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    June 20, 2024 6 min read


    When tumble-drying your clothes, it's important to recognize that linen shrink in the dryer can occur, particularly if exposed to high temperatures.

    This natural fiber is well-loved for its breathability and cooling features, yet its susceptibility to shrink up to 10-15% on a hot cycle can catch many by surprise. Fear not, though—there are preventative measures to keep your linen items looking their best.

    To maintain the integrity of your linen garments or bedding, it’s essential to adhere to the care instructions provided on the label. Cool or lukewarm wash cycles are your friends here, significantly reducing the potential for shrinkage.

    If you must dry your linen in a machine, opting for a gentle, low heat setting is crucial. Follow these guidelines, and your linen will continue to offer its characteristic comfort and durability.

    Curious about more linen care tips? Read on to keep your favorites in flawless condition.

    The Basics of Linen

    Linen is a popular natural fabric made from the flax plant. Its unique properties and production process make it a favorite in textiles for its strength and breathability.

    Understanding Linen as a Material

    Linen is a fabric made from the fibers of the flax plant. The characteristics of linen include its natural luster, strength, and absorbency. It is highly breathable, which makes it ideal for warm-weather clothing.

    Pure linen is particularly valued for its durability and comfort.

    Linen fabric is also known for being more eco-friendly compared to synthetic fabrics, due to the minimal use of pesticides in flax farming. However, linen can be prone to wrinkles and requires proper care to maintain its quality.

    Linen blends often combine linen with other fibers to enhance certain properties like wrinkle-resistance or elasticity. Despite these blends, pure linen remains unmatched in terms of its breathability and natural feel.

    Does Linen Shrink?

    Linen is a highly valued fabric, but it's crucial to understand its behavior when it comes to shrinkage. The factors responsible for linen shrinkage and the extent of it are detailed below.

    Why Does Linen Shrink?

    Linen is a natural fiber made from the flax plant. This fiber tends to shrink due to relaxation shrinkage. When linen is washed, the fibers absorb moisture and swell up. During drying, especially under high heat, these fibers contract and get closer together, causing the material to shrink.

    Another reason linen shrinks is that it is highly sensitive to temperature changes. Most linen clothing is not pre-washed, making it more prone to shrinkage when exposed to temperatures above 85°F.

    Lastly, the weave and quality of the linen also play a role. Tighter weaves and lower-quality fabric tend to shrink more once they absorb moisture fully.

    How Much Does Linen Typically Shrink?

    Linen can shrink anywhere from 3% to 15% depending on several factors includingquality andcare.

    High-quality linens, especially ones that have been pre-washed, will have minimal shrinkage, typically around 3% to 5%.

    If subjected to high temperatures and agitation, linen can shrink further. For example, placing linen in ahot dryer can lead to an additional 5% shrinkage.

    In total, linen can lose up to 15% of its original size under extreme conditions involving high heat andmoisture. Following care instructions is key to minimizing this shrinkage.

    Use cold water and opt for air drying to keep your linens in optimal shape.

    How To Prevent Linen Shrinkage

    To prevent linen shrinkage, it's essential to focus on proper washing and drying techniques. Follow these key points to maintain your linen's size and shape effectively.

    Washing Techniques to Limit Shrinkage

    Check Labels and Pre-Treatment

    Always start by checking the care label on your linen. Manufacturers provide specific instructions that can help you prevent shrinkage. Pre-treat any stains with a mild detergent to avoid harsh chemicals that could damage the fabric.

    Use Cold or Lukewarm Water

    Hot water is a major cause of shrinkage in linen. Use cold or lukewarm water when washing. Cold water helps maintain the fabric's integrity while minimizing the chances of shrinkage.

    Choose Gentle Cycles

    If you use a washing machine, opt for a gentle cycle. This reduces the agitation that can cause the linen fibers to contract. Alternatively, hand washing is a gentler option.

    Use Mild Detergent Only

    Opt for mild detergents. Harsh chemicals can weaken linen fibers and increase the risk of shrinkage. Stick to gentle, fabric-friendly detergents to keep your linen in top shape.

    Proper Drying to Maintain Size and Shape of Linen

    Air Dry When Possible

    Air drying is the best method to prevent shrinkage. Hang your linen on a clothesline or lay it flat on a drying rack. This method avoids the high temperatures and agitation of a dryer.

    Tumble Dry on Low

    If you need to use a dryer, choose a low-temperature setting. Tumble drying on high heat can cause linen to shrink up to 15%. To further prevent shrinkage, add a few tennis balls or dryer balls to reduce wrinkling and maintain shape.

    Avoid High Heat

    Keeping your linen away from high heat is crucial. This includes both the dryer and storage areas. A hot, humid room can cause shrinkage and damage the fabric. Always store linen in a cool, dry place to preserve its size and quality.

    How To Reverse Linen Shrinkage

    Sometimes linen shrinks after washing or drying. Fortunately, you can often fix this with a few simple steps involving soaking, stretching, and gently ironing.

    Methods to Unshrink Linen

    Soaking and Stretching:

    To start, fill a basin with lukewarm water and add a small amount of baby shampoo or hair conditioner—about one tablespoon per gallon of water. These products help relax the fibers in the linen.

    Gently submerge the shrunken linen in the solution and let it soak for 30 minutes. After soaking, remove the linen and gently squeeze out excess water.

    Next, lay the linen on a clean towel. Roll the towel and linen together to absorb additional moisture. Unroll and gently stretch the fabric back to its original shape and size. You can pin the edges to maintain the stretch while it dries.

    Steaming and Ironing:

    Another method involves using steam and gentle ironing. First, dampen the linen slightly with water.

    Begin steaming the linen using a handheld steamer or an iron with a steam setting.

    While steaming, use gentle, even strokes to stretch the fabric. Be careful not to apply too much heat, as high temperatures can damage the fibers.


    While linen offers comfort and style, it's prone to shrinkage when exposed to the high heat of a dryer. To prevent this, follow the care labels, use cooler water for washing, and try to air dry. When machine drying is necessary, always use a low heat setting. Safeguard your linen's luxurious feel and appearance with these simple steps

    For a selection of quality linen that stands the test of time, check outRough Linen’s products and care for them with confidence.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    How can I prevent my linen clothes from shrinking?

    To prevent linen shrinkage, always follow the care instructions.

    Wash your linen in cool or lukewarm water and avoid using high heat settings on the dryer. Air drying is often the safest option.

    What is the safest temperature to wash linen to avoid shrinkage?

    Washing linen in cool or lukewarm water is ideal.

    High temperatures can cause the fibers to contract. Keep the water temperature below 30°C (86°F) to minimize the risk of shrinkage.

    Is it safe to tumble dry linen garments?

    Tumble drying linen can be safe if you use low heat settings.

    However, air drying is preferred to reduce the chance of shrinkage.

    If you must use a dryer, choose a gentle, low-temperature cycle and remove the linen while it's still slightly damp.

    How can I tell if my linen has shrunk after washing or drying?

    To check if your linen has shrunk, compare it to its original measurements.

    Lay the linen flat and measure it before and after washing or drying.

    A shrinkage of 5-7% is common for linen, but it can be more if exposed to high temperatures.

    Do different quality linens have varying levels of shrink resistance?

    Yes, different quality linens can have different levels of shrink resistance.

    Higher quality linens, which are tightly woven and pre-washed, tend to shrink less compared to lower quality options.

    What are the best practices for handling linen to maintain its size and shape?

    To maintain the size and shape of your linen, wash it gently in cool water. Avoid high heat, and air dry whenever possible. Store linen in a cool, dry place. Iron it while it's still slightly damp to keep the fibers smooth and intact.

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