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Can I Shrink Polyester in the Washing Machine or Dryer?

Updated February 21, 2017

If you have a polyester garment that is too large, you may want to shrink it. You can shrink it in the washing machine or the dryer. The key to shrinking polyester fabric is to use heat. You do not need to use detergent or fabric softener while shrinking polyester.

Ignore the care label

Garments come with fabric care labels that provide instructions on how to wash and dry them to protect the fabric finish and colour and prevent shrinkage. If you want to deliberately shrink a polyester garment, you will be violating the instructions on the label.

Wash in hot water

Turn the garment inside out and put it in a normal size load. Fill the washing machine with hot water - above 80 degrees C (176 F.) It is the heat that will do the shrinking. However, polyester is a type of plastic, so if the water is too hot, it will melt and make the fabric rigid and unwearable. Keep the water temperature under 100 degrees C (212 F.)

Dry in a hot dryer

Follow the hot wash cycle by immediately drying the garment on a high setting. Polyester fabric can also melt in the dryer, so the temperature of the dryer should not exceed 82.2 degrees C (180 F.) Keep the garment inside out during the dryer cycle to help protect the colour.

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About the Author

Kelly Nuttall is a student at Utah Valley University in Orem, Utah. She is set to graduate in the spring of 2011 with her bachelor's degree in technical communications. She has been writing for various websites since March of 2009.