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Does 100% Polyester Shrink?

Polyester is a popular, versatile fabric that is used to make everything from clothing to pillowcases, curtains, even toys. It also happens to have a notorious reputation for shrinking easily, which makes a lot of us slightly weary when purchasing any polyester garment. 

Does 100% polyester really shrink in the wash no matter what, or are we doing something wrong? 

Does 100% Polyester Shrink?

100% polyester can shrink in the wash when exposed to high heat. It’s recommended to wash it in either cold or moderately warm water. Nothing above 60 degrees is a good idea. Polyester can also shrink when dried or ironed at high temperatures. 

Perhaps paradoxically, polyester naturally resists shrinkage to a great extent. What it can’t tolerate is high heat, so if you wash it or dry it at a high setting, chances are it will shrink considerably. 

Does 100% Polyester Shrink a Lot?

100% polyester can shrink a lot when exposed to high heat, either in the washer or dryer, or when ironed. When washed at low temperatures, it will not shrink at all. 

Don’t skip buying items made of polyester or unnecessarily size up: as long as you don’t expose them to high heat, they will stay the same size as when you originally bought them. 

What is Polyester?

Polyester is a term generally used for any fabric made of polyester fibers, which are essentially a form of plastic. Most polyester is made of petroleum, but there are some types that are made using plants. 

Polyester is often blended with other fabrics when manufacturing clothing, given its versatility. It is durable and easy to manufacture, and it works well when mixed with other types of fibers. 

How Do You Wash 100% Polyester?

Wash 100% polyester in cool water using a low spin speed and without any fabric softener. Tumble dry it on low, and use a low heat when ironing. 

Before you wash a new polyester item, make sure to check the care label to see if any particular care is required. While the fabric doesn’t require any special treatment in general, some manufacturers may advise otherwise. 

Does 100% Polyester Shrink When Washed?

100% polyester can shrink when washed in hot water. Make sure not to wash it at temperatures above 60 degrees, but ideally, wash it at 30 degrees using a low spin speed. 

Polyester won’t shrink unless exposed to high heat and excessive spinning, so select an appropriate spin speed to protect it. 

Does 100% Polyester Shrink in Cold Water?

No, 100% polyester does not shrink in cold water. If you also tumble dry it on a low heat and spin and don’t iron it, it won’t shrink at all. 

You can safely wash polyester in cold water, as it won’t damage or shrink the material. 

Will 100% Polyester Shrink If Washed in Hot Water?

Yes, 100% polyester will shrink when washed in hot water. Since the material is essentially plastic, it will melt and become rigid when exposed to high heat.

To prevent shrinkage, always select a cold cycle and don’t forget to cut down on the heat when drying polyester too. 

Does 100% Polyester Shrink the First Time You Wash It?

100% polyester items will not shrink when first washed unless you wash them in hot water. Washing them in cold water will ensure they keep their size and shape.

Don’t be hesitant about washing a brand new 100% polyester item out of fear of shrinkage. As long as you don’t wash it in hot water, it will be just fine. 

Does Polyester Stretch After Washing?

Polyester can stretch after washing if you’ve used a fast, heavy-duty cycle. The high spin will stretch the fibers and they may remain in that state after drying. 

Always aim to wash your polyester on a low spin and in cold water. 

Does Polyester Soften After Washing?

Yes, polyester can soften after washing, as long as you don’t wash it in hot water. A mild wash before wearing it for the first time can make the item more comfortable. 

It’s advisable to wash every new item before wear, to remove any of the chemicals used during manufacture. When washing polyester, don’t use any fabric softener, as the material does not need it. 

How Do You Keep Polyester Soft?

To keep polyester soft, wash it in cool water and use a gentle cycle, without any fabric softener. Tumble dry it on a low heat and avoid ironing it. 

You only need to worry about damaging polyester if you launder it on a high heat. Other than that, with a bit of care during washing, it will remain soft for a long time. 

Can 100% Polyester Go in the Dryer?

You can tumble dry polyester, as long as you use a low heat or no heat. Aim to remove the item from the drier while it’s still slightly damp, to avoid static and wrinkles. 

Polyester can shrink in the drier if you use a high heat, so don’t think the worst is over if the item has come out of the wash intact. You can just as easily ruin it in the dryer. 

Ideally, you will let polyester air dry, but if you need it to dry faster, use the lowest possible heat. 

Does 100% Polyester Shrink in the Dryer?

Yes, 100% polyester can shrink in the dryer, if you set it on a high heat. Keep the heat setting low or use a no-heat one when drying polyester.

If at all possible, let your 100% polyester or polyester blends air dry. 

What Happens If You Dry Polyester On High Heat?

If you dry polyester on a high heat, it will shrink. Since it’s made of essentially plastic, the high heat will damage the fibers and the garment will seize up.

To be on the safe side and preserve your polyester items, always dry them on a low heat setting, or let them dry naturally. 

How to Shrink 100% Polyester?

If you want to shrink an item made of 100% polyester, you can soak it in hot water, wash it on a hot cycle, or tumble dry it using hot air. 

If you’ve purchased a polyester garment that’s a bit too loose and large, you may want to shrink it at home. While exposing it to heat in either the washer or the drier will probably do the trick, note that you won’t be able to choose how much the item actually shrinks. 

You can try ironing it too, but again, there is no way to predict how much polyester will shrink, so you may end up with an item you can no longer wear. 

What Shrinks More, Polyester Or Cotton?

In theory, cotton shrinks more than polyester, which should not shrink at all when washed and dried as recommended. You can very easily shrink polyester however if you wash or dry it at too high a heat.

Polyester is often viewed as a very fragile and easily shrinkable material, when it’s in fact quite durable when taken care of as directed. 

How Do You Unshrink Polyester?

You can unshrink polyester by letting it sit in a basin of warm water and a tablespoon of fabric conditioner for 30-45 minutes and then gently pulling it back to the desired size. There is no guarantee this will work though.

While there are several other ways to unshrink clothes, sometimes you’ll just be stuck with the shrunk item and there will be nothing much you can do about it. This is why it’s always best to wash polyester in cool water and dry it on a low-heat setting. 

Does 100% Polyester Run Small?

100% polyester tends to run true to size, depending on the model and brand of course. 

Some believe it’s on the small size if they have shrunk it in the first wash, but in the most general terms, polyester will be true to fit and size and will not shrink unless handled improperly. 

Does Polyester Wrinkle?

100% polyester is usually wrinkle-resistant, but it will depend on the quality of the fibers. Items made with the blending of different fabrics will usually wrinkle more. 

If you don’t like ironing and want items that will minimally crease during the day, polyester can be a very good choice, as long as you don’t expose it to high heat. 

Can Polyester Be Ironed?

Polyester can be ironed, but at a low temperature and preferably inside/out. You can also place a towel between the item and the iron to protect it further. 

If you want to steam your polyester clothing, make sure you don’t do it on a high power and heat, and don’t run the steamer too close to the garment, as it may shrink. 

Is Polyester Stretchy?

Polyester items can be stretchy, but it will depend on the quality and knit of the item. If blended with rayon or lycra, polyester items, particularly sportswear, can be very stretchy. 

Just because a garment is made of polyester does not guarantee it will be stretchy, so test the material out gently to see how far it will stretch. 

Does Polyester Dry Fast?

Polyester dries relatively fast, much faster than cotton and faster than most blended fabrics. You can let it air dry to preserve the material and prevent it from shrinking.

If you want to tumble dry a polyester item, aim to remove it from the drier while it is still slightly damp, to prevent shrinkage. Just let it sit for a while before placing it in your closet, to ensure all the moisture has evaporated. 

Does Polyester Make You Sweat?

Polyester is not a very breathable fabric, so it can make you sweat more than cotton. However, a lot of polyester items are made to be moisture-wicking.

How much you sweat in polyester will depend on the quality of the fabric. Some cheaper and low-quality polyester items can certainly make you feel very sticky, as the moisture you naturally produce has nowhere to escape. 

Wrapping It Up 

While 100% polyester is not likely to shrink, you can very easily wash it in water that is too hot and damage and shrink it. Always check the care label of an item before you wash, dry or iron it for the first time. 


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