Does Linen Shrink in the Dryer?

Imagine finally finding the perfect linen shirt for you, only to find it has shrunk in the dryer. Luckily, you can avoid this nightmare becoming a reality. As one of the oldest and most durable fabrics, favored across many cultures, linen possesses unique properties that continue to add to its allure and status. Being a luxurious fabric only increases the need for proper linen care to preserve its quality, longevity, and aesthetic appeal.

As the nightmare persists, read on to unravel how to care for your linen clothes and ultimately answer the questions, "Does linen shrink in the dryer?" and "How to avoid shrinking as much as possible?"

Understanding Linen Fabric

Linen is a natural material derived from the fibers of the flax plant. Flax has a growing cycle of 100 days and is primarily cultivated in the cooler climates from Western Europe to India and Pakistan. The production process from the flax seed to linen material is a labor-intensive process, making linen a luxury fabric. Some other characteristics that make linen a timeless and luxurious fabric are:

  • Durability and longevity
  • Breathability
  • Antibacterial and fungicidal properties
  • Moisture-wicking
  • Thermo-regulation
  • Hypoallergenic qualities
  • Elegant and effortless appearance


Being produced from natural fiber, linen is a sustainable material that doesn't involve the use of harmful chemicals and doesn't leave a huge carbon footprint. Moreover, it uses less water and pesticides, making it an eco-friendly option.

Factors that Contribute to Linen Shrinking

As with other natural fibers, during the production process, flax fibers are stretched out and become firm and rigid. So, when the fibers become wet, they can relax back to their unstretched state, resulting in around 3-4% shrinkage after its first wash; this is called relaxation shrinkage. Shrinking linen can be avoided with proper washing and drying care. The main factors that contribute to linen shrinking are:

Heat sensitivity of linen

Although linen is a sturdy fabric, high-temperature settings in the dryer can contract linen fibers and shrink the fabric. Using high heat can also cause the fibers to break completely. Therefore, you should use low or no heat settings in the dryer to minimize shrinkage or explore other drying alternatives.

Moisture and agitation in the dryer

A key factor that can prevent linen from shrinking in the dryer is removing linen items while they're still slightly damp, as overdrying or lack of moisture can make linen brittle and prone to shrinking. The retained moisture can help the garment remain supple and prevent wrinkles.

On the other hand, aggressive tumbling in the dryer can create friction and cause the fibers to contract and the garment to shrink. Therefore, opt for dryer settings with low agitation or tumbling settings to better protect your linen items.

Care labels and manufacturer instructions

Because we love our linen dresses and shirts, it is crucial to follow the guidance of care labels and maintenance instructions by the manufacturers so as to avoid causing shrinkage and damage. For our products, we suggest washing in lukewarm water up to 40°C/104°F in a gentle machine cycle and using a mild detergent. Pre-washed linen clothing can be tumble-dried on low or no heat.

How to Prevent Linen from Shrinking

Linen is a durable fabric that gets smoother and better with age. However, if not cared for properly, it can continue to shrink and decrease in quality. So, what can you do to prevent linen from shrinking?

Tips for washing and drying linen clothing

Although high-quality linen is a sturdy fabric, adopt a few tips and tricks when washing and drying linen items to ensure you make the most out of them. Here are some things to consider when washing and drying linen items:

  • Avoid overcrowding the washing and drying machine to give your garments room to move and prevent friction between the items.
  • Avoid direct sunlight when drying linen items outdoors, as it can cause colors to fade. You can still air-dry them in the shade.
  • Wash linen items separately from other fabrics or wash with similar colors.

Alternative drying methods for linen

If you don't prefer using a dryer for your linen items or if you want to explore other energy-saving drying alternatives, here are a few air-drying methods that help you prevent damage and maintain the quality of the fabric:

  • Hanging: Hang-drying your linen items helps clothes maintain their shape while drying and prevents shrinkage and wrinkles. However, it's best to use padded hangers, as wire hangers can create creases in the fabric.
  • Flat drying: You can also flat dry your linen clothes to smooth out wrinkles and let them air dry. Keep in mind to put the garment on top of a dry towel.

Proper storage and ironing

Storage and ironing are essential factors that can help you increase the longevity of your linen items.

  • Storage: When storing linen clothing, it's vital to keep it in a cool, dry place to avoid mold and mildew. It would help if you also avoid direct sunlight, which can cause colors to fade. Another thing to consider is placing your linen items in breathable containers like old pillowcases or breathable fabric storage bags and altogether avoiding plastic bags to steer clear of musty odors. Lastly, you should avoid overcrowding your closet to allow air circulation and prevent wrinkles and creases.
  • Ironing: Although the relaxed aesthetic is part of the linen charm, ironing can help stretch the fabric and prevent shrinking. Ironing linen can be challenging as it has low elasticity. However, by ironing your linen clothing when slightly damp, ironing inside out, and hanging the linen item after ironing to completely dry and set the shape, you'll ensure your items have a polished finish.

Conclusion

Although linen can shrink in the dryer, by mastering proper care of your linen items, you'll get to embrace the elegant appearance of linen and remain as timeless as the fabric itself. We encourage you to take a mindful approach to washing and drying linen and follow the careful care labels to bid farewell to the days when shrinkage could damage your favorite garment.

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