Why Do My Clothes Shrink?

buying environment handmade Laundry leggings

Do you ever buy a new item of clothing and find that after one wash it has shrunk? It is so frustrating isn't it? The top that looked so good when you first wore it is now mishapen and smaller and you wonder what you did wrong. 

I get asked all the time about if the clothes I make shrink. Before people make that purchase they want to know if the leggings or top that they are buying will last. Will they still fit your child after that initial wear and wash?

This blog looks at why our cotton clothing, even your Tutti Frutti Clothing, might shrink. How can we minimize shrinkage and, perhaps most importantly of all – how we can look after our planet better?

Do Tutti Frutti Clothing leggings shrink?

The simple answer is yes. Yes they do shrink. Just like every other cotton garment you own will also shrink.

But (there is always a but isn’t there?!) if you look after them properly then they won't be noticeably smaller and they shouldn't be unwearable after one wash. 

Looking after our clothing properly prolongs its life cycle – it is wearable for longer, can be passed onto friends or family, or even resold.

Why Does Cotton Clothing Shrink?

It’s a common scenario. You buy a nice new t-shirt, wear it, wash it and then when you come to wear it again it’s too small. It’s annoying and frustrating, yet it happens time and time again. Not only with our clothes but with our children’s clothing. Why does this happen? What makes them shrink on that first wash?

Cotton in it's natural state

The clothes I make are made from fabric that is a mix of cotton and elastane. The usual fabric content is 95% cotton and 5% elastane. Cotton is a natural fibre, and like all natural fibres – wool, silk and cotton - it will shrink when it mixes with heat.  

In it’s natural state, cotton is a fluffy ball that grows on a plant. Curly and tangled – much like my hair!

To make the knitted, flat fabric that I turn unto the leggings you love, that natural curly fibre needs to be stretched out. Tension is applied to it as it is stretched, knitted and woven into the cloth.

However, given half the chance, that cotton will want to return to its natural state. My hair is actually a pretty good example. I can straighten it as much as I like but as soon as I wash it…poof….its a big, curly mess once again. And that is pretty much what happens with the cotton. 

Hot water, heat from the tumble dryer and even steam causes the fabric to relax and as such the cotton shrinks.

The more heat you use, the more the more the clothing shrinks.

How Do I Stop Cotton Clothing Shrinking?

care labelCotton clothing will always shrink a small amount on the first wash and so I cut my clothing to allow for 5% shrinkage. After that first wash, they shouldn’t shrink again if you follow the care label. Tutti Frutti Clothing care labels state to wash at 30, line dry and iron on a cool temperature.

The only clothing that will not shrink it made from synthetic fabrics - polyester or nylon for example. But those fabrics are not breathable and use many chemicals in their production they are bad for the environment. I have previously written about why I do not use synthetic fabric any more in a blog post about my mermaid leggings, which were made from polyester or nylon.

As well as preventing too much shrinkage, washing correctly is also better for the environment. 

The Tutti Frutti Clothing Eco Guide to Laundry

1. Wash your clothes less

There are some clothes that need frequent washing – pants, socks and sports kits generally need washing after every use.  However, when I check the clothing my kids throw in the wash it rarely needs washing every time. School uniform can be worn for more than one day (unless its got dinner down it!) and if you wipe muddy trousers off with a cloth and they’re good for another day. Uniforms worn once a week for clubs can be worn for more than one week. I know mine wear their clubs uniform for 90 minutes once a week – that really doesn’t need washing every week.

A handy tip that was passed to me was to put a small washing basket in each child’s room and then it is a lot easier to get the clean clothes out the wash and put them back to be worn again if they are not dirty!

Washing our clothes less save water, energy and prevents them becoming worn out too quickly!

2. Wash like colours together

Washing like colours together prevents colour runs. Heat from the water can open the fibres up and, some colour can run out of the fabric. We’ve all had a red sock in a white wash resulting in a pink shirt - haven.t we?

The fabric that I use is baby and child friendly – dyes shouldn’t leak into your wash - but other items of clothing, dark jeans in particular, might run. Washing dark and light colours together can dull them too. And, if you wash bright colours inside out will also keep bright clothing looking good for longer.

 3. Always wash a full load.

By ensuring that your machine is full before you switch it on can save water. If you can't make a full load then use an economy or half load setting on your machine to save water and energy. 

4. Wash at 30.

Wash at 30Washing at a cooler temperature is the best way to minimise shrinkage and it also saves energy. According to Offset Warehouse “adopting an earth-friendly laundry regime is the first step to reducing environmental damage…if every household turned its washing machine down to 30°C, we could save 12 million tons of CO2 a year”. Wow. That’s a massive amount. To put it in perspective, iprefer30.eu states that “a reduction of only 3° in the average wash temperature of the people in Europe is the equivalent to eliminating the emissions produced by around 700,000 cars."


Buying and wearing ethical and sustainable clothing is more than just the fabric they are made from. To care for our planet better and get the most from our clothing we need to change the way we look after the things we buy. 

I hope this blog post has helped you understand why clothes shrink and what we can do to minimise shrinkage and look after our clothing and our planet better.

I know that I am always learning how to do things in a better way and I hope that you are too! 

If you struggle with shrinking clothes or have any handy tips for better, more eco-friendly laundry I'd love to hear from you! Do leave a comment below!







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