Does Washing At 60 Shrink Clothes?

The short answer is yes, washing some clothes at 60 degrees C can shrink them. But it’s not all clothes, only clothes made from certain materials. Keep reading for the full story.

Many people are worried that washing their clothes at lower temperatures can fail to remove bacteria. But, having heard that some higher temperatures cause clothes to shrink they’re unsure what to do. 

In this article we look into the effects that washing clothes at 60 degrees C has on your clothes and whether it will cause them to shrink.

Does Washing Clothes At 60 C Shrink Them?

It all depends on the material that the clothes are made from. If you’re washing man made synthetic materials like polyester or nylon, 60 C will be fine. The clothes will get washed clean and are unlikely to shrink.

However, clothes made from natural fibres like wool, cashmere, linen and cotton are very likely to shrink at 60 degrees C.

Why Do Natural Fibres Shrink At 60 C?

Clothes made from natural fibres shrink because of the way they are made. The fibres are stretched to form wool and yarns before they’re made into clothes.

Which means the fibres are under tension and as soon as they become wet the fibres relax and shrink in water. The hotter the water the more likely they are to shrink.

Having said that, because of the way the material is made, these natural fibres can shrink even at low temperatures. Wool for example can shrink in cold water if it is roughed up enough. 

Which is why when washing woollen clothing you should always select the wool, delicates or gentle wash cycle. 

Cotton can shrink at any temperature if it hasn’t been preshrunk first but will often be OK after that initial wash as long as the water temperature is kept low.

What About Synthetic Materials?

Man-made synthetic materials don’t get stretched when made into fabric so no matter how hot the water becomes or how rough the material gets treated, it does not shrink. 

This means you can wash clothes made from synthetic materials at 60 degrees C without any worry of them shrinking.


What Should Be Washed At 60 C?

Washing fabrics at 60 degrees will remove bacteria which is why it’s a good idea to wash bed linen, towels and underwear in a 60 degree wash.

Even though the majority of these items are made from natural fibres, they have usually been preshrunk which lowers the risk of them shrinking at 60 C. 

However, not all bacteria is destroyed at 60 C which is why you should always use a decent laundry detergent. Good quality laundry detergents are designed to remove dirt, germs and bacteria even at lower temperatures.

In fact, there are certain stains that get sealed into the material if washed in water that is too hot. Blood for example is more likely to be removed in a wash at 30 or 40 degrees C than 60. 

What Should Not Be Washed At 60 C?

We’ve already mentioned clothes made from natural materials including;

  • Wool
  • Silk
  • Cotton
  • Linen

As well as clothes stained with blood, but there’s a large group of clothes that should not be washed at high temperatures like 60 degrees C.

We’re talking about clothes that are likely to bleed dye. There are certain colours that when washed are likely to bleed their colour. This is more likely at high temperatures like 60 degrees C.

We would recommend washing natural fibres and clothes likely to bleed colour at the lowest possible temperature you can.

The Best Ways To Prevent Your Clothes From Shrinking In The Washing Machine

As we have seen it’s clothes made from natural fibres that are likely to shrink if washed at the wrong temperature. We would never advise you to wash any clothes made from natural fibres at 60 degrees C unless you specifically want to shrink them.

There are a few ways to help prevent your woollen and cotton clothes from shrinking in the washing machine.

  • Always follow the advice given on the care label.
  • Always wash cotton and wool at cold or cool temperatures.
  • Always use the gentle/delicate/hand wash setting on your washing machine (especially for woollen items).
  • Always wash garments inside out.
  • Always use the best detergent for the materials being washed.
  • Always air dry your clothes.

Remember that woollen clothes are breathable which means they will not necessarily need to be washed after every wear. Any stains can be spot treated.

Some washing machines have a specific wool setting which washes using less agitation. Agitation is one of the main causes of shrinkage in woollen items. If your machine doesn’t have a wool setting you should use the delicate, gentle or hand wash setting.

There are specific detergents designed for woollen garments which are gentler and treat the material in a way less likely to cause shrinkage.

You should never tumble dry any woollen garment as this is a surefire way to get wool to shrink. Instead the garments should be air dried either on a hanger attached to a clothesline or laid flat on an airer.

What Are The Pros & Cons Of Washing Clothes At 60 degrees C?

As with many things in life, washing clothes at 60 degrees C has advantages and disadvantages.

Washing Machine

What Are The Benefits Of Washing Laundry At 60 C?

The benefits of washing laundry at 60 degrees C include;

  • Easy Removal Of Stains
    Many stains will easily disintegrate under a combination of a good quality detergent and high water temperature.
  • The Removal Of Germs & Bacteria
    Many germs and bacteria will be removed with a combination of high water temperature and a decent detergent.

What Are The Disadvantages Of Washing Laundry At 60 C?

There are a few disadvantages to washing clothes in a 60 degree C wash. Which include;

  • Clothes Made From Natural fibres Are Prone To Shrink
    Due to the way natural fibres are stretched to create threads and yarns, they will revert to their original size if subjected to high water temperatures and rough agitation.
  • Dark & Brightly Coloured fabrics are Likely To Run
    Non-fast colours are more likely to run at high temperatures.

If you have any doubts about the material or the colour fastness of your clothes you should not subject them to any high temperatures. We recommend using a cool wash program for these items.

Also, remember it’s not just the water temperature that can affect the fabric, it’s also the amount of agitation the fabric has to endure.

We recommend using a gentle or delicate setting on your washing machine when washing any clothes made from natural fibres.

SEE ALSO: Why Does My Laundry Shrink In The Wash?

Frequently Asked Questions

What temperature wash will shrink clothes?

Any temperature wash can shrink clothes. Certain clothes can even shrink even when washed in cold water. However, most items should be OK at 30 or 40 degrees C. Higher temperatures are more likely to cause clothes made from natural fibres (wool, silk, cotton, linen) to shrink. 60 degrees C will definitely cause natural fibres to shrink.

Is 60 degrees a hot wash?

60 degrees C is a hot wash. 20 degrees C is considered a cool wash, 30 to 40 is considered to be a warm wash and 90 degrees C is a very hot wash.

Will a 60 degree wash shrink bedding?

A 60 degree C wash could cause some bedding to shrink and warp. Bed sheets and pillow cases should be OK if washed at 60 degrees but a mattress topper should be washed at 40 degrees on a short wash.

Should I wash 30 or 60 degrees?

Washing clothes at 30 degrees C is fine for clothes that are not heavily stained. Bedding, underwear and towels as well as heavily stained items should be washed at 60 degrees C.

Will a 60 degree wash shrink polyester?

It is possible for synthetic materials like polyester to shrink at extremely high temperatures. However they should be fine at 60 degrees C.

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