Does Baby Clothes Shrink In Washing Machine Or In Dryer?

  • By: Tiffany Peris
  • Time to read: 9 min.

When expecting your newborn, you need to be well prepared. Specifically, you have to ensure that you have bought enough clothing for the newborn since, after delivery, you will generally wait for a while before you can buy your bundle of joy new clothes. However, since you don’t yet know your baby’s actual size, the clothes you buy could end up being big. If such is the case, shrinking the baby clothes so that they can fit your newborn would be the best choice.

You can use your washing machine and dryer to shrink your baby clothes or boil clothes in hot water. However, before you shrink baby clothes, you must read the care tag on all the clothes since the type of fabric making up the baby cloth will determine the ideal methods to shrink baby clothes and whether the clothes will shrink or not.

When carefully planned, shrinking can save you time and money. When you effectively shrink baby clothes, you don’t have to take the clothes to the tailor for alterations. Moreover, you can use the baby clothes right away instead of keeping them in the closet and waiting for the baby to grow to fit the oversize clothes. In this article, we look at how to shrink baby clothes.

What Is Fabric Shrinking?

Fabric shrinking entails a size change in different clothing products, especially when the clothes are either washed or relaxed. The shrinkage is explained in the perspective of the size before exposure to washing or relaxation. In addition, shrinkage is also referred to as residual shrinkage and is quantified in percentages.

When a fabric shrinks, the shrinking is caused by the release of tensions and strains that the fibers making up the fabric are subjected to during the fabric manufacturing process. Specifically, the fibers used to make materials have to go through different knitting, spinning, and weaving methods. During these processes, the fibers are strained.

When fabrics are put in water and subjected to heat, water becomes a relaxing platform, reducing tension and stress on the fibers. As the tension is reduced, the fibers attempt to return to their initial state resulting in shrinkage.

Shrinkage in the fabrics is mainly classified into two types. The first type of shrinkage entails contraction, while the second type entails expansion shrinkage. In contraction shrinkage, the dimension of the garment decreases; hence the reason this shrinkage is also known as negative shrinkage. On the other hand, in expansion shrinkage, the dimension of the garments increases; therefore, the shrinkage is also known as plus shrinkage.

When shrinking a garment, various factors determine the extent of shrinkage. These factors comprise; the type of fibers making up the fabric (natural fibers have a higher shrinkage rate than synthetic fibers), water temperature (the higher the temperature, the higher the shrinkage), and the dryer temperature (high temperatures in the dryer will result to high shrinkage).

How To Shrink Baby Clothes

To successfully shrink your baby’s clothes, you need to find out the exact fabrics used to make the clothes. In addition, it is necessary to understand the material making up the baby clothes since different fabrics shrink at different temperatures and other conditions.

The two most effective methods that you can use to shrink baby clothes are; using the washing machine and a dryer and boiling clothes in hot water.

Method 1: Shrinking Baby Clothes With Washing Machine And A Dryer

You will set the washing machine to the highest heat setting and the most extended cycle. Next, put the baby clothes in the washing machine and turn it on. Once the wash cycle is over, take the baby’s clothes from the washing machine and put them in the dryer.

Set the dryer to the highest heat setting and turn it on. Once the clothes have dried, examine to confirm that you have the shrinking size you wanted. If you haven’t achieved the shrinking size you wanted, you can repeat the process.  

Method 2: Shrinking Baby Clothes In Boiling Water

You will need metal tongs or a wooden spoon, a source of heat (stove), water, and a large pot.

The process

Place your pot on the stove and turn it on. Put water in the pot and bring it to a boil.

Once water has boiled, put the baby clothes in the boiling water. Use metal tongs to make sure that baby clothes are fully immersed in boiling water.

After water has boiled five minutes with the clothes inside the boiling water, switch off the cooker and leave the clothes in the hot water for another five minutes.

After five minutes, take the clothes from the boiling water and dry them in a dryer or on a clothes line.

If you want the baby clothes to shrink further, repeat the process again.

Do Baby Clothes Shrink In Dryer?

Yes, baby clothes can shrink in the dryer. To shrink the clothes in the dryer, use the highest temperature setting in the dryer and have the clothes in the dryer for the most extended drying cycle. If you don’t want baby clothes to shrink in the dryer, make sure that the dryer is set according to the guidelines given in the care label or to the delicate drying cycle.

If you are not sure about the heat setting for drying your baby’s clothes, you can dry the baby clothes under the delicate cycle setting. The delicate dry cycle doesn’t use a lot of heat, while the agitation in the drying machine is also minimal.

Before you put your baby clothes in the dryer, make sure that you have a good understanding of the fabric used to make the clothes and how those fabrics would react in the dryer. Take note that different fabrics react differently under similar heat conditions.

By understanding the fabrics of your baby’s clothes, you will be able to avoid shrinking your baby’s clothes as you will dry the clothes with the correct heat settings. If the wrong dryer settings are used to dry the clothes, baby clothes will shrink in the dryer.

How To Wash Baby Clothes Without Shrinking

When doing your laundry, you should always be careful that you do not shrink the clothes. For some clothes, you can wash them with the wrong heat settings, and they would not shrink, while for others, incorrect heat settings would result in the clothes shrinking.

To wash your baby’s clothes without shrinking, you should consider washing the clothes by hand in cold or lukewarm water and with a bit of laundry detergent. If you cannot hand wash your baby’s clothes, you should clean the clothes in cool water on a gentle wash cycle. You should also ensure that the dryer is set on a gentle drying cycle when drying the clothes. Alternatively, you can hang the clothes on a clothesline to air dry.

Water and heat are the two key factors involved in shrinking. Thus, if you make sure that you keep the heat low during the washing and drying processes, you will be able to wash baby clothes without shrinking.

What Setting To Dry Baby Clothes?

If you do not want to shrink your baby’s clothes, the best setting to dry baby clothes is the low heat drying which in most machines is labeled tumble dry low. In this setting, the heat is generally within 125-degree Fahrenheit. This heat is ideal for most fabrics and will not shrink them.

Even if the clothes stay in the dryer for a longer time, it should take you a long time to dry the clothes than using high heat drying and risk shrinking or damaging the baby’s clothes.

If you do not want to wait for a long time to dry your baby’s clothes, you can read the care tag on the clothes and dry them according to the specifications given on the label. However, since your baby clothes are likely to be made of different fabrics, you might be required to dry every type of fabric independently. That would take a long time, unlike what would be the case if you just used the low heat setting and put all your baby’s clothes in the drier at once.

For clothes made from fragile fabrics such as linen, you should consider using a protective mesh bag. The mesh bag will protect your delicate materials from being damaged once put inside the dryer.

How To Wash Baby Clothes For The First Time

After buying your baby’s clothes, you have to wash the clothes before the baby wears them. If you are having your firstborn, or it has been a long time since you had a baby, you might wonder how you are supposed to wash your baby’s clothes for the first time.

Here is a step-by-step process that you should use to wash baby clothes for the first time without shrinking the clothes.

Step 1: Get rid of unwanted objects

New clothes will, most of the time, have tags. You will need to remove all labels and other unwanted objects on the new baby clothes. Place the tags in a safe location since you might need the tags if you want to return the clothes to the retailer.

Step 2: Read the care label

On the inner side of your baby’s clothes, you will find a care label with clear symbols on how you are supposed to take care of the clothes. Make sure you have read all the care labels on each piece of clothing and understood what the care label specifies.

Step 3: Separate baby clothes for washing

Unless your baby clothes are made from one fabric only and are of the same dye (color), you will need to separate the baby clothes for washing.

Separate whites from the dark colors so that the whites are washed separately from the darks. It would help if you never washed whites together with the darks.

Since some of the new darks could be bleeding, you can do a test on a sink and confirm whether the dark fabrics are bleeding or not.

Step 4: Put the clothes in the washing machine

Once you have separated the clothes according to their color (whites and darks), you should now proceed to load the clothes into the washing machine.

Make sure that whites are loaded separately with the darks.

Step 5: Set water temperature and the wash cycle

Since you have different fabrics in the washing machine, set the water temperature to the lowest setting available. By washing your clothes with cold water, you will ensure that you will wash the baby’s clothes without shrinking. For the wash cycle, set it at a delicate cycle.

Step 6: Put detergent in the washing machine

Complying with the dosage specified by the manufacturer of the washing detergent you are using, put the correct dose of the detergent in the washing machine. A mild detergent is always the best type of detergent to be used when washing baby clothes with a washing machine.

Step 7: Turn on the washing machine

Turn on the washing machine and closely watch the timer since you don’t want the clothes to stay in the washing machine for a long time – some fabrics shrink when left in water for long periods.

Step 8: Set the dryer

As the wash cycle ends, set the dryer to a delicate or gentle drying cycle. This cycle is the best since, even if it takes more extended than other cycles, you can be assured that your baby’s clothes will not shrink.

Concluding Thoughts

Having a newborn is the best feeling in the world. However, the last thing you want is to shrink your newborn clothes when washing them or drying them in a tumble dryer. In this article, I have detailed how-to shrink baby clothes if needed, how to wash and dry the clothes, and even how to separate baby clothes for washing.

I hope this article has been informative to you and given you the confidence to wash your baby’s clothes without shrinking.