Does Pre-Shrunk Cotton Still Shrink?

We love our comfy fabrics. In fact, it’s almost impossible for a wardrobe to not have at least one item made of the comfiest – which is cotton. It’s soft, breathable, and often inexpensive compared to other types of fabric. There’s no doubt that cotton is an extremely popular fabric choice. 

Unfortunately, cotton fabrics have a tendency to shrink. To solve this, some are “pre-shrunk”, which means they have been treated to minimise shrinkage. However, make no mistake, because pre-shrunk cotton can still shrink, though not as much as cotton fabrics that have not received the same treatment

Let’s have a closer look into pre-shrunk cotton, how to prevent it from shrinking, and more in this article!

Will Pre-Shrunk Cotton Still Shrink?

When we’re talking about pre-shrunk cotton, it is essentially the fabrics that go through a specialised process to minimise shrinkage after they’re purchased. During the manufacturing process, the fabrics are “pre-shrunk” to ensure that they maintain their size and shape after washing. 

It’s called pre-shrunk, so you can be 100% sure that the cotton garment won’t shrink anymore once they’re washed and dried, right? Unfortunately, this is wrong. 

Pre-shrunk cotton may still shrink by at least 3%, or more, depending on several factors:


Different kinds of cotton fabric can react differently to washing and drying. For example, thick cotton like jeans may not shrink as much as a thin cotton T-shirt. 

cotton shirt and jeans

The way the cotton is woven also matters. Tight weaves are less likely to shrink compared to loose weaves. 

Also, the length of the cotton fibres is important too. Fabrics made from long cotton fibres are usually more stable and don’t shrink much.


The better the quality of the cotton, the less likely it is to shrink after being pre-shrunk. 

High-quality cotton is often made from long fibres that are tightly woven together, making them strong and less prone to getting smaller when washed.


Heat can make pre-shrunk cotton shrink. Washing or drying cotton with extremely high heat can undo the pre-shrinking done during manufacturing. This means the fabric might get smaller if it’s washed or dried at a high temperature.

90 Degree Wash Cycle

The result? A large-sized shirt being more like a medium after long contact with a hot dryer. 

Frequency Of Washing

Washing cotton clothes often can make them shrink little by little. 

Each time you wash cotton, the fibres are stressed and can break down, leading to a gradual decrease in size. So, even pre-shrunk cotton clothes can shrink over time with many washes.

TIP: To know if an item of clothing is made of “pre-shrunk” cotton, read its care label or look for its description from where you bought it from online. 

How To Prevent Your Cotton Garments From Shrinking

Cotton is pre-shrunk using a variety of methods such as stretching, compressing, compacting, or heating its fibres. In this way, most of the shrinking happens before the fabric is cut and sewn, meaning it won’t shrink as much when you buy and wash it. 

To keep your cotton clothes from shrinking further, it’s crucial to take care of them properly.

Always, and we mean, always, check the care label on your garments. It’s there for a reason and will help you understand how to wash, dry, and remove creases on your clothes. 

Use mild detergent and avoid bleach or other harsh chemicals that can weaken the cotton fibres, making them more likely to shrink.

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Washing in cold water is generally a safe bet because hot water can cause the fibres to contract, which leads to shrinkage. 

When it’s time for drying, air drying or line drying is the best option. If you really want to use a dryer, go for a low-heat setting to prevent the cotton from shrinking.

Avoid washing and drying at high temperatures, and try not to wash your clothes too frequently. Each wash can stress the fibres, potentially causing shrinkage over time. Instead, wash them only when necessary and use gentle cycles to reduce the amount of stress on the fabric.

And finally, stretch your clothes once they’re done in the washer to make them go back to their original shape if you suspect shrinkage. 

How To Intentionally Shrink A Pre-Shrunk Cotton Item

Did you buy the wrong size of clothing? Or just got it as a gift but it’s a bit too big? 

If you have a pre-shrunk cotton item that’s still a bit too big and you want to shrink it intentionally, the best way you can do it is to wash the clothing in hot water and then dry it on a high setting. The heat will cause the fibres to tighten, which reduces the size of the garment. 

WARNING: Before we teach you the simple steps, remember that this method should be used cautiously, as it can lead to uneven shrinkage. Once the item shrinks, it’s unlikely to return to its original size, so it’s important to do the process carefully.

Let’s get started. 

Step 1: Prepare

Check the care label on your cotton item to ensure it is safe to wash in hot water and dry in a hot dryer.

Remove any items from the pockets and close all zippers or buttons (if there are any) to prevent damage during the washing and drying process.

Step 2: Washing In Hot Water

Set your washing machine to its hottest water setting. This is often labelled as “Sanitise”, “Cotton”, or “Heavy Duty”. Check the manual of your machine to choose the best setting. 

If you can manually choose the temperature, use the highest possible setting based on the care label of the garment. Hot washes often start at 60°C. 

Use a regular amount of mild detergent as you would for a normal wash cycle.

Place the cotton item in the washing machine and start the wash cycle.

Allow the cycle to complete fully to ensure the fabric is thoroughly soaked and heated.

SEE ALSO: What Temperature Is Considered A “Hot Wash”?

Step 3: Dry 

Once the wash cycle is finished, immediately transfer the cotton item to the dryer.

Set your dryer to the highest heat setting, often labelled as “High Heat” or “Cotton.”

Start the dryer and let it run until the item is completely dry. The heat and tumbling action will help in shrinking the fabric.

SEE ALSO: What Temperature Should You Dry Clothes With In A Tumble Dryer?

Step 4: Checking For Shrinkage

Remove the item from the dryer and let it cool down for a few minutes.

Try on the item or measure it against a predetermined size to check if it has shrunk to your desired size.

Step 5: Repeat If Necessary

If the item has not shrunk enough, repeat the washing and drying process.

Be cautious with multiple cycles, as each cycle will continue to shrink the fabric, and there is a risk of over-shrinking.

Step 6: Final Inspection

Once the desired size is achieved, inspect the item for any uneven shrinkage or distortion.

If you’re already satisfied with the shrinkage, allow the item to air out and cool down completely before wearing or storing it.

Treat Your Pre-Shrunk Cotton With Care

Buying pre-shrunk cotton is great because it gives you a more accurate idea of how the clothes will fit after you wash them. Who wants to buy a new shirt, only to have it shrink and not fit properly after the first wash? With pre-shrunk cotton, what you see is more likely what you’ll get in terms of size and fit over time.

Although they can still shrink a bit, especially if exposed to heat, pre-shrunk cotton clothes won’t shrink as much as untreated cotton. 

Taking care of your cotton clothes properly, washing in cold water and drying on low heat, can help prevent further shrinkage and keep your clothes in good shape longer.

Do you have questions? Feel free to ask them below!

Frequently Asked Questions

Is pre-shrunk cotton good?

Yes, pre-shrunk cotton is good because it provides a more accurate idea of the size and fit of the garment after washing, reducing the amount of shrinkage experienced compared to untreated cotton.

What is the difference between cotton and preshrunk cotton?

The difference between cotton and pre-shrunk cotton lies in the treatment process. Pre-shrunk cotton has been treated before being made into garments to minimise shrinkage after washing, whereas regular cotton has not undergone this treatment and is more likely to shrink significantly when washed.

Should I size up for a pre-shrunk cotton shirt?

Generally, you should not need to size up for a pre-shrunk cotton shirt because it is designed to shrink less and maintain its size and fit after washing.

What temperature does 100% cotton shrink at?

100% cotton can start to shrink in temperatures as low as 60°C (140°F), with higher temperatures causing more significant shrinkage.

Can you stretch pre-shrunk cotton?

You can stretch pre-shrunk cotton slightly while it is damp to return it to its original shape if it has shrunk after washing, but this may not fully reverse the shrinkage.

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