Does a Tumble Dryer Shrink Clothes?

does a tumble dryer shrink clothes?

We’ve all been there: you toss your favourite sweater or brand-new shirt into the tumble dryer, only to have them come out a size smaller. (And it’s not just because of the pizza you enjoyed the night before!) It can be frustrating and disappointing, especially if you’ve invested in high-quality clothing. But does a tumble dryer shrink clothes, really? 

Let’s explore this question and find out the truth.

Understanding Tumble Dryers

Before we delve into the effects of tumble dryers on clothing, let’s first understand how these appliances work. Tumble dryers are designed to remove moisture from fabrics by circulating heated air through the drum. The warm air helps to evaporate the water present in wet clothes, leaving them dry and ready to wear. Sounds simple, right?

Got That Shrinking Feeling?

Now, let’s address the burning question: does a tumble dryer shrink clothes? The answer is both yes and no. While tumble dryers themselves don’t inherently cause shrinkage, using high temperatures on fabrics that can’t take the heat will certainly result in damaged clothing. 

Heat and Its Impact on Clothing

The fact is fabrics such as cotton, wool, and certain synthetic blends are more prone to shrinking when exposed to high temperatures. When these materials are subjected to heat, their fibers contract, resulting in the overall shrinkage of the garment. Therefore, if you frequently dry garments made from these fabrics in a tumble dryer, there is a higher chance of them shrinking over time.

Understanding the Science Behind Shrinkage

To uncover the science behind why clothes shrink in the laundry, we need to explore the fundamental factors at play. Heat, moisture, and agitation all contribute to this phenomenon.

When clothes are exposed to heat, the fibres within the fabric become more flexible and mobile. This increased mobility allows the fabric to contract, leading to shrinkage. Moisture also plays a crucial role. If there is residual water in the fabric, such as after washing, the heat during the drying process causes the water to evaporate. This evaporation generates force, causing the fabric to shrink further.

Agitation, whether in a washing machine or a dryer, can exacerbate shrinkage. The mechanical action disrupts the fabric’s fibres, increasing interlocking and entanglement. When combined with heat and moisture, this can result in more noticeable shrinkage.

It’s important to note that certain fabrics are more prone to shrinkage due to their inherent characteristics. Natural fibres like cotton and wool have a higher affinity for water and are sensitive to heat, making them more susceptible to shrinkage. Although wool has a higher natural moisture content which means it will shrink more than cotton. 

By understanding the scientific principles behind shrinkage and adopting proper laundry practices, you can keep your clothes in great condition and prevent unwanted shrinkage.

The Role of Care Labels

To avoid accidental shrinkage, it is crucial to read and follow the care labels attached to your clothing items. These labels provide valuable information on properly caring for your garments, including guidelines for washing and drying. They often include specific instructions such as “lay flat to dry” or “dry on low heat,” indicating the most suitable methods for drying a particular garment.

Controlling the Heat

Does a tumble dryer shrink clothes on a lower heat setting? If you’re concerned about the potential shrinkage of your clothes in the tumble dryer, there are a few steps you can take to minimise the risk:

  1. Lower Heat Settings: Most tumble dryers offer different heat settings. Opting for a lower heat setting, such as “delicate” or “low heat,” can help reduce the likelihood of shrinkage.
  2. Partial Drying: Instead of fully drying your clothes in the tumble dryer, you can remove them slightly damp and allow them to air dry the rest of the way. This method can be especially useful for delicate fabrics that are more susceptible to shrinkage.
  3. Time Management: Pay attention to the drying time. Over-drying your clothes can lead to increased shrinkage. If you’re uncertain about the appropriate drying time, consult the garment’s care label or refer to the manufacturer’s guidelines.

You can minimise the possibility of clothes shrinking in the tumble dryer if you follow these simple precautions.

Other Considerations

While heat is a significant factor when it comes to garment shrinkage, it’s essential to note that other elements can also affect the outcome. Aggressive tumbling alongisde hard-wearing clothing with zips or buttons, coupled with high temperatures, can lead to fabric damage and wear. This will result in damaged or misshapen clothing. Additionally, repeated exposure to the tumble dryer can weaken more delicate fabric fibres over time, making them more prone to shrinkage and general wear and tear.

Combatting Drying Dilemmas

If you’re looking for a great, reliable dryer, consider this: The DEFY Tumble Dryer 10kg Condenser DTD322 is a reliable and efficient appliance available from Hirsch’s. This tumble dryer offers an impressive range of 15 program settings specifically designed to provide optimal care for your garments. With such a variety of settings, you have the flexibility to customise the drying process to suit different fabrics and clothing items. 

From delicate materials requiring gentle treatment to heavier items needing thorough drying, this smart appliance ensures that your clothes receive the best care possible. With its advanced features and generous capacity, you’re guaranteed efficient and effective drying, preserving the quality of your garments for much longer!

Defy Tumble Dryer 10kg Condensor - DTD322

Defy Tumble Dryer 10kg Condensor – DTD322

Does a Tumble Dryer Shrink Clothes?

In short, yes, it can. However, before you place the blame for your ill-fitting clothes at the door of your poor dryer, remember that it can only do what you tell it to. Therefore, be sure to use the right setting for the right fabric when you are using your trusty tumble dryer. And just be gentle. 

If you’ve been chugging along with an ancient, power-hungry dryer, perhaps it’s time to invest in a new appliance. Remember, today’s dryers are far more energy efficient than their older cousins, and come with some user-friendly features that we know you’ll love. Take a look at our specials and promotions page now.


How hot does a tumble dryer get?

Tumble dryers typically reach temperatures ranging from 125 to 135 degrees Celsius (257 to 275 degrees Fahrenheit) on high heat settings. However, specific models may vary.

Can you fix clothes that have shrunk?

Yes, in some cases, you can restore clothes that have shrunk. Here are a few methods you can try:

  • Soaking in lukewarm water: Fill a basin or sink with lukewarm water and add a small amount of hair conditioner or baby shampoo. Gently submerge the shrunken garment and let it soak for about 30 minutes. Then, carefully stretch the fabric back to its original size while still wet. Rinse with cool water and lay it flat to dry.
  • Using fabric conditioner: Mix a solution of warm water and fabric conditioner. Submerge the shrunken clothing in the solution and let it soak for a few minutes. Remove the garment, squeeze out excess water, and then gently stretch it back to its original size. Rinse with cool water and allow it to air dry.
  • Steam or iron with a damp cloth: Fill a steamer with water or use a steam iron. Hang the shrunken garment on a hanger and steam it thoroughly, or place a damp cloth over the shrunken area and gently iron with low heat. The steam and heat will help relax the fibres and allow you to stretch the fabric back to its original size.

It’s important to note that these methods may not work for all fabrics or extreme cases of shrinkage. Additionally, results may vary, and there is a possibility of further damage. It’s always a good idea to test a small, inconspicuous area of the garment before attempting any of these methods.

How long does a tumble dryer take?

The drying time in a tumble dryer depends on various factors, including the type of fabric, the moisture content of the clothes, and the heat setting used. On average, a tumble dryer cycle can take anywhere from 30 minutes to over an hour. It’s recommended to refer to the manufacturer’s guidelines or the garment’s care label for specific drying time recommendations.

Remember, prevention is key when it comes to avoiding shrinkage. Carefully read and follow the care instructions provided with your clothing, use appropriate heat settings, and consider alternative drying methods when necessary.