Does Underwear Shrink Over Time?

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

While it’s normal for some clothes to shrink, we do not expect underwear to shrink. But at times, when we wash the underwear and take them out of the dryer, we find that they have shrunk. As a result, we might want to find out whether underwear can shrink over time.

Most underwear will shrink over time. This is because underwear are made from fabrics susceptible to shrinking. Linen, silk, rayon, wool, and cotton underwear will always shrink over time.

This article delves deeper into the topic of underwear shrinking and the purpose of finding out whether underwear shrink. In addition, the article also explains the reasons why underwear stretches out.

Different underwear items that can shrink with time

Does Underwear Shrink?

To understand whether underwear shrinks over time, it is essential to comprehend why fabrics shrink. From that understanding, I can then explain what I have found about my underwear shrinking over time.

Even though there are various reasons why fabrics shrink, the three main factors determining whether a fabric will shrink or not are fiber structure, additional moisture, and heat and agitation.

Fiber structure entails the structure of the fibers that make up the fabric used in a specific garment. Natural fibers are more vulnerable to shrinking. When these fibers are subject to a lot of heat, the contact between the fibers in the fabric is tightened, resulting in shrinking.

Synthetic fabrics such as polyester and nylon resist shrinking since their fibers require a lot of heat for their structure to change.

For additional moisture, fabrics with natural fibers such as silk, cotton, and linen are more likely to experience relaxation shrinkage when exposed to water. Specifically, when the natural fibers are exposed to water, they tend to swell, and as a result, they end up shrinking.

When garments are exposed to heat and agitation, mainly during washing and drying, they experience consolidation shrinkage. In this type of shrinkage, the typically tightly woven fibers release the tension during washing and drying, resulting in shrinking.

Underwear can shrink over time depending on the fabrics used to make the underwear. Specifically, underwear made from natural fabrics like cotton, linen, silk, and wool will shrink more over time than underwear made from synthetic fabrics like polyester and nylon.

Calvin Klein, Ethika Underwear, Saxx underwear, and other underwear brands made from natural fabrics can all shrink in the washer or dryer.

Why Is Underwear Elastic Band Loose?

After wearing my underwear for some time, I realized that the elastic band was becoming loose. While that is not a significant issue when I am alone, a loose elastic band can be shameful, especially when you have to pull your underwear up amidst people.

Can you guess what I found out? Loose underwear elastic band is caused by the elastic band material becoming overstretched.

The underwear elastic band is loose because the fibers making up the band has been overstretched and become broken. Even if the fibers are supposed to stretch, they have a limit within which they can stretch. Once this limit has been exceeded, the band becomes loose since the fibers break down and can no longer return to their initial position.

It is important to note that apart from overstretching, the fibers of a stretchy fabric can be broken down by high heat in the washing and drying cycles or during ironing.

To ensure that your underwear elastic band does not become loose, make sure that you always wash and dry the underwear in the right temperature setting. In addition, avoid overstretching the underwear.

Will Elastic Shrink In The Wash?

Elastic comprises a stretch fabric, and it can stretch, which makes it offer a perfect fit. When manufacturing garments, the manufacturers always ensure that they have treated the elastic to make it resistant to shrinking or stretching.

However, when the elastic is exposed to high heat and moisture, it might shrink and probably be ruined. If you want to shrink elastic in the wash, you have to ensure you are using the right setting. If excessive heat is used, the elastic will be ruined.

How To Shrink Elastic

Even though I have tried different methods to shrink elastic before, I have found that there are two best methods to shrink it. These methods entail using heat and sewing.

Shrinking Elastic By Sewing

This method is simple and less risky since it entails cutting the extra bits of the elastic fabric and sewing them back to reduce the measurement and make the elastic shrink.

You can use this method to fix loose underwear waistbands. Note that a loose waistband could indicate that your underwear is worn out. In such cases, throw away the underwear and replace them with new ones.

Shrinking Elastic With Heat

In this method, you expose the elastic to heat so that the tension on the fibers will make them return to their original state.

Since you want only to shrink the elastic part of your garment, it would not be ideal for shrinking the garment with a washing machine, as the whole garment will be exposed to heat and shrink.

One of the ways to only shrink the elastic is by soaking the elastic in hot water. You boil water and put it in a basin. You then soak the elastic in hot water for 5-10 minutes. After drying, put the underwear on and confirm whether the elastic has shrunk to the desired size or not. If needed, you can repeat the process.

The other method to shrink elastic involves using an iron. For this method, iron the waistband with a hot iron for a few minutes. When ironing the elastic, you need to be careful that you don’t ruin the elastic.

After ironing for some time, check to see whether the elastic has shrunk. The elastic is most likely worn out if you can’t see any shrinking. In such a case, you need to replace the underwear.

Can You Shrink Underwear Without A Dryer?

Yes, you can shrink underwear without a dryer. In the shrinking process, the dryer is used to provide. Thus, as long as you can be able to use heat from other sources, you can be able to shrink underwear without a dryer.

You can use two methods to shrink underwear without a dryer: a washing machine or soaking the underwear in boiling water. The shrinking size to be obtained when any of the shrinking methods is mainly a fitted size.

For instance, if your underwear is large but feels loose, it will become a large fitted size once it has shrunk.

Using A Washing Machine To Shrink Underwear

In this method, you use the heat and moisture inside the washing machine during the wash cycle to shrink the underwear. Here is how you can use the washer to shrink your underwear.

1. Put on the underwear to establish the required shrink size.

2. Read the care tag to find out the fabric used to make the underwear. If you have cotton, wool, or other natural fabric underwear, you have a higher chance of shrinking the underwear in the washer since natural fibers quickly shrink.

3. Set the washing machine to a high-water setting.

4. Load the underwear m the washing machine.

5. Turn the washing machine on and wait for the wash cycle to complete.

6. Air dry the underwear away from direct sunlight.

7. Put on the underwear to confirm whether the desired shrink size has been obtained. If not, repeat the process.

Even if this method is effective in shrinking underwear, I do not like it since it uses a lot of energy as you have to wash the underwear alone in the washer. If you put other clothes in the washer and did not want them to shrink, the clothes might shrink.

Shrinking Underwear With Hot Boiling Water

I find this method to be most effective and ideal. In this method, you soak your underwear in boiling water and effectively shrink them.

This is the process of shrinking your underwear with hot boiling water.

1. Boil water in a pot – you will know that the water has boiled once you see bubbles forming.

2. Using metal tongs or a wooden spoon, put your underwear in the boiling water. Make sure that the underwear has been fully submerged in the boiling water.

3. Turn off the heat source and let the underwear soak in the water for 5 – 10 minutes.

4. Leave the underwear to cool before wringing out extra water and air drying them on a clothesline.

5. Once dry, put on the underwear to determine whether you have obtained the desired size. If you need the underwear to shrink further, repeat the process.

Should Underwear Go In The Dryer?

Underwear can go in the dryer as long as the correct heat settings are used. Many people believe underwear should never be dried in the dryer since they shrink and their elastic waistbands get damaged.

For more than ten years now, I have washed some of my underwear in the washer and dried them in the dryer, and they have never been ruined.

To ensure that the dryer does not damage your underwear, you need to dry them with the right temperature setting, determined by the material used to make the underwear.

Your underwear care label specifies the ideal dryer setting for drying the underwear. Moreover, the care tag also indicates whether the underwear should be dried with a drier or not.

If you cannot find the care tag of your underwear, you can dry your underwear with a delicate dry cycle. The heat generated by the dryer in the delicate cycle will be enough to dry your underwear and will not damage them.

If you don’t want to risk, you can air-dry your underwear away from direct sunlight to avoid color bleaching by the sun.

How To Unshrink Underwear

When underwear is washed or dried with the wrong setting, the underwear will shrink. If your underwear was perfectly fitting before it shrunk, it will be tight fitting once it has shrunk.

The good news is that you can unshrink your underwear and hopefully make it fit you well. Below is how you can unshrink underwear that has shrunk.

1. Pour water into the wash basin.

2. Mix water with shampoo or laundry detergent. Use your hands to stir and ensure water is well mixed with the shampoo or laundry detergent.

3. Soak the underwear in the mixture of water and washing detergent for at least 30 minutes. The soaking will be necessary for loosening the fibers of your underwear.

4. Remove the underwear from the water and wring out any extra water.

5. Lay the underwear on a flat surface covered with an absorbent towel. Roll the absorbent towel up with the underwear inside. Gently squeeze out water from the underwear.

6. Once the underwear is damp and not wet, place it on another dry towel. Roll up the towel so that the damp towel is inside the towel.

7. Pull both sides of the towel with the underwear inside so that it is stretched.

8. Air dry the underwear. Once it has dried, wear it to check whether you have unshrunk it to the desired size. If not, you can repeat the unshrink process.

What Happens If Your Underwear Is Too Big?

If your underwear is too big, it will; the underwear will be loose-fitting and unable to support the botty. Indeed, you will find that you will occasionally be required to put it in place, which is shameful, especially when among people.

If you have oversized underwear, you can shrink them to reduce their size and make them fit. The best way to shrink your underwear is to soak them in boiling water for 5 – 10 minutes. Alternatively, you can use a washing machine and dryer to shrink the oversized underwear.

If your underwear is made of natural fibers that are resistant to shrinking, you might find it a challenge to shrink the underwear. In this case, you should consider reducing the underwear size by sewing.

Why Does Underwear Stretch Out?

The main reason underwear stretches out is that when the fibers of the underwear’s waistband are exposed to excess heat and moisture, the agitation, spinning, and tumbling in the drying process make them stretch out.

To avoid wearing underwear stretching out, you must always wash the underwear with the right setting. If you are unsure about the proper washing and drying setting for your underwear, you can handwash them instead of using a washing machine.

Final Thoughts

Any underwear can shrink when washed in the wrong washer setting and dried at a very high temperature. To avoid the risk of unintentionally shrinking your underwear, you should consider handwashing the underwear.

If you have to wash the underwear with a washer and dry them with a dryer, you should always use a delicate wash and drying cycle.


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