Does Washing Clothes Shrink Cotton?
Doing laundry at high temperatures can be tempting. But, is 60 too hot to wash clothes?
Laundry products definitely get our clothes smelling and looking clean, but what about the hidden bacteria and grime that we can’t see.
Washing clothes in hot water may seem like a good way to guarantee that your clothes, sheets, and towels are as clean as possible.
But, unfortunately, this can lead to shrinkage and the garment having to be thrown away altogether.
However, that’s not always the case.
The brief answer to the question does washing at 60 shrink clothes is split in two:
Washing natural fabrics like cotton or wool at 60 degrees may cause them to shrink. However, washing man-made, synthetic fabrics such as polyester and nylon will most likely not shrink if washed at 60 degrees.
For a more in-depth answer and to find out what temperature kills bacteria in a washing machine, read on.
Does Washing at 60 Degrees Shrink Clothes?
The very short answer is yes it can.
The slightly longer answer is that usually, only natural fabrics will shrink at 60 degrees.
Now for the long answer.
Thanks to movies and sitcoms, we’re all afraid that our clothes will come out shrunk to child-size, or that our favorite whites will come out pink thanks to a red sock (but that’s a whole different article…)
Thankfully a normal laundry cycle won’t actually shrink our clothes.
When washing at higher temperatures, it’s worth being mindful of the fabrics being used.
Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer that can be applied to all of our clothes and other fabric items.
Washing clothes at 60 degrees won’t shrink every fabric.
It’s much more likely to shrink natural fibers than man-made ones.
This is because, during the manufacturing process, natural fibers are stretched out to create wools and yarns before being made into clothes. This process is why wool shrinks in hot water.
To make artificial fabrics, there’s no stretching required and therefore there isn’t an ‘original state’ to shrink back to.
However, this stretching process means that it’s not unheard of for natural fabrics to shrink even at cold temperatures or the usual 30-40 degree cycles.
It’s also worth being mindful of other factors that can lead to clothes shrinking such as the movement in the washing machine.
This is why some wool garments say ‘hand wash only’ as the agitation of the fibers inside the washing machine and tumble dryer can cause shrinkage.
In this case, woolen and other natural fabrics can actually shrink at cooler temperatures like 30 and 40 degrees.
Tips for Washing Wool and Natural Fabrics
Wash as Little as Possible
Natural and higher quality fabrics, like wool or satin, are much better at staying clean for longer
You can get away with wearing an item a lot longer than a non-breathable plastic fabric such as polyester.
If there’s an obvious stain, try spot-cleaning a fabric before opting to wash the whole garment. Remember to dab on a gentle cleaning product and don’t rub the fibers.
Hang up Outside to Dry – Never Tumble Dry!
Hang up your wool and other natural fabric garments outside to dry so they have the best chance of drying in their original shape.
Wash on Designated Wool or Hand-wash Cycles
Use a gentle setting to ensure the cycle won’t agitate the fibers of the clothes and cause them to shrink even at cool temperatures.
If you don’t have a wool setting then a short, gentle cool cycle will work.
Use Designated Wool Detergent
Wool detergents are extra gentle and have been specifically formulated to care for wool, silk, and other delicate items.
Here are our Clean and Tidy Living recommendations:
Extra tips for Wool Care:
- Wash woollen items inside out so that if fibres rub or bobbling occurs it won’t be visible when the item is being worn. For more tips on clothes bobbling, take a look at our post Why Do Clothes Bobble And How Can It Be Stopped.
- Soak woollen clothes in cold water before a wash cycle. This can neaten and condition the fibres before a wash cycle so they’re less likely to ‘frizz’ and agitate which might cause shrinkage or bobbling.
What Temperature Kills Bacteria in the Washing Machine?
It turns out that increasing temperature doesn’t have much effect on bacteria, with some strains even being resistant to washing at 60 degrees.
If you are going to wash at 60°C make sure you are using a good detergent that will truly rid clothes of bacteria.
Because 60 degrees doesn’t have that much more of an effect on bacteria than a 40-degree wash, you might as well save your money from energy bills and just choose a powerful laundry detergent.
Does Washing at 60 Shrink Clothes – Final Thoughts
So, does washing clothes at 60 shrink them? Sometimes!
And it’s much more likely to shrink them if you’re washing organic fabrics like wool, silk and cotton.
But because these fabrics are stretched to make clothes, they are always in a state of tension and will want to shrink back to their original size.
This means that clothes that are prone to shrinking at 60 or even 90 degrees, may also shrink at cooler cycles of 30 and 40 degrees.
This can be avoided by hand washing our natural garments. If this isn’t a plausible option, using very gentle washing machine cycles to prevent as much movement and agitation as possible is a step in the right direction.
Similarly, washing natural fibers as infrequently as possible also works to stop clothes from shrinking.
Luckily, organic fabrics are much better at staying cleaner for longer and will also stay smelling better.
We hope this post has been helpful in your decision of whether or not to wash clothes at 60 degrees.
To summarise, your synthetic fabrics will probably be fine, but wools, silks, and cotton may shrink.
Related Laundry and Washing Articles:
- Best Smelling Laundry Detergents in the UK
- What Is Cotton Dry And When Should You Use It?
- What Temperature Kills Bacteria In A Washing Machine?
- The Ultimate Guide To The Difference Between Bio And Non-Bio
- What Are Delicates In Laundry: The Expert Guide
- The Best Natural Washing Powder In The UK
- Best Washing Machine Under £300 In The UK Right Now
- Why Do Clothes Bobble And How Can It Be Stopped
- How To Steam Clothes Without A Steamer