DIY Projects: How To Shrink Linen
Discover how to shrink linen at home for best results that won't cause any headaches.
You can't expect us to show up at every pilates class, even if we said we would. But you can expect us to dish out all we know about linen.
For those rare few times when you actually want to shrink your linen pieces, we're here to help. Firstly, yes, it can be done — from home and without going out and buying any special tools or detergents. You can still go out shopping for other things, though.
Secondly, it's important to know in what situations you would use these shrinking methods. We'd say it's appropriate to try to shrink linen clothing when they're cut in an oversized, loose fit and you're hoping for something more fitted. Or, as the designers would say, a figure-skimming silhouette.
If you're trying to jump a few sizes, it's best to get it tailored or phone in help from the professionals.
Learn the exact method (dare we say science) of how to shrink linen below so expertly that you'll be highly impressed with yourself and love the results. Don’t worry; your favourite linen midi dress is in safe hands.
Does linen shrink when washed?
Linen can only shrink in the wash at high temperatures. So keep eating while wearing white-on-white linen with full confidence — your washing machine will save the day.
A maximum of 4% shrinkage can happen after the first wash with linen. But most quality linens have been pre-washed, so you don't have to worry about this happening. Check the garment label. It should say "pre-washed".
It's recommended to wash linen at 30C on a short cycle for perfect results every time. Check out all the details on how to wash linen correctly.
Do different fabrics shrink differently?
Some fabrics shrink more easily than others. So before you start any type of shrinking, always check the garment label and find out what material your clothing is made from and what's the percentage.
Pure cotton and wool are the easiest materials to shrink. While synthetic fibres aren't and keep their shape. Silk is a notoriously delicate fabric, and it's not recommended to try any DIY shrinking on it. The excessive heat could damage the fabric forever.
Linen is somewhere in between. If you want to purposely shrink your linen clothing, you can – from home and with little effort.
Does linen shrink in the washer or dryer?
Linen can shrink in both the washer and dryer, so take extra care. It's all about the heat. High temperatures are what can make linen shrink. So stay away from high dryer heat (over 35C) and hot water washing machine cycles (over 30C) to keep your linens in top condition for years and years.
3 Methods to shrink linen
1. Get it tailored
Getting your linens tailored is the most precise way to shrink them. You'll be able to control exactly how much smaller your clothing will become. Obviously, if you have linen pants that need to be shortened, getting them hemmed is the way to go. But even if you're hoping for a more cinched-in waist, an experienced seamstress will be able to make it happen.
2. By hand
This method is the most gentle. So use it on all the pieces that you love and treasure. Delicate linen tops and dresses are best shrunk with this method. Soak your linens in warm water. But make sure it's not boiling hot. Next, leave your linen in the water for roughly 10 hours. Stir every so often. This method allows you to check up regularly on your linen and see how it is progressing. Then, air dry the linen.
3. Using the washing machine & dryer
Caution. This method comes with a warning written in big red letters. Only use this method if you've tried shrinking by hand and it didn't work.
Don't exaggerate too much when trying to shrink your linens in the washing machine and dryer. A small increase in temperature can create plenty of shrinkage. Start a washing cycle on warm heat (40-50C)and put your linen shirt into the machine. Close the washing machine door. (the reminder is for us; you probably don't need it).
Finish off in the dryer at a low heat setting. Somewhere around 30C would be a good start. The higher the heat and the longer the time, the more shrinking. We recommend gradually working your way to your preferred size and fit so there aren't any surprises.
How many sizes will linen shrink?
While we can predict that another mega-celebrity will come out with a skincare line by the end of the year (huge eye roll), we can't predict with complete accuracy how much your linen clothing will shrink.
But you can expect about 2-3% shrinkage if you use one of the methods above. It will vary depending on the brand, thickness of fabric and the type of garment. If you're hoping to shrink your clothing a lot, it's best to call in the professionals. You'll get the best results with tailoring.
Steps: How to shrink linen
Before you run to the laundry room, please read these steps on how to shrink linen.
- Check the garment tag
It's important to know what material you're working with. Is your piece of clothing 100% linen or a blend? If it's a linen-cotton blend, it will likely shrink less easily. So keep that in mind.
- Think through your options
Can your linen dress be tailored? Going the washing machine route should be more used as a last resort.
- Shrink your linen by hand
Shrinking by hand is the first and most gentle method. If your garment hasn't shrunk enough, then turn to your washing machine & dryer for help.
- Shrink your linen with the washing machine
Turn up the heat and shrink your linen on a warm water washing cycle. Then, throw it in the dryer. For results that aren't too extreme, we recommend sticking to 40-50C. Trying this method at higher temperatures could lead to clothing made for the children's section.
Top Tips: How to shrink linen
There are some linen pieces that we can't imagine ever having to part with. They're our go-tos for client meetings, big family gatherings or whenever we need to feel confident. That's why we've shared these tips so that there aren't any sad goodbyes.
- Be cautious. It's so hard to go back once your linen has shrunk. So, it's better to shrink gradually rather than do it all at once and be left with irreversible damage. For your first attempt, keep the temperature at around 40C and see what happens.
- Check the temperature & time. What will cause your favourite white linen shirt to shrink? High heat and how long it spends in water. To avoid dramatic shrinkages, increase the heat slightly and stick to a short wash cycle and a short time in the dryer.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will linen shrink permanently?
Linen's committed wholeheartedly to a makeover — once you've shrunk her, she can't go back. So really make sure you're all in because results are really, really (x100) difficult to reverse. Plus, if you're going to have any regrets this year, why make it your linen?
Does linen shrink every time you wash it?
No, linen doesn't shrink every time you wash it. Linen isn't a diva, as long as you follow one simple rule, there won't be any problems. Let's say it together, "wash linen at 30C."
If you wash linen clothing correctly, it will stay the same shape for years to come. Now, that doesn't mean you have to follow a crazy washing process longer than a skincare routine. Actually, linen is machine washable. Stick to a gentle washing cycle at 30C, and you're good to go.
Will linen shrink by width or length?
We weren't listening during high school chemistry class. Wasn't that only like a year ago? But we do consider ourselves fabric connoisseurs and can answer the question, will linen shrink by width or length?
The quick answer is linen can shrink in both width and length. Usually, it will shrink 3% in length and 2% in width. But these stats depend on so many different factors it's hard to know exactly what will happen.
Conclusion: How To Shrink Linen
We're all for the return of ballet flats, but we're not here for experiments gone wrong, which can quickly happen with DIY laundry projects. And speaking of the laundry, visit our blog on how to organize a linen closet like the pros.
See below for how to shrink linen at home easily and effectively without ruining any of your precious linens.
- Shrink by hand – this is a gentle way to shrink your linens. Leave them in a tub of warm water (40C) and stir often. Then, air dry the linen and voila. Repeat the process if the linen doesn't shrink enough and slightly increase the water temperature.
- Shrink in the washing machine — choose a short cycle on your washing machine but warmer than usual (again, like 40C). Once finished, pop your linens into the dryer on a short 40C cycle.