Will Polyester Shrink In The Dryer? A Detailed Look

If you’ve just bought a new polyester shirt or dress and you’re wondering if you can toss it in the dryer, you’re not alone. Many people have questions about how to properly launder polyester clothing.

The quick answer is: Pure polyester fabric does not shrink when washed and dried with heat. However, some polyester blends may shrink slightly in the dryer due to other fibers in the material.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll take an in-depth look at polyester fabric, why it resists shrinking, how to wash polyester properly, and what to do if your polyester garment shrinks unexpectedly.

What Is Polyester?

Polyester is a synthetic fiber that is commonly used in the textile industry. It is derived from petroleum and is created through a chemical process known as polymerization. The resulting material is then spun into fibers that can be used to create various types of fabrics.

A Synthetic Fiber

Polyester is classified as a synthetic fiber because it is man-made rather than naturally occurring. Unlike natural fibers such as cotton or wool, polyester does not come from plants or animals. Instead, it is produced entirely in a laboratory setting.

Properties of Polyester

Polyester has several unique properties that make it a popular choice for clothing and other textile applications. One of its most notable characteristics is its durability. Polyester fibers are extremely strong and resistant to tearing, making them ideal for garments that need to withstand regular wear and tear.

In addition to its strength, polyester is also known for its ability to retain its shape. Unlike some other fabrics that may stretch or warp over time, polyester maintains its original form even after multiple washes and wears.

This makes it a great choice for clothing that needs to retain its shape and structure.

Another important property of polyester is its resistance to wrinkles. Unlike natural fibers, polyester does not easily crease or wrinkle, which means that garments made from this material require minimal ironing or steaming.

Advantages of Polyester Clothing

Polyester clothing offers several advantages that have contributed to its popularity in the fashion industry. One of the main benefits is its affordability. Polyester is a cost-effective material to produce, making it a more budget-friendly option compared to some other fabrics.

Another advantage of polyester clothing is its versatility. Polyester fibers can be blended with other materials such as cotton or spandex to create fabrics with enhanced properties. For example, a polyester-cotton blend may combine the durability of polyester with the breathability of cotton, resulting in a comfortable and long-lasting fabric.

Furthermore, polyester is known for its quick-drying capabilities. Unlike natural fibers that may take longer to dry, polyester garments can be washed and dried in a shorter amount of time. This makes polyester clothing a convenient choice for individuals who are always on the go or need their clothes to dry quickly.

Does Polyester Shrink?

Polyester is a synthetic fabric that is known for its durability and resistance to shrinking. Unlike natural fibers such as cotton or wool, pure polyester does not have the same tendency to shrink when exposed to heat or moisture.

This makes it a popular choice for clothing and household items that require minimal maintenance.

Pure Polyester Does Not Shrink

One of the reasons why polyester does not shrink is because it is made from long-chain polymers that are chemically inert. This means that the fabric does not have the same ability to contract and expand as natural fibers do.

When polyester fabric is exposed to heat, it does not undergo the same structural changes that cause shrinkage in natural fibers. As a result, you can safely wash and dry polyester garments without worrying about them shrinking.

Polyester Blends May Shrink Slightly

While pure polyester does not shrink, it is important to note that polyester blends may shrink slightly under certain conditions. Polyester blends are fabrics that are made by combining polyester with other fibers, such as cotton or rayon.

These blends may have a small percentage of natural fibers that can potentially shrink when exposed to heat. However, the shrinkage in polyester blends is usually minimal and can be easily managed by following the care instructions on the garment.

To minimize the risk of shrinkage in polyester blends, it is recommended to wash them in cold water and air dry them instead of using a dryer. This will help preserve the integrity of the fabric and prevent any potential shrinkage.

If you do decide to use a dryer, it is best to use a low heat setting and remove the garments promptly once they are dry to prevent any further shrinkage.

How to Wash Polyester Clothing

Polyester is a popular fabric known for its durability and resistance to wrinkles. However, it is important to properly care for your polyester clothing to ensure it stays in good condition. Here are some tips on how to wash polyester clothing:

Read the care label

Before washing your polyester clothing, always check the care label for specific instructions. The care label provides valuable information on the recommended washing temperature, drying method, and any additional precautions to take.

Following the care label instructions will help prevent any damage to your polyester garments.

Wash in cool or warm water

When it comes to washing polyester, it is best to use cool or warm water. Hot water can cause the fabric to shrink or lose its shape. To further protect your polyester clothing, consider using a gentle cycle on your washing machine.

This will help minimize any agitation that could potentially damage the fabric.

Tumble dry on low heat or air dry

When drying polyester clothing, it is recommended to either tumble dry on low heat or air dry. High heat can cause the fabric to shrink or become damaged. If using a dryer, opt for a low heat setting and remove the clothing promptly once it is dry.

Alternatively, you can hang the polyester garments to air dry, which can help retain their shape and prevent any potential shrinking.

Avoid high heat drying and ironing

It is important to avoid exposing polyester clothing to high heat, both during drying and ironing. High heat can cause the fabric to melt or become damaged. If you need to remove any wrinkles from your polyester clothing, consider using a steamer or ironing at a low temperature.

Always use a pressing cloth to protect the fabric and avoid direct contact between the iron and the polyester.

By following these tips, you can keep your polyester clothing looking great for longer. Remember to always check the care label for specific instructions, as different polyester blends may have slightly different care requirements.

What If Your Polyester Shrank?

If you’ve ever found yourself staring at a sweater or a pair of pants that suddenly seemed a bit smaller after a trip through the dryer, you may be wondering if your polyester garment has shrunk. While polyester is known for its durability and resistance to shrinking, there are certain circumstances in which it may still happen.

Let’s take a detailed look at some of the possible reasons behind this unexpected change in size.

It may be a polyester blend

One reason why your polyester garment might have shrunk could be because it is not 100% polyester. Polyester blends, which are fabrics made from a combination of polyester and other materials such as cotton or spandex, can be more prone to shrinkage.

These blends are often used to add stretch or softness to the fabric, but they may not have the same shrink-resistant properties as pure polyester. So, if your garment is a blend, it’s possible that the other fibers in the fabric caused it to shrink.

The material was damaged

Another possibility is that the polyester fabric was damaged in some way, either before or during the laundering process. Polyester is generally a sturdy and resilient material, but it can be weakened by exposure to high heat, harsh chemicals, or rough handling.

If the fabric was already compromised, it may have shrunk when exposed to the heat of the dryer. It’s also worth noting that certain types of polyester, such as microfiber, may be more prone to shrinking than others.

It was improperly laundered

Lastly, improper laundering techniques can also contribute to polyester shrinkage. Polyester is typically safe to machine wash and dry, but it’s important to follow the care instructions on the garment’s label. Using excessively high heat or over-drying the garment in the dryer can lead to shrinkage.

Additionally, if the garment was washed in hot water instead of cold or warm water, it may have experienced some shrinkage as well.

Pro tip: If you want to minimize the chances of your polyester garment shrinking, consider air-drying it instead of using the dryer. This will help preserve its shape and size.

For more information on the care and maintenance of polyester garments, you can visit websites such as The Spruce or Cleanipedia. These resources provide helpful tips and advice to ensure that your polyester clothing stays in great condition for years to come.

How to Stretch Shrunken Polyester

Use steam or spray water

If you’ve accidentally shrunk your polyester garment in the dryer, don’t panic! There are a few methods you can try to stretch it back to its original size. One effective technique is to use steam or spray water on the shrunken area. Polyester is a resilient fabric that can handle heat and moisture.

Hang the garment on a hanger, and gently steam it using a handheld steamer or an iron with a steam function. Alternatively, you can spray water on the shrunken area and then use your hands to stretch the fabric back to its original shape.

The combination of heat and moisture will help relax the fibers, making them more pliable for stretching.

Iron while slightly damp

Another method to stretch shrunken polyester is to iron it while it is slightly damp. Fill a spray bottle with water and lightly mist the shrunken area until it is damp but not soaking wet. Place a thin cloth or towel over the damp area to protect the fabric, and then use a warm iron to gently press and stretch the polyester.

The heat from the iron, combined with the moisture, will help loosen the fibers and allow you to stretch the fabric back to its original size. Remember to keep the iron moving at all times to prevent any damage to the fabric.

Hand stretch while warm

If you prefer a more hands-on approach, you can try hand-stretching the shrunken polyester while it is warm. Fill a sink or basin with warm water, making sure the temperature is comfortable to the touch. Submerge the shrunken garment in the warm water and let it soak for a few minutes.

Remove the garment from the water and gently squeeze out any excess water. While the fabric is still warm and damp, carefully stretch and manipulate it with your hands, focusing on the shrunken areas. Be gentle to avoid damaging the fabric, but use enough force to stretch it back to its original size.

Hang the garment to dry, and it should regain its original shape.

Remember, these methods may not work for all polyester garments, especially if the fabric has been permanently altered due to excessive heat or other factors. It’s always a good idea to check the care label on your garment or consult a professional if you’re unsure.


In summary, pure polyester fabric does not typically shrink when machine washed and dried. However, polyester blends may experience slight shrinking if other fibers are present. To avoid shrinkage, always check garment labels and wash polyester in cool water, then either tumble dry on low or hang dry.

With proper care, your polyester clothing can maintain its shape and last for many wears.

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