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What Shrinks a Fabric--Washing or Drying??

What Shrinks a Fabric--Washing or Drying??

Old 07-09-2012, 11:12 AM
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Default What Shrinks a Fabric--Washing or Drying??

I always thought it was the dryer (a high to medium high heat) that shrunk a garmet/fabric. However, I notice how many people on here mention that when they prewash a fabric, they air dry it. I know the wash process will take care of the bleed problem but what causes (gets out the initial 3 to 5%) shrinkage??

I also read a lot of people use cold water in their wash and that puzzles me as well. How can that cause shrinkage?
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Old 07-09-2012, 11:18 AM
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I think in general the washing gets out the chemicals and the drying shrinks the fabric. Some folks wash all fabrics (regardless of color) in hot water, then hot dryer. I wash fabrics sorted by color and vary the temperature accordingly, but I dry everything at the higher temperature.
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Old 07-09-2012, 11:18 AM
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I've always heard it is heat applied to wet fabric that will cause the most shrinkage. So I wash on warm and dry in the dryer. If I have a small piece or am in a hurry, I will iron the fabric dry.
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Old 07-09-2012, 11:21 AM
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I am a hand dyer and art quilter. I am not familiar with the fabric production process, but I can tell you the the majority of shrinking of cotton occurs in the washer. For some others (flannel or wool) they may shrink more in the dryer. When I decide to make a quilt and dye my cottons, I pre-wash in hot to remove the sizing that is on the fabric. I personally never use any fabric without pre-washing. I have been burned. I air dry the fabric that I dye and press it with an iron when still wet. I believe (maybe I am wrong) that the general amt of shrinkage of cotton fabric depends on the quality of the cotton you buy. If I see a cheap white cotton and I am tempted to buy it, it does tend to shrink more than the better quality cotton. Also, if you dry your fabric in the dryer...DON'T use a fabric sheet in the dryer. It tends to dull your rotary blades more quickly.
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Old 07-09-2012, 11:53 AM
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Both washing and drying can cause shrinkage.

My rule of thumb, and many others ... Abuse it to the utmost ... and know the worse case scenarios before you start sewing.

Yes, you may never intend to wash it in hot water ever again and will give it LOTS of TLC! ........ but there's always that one time that the red quilt, jumps in with your white lingerie .... and if you've done the job, you don't have to panic!!!

RE bleeders ... one hot water wash, does NOT guarantee that the bleed is over with!!
And too, I've discovered many times fabrics that bleed, that I would never have thought as potential candidates.
Similarly, there's been surprises of those that did not.
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Old 07-09-2012, 12:00 PM
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Originally Posted by QuiltE View Post
Both washing and drying can cause shrinkage.

My rule of thumb, and many others ... Abuse it to the utmost ... and know the worse case scenarios before you start sewing.

Yes, you may never intend to wash it in hot water ever again and will give it LOTS of TLC! ........ but there's always that one time that the red quilt, jumps in with your white lingerie .... and if you've done the job, you don't have to panic!!!

RE bleeders ... one hot water wash, does NOT guarantee that the bleed is over with!!
And too, I've discovered many times fabrics that bleed, that I would never have thought as potential candidates.
Similarly, there's been surprises of those that did not.
Well - I try to keep the agitation of fabrics to a minimum - because that's what I think makes them look 'used before their time'

I do the hot water soak (like colors together!!!!!!) - watch the water to see if it is clear or colored - if colored, look for the contributor and give that one additional soaks and rinses.

If a fabric ends up coloring the water after several rinses - I put it aside - WITH A LABEL - telling me that it has bad manners.

then I usually wash in tepid water, and dry until 'done' - my dryer has a 'how dry do you want it' setting

I have a cotton ironing board cover (it was cut skimpy from the manufacturer ) that I put back on the ironing board when it's quite damp.

I have a couple of cushion covers (cotton fabric) that I have to put back on the cushions when they are still damp - or I would never get them back on.

After all this rambling - some cottons shrink when dried.

I am not able to tell 'by looking' how a fabric will perform.

Last edited by bearisgray; 07-09-2012 at 12:04 PM.
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Old 07-09-2012, 12:17 PM
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Both washing and drying can shrink the fabric. The fabric has stuff in it and it is stretched when it is rolled out and onto the bolts. The washing removes the chemicals and releases the tension that the fabric was put under so it resumes it's actual size. The fabric does seem to shrink but it is really returning to size. Heat in the washing or drying can cause it to shrink more.
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Old 07-09-2012, 05:11 PM
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I prewash all my fabrics, warm water auto temp, after I get a quilt done it goes into the washer on normal with Fab. softener, dry on low. I never use fab. softener when prewashing. If quilt or fabrics don't turn out I want to know before I give it away.
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Old 07-10-2012, 07:01 AM
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I read some where many moons ago that it is the heat that shrinks the fabric. It doesn't matter if it is hot water or the dryer. I always use cold water and hot dryer..... less expensive and then I always iron it....
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