Will 98% Cotton 2% Spandex Shrink? Everything You Need To Know

Spandex is a stretchy synthetic fabric that is commonly blended with cotton to create a fabric with a slight stretch. But what happens when you wash cotton spandex clothes? Will they shrink? In this comprehensive article, we’ll examine how cotton spandex reacts to washing and drying, and provide tips for caring for this versatile fabric blend.

If you’re short on time, here’s the quick answer: Yes, 98% cotton 2% spandex can shrink if washed and dried improperly at high temperatures. To prevent shrinkage, wash in cold water and air dry or tumble dry on low heat.

How Cotton Spandex Shrinks

Understanding how cotton spandex shrinks can help you properly care for your garments and prevent any unwanted surprises after washing. Here are a few key factors that contribute to the shrinkage of cotton spandex fabrics:

Heat Causes Fibers to Tighten

When cotton spandex is exposed to heat, the fibers in the fabric tend to tighten, leading to shrinkage. This is why it is important to avoid high heat settings when washing or drying your cotton spandex garments.

High temperatures can cause the spandex fibers to contract, resulting in a smaller overall size of the fabric.

It is recommended to wash cotton spandex in cool or lukewarm water to minimize the risk of shrinkage. Additionally, air drying or using a low heat setting on your dryer can help preserve the original size and shape of your garments.

Agitation Can Distort Knit Fabrics

Another factor that can contribute to the shrinkage of cotton spandex is excessive agitation during the washing process. Knit fabrics, such as cotton spandex, are more prone to distortion and shrinkage when subjected to vigorous movements.

To minimize the risk of shrinkage, it is advisable to wash your cotton spandex garments on a gentle cycle. This will help protect the fabric and prevent excessive stretching or shrinking. If you prefer to wash by hand, avoid wringing or twisting the fabric too forcefully.

Detergent Buildup Can Make Clothes Shrink

Using too much detergent or not rinsing it thoroughly can lead to detergent buildup in the fabric, which can cause shrinkage over time. The residual detergent can alter the structure of the fibers and make them more prone to shrinking.

To prevent this, make sure to follow the recommended amount of detergent for each load of laundry and rinse your cotton spandex garments thoroughly. This will help remove any excess detergent and minimize the risk of shrinkage.

By understanding how heat, agitation, and detergent buildup can affect the shrinkage of cotton spandex, you can take the necessary precautions to preserve the size and shape of your garments. Remember to always check the care instructions on your clothing labels and handle your cotton spandex items with care.

Tips to Prevent Shrinking

Wash in Cold Water

When it comes to preventing shrinkage, the temperature of the water you use for washing plays a crucial role. To keep your 98% cotton 2% spandex clothing from shrinking, it is recommended to wash them in cold water. Hot water can cause the fabric to shrink and lose its shape.

Cold water, on the other hand, helps preserve the integrity of the fabric and prevent unwanted shrinkage. So, next time you do your laundry, make sure to adjust the settings to cold water.

Limit Agitation

Agitation during the washing process can also contribute to shrinkage. The more you agitate the clothing, the more likely it is to shrink. To minimize agitation, use the gentle or delicate cycle on your washing machine instead of the regular or heavy-duty cycle.

This will help protect the fabric and prevent excessive shrinkage. Additionally, avoid overcrowding the washing machine to allow the clothes to move freely and reduce friction.

Air Dry or Tumble Dry on Low

Drying your 98% cotton 2% spandex garments properly is just as important as washing them correctly. Air drying is the safest method to prevent shrinkage as it eliminates the risk of heat damage. Lay your clothes flat on a clean surface or hang them on a drying rack to let them air dry naturally.

If you prefer to use a dryer, make sure to set it on a low heat or delicate cycle. High heat can cause the fabric to shrink, so it’s best to err on the side of caution.

Use a Gentle Detergent

The type of detergent you use can also impact the shrinkage of your clothing. Opt for a gentle detergent specifically designed for delicate fabrics. These detergents are milder and less likely to cause shrinkage.

Avoid using harsh chemicals or bleach, as they can weaken the fabric and lead to shrinkage. Be sure to read the labels on your detergent to ensure it is suitable for your 98% cotton 2% spandex clothing.

Pre-wash Before Sewing

If you are working with 98% cotton 2% spandex fabric for sewing projects, it is essential to pre-wash the fabric before cutting and stitching. This step helps eliminate any residual shrinkage that may occur during the first wash. By pre-washing the fabric, you can ensure that your final product will maintain its size and shape even after subsequent washes.

Remember to follow the care instructions provided by the fabric manufacturer to avoid any unwanted surprises.

How to Un-shrink Cotton Spandex

If you’ve accidentally shrunk your favorite cotton spandex garment, don’t worry! There are a few methods you can try to un-shrink it and restore it to its original size. Here are some effective techniques to help you salvage your clothing:

1. Wash Again in Cool Water

One method to try is to wash the shrunken cotton spandex item again, but this time in cool water. Fill a basin or sink with cool water and a gentle detergent. Gently agitate the garment in the water for a few minutes, then let it soak for about 30 minutes.

After soaking, remove the garment from the water and gently squeeze out the excess water. Lay it flat on a towel and carefully stretch it back to its original shape. Allow it to air dry completely before wearing.

It’s important to note that this method may not work for all fabrics or in all cases. If the garment has shrunk significantly or is made of a delicate fabric, it may be best to try a different method.

2. Use a Dry Cleaner

If washing the garment again doesn’t work, another option is to take it to a professional dry cleaner. Dry cleaners have specialized equipment and techniques that can help relax and restore the fabric.

Be sure to communicate the issue to the dry cleaner and ask if they have experience with un-shrinking garments. It’s also a good idea to get a cost estimate before proceeding with this method.

3. Stretch the Fabric as It Dries

One technique that can help reshape shrunken cotton spandex is to stretch the fabric as it dries. After washing the garment, lay it flat on a clean towel. Gently pull and stretch the fabric in all directions to help loosen it up. You can also use your hands to smooth out any wrinkles or creases.

As the garment dries, the stretching will help it regain its original shape.

Remember, not all fabrics will respond well to stretching, so it’s important to proceed with caution. Delicate or loosely woven fabrics may tear or become damaged if stretched too forcefully. Use your judgment and be gentle with the fabric.

These methods can be effective in un-shrinking cotton spandex, but it’s important to keep in mind that results may vary depending on the fabric, the extent of the shrinkage, and other factors. If you’re unsure or hesitant, it’s always a good idea to consult with a professional or seek advice from a reputable source.


Cotton spandex is a versatile fabric blend that combines cotton’s breathability with spandex’s stretch. But the spandex fibers can cause the fabric to shrink if washed and dried improperly. To keep your cotton spandex clothes fitting their best, be sure to wash in cold water, limit agitation, and line dry or tumble dry on low heat.

With proper care, you can enjoy cotton spandex garments that retain their shape and fit wash after wash.

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