Last Updated on November 24, 2023 by Erik Sullivan
Do you find yourself constantly stretching your clothes after running a steam cycle in a steam dryer or washer? If so, you’re not alone.
Many people believe that steaming shrink clothes, but is this actually true? Let’s find the answer to our main question: ‘Does Steaming Shrink Clothes?’
The answer is, yes! Applying high temperature of steam to your fabric for a long time can shrink it.
But, steaming is not only responsible that causes clothes to shrink. There are other factors too.
Shrinking in clothes is most often caused by intense heat, either from washing in hot water or from drying on high heat. This can happen mostly to the natural fibers that haven’t been pre-shrunk and pre washed before fabrication.
Table of Contents
What Factors Are Responsible For Shrinking Clothes?
There are some key factors that are responsible for shrinking clothes.
Type Of Fabric and Their Manufacturing Process
Some natural fibers like- wool and cotton are more likely to shrink than synthetic fibers like- polyester and nylon. Besides that, the manufacturing process of those fabrics is also responsible for clothes shrinking.
For ex. the cells in the outer part of a few wool items have a tendency of getting close and join together by the heat and moisture in the washing machine or dryer, causing shrinkage.
On the flip side, polyester fabrics don’t shrinkage as like the natural fabrics. Because their fibers are so long that does not get enough room to move around.
Washing Clothes in Hot Water Cycle
As I’ve said earlier, some natural fabrics and fibers (cotton, wool, linen) shrink when exposed to higher heat and moisture. So, if you wash your garments in a hot water cycle of a washing machine it will cause the fabric to shrink. Heavy duty washing and fast spin cycle are also responsible for clothes shrinkage.
Using High Temperature in a Steam Dryer Machine
High temperatures from a dryer can distort your fabric by causing shrinkage. Also, selecting a long or wrong drying cycle can cause the fabric to shrink.
Using an Iron Instead of a Clothes Steamer
Using iron is also responsible for clothes shrinking. Because, when you run the iron, it creates direct contact with the fabric to work properly. As a result, the fabric gets more exposure to heat and moisture, resulting shrinking of the clothing.
How to Avoid Clothes Shrinking When Steaming?
Use low heat setting when using a clothes steamer
Use a lower temperature setting for your steamer. If your steamer comes with presets for steaming different types of fabric, make sure to select the most appropriate setting for a particular fabric.
Avoid steaming clothes which are not allowed?
It’s certainly a best practice to follow the care label of the fabric before you steam it with a steamer or put it in a steam drying cycle. Most natural fabrics are more likely to get shrinkage than synthetic fabrics.
Avoid high heat drying cycle
If you want to run a steam cycle in your dryer, avoid high heat setting to prevent shrinking of clothes. Instead, select a gentle cycle for a short period of time. After completing the cycle, remove the fabric as soon as possible to prevent over drying of clothes.
Don’t overstaff your dryer
You should never put too many garments at a time in your dryer. Because, it blocks the warm airflow, and causes overheating. Consequently, your clothes shrink in the dryer.
How to Repair Shrinking Clothes?
It’s really frustrating when your garment shrinks after drying or washing. For some fabrics, it’s reversible. That means they will return to the original size. Here’s a simple but effective method to try:
- Fill a large bucket with 5L of normal water.
- Add 10 ml of downy fabric softener to the water. It can help to loosen the fibers of your clothes and make them more pliable. This will make it easier to stretch them back out to their original size.
- Mix them properly.
- Add your clothes to the mixer and soak them for 5 minutes.
- Remove the fabrics and ring out the water.
- Gently stretch them while they are still wet. Be careful not to rip or tear the fabric.
- Hang them to air dry.
Note: The proportion of water and fabric softener may be changed based on the number of shrunken cloth.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can Steaming Ruin Clothes?
Yes, steaming can ruin clothes if it’s not used properly. The high temperature of the steam can cause fabric to shrink, melt, or discolor. It’s important to use a steamer on the lowest setting that will still get the wrinkles out of your clothing. You should also test the steam on a hidden area of the garment before steaming the entire piece.
Does steaming stretch clothes?
No, steaming does not stretch your clothes. The heat from the steam relaxes the fabric fiber that have bunched together during washing. It also help the fabric to reshape. Just be careful not to over steam them, or the fabric may become too loose and saggy.
What Clothes Should Not Be Steamed?
While most clothes can be safely steamed, there are a few exceptions. You should never steam waxed fabric, suede, and fabric with plastic materials to avoid melting.
Note: Always check the clothes labels for caring/cleaning advice.
Learn also: How To Use A Clothes Steamer
In conclusion, steaming clothes typically does not cause shrinkage, as steam alone does not alter the fabric’s size or structure. Unlike washing with hot water or using a dryer, which can lead to fabric shrinkage due to heat and agitation, steaming gently relaxes fabric fibers without subjecting them to intense heat.
However, certain fabrics, particularly natural fibers like wool or cotton, might experience minimal shrinkage when exposed to high heat during steaming.
To avoid potential shrinkage, it’s advisable to test a small inconspicuous area before steaming and to keep the steamer at a safe distance from the fabric, especially when dealing with delicate or sensitive materials. Employing a cautious approach ensures effective wrinkle removal without risking unwanted changes in clothing size.