Does 60% Cotton 40% Polyester Shrink?

Cotton and polyester blends are popular fabrics for clothing and home textiles. With a mix of natural and synthetic fibers, they offer characteristics like softness, breathability, wrinkle resistance and shape retention.

But one question that often comes up is – does a 60/40 cotton/polyester blend shrink when washed? In this comprehensive guide, we’ll provide a detailed look at how cotton polyester fabrics behave when laundered, and how you can best care for items made with this blend to avoid shrinkage.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: 60% cotton 40% polyester fabric can shrink slightly when washed, especially in hot water and dried using high heat. The cotton content is vulnerable to shrinkage, while the polyester is resistant.

Taking steps like washing in cold water, tumble drying on low and avoiding over-drying can help minimize shrinkage of 60/40 fabric.

The Shrinkage Factors of Cotton vs. Polyester

Cotton shrinks, polyester doesn’t

When it comes to shrinkage, cotton and polyester have different characteristics. Cotton is a natural fiber that has a tendency to shrink when exposed to heat or moisture. On the other hand, polyester is a synthetic fiber that is known for its resistance to shrinkage.

Many people have experienced the frustration of buying a new cotton shirt only to find that it shrinks after the first wash. This is because cotton fibers have the ability to relax and contract when exposed to high temperatures or water.

As a result, a cotton garment can shrink by up to 5% in length and width.

Polyester, on the other hand, is made from strong, resilient fibers that do not have the same propensity to shrink. In fact, polyester garments typically retain their shape and size even after multiple washes.

This is one of the reasons why polyester is often used in athletic wear and other garments that need to maintain their shape.

Cotton shrinks due to relaxation of fibers

The shrinkage of cotton can be attributed to the relaxation of its fibers. When cotton fibers are exposed to heat or moisture, they absorb the water and expand. As the fibers dry, they contract and become shorter, causing the fabric to shrink.

This relaxation of cotton fibers is a natural process that occurs due to the unique structure of the cotton plant. The fibers contain a substance called cellulose, which has a tendency to absorb water. When the cellulose fibers absorb moisture, they swell and become more pliable.

This pliability allows the fibers to contract when dried, resulting in shrinkage of the fabric.

Polyester resists shrinking due to its chemical structure

Unlike cotton, polyester is a synthetic fiber that is made from petrochemicals. It has a different chemical structure that gives it unique properties, including its resistance to shrinkage.

The chemical structure of polyester includes long chains of polymers that are highly resistant to moisture absorption. This means that when polyester fibers are exposed to water or heat, they do not absorb the moisture and therefore do not swell or contract.

As a result, polyester garments tend to maintain their shape and size even after repeated washing.

It is worth noting that while polyester is resistant to shrinking, it can still be affected by high temperatures. Excessive heat can cause the fibers to melt or warp, leading to changes in the shape and size of the fabric.

Therefore, it is important to follow the care instructions provided for polyester garments to prevent any potential damage.

How to Wash 60/40 Fabric to Minimize Shrinkage

When it comes to washing 60% cotton 40% polyester fabric, proper care is essential to minimize shrinkage. Follow these tips to keep your garments in great condition:

Wash in cold or warm water

To prevent excessive shrinking, it is recommended to wash 60/40 fabric in cold or warm water. Hot water can cause the fabric to shrink more than desired. Cold or warm water is gentler on the fibers and helps maintain the garment’s shape.

Avoid high heat drying

High heat drying is a common culprit for shrinking clothes. When drying 60/40 fabric, it’s best to avoid high heat settings. Instead, opt for medium or low heat settings to minimize the risk of shrinkage.

Dry flat or use low heat tumble dry

After washing, consider drying your 60/40 fabric flat to reduce the chances of shrinkage. This method allows the garment to air dry naturally without the added heat of a dryer. If you prefer using a tumble dryer, choose a low heat setting to protect the fabric and minimize shrinkage.

Don’t over-dry the fabric

Over-drying the 60/40 fabric can lead to shrinkage. To prevent this, remove the garment from the dryer as soon as it’s dry or slightly damp. Leaving it in the dryer for an extended period can cause the fabric to shrink.

By following these washing and drying tips, you can help minimize shrinkage and keep your 60/40 fabric garments looking great for longer.

Pre-Treating 60/40 Fabric Before Washing

When it comes to clothing made from a 60% cotton and 40% polyester blend, many people are concerned about potential shrinkage. While cotton is known to shrink when exposed to heat and water, polyester is more resistant to shrinking. So, does 60% cotton 40% polyester shrink?

The answer is, it depends on how you treat the fabric.

Wash before sewing or construction

If you plan on sewing or constructing garments using 60/40 fabric, it is highly recommended to pre-treat the fabric by washing it before starting your project. This will help eliminate any potential shrinkage that may occur during the first wash. By pre-washing the fabric, you can avoid any unpleasant surprises after completing your garment.

Use a shrinkage-control wash cycle

To further minimize shrinkage, consider using a shrinkage-control wash cycle when laundering your 60/40 fabric. Most modern washing machines have this option, which uses lower temperatures and gentler agitation to reduce the risk of shrinkage.

By using this setting, you can help preserve the size and shape of your garments made from 60/40 fabric.

Buy pre-shrunk fabric

If you are particularly concerned about shrinkage, another option is to look for pre-shrunk 60/40 fabric. Pre-shrunk fabric has already undergone a shrinking process during manufacturing, so it is less likely to shrink further when washed.

Many fabric stores carry pre-shrunk options, so be sure to ask if they are available.

While 60% cotton 40% polyester fabric may have the potential to shrink, taking these pre-treatment steps can help minimize any shrinkage that may occur. By pre-washing, using a shrinkage-control wash cycle, or choosing pre-shrunk fabric, you can enjoy the benefits of this fabric blend without worrying about significant shrinkage.

Now you can confidently create and wear garments made from 60/40 fabric without fear of unexpected surprises!

Caring for 60/40 Clothes to Maintain Size

When it comes to caring for your 60% cotton 40% polyester clothes, it’s important to take proper steps to ensure they maintain their size and shape. Here are some tips to help you keep your garments looking great:

Follow garment care label instructions

The first step in caring for your 60/40 clothes is to always check the garment care label. This label provides specific instructions on how to best care for the item. Pay attention to any recommendations for washing temperature, drying method, or special care instructions.

By following these guidelines, you can help prevent shrinkage and maintain the size of your clothes.

Wash similar colors together

When it comes to laundry, sorting your clothes by color is essential. Washing your 60/40 clothes with similar colors helps to prevent color bleeding and ensures that the garments are treated gently. Mixing dark and light colors in the same load can lead to discoloration or fading.

By separating your laundry, you can help preserve the vibrant colors and size of your 60/40 clothes.

Use fabric softener and low agitation

Adding fabric softener to your wash cycle can help prevent shrinkage and keep your 60/40 clothes soft and comfortable. Fabric softener reduces friction between fibers, minimizing the likelihood of shrinkage.

Additionally, using the gentle or delicate cycle on your washing machine can help avoid excessive agitation, which can lead to shrinkage. By using fabric softener and low agitation, you can help maintain the size of your 60/40 clothes.

Fold or hang dry flat

After washing, it’s important to properly dry your 60/40 clothes to prevent shrinkage. Avoid using the dryer, as high heat can cause fabric to shrink. Instead, consider folding your clothes or hanging them flat to air dry. This will help them maintain their shape and size.

If you need to hang your clothes, use a clothes hanger with padded clips to minimize stretching and distortion.

Steam instead of ironing

When it comes to removing wrinkles from your 60/40 clothes, using a steamer is a better option than ironing. Ironing can apply direct heat to the fabric, increasing the risk of shrinkage. Using a steamer allows for gentle and even heat distribution, helping to smooth out wrinkles without causing any damage.

By steaming instead of ironing, you can keep your 60/40 clothes looking neat and avoid any potential size changes.

By following these tips, you can help ensure that your 60% cotton 40% polyester clothes maintain their size and shape. Remember to always check the garment care label for specific instructions and take the necessary precautions to keep your clothes looking great for longer.

60/40 Fabric Shrinkage FAQs

Does 60/40 cotton polyester shrink?

Yes, 60/40 cotton polyester fabric has the potential to shrink. While cotton is generally known to shrink when exposed to heat, polyester has a higher resistance to shrinkage. However, when blended together in a 60/40 ratio, the fabric may still experience some shrinkage.

According to The Spruce Crafts, the shrinkage of 60/40 cotton polyester fabric can be minimized by following proper care instructions. It is recommended to wash the fabric in cold water and air dry it, or tumble dry on low heat if necessary. This will help maintain the fabric’s shape and size.

How much will 60/40 fabric shrink?

The amount of shrinkage in 60/40 fabric can vary depending on several factors, including the quality of the fabric and the care it receives. On average, 60/40 cotton polyester fabric may shrink up to 3-5% after the first wash.

However, it is important to note that further shrinkage is usually minimal after the initial wash.

It is always recommended to check the care label on the garment for specific instructions on how to care for the fabric and minimize shrinkage.

Can you put 60/40 fabric in the dryer?

While it is generally safe to put 60/40 cotton polyester fabric in the dryer, it is important to take precautions to prevent excessive shrinkage. Using a low heat setting or tumble drying on air fluff can help minimize shrinkage.

Additionally, removing the fabric from the dryer while it is still slightly damp and allowing it to air dry the rest of the way can also help maintain its size and shape.

Will 60/40 pants shrink?

Like any other garment made from 60/40 cotton polyester fabric, pants made from this blend have the potential to shrink. However, the amount of shrinkage will depend on various factors such as the fabric quality, care instructions, and washing and drying methods.

To minimize shrinkage, it is recommended to follow the care instructions provided by the manufacturer. Washing the pants in cold water and air drying them or using a low heat setting in the dryer can help maintain their original size and fit.


To conclude, 60% cotton 40% polyester fabric is prone to some shrinkage, particularly from the cotton content when exposed to heat during washing and drying. However, by taking proper care when laundering garments and textiles made with this blend, like using a cold wash cycle, low heat drying and avoiding over-drying, you can minimize fabric shrinkage.

Pre-treating fabric prior to sewing and following garment label instructions can also help maintain the size and shape of 60/40 items over time.

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