Do T-Shirts Shrink? (AVOID Doing This!)

Yes, most t-shirts do shrink with time due to the tension applied during the wash cycle. But this can be avoided by checking the fabric care labels before you put a t-shirt in the washer.

T-shirts are the most fundamental piece of clothing everyone has in their capsule wardrobe collection for work, casual days, or even parties.

Most t-shirts are made from natural fabrics like cotton, linen, wool, silk, or rayon. They are prone to shrinkage in the wash or dryer more easily than other synthetic fabrics.

So, with this article, let’s dive deeper into questions like the kind of fabric that does not shrink, preventive measures, or what to do after the deed is done and you have accidentally shrunk your favorite tee.

Can t-shirts shrink?

t-shirts shrink

Most cotton or cotton blend t-shirts, if not pre-shrunk, tend to shrink in the first wash.

Heat, whether applied during the wash cycle or the drying process, tends to release the tension accumulated during construction and shrinks the fabric to its original size.

Fabric for cotton t-shirts is woven together as opposed to being knitted, so when put through a hot laundry cycle, these woven threads have space and, thus, a scope to shrink. This space is why t-shirts shrink more in the first wash and gradually after every wash.

Natural fabrics like cotton, wool, or linen tend to shrink more when exposed to hot water. 

Thus, there can be multiple reasons why t-shirts shrink depending on the quality of the material, the kind of water you use, the wash cycle, and more.

How to prevent t-shirts from shrinking?

Preventing t-shirts from shrinking might be tricky, but the best way to deal with this question is to invest your time learning more about your clothes. After all, if you want to be the laundry fairy, you have to get this most common laundry mistake off your list.

1. Check for fabric care labels

The simplest way to prevent t-shirts from shrinking is to check the type of fabric before you buy it and right before you throw it in the wash. 

The care tags attached to your clothes give you an idea of how much shrinkage to expect, based on the fabric used, and some garments might even come pre-shrunk.

If you think that your t-shirt is going to shrink, I advise you to go a size up.

2. Water temperature

Most t-shirts are made of cotton or a cotton blend, which tends to shrink due to the tension applied during the wash cycle.

So to limit the shrinkage as much as possible, remember to use cold water in the wash.

The first wash is when the most shrinkage generally happens, so first soak the fabric in cold water to ensure it does not release as much tension as it would.

Look for laundry detergents specifically made for a cold wash. The market is abundant!

3. Washing machine settings

Avoid heavy-duty cycles or fast spins as much as possible as they make the woven threads of cotton or cotton blend t-shirts shrink and come together.

Instead, opt for a delicate wash with gentler spins and slower cycles. Make sure to put your delicate items in a mesh laundry bag for extra protection.

4. Drying techniques

Select the ‘tumble-dry’ or ‘air-dry’ setting to help minimize the damage to your t-shirt. The care tag often mentions the suitable drying option for the same.

However, if you can avoid drying in the machine, let your shirt air dry naturally. Do not keep it in direct sunlight as it will be just as hot as the dryer and fade the color of the tee.

Letting t-shirta air dry is the best way for them to release the tension accumulated in the threads during a tense wash session.

How do you unshrink t-shirts?

There are many ways to unshrink a t-shirt, but I am sharing the only one I believe is most effective in saving your time.

  1. Fill the tub with lukewarm water and about two tablespoons of hair conditioner or baby shampoo before letting your t-shirt sit in it for 30 minutes. 
  2. Remove the garment from the water and wring it out as much as possible. Wring the garment with a towel to absorb any excess water. 
  3. Now lay the t-shirt on top of the towel and stretch it out as much as possible. Take special care around the collars since they generally tend to overstretch.
  4. Make sure to let your shirt air dry naturally, or your work will go down the drain. 

This method is only effective if the t-shirt has shrunk by half size. If it is too small, I advise you to get a new pair.

Final Remarks

T-shirts generally shrink quickly because of their material, which is usually cotton. So it is essential to follow a proper wash care routine to avoid an extra run to the store.

The quality of the material used in t-shirts is also a factor. A pre-shrunk t-shirt does not shrink as much as a regular cotton t-shirt, so buying the alternative might be a good option.

Here’s a quick recap of what we discussed so far:

Do t-shirts shrink? Yes, t-shirts made from natural fabrics shrink more in the first wash, but this could be avoided by following some simple measures. If you suspect a t-shirt will shrink a lot, go a couple of sizes up to be in the safe zone.