Does Polyester Shrink in the Dryer?


Why does polyester shrink in the dryer, and how can you prevent (or encourage) it? We have all the information you need to keep your polyester items in top shape.

Picture this: You throw your favorite polyester shirt into the dryer, only to be met with a sinking feeling as you pull out what seems like a child's size version of your once-perfect garment. It's a common laundry mishap, but why does polyester shrink in the dryer? Let's delve into the science behind polyester shrinkage and explore some tips to keep your polyester clothes looking fabulous–and staying their size–for longer.

What is Polyester?

Polyester is a popular synthetic fabric known for its durability, wrinkle-resistance, and ability to retain its shape even after multiple washes. It's made from long chains of polymers, which are essentially large molecules composed of repeating subunits. These polymers are derived from petroleum or plant-based sources, and they are then spun into fibers to create polyester fabric.

Does Polyester Shrink in the Dryer?

Does polyester shrink in the dryer? Most likely the answer is yes. The culprit behind polyester shrinkage lies in the structure of its polymer chains. Unlike natural fibers like cotton, polyester has a high resistance to moisture absorption. When exposed to heat, the polymer chains in polyester can temporarily deform or stretch due to the energy introduced during the drying process.

The polymer chains, however, are not as easily retained in their stretched form as they are in their original state. When the fabric cools down after drying, the polymer chains try to return to their relaxed state, which causes the fabric to shrink slightly.

Polyester Shrinkage Factors

Several factors contribute to the potential shrinkage of polyester in the dryer:

  • Temperature: Higher drying temperatures can increase the chances of polyester shrinkage since the heat provides more energy for the polymer chains to temporarily deform.
  • Fabric Quality: The quality of the polyester fabric also plays a role in shrinkage. Cheaper or lower-quality polyester may be more susceptible to shrinkage than higher-quality versions.
  • Garment Construction: The construction of the garment, such as seams and stitching, can impact how it responds to heat and, subsequently, the extent of shrinkage.

How can you prevent polyester from shrinking?

Will polyester shrink in the dryer? While polyester is prone to shrinkage, there are a few preventative measures you can take to keep it to a minimum.

  • Low Heat or Air Drying: Opt for low heat settings or air drying when tumble drying polyester garments. Lower temperatures reduce the energy available for polymer chain deformation, minimizing shrinkage. You can also use Wool Dryer balls to speed drying time with these settings, reducing the amount of time your clothes stay in the dryer.
  • Remove Promptly: Take your polyester clothes out of the dryer as soon as they are dry. Leaving them in the dryer after the cycle is complete can lead to residual heat, potentially causing shrinkage.
  • Follow Care Labels: Always follow the care instructions on the garment's label. Some polyester blends or delicate fabrics may require special care to prevent shrinkage.

Frequently Asked Questions

Have more burning questions about if polyester will shrink? We’re here to help.

How much will polyester shrink?

The amount that polyester will drink depends on several factors, including the quality of the garment and the amount of heat it is exposed to.

Is it OK to put polyester in the dryer?

Yes! It is generally ok to put polyester in the dryer. If you are looking to prevent shrinking, be sure to follow our tips above. We also recommend checking the garment’s care label before drying in case the manufacturer has any special instructions.

Can you shrink polyester down a size?

If you are looking to purposefully shrink a polyester item, we recommend washing the garment in hot water and then drying the item with a high heat setting. Heat is the main culprit for polyester shrinkage, so if you’re looking to shrink an item, the more heat, the better!

Does 50% cotton and 50% polyester shrink in the dryer?

Does 100 polyester shrink? Absolutely. But what about 50% cotton and 50% polyester? Items from this fabric may still experience shrinking when exposed to heat. Be sure to check the item’s care label for best practices.