shrink. But there are ways to prevent it.

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Knitting a wool sweater. Credit: canva

In this blog post, we’ll explore why knit fabric shrinks, how to wash them without shrinking it, and what to do if it has already shrunk.

Read on to learn everything you need to know about keeping your knit garments looking their best.

About Knit Fabric

Knit fabric is made up of interlocking loops of yarn or thread. The type of yarn used, the size of the needles, and the way the fabric is knit all affect its properties.

How is It Made?

Knit fabrics are made by knitting two needles together, yarn over, pulling the thread through the first stitch on the left needle, then doing the same thing with the string from the right needle. This process creates a fabric that is stretchy and elastic. Over time, they will shrink in size because of their construction.

What is It Used for?

The fabric is usually used for sweaters, t-shirts, and leggings. It’s also often used for home goods like towels, blankets, and sheets.

It is stretchy and comfortable. It’s also more susceptible to shrinking than other types of fabric.

Does Knit Fabric Shrink?

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Colorful knit fabrics. Credit: canva

Yes. Knit fabrics are made up of interlocking threads of yarn that are susceptible to tension.

When those threads are exposed to heat (like when they’re washed in hot water), they contract, causing the overall garment to shrink. 

Types of Fabric

It all comes down to the type of fiber the fabric is made from.

For example, 100% cotton knit fabrics will almost always shrink when they’re dried, while those made from polyester or acrylic fibers usually won’t.

How much it shrinks depends on the type of fiber it is made from and how it is treated during the manufacturing process.

Which Type of Knit Fabric You Have

So how can you tell which type of knit fabric you have?

The easiest way is to check the care label. Most care labels will list the fabric’s fiber content right at the top.

Once you know what type of fabric you’re dealing with, you can make an informed decision about whether or not it’s safe to put in the dryer. 

Why Does Knit Fabric Shrink? 

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Knitting a coaster. Credit: canva

Different Fabric, Different Shrinkage

Have you ever noticed that some of your clothes seem to shrink more than others?

That’s because different fabrics are made from different types of fibers, and those fibers react differently when exposed to heat and water.

For example, natural fibers like wool and cotton are more likely to shrink than synthetic fibers like polyester and nylon. That’s because natural fibers are made up of long, loosely twisted strands that can unravel and shrink when they’re exposed to heat and water.

On the other hand, synthetic fibers are made up of much shorter strands that are tightly woven together. As a result, they’re less likely to unravel and shrink in the wash.

Poor Quality Fabric

Another factor that can cause shrinkage is poor-quality fabric. If a piece of clothing is made from low-quality materials, it’s more likely to shrink when exposed to heat or water.

This is because low-quality fabrics are often less resistant to damage from these elements. 

Hot Water Can Cause Shrinkage

Hot water can obviously cause shrinkage, so always use cool or warm water instead.

Overloading Washing Machine

Overloading your washing machine can also lead to shrinkage because clothes rubbing against each other in the wash can cause them to break down and break apart.

Drying in High Heat

Even drying your clothes on high heat can cause them to shrink, so always ensure you’re using low or no heat instead. 

Be Careful when Ironing

Use the lowest heat setting possible, so you don’t damage the fibers in your fabric.

How Can You Prevent It? 

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Handwash. Credit: canva

The good news is that there are a few things you can do to keep your knitwear from shrinking: 

Check the Care Label

First and foremost, always check the care label on your clothing before washing it.

The care label will tell you what water temperature to use (usually cool or warm), what cycle to use (usually delicate), and whether or not you should tumble dry on low or no heat.

Following these instructions is the best way to prevent accidental shrinkage. 

Cold Water

The key is to use cold water instead of hot or even lukewarm water. Cold water won’t cause the yarn threads in your knit fabric to contract and shrink.

Handwashing Vs Washing Machine

Handwashing is always best. If you must use a machine, opt for the delicate cycle and use cool water. 

No Dryer

Avoid putting your knit items in the dryer. The heat from the dryer will cause your garment to shrink as well.

Instead, opt for air-drying or laying your garment flat on a drying rack. 

Buy a Size up

If you’re really worried about shrinkage, buy a size up from what you normally wear. This way, even if it shrinks in the wash, it will still fit snugly. 

What To Do If Your Knit Fabric Has Already Shrunk 

All is not lost if you accidentally shrank your favorite sweater in the wash! There are a few things you can do to try and restore your garment back to its original size.

  • One method is to soak your shrunken garment in a hair conditioner for 15 minutes before washing it again in cold water.
  • Another method is to put your garment in a plastic bag and place it in the freezer overnight—the cold temperatures will help loosen the fibers and allow you to stretch your garment back into shape.

Related Topics

Do Cold Water Shrink Clothes?

No. Washing your clothes in cold water can save you money and time in the long run.

Clothes are less likely to shrink or fade, wrinkles will be reduced, and it takes less energy to wash them.

Does 100% Polyester Shrink?

Yes. Polyester is a synthetic fabric that is less likely to shrink than natural fibers like cotton or wool.

But it can still happen if you wash it in hot water or dry it on high heat.

Does Cotton Shrink Every Time You Wash It?

No. Cotton is a natural fiber that will usually shrink the first time you wash it.

After that, it should retain its shape and size unless exposed to high heat or hot water.

What Shrinks Clothes Washer or Dryer?

The clothes dryer is more likely to shrink your clothes than the washing machine.

The high heat from the dryer can cause the fibers in your clothing to contract and break, leading to shrinkage.

What Happens if You Tumble Dry Something that Says Not to?

If you tumble dry something that says not to, it will probably shrink. The high temperature of the dryer may cause your garments’ fibers to shrink and break, resulting in a reduction.

Does Ironing Unshrink Clothes?

Ironing can help to smooth out wrinkles in your clothes, but it will not unshrink them.

What Temperature Makes Clothes Shrink?

Clothes can shrink at any temperature, but the higher the temperature, the more likely it will happen.

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