Polyester is a durable fabric that is difficult but not impossible to shrink. 

Heat is needed in order to shrink polyester, however polyester is not resistant to heat so repeated attempts to shrink your polyester clothing is not recommended. 

Our article describes the 3 best methods for shrinking polyester, and talks about the benefits and drawbacks to using each method. 

Table of Contents

Can You Shrink Polyester?

Shrinking polyester is not impossible, but it can be difficult. Polyester is designed to hold its shape and will not wrinkle, shrink, or decay easily. Garment’s made from a poly blend with less than 50% polyester in it will have a better chance of shrinking. Two of the most common ways to shrink polyester are by using the washing machine and dryer, both on high heat settings.

Do you know how hot a dryer can get?

While using high heat temperatures on the washer and dryer may shrink your polyester clothing, it may also damage them. Polyester is intolerant to heat and using too much heat may end up damaging your polyester clothing.

A clothing item made from a 50/50 polyester blend will be more likely to shrink, and may shrink by using low or medium heat settings on the washer and dryer. Be careful to check the care label on your garment before you attempt to shrink it, as too much heat applied to a 100% polyester item may cause irreparable damage, especially if repeated several times.

this is a pair of polyester gym shorts in can you shrink polyester

What is polyester?

Polyester is a synthetic fiber that is made from petroleum-derived ethylene glycol and purified terephthalic acid. This chemical compound is then boiled down to produce a substance referred to as polyethylene terephthalate. Polyester was first used for fashion applications in the mid 1960’s.

The production technology for polyester has improved since the 1960s, so much so that polyester is often indistinguishable from the fabrics it seeks to mimic. Silk satin and polyester satin are often difficult to tell apart. The same goes for fleece, as the production of polyester has become so advanced that polyester “fleece” is often confused with authentic wool-based fleece.

Polyester is a very inexpensive fiber which is why it is so commonly used by fast fashion brands. Polyester holds its shape well, and doesn’t shrink, wrinkle, or warp very easily. Polyester is often used in the production of clothing items such as shirts, sweaters, blouses, dresses, and sportswear such as basketball shorts and soccer pants.

Polyester is often blended with other fibers, both natural and synthetic, such as cotton, spandex, rayon, and wool.

How much does polyester shrink?

The amount of shrinkage in your polyester clothing will depend on how much polyester it contains. 100% polyester garments will only slightly shrink since polyester is meant to be immune to shrinkage. Polyester blends are more likely to shrink, especially if polyester is mixed with cotton, or wool.

How To Shrink Polyester

Total Time: 2 hr

Cost: $0.53

  • Buy your Tide Pods for $55

Attempting to shrink polyester will yield different results, depending on the percentage of polyester in a garment, and how much heat you are able to use in the washer, dryer, or otherwise.

If you are attempting to shrink 100% polyester you should be aware that this could damage the garment if done repeatedly. The high level of heat needed to shrink polyester garments could actually damage and warp the fabric over time, so try not to shrink your polyester clothing too frequently.

this is a photo of polyester gym shorts in how to shrink polyester

Check the polyester care label

Before beginning the shrinking process, you should check the care label on the garment. If the garment is 100% polyester you will have to use the highest heat settings on both the washer and dryer. If the garment is a polyester blend mixed with cotton, wool, or linen you may be able to use the low or medium heat setting to shrink it.

this is a photo of a polyester care label

1. Put polyester in the wash

Place your polyester garment in the washing machine.

this is a photo of polyester gym shorts in the wash

2. Wash polyester on high

Set your washing machine to the highest temperature setting and to the longest wash cycle

this is a photo of a washing machine set on high

3. Put polyester into dryer

Once the wash cycle is complete, remove your polyester garment and place it into the dryer.

This is a photo of polyester shorts put into the wash to shrink

4. Shake out excess debris

Before you place the garment in the dryer you should first shake it out to make sure there is no excess debris. You should also make sure that the garment is only damp and not soaking wet. If it is soaking wet, place it back into the washing machine and run one more spin cycle to remove the excess water.

this is tall paul shaking out excess debris

5. Dry polyester on high

With the polyester garment now in the dryer, adjust the heat setting to high.

this is a photo of a dryer on high setting to shrink polyester

6. Check polyester periodically

Pause the tumble dryer periodically to make sure you have not over shrunk or damaged the garment. I suggest every 15 minutes.

this is a photo of polyester shorts being checked on periodically in the dryer

7. Remove and store polyester

Once the tumble dry is complete, remove the garment and store it appropriately. 

this is a photo of polyester shorts folded to put away

Use An Iron To Shrink Polyester

Total Time: 15 min

Cost: $0

1. Lay polyester onto ironing board to shrink

Lay your polyester garment flat on an ironing board.

this is a photo of polyester shorts laid on an ironing board to then shrink

2. Dampen polyester with spray bottle

Dampen your polyester garment, either with a spray bottle, washing machine, or under the tap. Make sure the garment is damp, but not soaking wet.

this is a photo of tall paul dampening his polyester shorts to then be shrunken

3. Turn iron on high to shrink polyester

Turn your iron to the highest heat setting to get maximum shrinkage.

this is a photo of an iron set to highest setting

4. Press iron onto damp areas of the polyester

Press the iron down in the areas you wish to shrink. Be careful to not let the polyester shrink with prolonged direct heat from the iron. Repeat until satisfied with the shrinking.

this is a photo of tall paul pushing an iron onto his damp polyester shorts to dampen them

Use Boiling Water To Shrink Polyester

Total Time: 90 min

Cost: $0

1. Fill large pot with 3/4 water for your polyester

Pour water into a clean pot big enough to hold the polyester garment. Fill the pot about 3/4 full with water to submerge the fabric. Be sure to choose an old pot that you don’t want to use for cooking anymore.

this is a photo of a large pot of water being filled to shrink polyester

2. Bring the water to a boil before adding polyester

Set the pot on a burner and turn the stove on high heat. Let the water come to a boil. Once boiling, take the pot off the heat.

this is a photo of the pot of water being brought to a boil to shrink polyester

3. Add the polyester to the water

Put the polyester in the water to soak. Use a spoon or tongs to push any part of the garment that you want to shrink beneath the water. Leave it in the water for at least 5 minutes.

this is a photo of tall paul adding polyester shorts to boiling water to shrink them

4. Carefully remove the polyester from the boiling water

Once completed, carefully remove the polyester from the boiling water and gently wring the dress shirt out to remove excess water. Use a pair of tongs to take the garment out, or simply dump the pot into a clean sink.

this is a photo of tall paul removing polyester shorts with tongs after being shrunk in boiling water

5. Hang dry the polyester garment if shrunk enough

Hang dry the polyester or put the garment into the dryer if you want to further increase shrinkage. Allow the polyester to dry and repeat as necessary until you achieve a satisfactory level of shrinkage. 

this is a photo of polyester shorts hang drying after being shrunk

Can you put 100% polyester in the dryer?

100% Polyester can shrink in the dryer by using the high heat setting. You should first dampen, but not soak, your polyester garment in the washing machine or sink, and then place it in the dryer and use tumble dry high. The high setting on your dryer will reach temperatures of up to 145°F or 75°C which has the ability to shrink your polyester clothing.

Unsure of the different tumble dry meanings? Like tumble dry low & do not tumble dry?

Polyester does not have a great ability to shrink, however by using a high level of heat in the dryer you may be able to achieve some level of shrinkage. A 50/50 polyester blend with wool or cotton will shrink more easily than a 100% polyester fabric.

Make sure you have a full understand how to use your dryer properly & how long a dryer takes before taking any action to shrink polyester.

Caring for your polyester

If you have attempted to shrink your polyester garment by using high heat, then you should not continue to do it frequently. Otherwise, caring for your polyester garment is the same as usual.

If you just want to wash your garment without shrinking it, use cold water in the washer and tumble dry low or the air dry setting while in the dryer. You may also choose to lay your polyester clothing flat to dry, or line dry.

How to shrink polyester: quick tips

1. Do not shrink too often

Shrinking clothing requires heat, and since polyester is intolerant to heat, repeated attempts to shrink may damage your polyester clothing over the long run.

2. Store in a dry place

When storing your polyester clothing you should put it somewhere that is clean and dry to avoid collecting mold, dust, and allergens.

It is best to fold your clothes or hang them, for long-term care.

3. Buy clothing that fits

To avoid frequent attempts at shrinking your polyester clothing try to find something that fits appropriately. Finding clothes with the right size and fit will help you to avoid having to shrink the garment by repeatedly in high heat.

If you are looking for a specific piece of clothing we have dove deep into how to shrink clothes properly.

FAQ

100% polyester can possibly shrink in the washing machine by using the high temperature water setting. Although hot water can shrink polyester clothing, a significant level of shrinkage may not be achieved in most cases since polyester is designed to be resistant to shrinkage.

If your garment is 60/40 or 50/50 polyester blended with cotton or wool, you may have more success shrinking it in the washing machine. If you DO NOT want to shrink your polyester clothing then use cold or room temperature water to wash your polyester garments.

100% polyester does not easily shrink. Although you may be able to slightly shrink your 100% polyester clothing, it is unlikely since polyester is treated during production so that it will not shrink, wrinkle, warp, or lose its shape. Polyester is a highly durable fabric that is meant to withstand plenty of wear and tear.