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Does Linen Shrink in the Dryer? Prevention & Facts

Washing Machine with laundry

Linen is one of the most popular fabrics in the world. It is used in everything from linen clothing that is worn in the summer to linen scarves for the winter and soft linen bedding for all times of the year. It is well known that cotton can shrink in the dryer, but does linen also shrink? It would be a shame if your beautiful linen sheets shrank in the dryer and became unusable.

The answer is yes. Linen can shrink in the dryer. Linen is one of five fabric types that are prone to shrinking. These fabrics include cotton, wool, silk, hemp, and linen. It is important to care for your linen garments and bedding properly to prevent them from shrinking. Improper care of linen can lead to unfortunate shrinkage that can ruin your favorite linen items.

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Why Does Linen Shrink?

Linen is made from flax fibers. When a textile is made from tightly woven flax fibers, the fibers are stretched to create a shape. The stretching process during manufacturing adds energy and tension into the linen. When linen goes through the dryer (or experiences any amount of high heat), the fibers contract. This contraction removes the tension put into the linen when it is made and creates a shrinking effect.

Dryers have more than enough heat to cause the flax fibers in linen to contract and cause shrinking. Linen has the best potential for shrinking during its first wash cycle. Linen usually only shrinks once.

It is also important to note that linen can also shrink from the hot water in your washing machine. Even if you try to air dry your linens to prevent them from shrinking in the dryer, they could still shrink from going through a hot water wash cycle.

Top Load Washing Machine
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How Much Does Linen Shrink?

Pure linen can shrink between 4% and 5% on its first wash. That might not sound like a lot, but it is enough to shorten up a shirt to the point where it no longer looks flattering. Some linen items have been known to shrink a maximum of 10%. A shrink rate of 5% is also enough to severely alter the shape of linen bedding. If you have ever found yourself wrestling with linen sheets wondering why they won’t easily fit over the corners of your bed, it is very likely that they shrank in the wash.

woman using washing machine
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How Fast Does Linen Shrink?

Linen shrinks incredibly fast. Linen can shrink up to 5% during its first wash cycle. Linen does not shrink gradually over time. It shrinks all at once. The good news is that once the linen shrinks, it is done shrinking. It won’t shrink any more. If you accidentally shrink your linen and you find that it is still usable, then you are in good shape.

man using washing machine
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How to Prevent Linen from Shrinking

There are a few ways to help prevent your linen from shrinking. The first and easiest way to prevent linen shrinkage is to buy a high-quality linen product that has been pre-shrunk. These products are washed and dried once during manufacturing to get any potential shrinkage out of the items. That means by the time it gets to you, it will not shrink any further. Look for a label that marks the item as prewashed or pre-shrunk. That indicates that it should not shrink anymore. Many modern products now come pre-washed or pre-shrunk.

The other way to prevent linen from shrinking is to avoid high heat. Do not wash your linens with hot water. Do not tumble dry your linens on high heat. Washing your linen in cold water and on the lowest dryer settings will help stave off any shrinking effects. Ironing your linens can also cause them to shrink, so you have to be careful there, too. The safest thing to do with your favorite items is to get them dry-cleaned, but that is not always practical. Hand washing and air drying are also generally effective methods of preventing divider


To sum it up, linen does indeed shrink in the dryer. Linen clothing and bedding can shrink up to 5% after the first wash if you are not careful. The best way to prevent this is by buying pre-washed items. Before washing any new linen items pay attention to the labels and care instructions printed on the tags. It would be disappointing to accidentally shrink a new item that you are excited about.

Featured Image Credit: Steve Buissinne, Pixabay


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