Shrinkage occurs in animal fibers and skins such as wool, cashmere, angora, leather and suede as well as plant fibers like cotton, hemp and linen, and then there are natural fibers such as silk. Being humans we always have to invent our own, these materials are a combination of different materials or chemicals combined together to create these special fibers like nylon, rayon, spandex, polyester, lycra, lyocell, acetate, metallic, rubber, acrylic and gortex to name a few. This is extremely creative of us because many of these materials mimic the look and feel of the natural and animal fibers without the shrinking and color fading problems if done correctly. You can find polyester that looks and feels like leather or rayon that feels like silk. Even more impressive is combination of materials like a cotton spandex or wool lycra that won’t wrinkle when you wear them.
Shrinkage occurs in many different forms from the fibers contracting in size to the hairs curling and giving the appearance of a shrunken size. Then there is the little tricks manufactures play to extend the amount of material by artificially stretching it before they process, finish and cut the material. When this material is clean for the first few times, the moisture, agitation and heat will cause it to covert back to its original size.
When properly woven, finished and made washable textile should not shrink more than three percent of its original size when washed and all fibers less than one percent when dry cleaned. Other fibers will not shrink at all such as nylon, spandex, lycra, acetate, metallic, rubber, acrylic and gortex. Rayon and lyocell is a man made material that theoretically should not shrink but some manufactures don’t pre-shrink the material before finishing to get that little extra out of it so when you wash or clean it, it will shrink and fade. Some times I just stand there and shake my head in disbelief on how expensive a designer garment can be and how poor of a quality you get. Many of the lower end leathers and suede’s are stretched and will shrink much more than the accepted three percent in cleaning.
Reducing the amount of moisture, agitation, and heat will greatly reduce or eliminate the amount of shrinkage that occurs. When washing a home, that means cold water on delicate cycle and low heat in the dryer. This is the best way to reduce the amount of shrinkage using machines. What’s even better would be to hand wash in cold water and hang dry.
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