How to Shrink Polyester – The Best Ways

Before we start the article on how to shirk polyester fabric, we should first know, does polyester shrink? The simple answer is yes. Polyester shrinks when exposed to heat or moisture. Polyester fabrics are made from synthetic fibers, which shrink when exposed to water.

Washing and drying fabric can lead to its shrinking although in a small way. Where polyester is synthetic and does not undergo too much shrinkage unless it is blended with other natural fibers such as cotton.

Polyester is made from durable materials that are resistant to shrinkage meaning that you can use it in a dryer.

If you want to shrink your polyester cloths, there is a choice of using a washing machine and a dryer for a small reduction in shrinkage; however, using an iron gives a significant shrinkage. You may also consider the shrinking process of polyester by using boiling water.

How to Shrink Polyester

Let’s know the 3 methods in detail to virtually experience how you can do it yourself at home.

How to Shrink Polyester – 3 Easy Ways

1. Using Washing and Drying in 4 Steps

Repeated washing should not happen too often. It will cause the garment to lose its color, newness, and durability. You need to do it very carefully.

The advantage of this method is, that it’s easy to do compared to others methods. Where the machine is doing a much harder part for you.

On the other hand, if you repeat the process again and again, this will cause the clothing to lose its color and newness.

Let’s start:

Step 1: Turn the garment inside out

After checking your cloth’s pocket to make sure it’s empty. When ready to start the shrinking process, turn the garment inside out to help protect the colors and quality of the fabric.

You need to ensure the hot water, pressure, and all others therapy is applied to the out site (inner part) of your cloth. Bring all your garments and isolate them to make sure you wash identical colors and materials to minimize fading.

Step 2: Wash the garment in hot water

Wash the garment in hot water by setting the washing machine to the hottest level and a long wash cycle. Use both the hot wash and rinse to capitalize on hot water’s ability to shrink polyester faster than cold water.

You only need to add detergents into the washing machine the same way you would wash the garment. Detergents will not interfere with the shrinking process.

Step 3: It’s Time to use the dryer

Take the garment to the dryer as soon as possible after washing it. Use the hottest dryer setting and take the longest drying cycle. Shrinking takes place faster due to the extreme heat coming from the dryer.

Step 4: Check shrinkage levels

Confirm the shrinkage levels by pulling the garment out of the dryer and leaving it to cool at room temperature. You can take it back to the dryer if you need to reduce the polyester size.

When doing repeated washings, please note that color fades with every wash, therefore, try washing it several if you are not getting the required size. Iron is an alternative that can help reduce polyester further.

2. Using an Iron in 5 Simple Steps

The amount of heat produced by electric irons can cause damage to polyester, even sometimes melting it. For safety reasons using a hot iron over a damp polyester is not a recommended option.

As you need to do it manually, so you can set your iron heat level and adjust it as you iron your clothes. You can also monitor the progress of the cloth ironing and see if you are shrinking it just right.

Let’s start the process:

Step 1: Wash the garment in hot water

Like the washing and dryer use process in this ironing method, you need to wash the garment in hot water, set the machine to its highest and hot levels, and make sure the washing cycle is set to long. The wash setting and rinsing should be set to hot.

Before starting, washing makes sure your polyester cloth’s pocket is empty and it’s ready to go for a wash.

Step 2: Place the cloth on an ironing board

Place the cloth on an ironing board and once the washing cycle is over, pull the polyester from the washing machine and move it to an ironing board. Make sure that the cloth is turned inside out to reduce the chance of fading.

Step 3: Prevent the damage by laying a pressing cloth over the polyester cloth

Lay a pressing cloth over the garment and ensure it completely covers the garment to prevent damaging your clothing.

Step 4: Use the Iron and follow the settings

Use a low or medium heat setting to prevent the polyester from becoming too stiff, pass the iron over the clothing, and keep on ironing until it is completely dry.

Do not set the iron to use steam because you need the dry iron to dry out the polyester, which is the exact effect you are looking for.

Step 5: Examine the Effects on the Fabric

Carefully examine the finished garment but make sure not to repeat the ironing process because it could damage and lead to fading of colors. By the time you reach this stage, you may have done more than one drying cycle as well as ironing and the chances are that you may have shrunk the polyester as much as you can.

Also read: How to Use Heat Transfer Vinyl with Silhouette Cameo

3. With Boiling Water in Easy 4 Steps

To shrink polyester using boiling water, you can check the means to estimate the shrinkage percentage where is process is fully manual. Hot and cool water is in your hand end of the day.

The downside of this boiling water shrinkage of polyester cloths is you need to do it manually as you can see, already discussed. So it’s hard work and a time-consuming task as well.

And it is difficult to maintain the temperature. There is no fixed temperature for boiling water in this method. So your cloth may damage over hot water. Also, there is a risk of boil water control in a pot issue. I hope you can understand that.

Let’s start the process:

Step 1: Make sure your garment and boil water are ready

To make sure your cloth is ready follow these things:

  • Check your clothes pocket (if any)
  • Turn the cloth inner side out to exposé more to heat
  • Boil water is ready in a pot
  • The heat should remain between 68 to 81 Degrees Celsius

Step 2: Put your cloth into the boiling water pot

To realize a noticeable change in the polyester, take it when wet and dip it in boiling water. The boiling water breaks down the fibers leading to shrinkage.

More shrinking is possible when polyester and natural fibers blend with polyester.

Step 3: Maintain the boiling time (30 to 60 minutes)

The right boiling point varies depending on the clothing size and fabric thickness; however in normal circumstances boil the clothes for about an hour, which is approximately the length of time a washing machine takes in the washing shrinking cycle.

Step 4: Finish the process by cooling the water

To finish the process you need to cool the water by stopping boiling it. After boiling you can go for iron and after that check what is the results of your hard work.

If you think you need to shrink the polyester garment more you can repeat any process again.

Shrinking Pro Tips

Ironing is not an ideal way of shrinking polyester even when the fabric is damp. You need to find the right temperature that can shrink an area without melting it.

Polyester is wrinkle-resistant which is why as soon as you are done washing there is no need to iron. High temperatures on the iron box will ruin the polyester by setting melt spots on your fabric.

How Much Polyester Fabric-Made Clothes Shrink?

The short and direct answer is it depends. It depends on the types of fabrics and on your applied temperature. Different types of polyester fabric-made clothes will shrink at different rates. For example, 100% polyester fabric will shrink differently than a blended one. Generally speaking, polyester can shrink anywhere from 5-10% when it is washed in hot water and then put in the dryer on high heat.

In the case of polyester fabric, many manufacturers sell their clothes after shrinking, which means these are already shirked clothing (pre-shrunk for you).

If you want to avoid unwanted irregular shrinkage, wash your clothes in cold water and hang them to dry. In one word, follow the instruction especially the temperature on the label of your garments.

Does 100% Polyester Shrink?

Yes, it’s possible to shrink 100% polyester fabric but hard to do. Shrinking a 100% polyester fabric-made cloth is never an easy task to do. It is often difficult to find a perfect method that will work well and not damage the fabric. However, you can try these 3 methods, as I discussed above in order to successfully shrink the fabric.

Polyester is made from petroleum-based products. It is less absorbent than cotton, so it tends to resist shrinking and wrinkling. However, 100% polyester garments can still shrink slightly, maybe 5% without any problem But you should not expect more than 10% to shrink.

There is no optimum temperature range for successful shrinkage for 100% polyester. Where most experts agree that an absolute minimum heat setting should be no lower than 60 ºC. In most dryers, there are only 3 levels of heat settings: low, medium, and high. Upon checking the heat range mentioned within these levels, you can go for all of them one-by-one.

For best results, it is generally recommended that you aim for a temperature somewhere between 68-81 ºC. If you are thinking, that by applying higher temperatures you can get a higher shrinkage percentage. Then you should remember higher heat may cause the fabric to irregularly shrinkage and the fabric may become misshapen or discolored.

Does 80% Cotton and 20% Polyester Shrink?

The answer is yes, it will shrink. As a synthetic fabric, it is less likely to shrink than a natural fabric like cotton. However, if the polyester is blended with cotton, in an 80/20 blend, the fabric may shrink slightly.

At 105 ºF (40 ºC) fabric should not shrink at all. But at 140 ºF (60 ºC) I hope you will get around 5% shrinkage and at 195 ºF or above you will get 10% to 20% shrinkage depending on your fabric’s structure.

Remember, a shirt made of 80% cotton and 20% polyester should shrink more than a pair of pants made of the same materials.

Here the percentage of polyester is not the only factor to decide the shrinkage amount. Temperature and the structure tightness of the fabric also bing roles to play. That’s why you will get almost similar results for 85% cotton and 15% polyester blend case or 90% cotton and 10% polyester fabrics. You need to remember that 10% or 20% or 15% polyester with other fabrics like cotton is too less amount in blending fabrics.

So you should think about a higher percentage of holding fabric when it’s come to shrinking your cloth. For example, in 90/10 cases 90% here are cotton, so think about cotton shrinkage behavior more. and must follow the label washing and ironing instructions which sew in the cloth.

About 60% Cotton and 40% Polyester

60% cotton and 40% polyester are pretty common blends for shirts. The big question is, does this blend shrink? The answer is, that it depends. If the fabric hasn’t been pre-shrunk, then it’s likely that it will shrink some, especially if it’s put in the dryer.

Almost the same words go to 50% polyester Shrinking property. Polyester is often blended with cotton to create a fabric that is strong and wrinkle-resistant. A 50% or 60% cotton and 50/40% polyester blend should be less likely to shrink than 100% cotton.


Of all the conventional materials, polyester is the most durable fabric used in the making of clothes. It is due to its resilience that is why it cannot shrink unless the heat conditions are in the ranges of 68 – 81 ºC or 155 – 178 ºF.

The methods outlined above involve using extreme temperatures to help shrink polyester material and make them fit you. We can only guarantee the best results if you follow the above-mentioned instructions.

By weighing the advantages and disadvantages of each process, you have to look at the prevailing situations and conditions and let them guide you to pick the ideal method of shrinking your favorite polyester to fit.

Read More Guide Articles On:

Can You Iron Polyester? (How to Iron Polyester Fabrics Made Garments)

Can You Heat Press Polyester and Spandex?

How to Shrink Jeans

How to Wash Screen Printed Shirts (11 Pro Tips)

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2 thoughts on “How to Shrink Polyester – The Best Ways”

  1. I bought a pair of polyester pants in a 2xL size my mail. Looking to see how I can shrink to a fitted size 1 size down.I boiled a pot of water dipped my pants in the boiling water for about an hour. I will check the results after the garment dries. I will comment after. Dianna


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