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Does hot or warm water shrink clothes in the wash?

If you've ever folded a load of freshly washed laundry only to find that some of your favorite clothes have shrunk, you're not alone. The fabric of your clothes will determine if they shrink in hot or warm water, so you’ll want to get familiar with the materials that are prone to shrinkage. While you should always follow the care label of your items, if you have vintage pieces or handmade items that don't have a care label, this overview can help as a general guide. Follow along to learn what clothing material is more likely to shrink in hot or warm water to avoid unwanted surprises.

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What fabrics shrink in warm water?

Typically, fabrics made of natural fibers like wool, linen, cotton or silk are more prone to shrinking when washed in warm or hot water.

1. Washing cotton in hot water

Washing cotton in hot water can cause shrinkage. While cotton fabrics tend to have a maximum shrinkage capacity, heat can cause your cotton items to permanently shrink. Avoid this by using cold water when washing cotton, or alternating between warm and cold washes. 

2. Washing jeans in hot water

Washing jeans in hot water can also cause shrinkage. Help keep jeans in their original state by washing them inside out with a delicate cycle using cold water.

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3. Washing bright clothes in hot water

Whether your bright items will shrink in hot water will largely depend on the type of material. However, washing brights in hot water can cause bleeding or color transfer, so washing in cold water with a short cycle is recommended. 

4. Washing dark clothes in hot water

As with your brights, shrinkage will depend on the type of material. To help avoid fading your darks, washing them in cold water is usually recommended. Use a short washing cycle and a dryer setting with low heat or whichever settings are recommended on the care label. For the most part, as long as your items are not heavily soiled, washing them in cold water is a safer option.

5. Washing white clothes in hot water

When it comes to your white loads, washing them in hot water can help remove stains and reduce dinginess. However, exercise caution when washing white clothing, since fabric can still shrink.

Explore Whirlpool® Washers

Help keep your clothing looking like new and help avoid shrinkage with washer features like Intuitive Touch Controls, specialty cycles and Adaptive Wash Technology with Active Bloom Wash Action. Give your garments proper care with Whirlpool® Washers that make laundry day easy.

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How long does it take for hot water to shrink clothes?

It might be possible for hot water to shrink certain clothing items to their maximum shrinking capacity after just one wash. Besides shrinkage, washing your clothes with hot water can also damage items by permanently causing color fading.

Does a hot dryer shrink clothes?

Generally, high temperatures are more likely to shrink susceptible fabric types. Friction and heat may cause shrinkage, so to help prevent this, use dryer cycles with low temperatures or no heat and delicate tumbler settings if recommended on an item's care label. 

Explore Whirlpool® Dryers

Avoid overdrying that could potentially lead to shrinking with Whirlpool® Dryers that feature Advanced Moisture Sensing, so your cycle ends at just the right time.

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How can I avoid shrinking clothes?

The best way to keep your clothing from shrinking is by following the recommendations on care labels. For fabrics prone to shrinking, this may include using cold water to wash them and avoiding dryer cycles with high temperature settings. To dry your clothing, use a low heat tumble cycle, or hang/line dry.

Discover Whirlpool® Washers & Dryers

From an all-in-one combo that can fit in just about any tiny space or smart washers and dryers that let you keep track of your laundry no matter where you are, Whirlpool brand offers a selection of laundry appliances built to handle all of your family's needs.

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