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everything you need to know about pre-shrunk fabric (and a safer alternative)

Everything You Need to Know About Pre-Shrunk Fabric (And A Safer Alternative)

Purchasing pre-shrunk fabric is ideal for preventing unwanted shrinkage after an item has already been made. No one wants their clothing to shrink before they have a chance to enjoy wearing it. The same goes for items made of fabric, such as cosmetics bags, reusable sandwich bags, or tote bags. 

These can all get dirty and require washing. Unless you choose to hand wash and air dry them, you run the risk of a shrunk item if you run it through a regular wash and dry cycle. 

The solution many shoppers go with is to purchase pre-shrunk fabric that has been through a special process and chemically treated to prevent much, if any, shrinkage after you’ve bought it. But there’s a problem with pre-shrunk fabric – there are chemicals involved. 

Today’s blog is about pre-shrunk fabric. We’re explaining the process the fabric goes through to get the pre-shrunk label and why those chemicals are bad for you. We’re also presenting a safer alternative that bypasses chemicals and provides a degree of shrinkage. 

Let’s dive in!

What Is Pre-Shrunk Fabric?

Pre-shrunk fabric refers to a finishing treatment that shrinks the fabric back to its original state before it reaches you. For example, 100% untreated cotton will shrink up to 20%, leaving you with 80% of the amount you purchased and quickly rendering your favorite new tee unwearable.

Cotton shrinks so much because of the stress it undergoes when it’s manufactured. The fibers expand and stretch out far beyond their original shape. So, when they’re washed and dried, the hot water and heat allow the fibers to relax and re-shrink. 

Not every fabric will shrink as much as cotton, but plenty of materials will shrink. Other examples include bamboo, wool, silk, linen, and hemp. Natural fibers shrink more easily than synthetic fibers, but some synthetic fibers – like spandex – can also shrink. Always check the label for wash and care instructions, even for pre-shrunk fabrics. 

How is Fabric Pre-Shrunk?

To prevent a shrunk shirt from ruining your day, many manufacturers put their fabrics through a stretching process to help the fabric shrink back to its original state. Then, the materials go through special dryers that contain hot-air blowers. It’s like a supercharged dryer that further encourages shrinkage. 

Finally, the fabric goes through a compactor that steams it, removing the air between the threads and ensuring that the fabric is as close to its original state as possible. The compactor also provides dimensional stability, which is a fancy way of saying that the fabric will hold its shape and not stretch very far in any one direction. 

Now, pre-shrunk fabric can get too pre-shrunk, causing the fibers to expand beyond their ability to shrink. The result? The final shape can’t hold as originally intended. 

There are also chemicals involved in the pre-shrinking process, the primary one being formaldehyde, a gas used in manufacturing. Formaldehyde is almost invisible but has a strong smell and will irritate your body. Even if your exposure is brief, you’ll quickly notice discomfort in your eyes, nose, and throat. 

Long-term exposure to formaldehyde can cause you to choke or cough. In the worst-case scenario, your throat could swell up, or your lungs could burn, both of which are life-threatening. The chemical exposure isn’t good for you, either. In 1987, the EPA classified formaldehyde as a possible human carcinogen. 

Granted, it would take a lot of exposure to formaldehyde to give you cancer, but why would you want to expose yourself to such a harmful chemical? 

Benefits You Don’t Want to Miss Out On 

Now, we won’t deny the benefits of pre-shrunk fabric. You’ll save time and money from not needing to purchase extra fabric to make up for the shrinkage. You’ll also save time from not needing to shrink your fabric yourself. 

You’ll have true-to-size fabric and fewer steps to take if you make/sew your own clothing or belongings. Of course, you’ll need to purchase enough fabric to allow for mistakes, as you would for any project. But you won’t need to buy double the fabric to complete your project. 

Pre-shrunk fabric is also helpful for small business owners. Even if you include a disclaimer about fabric shrinking, customers might get upset if they order a size large, but their shirt is a size smaller after washing it.

Ready-AbZORB Fabrics Are Your Solution.

While you can’t get pre-shrunk fabric without chemical treatment, you can get fabric with reduced shrinkage – and without the chemicals! That’s where the Ready-AbZORB technology in Wazoodle’s Zorb Fabrics and ProECO Fabrics comes into play. 

Our ProECO & Zorb Fabrics aren’t completely pre-shrunk because of the conditions where they’re manufactured, so they don’t carry that label, but the Ready-AbZORB technology does reduce shrinkage by 60 to 80 percent, saving you a huge chunk on money without taking on the risks of chemical-induced, pre-shrunk fabrics 

Even with the reduced shrinkage that Ready-AbZORB Fabrics provide, they come with some of the same benefits as pre-shrunk fabrics. And they have the added advantage of not expanding beyond their ability to shrink, so you won’t have to deal with the negative shrinkage that’s common in pre-shrunk fabrics. 

An additional benefit of the Ready-AbZORB tech is that these fabrics are now primed for absorbency. This eliminates the need to wash the fabric before sewing with it or using your product for its intended purpose. In most cases, you’d need to wash your fabric three to five times to activate the absorbency.

So, if you want a fabric that won’t shrink like crazy but doesn’t contain harmful chemicals like formaldehyde, check out our Ready-AbZORB collection of fabrics

Get Your Fabric from Wazoodle.

We understand the stress of ensuring that your fabrics serve their purpose, as well as the need for natural processes that eliminate the chemicals that could make you sick. You want your products to last and not end up ruined from a wash and dry cycle. 

Finding a compromise is your best bet until we’re able to pioneer technology that pre-shrinks fabric without harmful chemicals that could hurt you or the environment. Our Ready-AbZORB technology is your solution for a fabric free of chemicals that won’t shrink very much. 

Do you have more questions about our Ready-AbZORB technology? Please don’t hesitate to contact us for more information. We’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have. You can also order 4x4 swatches of the different Zorb fabrics to see which one is best for what you’re making. 

Get started today with Wazoodle Fabrics! 


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