If you’ve ever looked at your freshly washed clothes and were unsure if they were safe for the dryer, you’re not the only one.
Most people understand that certain kinds of material react poorly to heat, but don’t know these fabrics by name.
For instance, many clothes these days are made out of polyester, as it’s durable and cheap to produce. But can polyester shrink in the dryer or the washer?
Fortunately, polyester won’t shrink when washed in warm water, so you can machine wash it safely.
It’s also relatively suitable for the dryer, as long as you stick to a normal setting (this doesn’t apply to rugs though).
The issue comes with leaving polyester in the dryer for a while, or soaking polyester clothes in hot water.
Polyester blends that are mixed with other fabrics are more prone to shrinkage compared to pure polyester.
We’ll cover more about washing and drying polyester in this article, including how to care for your polyester clothes and avoid any disasters in the washer or dryer.
Can Pure Polyester Shrink?
It’s hard to shrink pure polyester. You can melt 100% polyester if the temperature is high enough, but the polymer fibers are known for their durability and strength.
They can stand up to tough conditions without shrinking or expanding. Polyester is basically a plastic material. It’s a synthetic textile that consists of lengthy, strong yarns.
The fibers start as a chemical reaction between an acid and an alcohol. They go through a short period as fragile plastic pieces, then are melted to turn into molten plastic, twirling into small threads.
These laboratory-made fibers can resist a lot without being impaired. Polyester can last a very long time, provided that you store it away from high temperatures.
Moderate drying and washing settings shouldn’t harm clothing that is pure, 100% polyester. Despite this, all fabrics can be destroyed, even synthetic ones like polyester.
If you don’t treat your clothes with the right care, you can damage the material. It may be difficult, but exposing polyester to high temperatures can melt the fibers, leading to the material shrinking, melting, or losing its shape.
High heat is detrimental to polyester, but this doesn’t mean your usual ninety-degree summer heat. We mean scorching temperatures achieved by ironing, or soaking polyester in boiling water.
These processes can scorch the material, or make the fibers contract, shrinking the fabric. High temperatures can damage most kinds of textiles. Fabric fibers are stretched and spun into threads before they are interwoven into the fabric.
High temperatures affect this pressure, resulting in the fibers turning into their previous, shorter length.
Compared to natural fabrics, polyester is one of the strongest materials. It may be easy to scorch polyester through ironing, but it is very difficult to have the fabric contract and shrink.
Can Polyester Shrink In The Washer?
Polyester won’t shrink in your washer if the temperature is warm or cool. Washing it in hot water, however, can lead to a small amount of shrinkage.
To prevent any shrinkage from occurring, don’t wash polyester in water exceeding 230°F.
If you want to be on the safe side, set your washer to a cool water setting.
This can also help you save on your hot water bills!
Polyester blends also need to be treated with more care compared to 100% polyester. Always check the care tag on your clothes before you wash them.
This will tell you what fabric the item is made from, as well as the best temperature setting to wash it in.
Tips To Wash Polyester Clothing
Here are some guidelines that can help you wash polyester.
- Turn your clothes inside out before putting them in the washer. This will prevent the garments from snagging on any sharp edges or zippers. This also helps to prevent color fading, protecting the item’s hue in the process.
- Only use cold or moderately warm settings on your washer.
- Set your machine to the permanent press setting. This involves slower spin cycles and less friction between your clothes, avoiding wrinkles.
- Normal laundry detergent is suitable for polyester, but you can choose a gentler one if you prefer.
Will Polyester Shrink In The Dryer?
Polyester shouldn’t shrink if you use a standard dryer setting. As long as your garment’s care tag states that the item is dryer-safe, it’s generally safe to treat polyester with normal dryer settings.
If the dryer has several heat settings, opt for the lowest one. The dryer’s manual should have information about each setting. Make sure that you don’t treat polyester with dryer temperatures exceeding 100°F.
As dryers use movement and heat to dry clothes, high heat temperatures can make the materials fibers contract, shrinking the material.
Some materials can react poorly to lower heat settings, which is why they shouldn’t be placed in the dryer. However, this isn’t the case for pure, 100% polyester.
This fabric will only shrink if the dryer is placed on its maximum heat setting, if the garment goes through several dryer cycles, or if the item is put in the dryer after being cleaned in boiling water.
Standard dryer settings shouldn’t impair your garments. Follow the steps below to ensure your polyester clothes are kept in good condition.
If you want to be on the safe side, try air drying polyester. As long as your conditions aren’t damp, polyester can air dry in between two to four hours.
This can help you save electricity and money in the process. Simply hang it on a drying rack, the shower, or your radiator, and wait for a few hours.
If you would prefer to use the dryer, use the cool dry setting on the machine.
This might be labeled as the tumble dry setting on some appliances. Polyester dries fast, while the cool temperatures won’t damage your clothing.
Most people do one or two laundry loads every week, so it may be simpler to chuck all of your clothes in the dryer without separating them beforehand!
While other fabrics may perish, as long as you use a normal heat setting, your polyester clothing should be fine.
You can prevent static electricity from accumulating by pausing the dryer cycle before it finishes, taking the clothes out when they are slightly damp.
You can use these tips for polyester blends too, but we’ll cover caring for these materials in more detail later.
Tips On Drying Polyester
Here are some recommendations on safely drying polyester.
- Look at the settings in your dryer manual, then ensure that you don’t treat your polyester clothes to temperatures exceeding 100°F.
- If you didn’t turn your clothes inside out before washing them, do so before putting them in the dryer.
- Let the normal or low heat dryer cycle run for most of its duration, then stop a few minutes before it finishes.
- Take the clothes out when they are slightly damp, then hang them up to dry. This will prevent static electricity buildup.
Will Polyester Blends Shrink In The Washer?
Polyester blends are at greater risk of shrinking compared to 100%, pure polyester.
Polyester blends combine polyester fibers with other fabric strands, like spandex, rayon, or cotton. The blends produce materials with useful and significant properties.
These blended fibers have special characteristics. For instance, cotton is prone to shrinking in hot water.
However, when cotton is blended with polyester, polycotton won’t shrink as much as pure cotton.
Here are some examples of polyester blends and tips on washing and drying them.
This fabric is a blend of cotton and polyester, generally either 35% polyester and 65% cotton, or 50% of either material. Like polyester, polycotton dries fast, but it is more breathable than cotton.
Pure cotton tends to shrink a lot when it is first washed, but then keeps its shape afterward. As polyester is made with a lot of polyester fibers, it holds up well to shrinking and wrinkling.
However, unlike pure polyester, polycotton will shrink if it is treated with warm water in the washer or at hot temperatures in the dryer. It’s best to wash polycotton garments in cooler temperatures.
All ratios of polyester to cotton will do better under cool water, as this will prevent the cotton from shrinking in the washer.
Polyester will protect the cotton fibers to some degree, so polycotton won’t shrink as much as pure cotton.
Rayon And Polyester
This is a light, soft fabric that’s used to make underwear, blouses, and dresses. The issue here is that rayon needs to be treated more delicately compared to polyester.
You can protect your clothes made from this blend by either hand washing, or using cold, gentle water cycles in the washer.
Never place polyester-rayon clothes in the dryer. Only air dry these items.
You can hang them up in your shower and let them drip dry, or place them flat on a towel to prevent fabric stretching.
Spandex And Polyester
This blend is stretchy and comfortable, which is why bras, athletic clothes, and yoga pants are made from this material.
However, these pieces can often lose their shape after washing.
You can avoid harming your polyester-spandex garments by washing them with a warm cycle, then treating them with a cold rinse.
You can then put the clothes in the dryer on lower heat.
Make sure that you take the clothing out before the dryer cycle ends, or use a dryer sheet, as this material is prone to static build-up.
The greater amount of spandex in your material, the more care you should take with the clothing.
For instance, if you have an item that reads ‘89% cotton, 11% spandex, it should be fine in a warm wash cycle and a low heat dryer setting.
However, if you have an item made from 20% spandex, it’s best to wash it with cold water and leave it to air dry.
The Bottom Line
Now you know some of the best tips to care for your polyester clothes!
Polyester garments can usually withstand regular washing and drying cycles, just be sure to avoid treating them with high temperatures.
Remember that polyblends will require more care compared to 100% polyester, so always check your garment’s tag before laundering.