How to Shrink Polyester

Polyester fiber is not easy to shrink and may require several treatments through heat to get this material shrunk to size. Albeit tedious, it is possible to shrink polyester, even if not to a great extent.
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Two methods to shrink polyester
Did You Know?
Polyester fabric requires temperatures ranging between 155 - 178°F (68 - 81°C) to shrink.

Polyester, being a resilient synthetic fiber, does not shrink as easily as other fabrics such as cotton or wool do. Although it is hard to shrink fabric of this material, it is not entirely impossible. For those who wish to reuse or upcycle their not-so-used polyester clothes, or wish to get one of their newly bought garments to fit better, the idea of shrinking the fabric may seem more appealing. It is definitely better than approaching a tailor, who may ruin the entire shape and fitting of the garment. This Buzzle article discusses two methods that can be used for effectively shrinking polyester fiber.

Shrinking Polyester in the Dryer
Downside
Do not repeat the process all too often, as this may cause the garment to lose its color, newness, and durability.
  • The first step requires that you check all pockets for coins, clips, money, etc., so that they do not get lodged in the dryer. Thereafter, turn the polyester garment inside out, so as to protect its outer color and rubber prints, if any.
  • Too much of heat may cause the garment to bleed color and make it look dull and timeworn. Therefore, ensure that you do not wash potential color-bleeding polyester clothing together. If you plan on shrinking more than one piece of clothing, consider washing similar-colored polyester clothing in one batch.
  • Unless you wish to wash and clean the polyester garment as well, you need not use detergent.
  • Depending on the heat setting available on your washing machine, select the one that provides maximum heat. Additionally, choose the longest wash cycle so as to make the garment soak in hot water for as long as possible. This way, the heat will penetrate the polymer of the fabric and cause it to shrink gradually.
  • Avoid washing polyester in boiling hot water, as such extreme heat may cause the fabric to become rough, stiff, and lose some of its original shape and design. Restrict the heat setting to 178°F (81°C) and not more.
  • Once the wash cycle is complete, wait till the garment is safe enough to handle manually. Thereafter, immediately transfer the polyester garment into a dryer. Heat has a major role to play here as well, and thus, you must once again select the hottest setting and longest cycle for drying the polyester garment.
  • Once the drying cycle is complete, allow the garment to cool down to room temperature. After this, you should try out the garment to check whether any shrinking has taken place or not. If the garment requires further shrinking, you may need to make the polyester garment go through the whole process of heat wash and drying a few more times, until you achieve the desired results.

Shrinking Polyester Using an Electric Iron
Downside
The downside of using an electric iron is that you run the risk of irreparably damaging your polyester garment. More importantly, using an iron over a damp cloth is not exactly recommended for safety reasons.
  • Although the dryer method is most effective in shrinking polyester clothes, sometimes low heat from an iron can accomplish the task as well. Thus, this step must be taken in case the garment failed to shrink adequately in the washer and dryer.
  • However, for this method to work, the fabric must not be dried in the dryer. All you need to do is place the wet garment on the ironing board, and place a protective cotton cloth over it to prevent the polyester from hardening beneath due to the heat coming from the iron.
  • Set the temperature of the iron at low to medium heat so that you do not accidentally end up burning the garment.
  • You will need to apply more heat and pressure while ironing the garment so that the fabric beneath gradually starts to shrink because of the heat.
  • Keep ironing the garment until most of its water has evaporated. Thereafter, allow the garment to cool to room temperature.
  • Try out the clothing to check if the garment has shrunk adequately.

Thus, by weighing the pros and cons, the washer and dryer method seems to be the most ideal method for shrinking polyester clothing.
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Published: March 18, 2014
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