How To Wash T-Shirts So They Won't Shrink

by Contributing Writer ; Updated September 28, 2017

How To Wash T-Shirts So They Won't Shrink

David Jones at

Repeated trips through the washer and dryer can be bad news for your clothing. T-shirts, especially those made from 100 percent cotton or a cotton blend, are susceptible to shrinkage. Some clothing manufacturers take steps to prevent clothing from shrinking, but even these clothes are no match for the high heat of your dryer. When you wash your T-shirts, keep one simple rule in mind---never put them in the dryer.

Treat any stains on your T-shirts with a stain stick or stain remover, if they are particularly soiled. Separate your shirts into light and dark piles and wash each pile separately.

Place your T-shirts into the washing machine and set your machine to use cold water and the delicate cycle. Hot water and rough washing cycles designed for bulky items will encourage your shirts to shrink.

Put the appropriate amount of detergent into the washing machine. Use a detergent specifically formulated for cold water to get your shirts as clean as possible without using warm or hot water.

Remove the T-shirts when the washing cycle is finished.

Hang your damp shirts on plastic hangers and let them air-dry. Heat is what causes your T-shirts to shrink, so avoid using the dryer as much as possible. While you may be tempted to put your T-shirts in the sun to dry faster, the heat from the sun may shrink your T-shirts. Instead, place them out of the sun in a room with good air flow.

Let your T-shirts hang until they are completely dry. It will likely take at least a day.

Plug in an iron and set it on its lowest setting. Air-drying will not remove wrinkles the way a clothes dryer will, so your shirts will probably be quite wrinkled once they are dry. This step is optional, and you can skip it if you are not concerned with a few wrinkles. Quickly move the iron over the T-shirt to remove some of the larger wrinkles, but avoid using the high heat settings.

Look for preshrunk T-shirts when you buy shirts in the future. Preshrunk shirts may shrink slightly, but not as much as other cotton T-shirts. You should still avoid using the dryer, even if your shirt was designed to resist shrinkage.


  • If your budget allows, take your T-shirts to the dry cleaners. Most dry cleaners take precautions to prevent shrinkage, and your T-shirts will be much less wrinkled than if you wash and air-dry them yourself. A small amount of shrinkage may occur, but it is still a better option than using the dryer.

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  • David Jones at