How to Preshrink Fabric

When you buy fabric from the store, always preshrink it before sewing on it. Preshrinking prevents your finished garment from becoming distorted when you wash it in the future. Some fabrics are more susceptible to shrinkage than others, but it’s still a good idea to preshrink all fabric, regardless of the material.

Basic Method for Preshrinking Fabric

In general, all you need to do to preshrink your fabric is run it through a normal wash cycle on your washing machine and then dry your fabric. The heat is what does most of the shrinking. You don’t need to use soap, but I usually do. Many people like to serge the cut edges of the fabric before laundering to prevent ravel, too. However, this isn’t necessary unless you know your fabric will ravel badly.

Preshrinking Fabric That Can’t Be Washed

Some fabrics should not be put in a washing machine because they can be ruined. When this is the case, you should preshrink your fabric by laundering it in the same method that you would use on your finished garment in the future. For instance, fabric that is dry-clean only should be taken to the dry cleaners to preshrink it. However, it’s typically OK to skip the preshrinking process when you can’t wash the fabric.

How to Preshrink Common Fabrics

When you’re buying fabric, it’s a good idea to look at the fabric care guide on the end of the bolt of fabric before it is cut so you know how to preshrink it. However, if you forget to look, use this fabric care list to help you decide on the proper preshrinking method:

  • Acetate — Machine wash on a gentle cycle (or dry clean). Use a low iron.
  • Acrylic — Machine wash on a normal cycle.
  • Bamboo — Machine wash on a normal cycle. Use a medium/high iron.
  • Cashmere — Dry clean. Use a low iron on the wrong side of the fabric.
  • Cotton — Machine wash on a normal cycle. Iron while the fabric is still damp.
  • Hemp — Machine wash on gentle cycle or hand wash. Use a medium/high iron.
  • Linen — Machine wash on gentle cycle or hand wash. Use a medium/high iron while the fabric is still damp.
  • Mohair — Dry clean. Use a press cloth to iron.
  • Nylon — Machine wash on gentle cycle or hand wash. Use a low iron.
  • Polyester — Machine wash on a normal cycle. Use a low iron, if needed.
  • Ramie — Machine wash on gentle cycle or hand wash. Use a medium/high iron.
  • Rayon — Dry clean. Use a medium iron.
  • Silk — Dy clean or hand wash. Use a low iron on the wrong side of the fabric.
  • Soy — Machine wash on a normal cycle. Use a medium/high iron.
  • Spandex — Machine wash on a normal cycle. Use a low iron.
  • Wool — Dry clean or hand wash. Use a steam iron.

One thought on “How to Preshrink Fabric

  1. Hello, I have a couple questions regarding pre-shrinking wool and mohair. I have three fabrics I want to sew with – one is a thick wool/mohair knit (pretty stable), another is a wool/cashmere (80/20) blend woven coating, and then there’s one coating that is 100% wool. I understand that the best course for all of these is dry-cleaning. However, in your article, you state “fabric that is dry-clean only should be taken to the dry cleaners to preshrink it. However, it’s typically OK to skip the preshrinking process when you can’t wash the fabric.” So, if you were me, would you skip bringing these fabrics to a dry-cleaner and just start cutting? Would the steam pressing during construction be so negligible as to not shrink them enough to be worried about it? Also, regarding the mohair, what fabric should a pressing cloth be made of? Would it be okay just to use a cotton towel for that? Thanks in advance for any feedback you can offer!

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