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An exposed belly might be fashionable, but only if intended. Most of us don’t have that youthful, sassy look.
Polyester is a versatile and well-rounded fabric that makes life much easier. It’s lightweight, strong, does not easily wrinkle, and generally gives you and your home a great look.
Yet the science behind polyester sets this amazing fabric apart from other fabrics. It’s in everyone’s best interest to grasp the basics of polyester care.
But polyester is susceptible to shrinkage, which is mostly caused by exposure to heat and excessive agitation during the wash cycle.
Polyester fabric is created through a process called polymerization. In this process, individual molecules are chemically bonded to form long chains spun into fibers that can be woven or knitted into fabric.
Polyester fabric is initially created with heat and pressure to set the shape and size of the fabric; however, different quality levels of polyester make some more likely to shrink than others.
Lower quality or lower thread count polyester may be more prone to shrinkage as shorter polymer chains are less resistant to the effects of heat.
It’s logical to assume that not all polyester will shrink similarly. Besides the quality, other factors like a specific blend of fibers, the manufacturing process, and how you care for your polyester items play a significant role in polyester shrinkage.
A common understanding is that polyester will likely shrink with the first wash. Although many people will attest to this, it’s not entirely true.
Polyester will still shrink in future washes if the care instructions are not followed.
Polyester is typically vulnerable to high heat conditions when washing and drying your items.
A hot wash and high dryer setting will ultimately end in a degree of shrinkage.
The care instructions recommend a cold-water wash that helps preserve color and shape.
Turning your polyester garments inside out before washing can protect them from friction and can potentially reduce pilling and shrinkage.
Select a gentle or delicate cycle on your washing machine for your polyester items. Agitation is reduced, which helps prevent damage to the fabric. Excessive agitation during washing can result in the fabric shrinking.
Avoid overloading your washing machine and dryer, contributing to more friction and possible shrinkage.
Avoid fabric softeners as they leave residue on polyester fabric, which clogs the fabric, reduces its breathability, and contributes to shrinkage. Use a mild detergent specifically formulated for synthetic fabrics.
Refrain from using heat to dry your polyester garments and linen. Rather air dry your polyester garments instead of using a dryer. Also, you should refrain from using dryer sheets as they can affect breathability and cause shrinkage.
Use a clothesline or lay your polyester items flat on a drying rack. Air drying prevents shrinkage and reduces wear and tear caused by the revolving dryer drum. This is an aspect that many people overlook.
If you use a dryer, select a low or no heat setting, which may take longer but is safer.
By removing heat from your laundry cleaning process, you can significantly reduce the risk of polyester shrinkage.
Polyester garments, like high-impact physical activities, are often exposed to high heat or stored in hot environments like a locked car. Try and avoid these instances when possible.
Finally, some dry-cleaning processes can cause polyester to shrink. If you prefer to have your polyester garments dry-cleaned, discuss your concern about shrinkage with the manager.
Choosing a reputable, experienced dry cleaner familiar with synthetic fabrics is best.
Mishaps occur, and you may have accidentally popped a polyester garment in the washing with a bundle of laundry. Don’t stress; it’s not the end of the world. You can be the first responder to rescue your polyester in distress.
Soak the garment in a large basin of lukewarm water and add a small amount of hair conditioner to the water. Submerge the shrunken garment in the water and gently stretch it back to its original size. Allow it to soak for about half an hour, rinse it with cold water, and lay it flat to dry.
Use a garment steamer to steam the shrunken garment. The steam will help relax the fabric and allow you to stretch it back to its original shape. But be careful not to hold the steamer too close to the fabric, as you may cause further damage.
Alternatively, evenly stretch the garment after a wash while it is still damp. You can see if you stretched it correctly or starched it enough by laying it flat to air dry.
These little tricks do not always work, but it’s worth a try before you ponder other options.
Here are a few alternative fabrics that are less prone to shrinkage:
Cotton: Cotton is a soft, breathable natural fiber that tends to shrink less than polyester.
Linen: Linen is a lightweight, breathable natural fiber that does shrink to some extent, but with proper care, the risk of shrinkage is minimized.
Modal: Modal is a semi-synthetic fabric derived from beech tree pulp. It has similar properties to polyester but is less susceptible to shrinkage.
Rayon: Rayon is a soft synthetic fiber derived from wood pulp and has a lower risk of shrinkage compared to polyester.
All fabrics have pros and cons. As long as the cons, like shrinkage, can be managed through proper care, then that little extra effort is certainly worth the effort to preserve the garment’s longevity.
Knowing about the factors contributing to polyester shrinkage will save you a lot of unnecessary heartaches. Stick to the care instructions, and you can confidently enjoy wearing your long-lasting polyester garments.
When in doubt, revert to the care instructions, but if you do happen to get caught off guard, there is always hope. The salvage tips in this article may be your saving grace.
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