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Do tumble dryers shrink clothes? How to not shrink your clothes in the dryer

Is your tumble dryer shrinking your clothes? Avoid your clothes shrinking in the dryer ever again, with our tips.

Updated By Wiki Tips English Team

Mixed coloured clothes in a basket in front of a tumble dryer

We all want our favourite items to fit well and last a long time, so when our clothes shrink in the dryer, it can be a bit of nightmare. We’ve put together our top tips for how to not shrink clothes in the tumble dryer and make them last as long as possible.

Why do clothes shrink in the dryer?

If your tumble dryer's shrinking clothes, it's probably for one of two reasons:

  1. Most textiles and fabrics shrink when exposed to high heat, and tumble dryers use heat to remove moisture and dry your clothes.

  2. The other way tumble dryers work to dry your clothes is to rotate them. The tossing motion can cause fibres to constrict, thus shrinking your clothes.

Does cotton shrink in the dryer, and is it safe to tumble dry synthetics?

As a general rule, the fabrics you should avoid tumble drying are delicate materials like cashmere, lace and silk. It's also a good idea to be cautious with items that are made with all-natural fibres like wool, and materials like suede that you would avoid getting wet in the first place. Cotton, linen and denim are hardier natural fabrics that will fare better in the dryer.

Does polyester shrink in the dryer? Usually not — synthetics like polyester, nylon and acrylic are generally safe to tumble dry, although at high heat they will also be in danger of shrinking.

But whatever items you're drying, it's always better to be safe than sorry. Check out our tips below to keep your favourite garments in good shape.

Sort your washing according to drying method when you empty the washing machine, to avoid your tumble dryer shrinking clothes that are best left to air-dry.

How to prevent clothes shrinking in the dryer

Does polyester shrink in the dryer? Do tumble dryers shrink clothes on a low heat? Clothes care can be confusing but we'll keep it simple: here are our best tips on how not to shrink clothes in the dryer:

  1. Always check the care label first.

    Some fabrics should never be dried in a tumble dryer. Check the care label to see if your clothing is suitable for the dryer before you pop it in.

  2. Use a cold water setting on your washing machine

    30ºC will be fine, so that the clothing is not hot when you put it in the dryer.

  3. Always dry your clothes on the lowest heat setting.

    Exposure to high heat will only increase the chances of shrinking clothing items.

  4. Avoid long cycles.

    These add to the time your clothing will be going through the tumble motion.

  5. Always try to only dry your clothing on one cycle.

    Using the tumble dryer more than once will irritate the fibres more.

  6. Always empty your tumble dryer as soon as the cycle is finished.

    Then, hang or fold your clothes to help them stay in shape.

How to make clothes smell good in dryer cycles

To stop your tumble dryer shrinking your clothes, a gentler, colder wash is the best approach. If you are concerned that this might make your clothes smell damp, don't worry: there are lots of ways to keep your clothes smelling fresh. These include:

  1. Treating your clothes to a scented fabric conditioner during the wash cycle.

    Comfort Deluxe fabric conditioners are scientifically developed with long-lasting fragrances to keep your clothes smelling gorgeous.

  2. Removing your clothes from the washing machine as soon as the cycle finishes.

    Then, immediately moving them to the dryer.

  3. Adding dryer sheets to the drying cycle along with your clothes.

    Dryer sheets also help to reduce static and creasing.

  4. Always ensuring that your clothes are fully dry after a drying cycle.

    Never put damp clothes back into your wardrobe.

  5. Cleaning the lint tray after every cycle.

    It's also important to empty the water drawer regularly.

  6. Regularly cleaning your tumble dryer.

    This will avoid any damp or mildew odours being put into your clothes as they dry.

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Now we’ve answered all your top tumble dryer questions, such as “do tumble dryers shrink clothes?”, and how to avoid shrinking clothes in dryers, you're fully equipped with how to use tumble dryers the right way for clothes which fit perfectly every time!

Originally published