Viscose is an interesting synthetic material that has great appeal on first impressions. This version of rayon is a great alternative to silk and can feel great against the skin. However, you may have seen people venting online after disastrous laundry experiences. So, does viscose shrink and, if so, can you do anything about it?
Yes viscose does shrink. If you have clothing made from viscose there is a good chance that it will shrink because of its make-up and the properties of the fibers. Therefore, it is important to be as careful as possible when handling this material, especially when it comes to cleaning it. Thankfully, there are things that you can do to avoid shrinkage and you may also be able to correct the problem if your viscose clothes shrink in the wash.
Why is viscose so prone to shrinking?
Viscose is a very delicate material that doesn’t hold up well to much at all. It is not a great material to work with or to use for garments designed for regular wear. The material doesn’t have much in the way of elasticity and is also very absorbent. So, there is the risk that your clothes will end up damaged when wet and when in the washing machine. The risk decreases when you have a fabric that is a blend of viscose and something like cotton. Cotton has a much more minimal risk of shrinking unless you are particularly careless with it on the wrong cycle. People with 100% viscose clothes, on the other hand, have experienced extreme shrinkage up to around 25%, making garments unfit for further use.
Does It Shrink a Lot?
The answer here all depends on your definition of a lot. There are big differences in the shrink percentages highlighted below where one seems pretty reasonable compared to the other. But, a 3% shrink is still noticeable and could affect the fit. If you were to go against all the guidance here regarding caring for this fabric then you would find that it will shrink a lot. If you are careful with the temperature and handling of the garment then shrinkage will be minimal or perhaps even avoidable. Prepare for the worst and you shouldn’t have too many problems.
How Much Does Viscose Shrink?
If you would prefer to see a more definitive percentage of shrinkage then there are estimates you can follow. Some say that you should expect a 3 to 5% shrinkage rate with the wrong conditions. But, there are also reports of 25% lost in the first wash. This probably comes down to the temperature and perhaps other external factors. But, it also shows that you can’t predict this accurately. It is better to plan for the worst and try to avoid these issues as best you can.
Does Viscose Shrink In The Dryer?
Unfortunately, there is a very good chance that clothing made from viscose will shrink if exposed to high heat in a dryer. You will find that the clothing labels on these products and a lot of blends say that you shouldn’t put them in a dryer after washing. Instead, it is best to hang them up to air dry and let the sunshine do all the work. Still, you need to be careful with direct sunlight. Some people put their viscose clothing in the dryer when nearly dry on a cool setting to keep them soft. However, this could depend on your machine and how much you are willing to take that risk.
Does Viscose Shrink When Washed?
The risk when laundering viscose material doesn’t start with the dryer. You also need to be careful washing any items with these fibers because the combination of the temperature of the water and agitation in the machine could be detrimental. You need to make sure to follow manufacturers’ instructions to get the best out of your clothes with each wash.
Does Viscose Shrink In Cold Water?
The good news here is that viscose does not shrink in cold water. So, you shouldn’t have too many issues If you decide to wash this on a cold setting or a cool hand wash setting in your washing machine. The colder the better so go as low as possible on your machine. If you prefer the idea of washing by hand then you may be able to get a better idea of the temperature and keep it under control.
What About Hot Water?
This is where you start to run into problems when cleaning viscose clothing. Many instructions say that you shouldn’t have the water too warm because this could lead to a little bit of shrinkage if you aren’t careful. Therefore, hot water is going to have an even worse effect. The shock of the temperature changes in the water could lead to a big contraction in the fibers and other damage that results in significant changes in the size of your clothes.
How Do You Wash Viscose Without Shrinking It?
These problems with the temperature changes and machine-washing viscose fabrics mean that you need to be very careful when working with these materials. The best option is to avoid machine washing them altogether and to stick with hand washing. This can be a bit of a chore but you will probably be safer. The colder the water and milder the soap the better. Then stick to air-drying them. If this is all too time-consuming, you might want to consider the next alternative option.
Does Viscose Shrink When Dry Cleaned?
Luckily, viscose clothing will not shrink when taken to the dry cleaners. It is important to note that accidents can happen, so there isn’t a 100% success rate with every dry cleaner. But, you could end up with a much better result and barely any change to your clothing. This option could be costly but worth the effort for a prized item. You may also find that some pieces say dry clean only on the label. If you aren’t prepared for the chore and expense of dealing with dry cleaning errands on top of your laundry chores, make sure that this label isn’t present in any viscose clothing you buy.
Does 95% Viscose Shrink?
So far, these tips for preventing shrinkage when laundering viscose material relates to 100% viscose items. What about those that are blends with other fibers in the mix? Blended fabrics are a lot more stable because of the other fibers within. The lower the percentage of viscose, the better your chances. There are much better results machine washing blends and people do have success with 95% viscose material. However, you should still be careful with the temperature and stick to cooler temperatures where possible.
How to Shrink Viscose Fabrics?
What should you do if you have a larger viscose item that you want to shrink for a better fit? This can be a tricky process because there is no guarantee of the results. Before there was the notion of 25% shrinkage in bad cases. But, you aren’t guaranteed this just by washing in hot water. The results will also depend on the composition of the material and its blend. A general rule is to go for 60-80 Fahrenheit will for minor shrinkage, 90-110 Fahrenheit for a more substantial change, and then130 Fahrenheit for extreme changes. You may also decide to use a dryer for a greater chance of success. Be prepared for it to go further than expected or for other damage to occur.
How to Shrink Viscose and Elastane?
Some blends of viscose and other fibers will shrink easier than others. It all depends on the properties of that other leading material. With elastane, you have a fiber that is stretchy and unpredictable like viscose. There is the potential for it to shrink with the right temperature and other treatments. However, there is no way of knowing just how much it will shrink. This isn’t just because of the material but also because of some potential treatments and other factors with store-bought blended clothing. This unpredictability means it is inadvisable to try to deliberately shrink viscose/elastane material that has stretched too much.
How To Shrink Viscose and Polyester
The blend of viscose and polyester is a little bit different. Here you have a material that is a lot more stable because of the strong synthetic polyester fibers. This can be great when it comes to buying and making garments because you have less to worry about in terms of care and durability. You may get less shrinkage or stretching, which in turn makes it more difficult to achieve noticeable results when altering clothing.
Does Viscose Shrink More Than Cotton?
Cotton can shrink a little bit when it isn’t properly cared for because of the absorbancy of the natural fibers and the risk of them contracting in the heat. Viscose performs a lot worse under those conditions and will, therefore, shrink a lot more than cotton does. On average, cotton will shrink at a rate of about 2% in first washes without proper care. That isn’t as bad as the rate above. Some of the worst cases see 20% lost in shrinkage after washing, which is significantly less than the viscose.
How to Unshrink Viscose?
As you can see, there are lots of chances that your viscose fabric will shrink either a little or a lot in the wrong conditions. So, it helps to have an idea of what you can do to try and unshrink the material and restore the fit. The chances of success here aren’t great because of the volatile nature of these fibers. But, there is no harm in trying. So, the best option is to put the material in some water with a fabric softener or hair conditioner. It only needs a few minutes to take in the ingredients. Then stretch the material by hand and hang it up to dry. Hanging on a hanger may allow gravity to play its part here too.
What can you do to minimize the risk of viscose clothing shrinking?
It all comes down to how you wash these clothes. Obviously, you can’t avoid getting them wet forever as they will need to be cleaned when dirty or smelly. So, you need to be careful not to overdo things and to make sure that the water isn’t too hot. The best way to do this is to handwash the clothes in cold water with a little bit of gentle detergent. There may be a hand-washing mode on your machine. However, doing this by hand in a basin gives you greater control over the temperature, the way that the fabric is agitated in the water, and the duration of the wash.
You might find that you have a blended material with care instructions that allow for machine washing. Here it is up to you which method you use. You can go with the instructions on the label and hope that there is no sign of shrinkage afterward. Or, you can continue to play it safe and handwash these items.
Then you need to hang the clothes up to dry somewhere that isn’t too hot. It can be tempting to put them out in the sun to speed up the process but the high heat on the wet material could lead to some shrinkage. Instead, put them somewhere airy but cool enough to avoid this issue. Don’t put the clothes in the dryer as even the lowest setting could prove to be damaging.
Can you reverse viscose shrinking?
Just in case the worst happens here and you have a garment that shrinks in the wash, it helps to be able to correct the problem. There are no guarantees here, but it might be possible to stretch the material back out a little bit with some cold water and conditioner. This process works well on other materials so you might regain some shape here too. Soak the fibers in the solution, stretch them as best you can while wet, and then leave the clothing to dry. Unfortunately, if you are unlucky enough to experience extreme shrinkage then you are unlikely to get the garment back to a shape that fits.
Is viscose worth it?
There are plenty of concerns when it comes to handling viscose clothing and the risk of it shrinking considerably. There are even warnings not to go out in wet weather because the rain may damage the fibers and the sun could shrink it when it dries back out. Only go for a 100% viscose piece of clothing if you are confident in caring for it. Otherwise, look for more suitable blends.
I’m a stay at home mom with our two kids. I really enjoy doing crafts with my kids however, that is typically a challenge with how limited their attention span can be and how messy it gets. So, I’m always looking for ways to make crafting an enjoyable experience and creating fond memory for all of us.