Does Hot Water Shrink Clothes? A Guide

It’s most likely happened to you at one time or another. You had set out to wash your clothes and get them clean, yet when you took them out of the washing machine, you realized your clothing had shrunk in size. 

You might be wondering why this happens and what you can do when it does happen. Let’s talk about the risks and benefits of washing clothes in hot water. Then, we’ll show you sustainable basics you can purchase when it’s time to replace worn-out clothing.

Why Would You Need to Shrink Clothes? 

Maybe you have a few items in your closet that are too big. Perhaps your child’s new thrifted jeans are slightly too large for them to fit comfortably. In that case, you may wish to shrink your clothes with hot water. 

What Are the Risks of Shrinking Clothes? 

Shrinking clothes is helpful in some scenarios. For example, you might realize that a shirt you like has stretched over time. Attempting to shrink it could make it more wearable.

In others, intentionally shrinking your shirts, underwear, or sweaters might lead to an unfavorable outcome. Your clothing might shrink in the wrong places and become unwearable. 

When To Wash Clothes With Hot Water 

What’s the verdict? Should you avoid washing clothing with hot water altogether? Not quite. There are a few instances when you might choose to wash your clothing at high temperatures for other reasons.

Let’s take a look at some of the scenarios when running the washing machine at more heated temperatures could benefit you.

Use Hot Water for White Clothing 

Do you need to wash a load of whites? Getting stains out of white clothing can be difficult without hot water. Whenever you need to brighten your whites, it’s a good idea to run your load at a high temperature with bleach added to the mix. 

Separating white clothing isn’t arbitrary; it allows you to focus on the items that are most vulnerable to stains.

Use Hot Water for Soiled Clothing Items

Another instance when using hot water is beneficial is when a clothing item has gotten especially dirty. In cases when your apparel or your children’s clothing has come in contact with bodily fluids or other heavy messes, hot water does the best job of disinfecting the fabric and removing germs. 

For example, if your little one has recently encountered an illness, you’ll want to do a thorough job of washing their sheets, clothing, and any other materials where germs may spread, such as couch cushions and bath towels. Hot water can help you keep your family safe and clean while your little one returns to their healthy, happy self again.

Use Hot Water for Workout Clothes

You may also want to use hot water on clothes that come in contact with higher levels of bacteria. For example, the shirt you wore for two hours to lunch with a friend probably doesn’t need hot water for its wash cycle.

However, the workout top and pants you wore to the gym afterward need a more extensive cleaning. In this case, hot water does the best job of removing germs and returning your clothes to a fresh, clean state. 

Downsides of Washing Clothes with Hot Water 

As you might have guessed, there are a few reasons you may not want to wash your clothes with hot water. While it helps remove bacteria and some tough stains in white clothing, there are a few adverse effects to consider. 

Your Clothes May Shrink Too Much 

First, your clothing may shrink more than you intended. If you throw jeans that fit you properly before into a hot water wash, you might find that they’re too small for you after the fact. For that reason, using hot water shouldn’t be your default washing machine setting.

It’s Less Energy Efficient 

Unfortunately, using hot water isn’t efficient for your energy consumption. In all of the energy needed to run your washing machine, the energy used to heat the water accounts for nearly 90% of the total. That’s something to think about as you decide which wash setting is right for you and your family.

It’s More Expensive

Along with higher energy consumption comes a higher energy bill. If you have a high energy bill this month, you might consider switching to a cooler wash setting to offset costs. It’s just one more reason to be intentional about your wash settings with different types of clothing. 

Hot Water Can Permanently Set Some Stains 

Unfortunately, while hot water can help remove some stains in some clothing articles, it can also cause others to set in.

When you’re trying to decide which setting to select for your laundry, you can use the following guide:

  • For stains from blood, alcohol, food, juice, and toothpaste, use cold water first, then re-evaluate after your first wash if they still need more attention.
  • For coffee, wine, oil-based stains, and set-in stains, hot water will work best.

This Temperature Can Discolor Your Clothing 

Another risk to consider with hot water is the way different articles of clothing may react to it. Specific materials like nylon, polyester, and vinyl can become damaged when washed at temperatures that are too hot for their suggested care. 

Brightly-colored clothing can be affected by high temperatures as well; items that were once vibrant may become dull when washed in a hot wash cycle. These are all risks to weigh as you decide the best method for washing your family’s clothing. 

What to Do When Your Clothes Shrink 

What happens when you accidentally shrink clothing too much? You might realize that items such as underwear and sheets tend to shrink at a faster rate. Since these items can have higher bacteria content, you might decide to wash them with hot water. The downside is that they might become too small over time. 

When this happens, you shouldn’t have to continue to wear clothing that doesn’t fit anymore. 

Take the unfortunate circumstances as an opportunity to replace your family’s clothing with high-quality basics and cold weather wear from Mallary by Matthew.

Mallary by Matthew’s Sustainable Basics 

As we mentioned, one of the most common articles you might accidentally shrink in the wash is underwear. When underwear shrinks and becomes too tight, it’s more than uncomfortable. You might even feel moments of pain or skin irritation if you wear briefs that are too restrictive. 

When you need to replace your family’s underwear with high-quality undergarments, we’ve got something for everyone. When you need to replace your underwear with stretchy, breathable boxer briefs, we have just the thing. Our UMBRO Men’s Essential Cotton Stretch and Athletic Stretch Boxer Brief sets are perfect for supporting you throughout your day. 

We’ve also got the best comfortable boxer briefs, briefs, and bralette sets for your kids. Each comes in a variety of patterns and colors with a tagless, soft feel. Keep them in undergarments that fit so they can feel comfortable all day long. 

Mallary by Matthew’s Cold Weather Wear 

Do you live in a cold climate? As your kids grow, you’ll want to ensure they have cold weather wear all year long so they can stay warm on icy days.

Here’s how to keep your kiddos warm (and stylish) all throughout the cold season with Mallary by Matthew:

  • Jackets: Go for a softshell or bubble jacket, depending on the weather. Your little ones will be warm and dry all day with our LEGO Wear kids’ jackets
  • Snowsuits: When you need to get ready for a skiing or snowboarding adventure, your little ones deserve full protection from the elements. Get them ready for the snow day fun with our LEGO Wear kids’ snowsuits

Mallary by Matthew’s Kids Sheets 

When your kids’ sheets shrink in the wash, you don’t have to keep doing Olympic stretches to attempt to get them to fit again. Toss those misshapen sheets to the curb and opt for ultra-warm microfiber sheets in your kid’s favorite design instead. 

You Can Have Durable Clothes that Last Through Multiple Washes 

By now, you might be aware that washing clothes in hot water may lead to shrinking. You and your family deserve to have clothes that fit for everyday wear. When you’re ready to replace too-small clothes with sustainable basics, Mallary by Matthew has everything your family needs. 



Why Do We Wash Whites in Warm Water and Brights in Cold? | Martha Stewart

Do clothes always shrink if you wash in warm water? | How Stuff Works