Will 100% Cotton Underwear Shrink?

Maybe you’re wondering how to shrink cotton underwear because your new pair is just a bit too big. Or, perhaps you’re trying to prevent cotton underwear from shrinking because it’s perfect as is - and you’re afraid that the first journey through the washing and drying machines will ruin the sizing. 

Either way, you’ve come to the right place - because today, we’re going to address one of the most common questions our customers ask us - will 100% cotton underwear shrink? 

The short answer is maybe. The long answer is: yes - it will shrink if you wash it in hot water and put it through the dryer. This is how many people clean their clothing. On the other hand, washing your underwear by hand in cold water and letting it air dry will minimize shrinking.

In the sections to follow, we’ll talk all about what you need to know about shrinking cotton underwear - whether your goal is to make it happen or prevent it altogether. You’ll even discover other cotton underwear care tips to keep your new favorite pairs intact for the long haul!

Will 100% Cotton Underwear Shrink?

There’s no denying that 100% organic cotton (ideally GOTS-certified organic, like ours here at Q for Quinn) is the best fabric for women’s underwear. It’s skin safe, comfortable, and ethical. But there’s nothing worse than only getting a few wears from a garment before it shrinks too much. So - does cotton underwear shrink?

As mentioned earlier, yes - 100% cotton under will shrink depending on how you wash it. This is due to the very nature of cotton fibers - which are prone to shrinkage. With that said, there are ways you can prevent (or exacerbate) the shrinkage. But how much will 100% cotton underwear shrink?

How Much Will 100% Cotton Underwear Shrink?

The amount that 100% cotton underwear will shrink can vary depending on a number of factors, including the specific garment, the quality of the cotton, and the care instructions. In general, however, it is safe to expect that 100% cotton underwear will shrink around 5-10% in both length and width.

This figure can be greater if the underwear is washed in hot water and dried in high heat. On the other hand, the shrinkage can be reduced by washing the underwear in cold water (ideally by hand) and air drying it.

It is generally a good idea to buy cotton underwear that is a little bit larger than you need to account for shrinkage, especially if you plan to wash and dry them frequently. Additionally, reading the care instructions on the garment's label can also help you understand how to best care for the specific underwear and potentially reduce the amount of shrinkage.

Does Cotton Underwear Shrink Every Time You Wash it?

Many are under the impression that cotton can only shrink so much - and eventually, you can safely wash your garments without the worry of additional shrinkage. That is not the case necessarily. The underwear can continue shrinking each and every time you wash it. 

However, it is true that the first few washes will result in the greatest amount of shrinkage. After that point, the degree to which your underwear shrinks will continue to diminish. With that said, this can really add up over the course of time when you consider how long cotton underwear lasts (one of the many benefits of organic cotton underwear).

How to Shrink Cotton Underwear if it’s Too Big

So you know 100% cotton underwear will shrink - and maybe that’s good news to you. Picture this - you’ve anxiously awaited your new pair of all-cotton undies to arrive at your doorstep only to discover they are a bit too large. They don’t sit up on your hips as much as you’d hoped. Or, maybe they bunch up at the bottom. Don’t stress - below, we’ll teach you how to shrink cotton underwear if it’s too big. 

Just be aware that you can’t surgically shrink your underwear down to the perfect size - when following the advice below, you are running the risk of over-shrinking your garments and leaving them too small. At that point, the damage will be done - you can’t unshrink garments without damaging them.

Pre-wash the Underwear Before Trying it on

Before you try on the underwear, it's important to wash it in cold water to remove any dirt, debris, or chemicals that may be on the fabric. 

This is less of a concern when you buy the best organic cotton underwear for women or kids at Q for Quinn, as we take safety seriously. We only use GOTS-certified organic cotton which is free of over 100 harmful chemicals. And, our formulations are always free of toxic azo-drys.

Nevertheless, it’s a good idea to wash the underwear either by hand or in a washing machine before you try them on. Follow the care recommendations closely to prevent shrinking before you confirm it’s actually necessary.

Use Hot Water

Once you confirm that you do need to shrink your underwear a bit, it’s time to get to work. Fill a bathtub or sink with hot water and add a mild detergent. Submerge the underwear in the water and use your hands to gently agitate the fabric. Soak the underwear for about 15-20 minutes.

You may be wondering why we don’t recommend the washing machine. After all, you can increase the shrinkage in a washing machine through the tumbling motion and speed things up. Just note that the agitation in the washing machine decreases the level of control you have over shrinking your underwear. 

As we mentioned earlier, if you overdo it, you’ll be out of luck entirely. It’s up to you if you want to roll the dice. Just remember that the drying process comes next - which will result in additional shrinkage.

Dry the underwear

Remove the underwear from the hot water and gently squeeze out any excess water. Do not wring or twist the fabric as this can cause it to stretch out. Place the underwear on a towel and roll it up to remove even more water. Then, lay the underwear flat to dry or put it in the dryer on a high heat setting. If you think only minor shrinkage is necessary, you may not want to use a drying machine as this can exacerbate the shrinkage beyond what you need. This is where you’ll need to use your judgment.

Re-check the Size

After the underwear has dried, try them on and check for the desired fit. If they are still too big, repeat the process.

It's important to note that shrinking cotton underwear can be a delicate process, and some shrinkage may be irreversible. Therefore, it's best to shrink cotton underwear gradually, checking the fit after each step, to avoid over-shrinking and damaging the garment.

Additionally, it's important to keep in mind that cotton can shrink differently in different areas, so it's best to focus on shrinking the areas that are too big specifically, such as the waistband or legs.

How to Prevent Cotton Underwear From Shrinking

On the other hand, maybe your new undies fit just how you’d hoped - you unbox them try them on, and perfection! But now you’re scared that this is a fleeting feeling. Surely that first trip through the washer and dryer will shrink them to the point they’re too tight, right?

Not necessarily. As we’ve mentioned a few times already, there are a few tactics you can try to keep your cotton underwear from shrinking. Yes, it’s a bit more work - but it’s definitely worth it if you want to enjoy all that your cotton underwear has to offer! 

Essentially, you’ll just want to take the opposite approach to what we recommended above.

Wash by Hand With Cold Water 

As you now know, hot water can cause the fibers in the cotton to shrink, so using cold water can help to prevent shrinkage. Similarly, you want to minimize the agitation of the delicate cotton fibers in this process - which is why handwashing is best. 

If you are going to use your washing machine, just be sure to use the gentle settings and put your garments in a bag to protect them further.

Air Dry - or Use a Low Heat Setting

Once your underwear is clean, you need to carefully dry them in a manner that minimizes shrinking. The best option is air drying - as this eliminates both heat and agitation. Better yet, let your garments air dry outdoors on the clothesline - the sun’s natural ultraviolet rays can help sanitize the garments even further. 

However, if you don’t have time to let your underwear air dry you can use a low-heat, gentle setting on your dryer.

Additional Tips for Caring for 100% Cotton Underwear

There you have it - how to shrink cotton underwear or prevent it. Before we wrap things up, we want to leave you with a few final thoughts on how to take care of 100% cotton underwear to keep it intact for years to come:

  • Sort by color: To prevent color bleeding, it's best to sort your underwear by color and wash them separately.
  • Use mild detergent: Use mild detergent to wash your cotton underwear. Avoid using harsh detergents or bleach, as these can damage the cotton fibers and cause discoloration. Similarly, these toxic detergents can be harmful to your skin - especially if you have skin sensitivities.
  • Avoid over-stuffing the machine: Overstuffing the washing machine can cause the underwear to become stretched out or misshapen.
  • Fold and store properly: After washing and drying your cotton underwear, fold them neatly and store them in a cool, dry place. Avoid hanging them, as this can cause them to stretch out or lose their shape.
  • Avoid ironing: Ironing can cause shrinkage and damage to the cotton fibers. If you want to remove wrinkles, you can use a steamer instead.
  • Rotate your underwear: Rotating your underwear allows each pair to rest and recover its shape between wears.

Final Thoughts on How to Shrink Cotton Underwear (or Prevent it)

Now you know all about how to shrink cotton underwear. We’ve answered many of the most common questions our customers ask about caring for their undies: does cotton underwear shrink? Will 100% cotton underwear shrink every time I wash it?

At this point, you should feel confident in caring for your garments. If you haven’t bought yours yet, and are still wondering where to buy 100% cotton underwear, you’re in luck - because here at Q for Quinn, you’ll gain access to the best organic cotton underwear for women, men, and children alike!

Whether you’re searching for 100% organic cotton women’s underwear or 100% organic cotton kids' underwear, we’ve got you covered. We only use GOTS-certified organic cotton to ensure the safest, gentlest, and most ethical products possible. You’ll feel the difference in that first wear. 

And, you can also count on us for all your other basics - like our 100% cotton socks, women’s linen sets, eczema socks, toddler socks with grips, seamless socks, and everything else your family needs!

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