The majority of t-shirts are made from either 100% cotton, a cotton blend, 100% polyester, or a polyester blend. 

T-shirts made from 100% cotton or a cotton blend are very prone to shrinkage, since cotton is one of the most shrinkable fibers. 

T-shirts made from 100% polyester or a polyester blend will be much more resistant to shrinking in the wash since polyester is a hard to shrink synthetic fiber. 

In order to wash a t-shirt without shirking it is important that you wash it in cold water and air dry it by hanging or laying flat to dry. Hot water will shrink your t-shirt.

If you use the dryer it is critical that you use the air dry or tumble dry low settings. Do not use tumble dry high as this means that a high temperature will be used, which will then lead to shrinkage. The best thing you can do is learn how to dry your clothes without a dryer.

Continue reading to learn how to wash a t-shirt without shrinking.

Table of Contents

  • Fastest way to wash a t-shirt without shrinking: With your hands
  • Best way to wash a t-shirt without shrinking: With washing machine
How To Wash A T-Shirt Without Shrinking

How To Wash A T-Shirt Without Shrinking

Total Time: 1hr 50 min

Cost: $0

Supplies & Tools

  • Washing machine
  • Mesh laundry bag (optional)
  • Laundry detergent 
this is a photo of a laundry machine to wash a t-shirt without shrinking
Washing machine
this is a photo of a mesh laundry bag to wash a t-shirt without shrinking
Mesh laundry bag
this is a photo of laundry detergent to wash a t-shirt without shrinking
Laundry detergent

If your t-shirts are shrinking in the wash, it’s because you are using the hot water setting on the washing machine, or the tumble dry high setting on the dryer. Some types of fabrics, such as cotton, will shrink if they come into contact with high levels of heat, and using the washing machine or dryer (learn how to use a dryer properly) on the wrong settings has the potential to drastically shrink your shirt.

Follow the steps below to machine wash your t-shirt without shrinking it.

1. Turn the t-shirt inside out

Turn the t-shirt inside out. Optionally, you may place it into a mesh laundry bag.

This is a photo of tall paul turning the t-shirt inside out to wash it without shrinking it

2. Put t-shirt into wash

Put the t-shirt into the washing machine.

this is a photo of tall paul putting the t-shirt into the wash so it doesnt shrink

3. Add laundry detergent

Add a cap of laundry detergent is the standard sizing, however read the label before adding the detergent to see what your soap brand suggests.

add laundry detergent

4. Put setting to cold water

Adjust the settings on the washing machine to delicate/gentle.

Put setting to cold water so you don't shrink your t-shirt

5. Push start

push start

6. Dry then put away

Once finished, remove the t-shirt from the washing machine and air dry by hanging or laying flat (dry flat.)Then fold your t-shirt and put away.

Dry then put away your t-shirt that has not shrunk

How to wash a t-shirt without shrinking: quick tips

  • Washing your t-shirt in cold water helps to minimize shrinkage. Hot water can cause the fibers to contract and lead to shrinking.
  • Opt for a gentle cycle on your washing machine or hand wash the t-shirt to reduce the agitation that can contribute to shrinking.
  • If using a washing machine, avoid overcrowding the load and choose a gentle spin cycle to minimize the stress on the fabric.
  • Harsh detergents can damage the fabric and contribute to shrinking. Choose a mild detergent that is suitable for delicate fabrics.
  • After washing, air dry always!

How To Wash A T-Shirt Without Shrinking By Hand

Total Time: 60min

Cost: $0

Follow the instructions below to hand wash any type of t-shirt without shrinking it.

What you’ll need:

  • Water basin 
  • Laundry detergent
  • Water

1. Fill basin with water

Fill a basin with cold to lukewarm water. The temperature of the water should not exceed 80°F/26°C.

Fill basin with water to wash your t-shirt with your hands and not shrink it

2. Add detergent to basin

Add laundry detergent to the water in your basin.

3. Submerge t-shirt in water

Submerge the t-shirt in the water filled basin.

4. Let the t-shirt soak

Let the t-shirt soak for 3 to 5 minutes.

5. Move the t-shirt around

Use your hands to agitate the shirt in the water.

this is a photo of tall paul moving the t-shirt around in the basin filled with water

6. Rinse under cold water

Remove the shirt and rinse it under cold water until the water runs clear and all the soap has been removed.

this is a photo of a t-shirt being rinsed under water

7. Hang to air dry

Air dry by hanging (line dry) or laying flat to dry.

this is a photo of a Hang to air dry t-shirt after hand washing it so it doesnt shrink

How to Dry a T-Shirt Without Shrinking

If your main concern is avoiding shrinkage, the best way to dry your t-shirts after washing is to air dry. Take your t-shirt to a cool, dark place, and hang or lay flat to dry.

If you want to machine dry your t-shirt, be sure to adjust the settings on the dryer to air dry or tumble dry low before you begin. The “low” in tumble dry low means: low heat; which means that the “high” in tumble dry high means…you guessed it, high heat. High levels of heat shrink clothing, so if you want to avoid shrinking your t-shirt in the dryer, then use the air dry or tumble dry low settings. 

Learn how long does a dryer take & how hot does a dryer get as well.

I’m curious, how many different types of clothes do you have in that same load of laundry? Not all clothes shrink in the wash for the same reasons.

FAQ

If you don’t want your shirt to shrink, make sure to wash it in cold water and to either air dry or use tumble dry low in the dryer. You may also want to buy shirts made out of synthetic fibers like polyester, that have been specially treated to be resistant to shrinkage. 

Wash your cotton shirt in cold water if you do not wish to shrink it. Heat shrinks clothes, so make sure you adjust the settings on the washing machine to “cold water” before you do your cotton laundry. 

Your t-shirts shrink in the wash because you are using the hot water setting in the washing machine, or the tumble dry high setting in the dryer. Heat shrinks clothes, so be sure to use cold water in the washing machine, and air dry or tumble dry low while using the dryer. 

The most important thing to do before you wash your shirt is to check the care label. It is important to check the care label because it has important information written on it about how to wash, dry, and iron your shirt. Carefully follow the instructions on your shirts care label and you will not run the risk of ruining it.