Does Polyester Shrink In The Dryer?

Wonders really do happen in the dryer. Like when you put silk in the dryer and it returns shrunken, faded, burnt and even scorched. Wool too deforms and becomes ugly after coming out from a steamy session in the dryer. 

Polyester definitely isn’t an exception

Polyester has the potential to shrink in the dryer when put there on high heat. High heat disturbs the structure of polyester at the molecular level which causes it to change shape and shrink, especially when it’s left in the dryer for too long after it has fully dried. 

Below, you’ll see how polyester shrinks in the dryer and how you can prevent that from happening in the dryer! 

How polyester shrinks in the dryer

Polyester is made from plastic pellets and bottles, as a result, it has the same chemical structure as plastic. I mean, it’s plastic at the end of the day.

Because polyester is plastic: and a thermoplastic one for that matter, it can be set to a new shape and form when heated for an extended period of time. 

This is the reason why applying high heat to polyester isn’t advised. It disturbs the filaments on a chemical level and renders a shrunken material in the end. 

In the dryer, the same thing happens. Even though it won’t cause polyester to melt, it can definitely cause it to shrink, especially when you consistently use the high heat setting. 

How much does polyester shrink in the dryer?

Polyester shrinks, but really not that much in the dryer. The shrinkage will become more and more pronounced with subsequent drying there. 

How to prevent polyester shrinkage in the dryer?

It’s no brainer that the best way to prevent shrinkage of polyester in the dryer is to avoid using heat completely. Besides, polyester only requires a small amount of time to dry, and only the agitation of the dryer is sufficient to remove moisture on time. 

Agitation alone doesn’t cause shrinkage in polyester because polyester has a very rigid structure that resists the permeation of water in it, and as a result, the fibers don’t get weakened by water like fibers of silk and wool do. This means that little movement will not disturb the structure of the staple fibers and cause them to disorent which will cause shrinkage. 

If you do find the need to use heat however, may be in times when you’re in a rush, then opt for moderate settings. It’s not too cold and not too hot, and so it’s somewhere in the middle. 

Moderate setting won’t affect polyester the way high heat does and as a result you can consistently use it on your fabric without any problem. 

What about the washer? Does polyester shrink or get damaged in the washer?

When you wash polyester, it does not get damaged because agitation alone cannot cause shrinkage, tearing or even wrinkling. 

Polyester has a very crystalline structure which lacks polarity. Because of this, the staple fibers of the material are hydrophobic, which means they resist water to a great extent. 

This further means that polyester does not  weaken when immersed in water. And so agitation won’t have the same effect like it does with silk or wool. 

This is the reason why you can subject polyester to heavy duty settings of the washer and it’d still come out fine. 

Now let’s draw the red line. 

Hot water. 

Everything seems fine with washing polyester in the washer until you cross the red line and opt to use hot water instead of cold water consistently. At first, you may not notice anything, but with subsequent washing, you’d begin to notice your polyester is shrunken. 

The thing about hot water is that its molecules are vexed. So penetration into the fibers of polyester becomes enhanced by this factor, thus weakening begins to happen. 

So when you apply heavy agitation, the system set in place to give polyester its tenacity and strength can become broken or eliminated (for example the Vanderwall’s forces and hydrogen bond) which then allows room for shrinkage to occur. 

Because penetration occurs too, you have dye molecules making their way out from the fibers into the wash water which can cause fading. 

Another thing about polyester is that harsh laundry detergents can also cause hydrolysis at the surface filament which makes the material weaker and weaker with continued laundry. So avoid the use of harsh detergents on polyester clothes.  

Can you dry polyester directly under the sun?

It is possible to dry polyester outside, even under the sun. Polyester isn’t affected by the ultraviolet rays of the sun and so also the bad atmosphere elements like acidic pollutants. 

Final Thoughts

Polyester has the potential to shrink in the dryer under high heat. That’s why the best way to dry polyester is using the no heat settings or moderate heat that won’t cause disturbance in the molecular level. 

Another way to safely dry polyester is outside under the sun. Polyester isn’t affected by the UV rays of the sun so it won’t fade or discolor. It also isn’t affected by bad weather components like acid elements