Have you ever put on a shirt, only to notice that the sleeves are a bit shorter? Unless you’re still in the growing stage, this is a telltale sign that a bit of shrinkage has occurred. Let’s take a closer look at some different types of shrinkage — including relaxation shrinkage, progressive shrinkage and differential shrinkage — and examine why each occurs. We’ll also discuss how, in some cases, changing the way you wash or dry your clothes can make a difference in how much a garment will shrink.


Shrinkage is a reduction or shortening of a garment’s length, width, or both. It can occur in clothing that’s made from any fiber content. Shrinkage can occur from improper stabilization of a fabric during the manufacturing process, or from improper washing or drying procedures.


Relaxation Shrinkage

Relaxing is good right? Although this may be true for humans, it’s a different story when it comes to your clothes. When a fabric is constructed, it is made under a specific amount of tension. If the fabric is not adequately stabilized or preshrunk before the shirt is constructed, the agitation of laundering can “relax” the fabric, which can cause shrinkage — as well as distortion of the fabric.

Progressive Shrinkage

Some fabrics shrink every time you wash them. This is referred to as progressive shrinkage. Each time a shirt is laundered the fibers crimp, which means the gap between the fibers contracts. The shrinkage occurs over time because there are often finishing agents in the garment that fill these gaps. Over time, these finishing agents are gradually removed, causing progressive shrinkage to occur. 

Differential Shrinkage

This type of garment shrinkage occurs when one or more sets of yarns or panels of fabric experience dimensional change. This can result in puckering of the fabric or yarns, or shrinkage in only one direction. This type of shrinkage is the result of improper stabilization of the fibers or fabric during the manufacturing process. 

So, as you can see, there are many factors that contribute to garment shrinkage. But there are some strategies you can use to minimize or delay shrinkage, prolonging the life of your wardrobe in the process.

  1. Read and carefully follow the care instructions label on your garments.
  2. Take dress shirts and slacks to your local Klinke Cleaners for professional dry cleaning. We use a special process that helps avoid shrinkage, removes stains better – and of course we’ll iron and press your garments to perfection (which means one less thing for you to do).
  3. Use cold water and the gentle cycle if using a washing machine to wash your dress shirts. Shrinking occurs most often when water temperature is too hot, or if the spin cycle is too fast.
  4. Avoid the dryer if you can! Remove shirts from wash immediately and hang or line-dry. If you need to use the dryer, tumble dry on low or no heat. Again, keeping that temperature down is crucial in avoiding shrinkage.
  5. Wash shirts by hand using cold water and mild detergent. This alleviates shrinkage that’s typically caused by a washing machine. Follow step #4 for drying.
  6. Wash your clothes less. As long as they’re not stained, there are many garments that can be worn more than once before washing.

We hope these tips help reduce shrinkage and lengthen the lifespan of your clothes.

Thank you for visiting Klinke Cleaners!