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Style SOS

Style SOS: How to stop t-shirts shrinking

Style SOS: How to stop t-shirts shrinking

My t-shirts always shrink! Am I washing them wrong or just buying bad ones? – Sam, via Instagram


The search for the perfect t-shirt is an eternal one, so there’s few things more irritating than sticking it in the wash and having it come out Action Man-sized. There are a couple of reasons this can happen and the main culprit is, as you mention, the settings on your machine. But what they’re made from, and how well they’re made, also plays a part.

First things first, check the label – this is a built-in how-to guide and checking it before you wash your tee will save you from heartache. Heat shrinks clothes (it’s why we advise never using a tumble dryer) and modern detergents will remove pretty much anything on a cool wash. It’s better for the planet, too. Truly, the only things that need to be washed hot are bed linens and towels. It’s also wise to minimise spinning, since all that friction can warp your tees. Just be patient and let them drip-dry.

As for buying t-shirts, look for 100% cotton, like this one from MVP or this classic white style, if you can. It makes washing simpler because there’s only one set of instructions to follow – blends respond differently to different temperatures, which can increase the risk of shrinkage. As a bonus, because it’s a natural fabric it’s more breathable too, which means you won’t get lingering odours. If you prefer a t-shirt with a little more stretch, then a cotton lycra blend is a good option. Look for one with less than 10 per cent lycra – the more lycra, the more chance the t-shirt will stretch and lose its shape.

Words: Nadia Balame-Price
Illustration: Ryan Gillett