Modal fabric is a popular type of rayon fabric made using cellulose fiber from beech trees. It is lightweight, soft, and smooth with a silky feel. Modal is often blended with other fabrics like cotton or spandex to improve durability and stretch.
One of the common questions people have about modal fabric is whether it shrinks when washed or dried. Here is a complete guide to how modal reacts to washing, drying, and other care methods.
How Much Does Modal Shrink?
Modal tends to shrink 3-5% when laundered improperly. The exact shrinkage depends on the blend and construction of the modal fabric.
100% modal without any other blended fibers is more prone to shrinking. Modal blended with cotton, spandex, polyester, or other synthetics will have less shrinkage.
Tighter woven modal fabrics shrink less than loose knits or jerseys. Dense, compact modal material does not shrink as much compared to light, open knits.
Garments pre-shrunk by the manufacturer shrink less when washed. Preshrinking helps stabilize the fibers.
In most cases, modal shrinks mildly in the length rather than the width. You’ll notice cropped hems rather than a tighter fit.
Shrinkage Based on Wash Method
Machine wash warm: 3-5% shrinkage
Machine wash hot: 5-8% shrinkage
Tumble dry medium: 3-5% shrinkage
Tumble dry hot: 5-8% shrinkage
Dry clean: 1-3% shrinkage
Higher heat causes more aggressive shrinkage. To minimize shrinking, always opt for cooler wash and dry cycles. Air drying also prevents heat shrinkage.
Does Modal Shrink When Washed?
Yes, modal can shrink slightly when machine washed, especially in hot water. The heat from the hot wash cycle causes the modal fibers to tighten and contract.
Agitation from machine washing also relaxes the fibers, allowing them to shrink up. High spin speeds compound shrinkage by pulling and twisting the relaxed fibers.
Washing modal in cold or warm water results in minimal shrinkage, usually only 1-3%. This minor shrinkage is often not noticeable.
To prevent shrinkage, turn garments inside out before washing. This protects the exterior fibers from abrasion.
Always zip or button modal garments closed so they do not lose their shape in the wash. Use a gentle detergent or one specifically formulated for synthetics and rayon.
The following tips can further reduce shrinkage in the wash:
- Wash in cold or warm water, not hot
- Use the delicate or gentle wash cycle with low agitation
- Skip the pre-wash cycle to reduce excess agitation
- Limit the wash load size so garments can move freely
- Air dry instead of machine drying
With proper care, modal can typically be machine washed without noticeable effects. Take extra precautions with lightweight modal knits that are more prone to shrinkage from washing.
Does Modal Shrink in the Dryer?
Yes, exposing modal fabric to high heat in the dryer will cause shrinkage. The hot air causes the fibers to tighten and contract.
Tumble drying modal on high heat can shrink the fabric by 5% or more. Using a low or medium heat setting reduces but does not eliminate heat-related shrinkage.
The tossing motion of a dryer drum also contributes to modal shrinkage. As garments rub and bang around, the fibers relax and lose their shape.
To prevent heat shrinkage, air dry modal instead of machine drying. Hang or lay flat to dry, away from direct sunlight.
If machine drying is necessary, use the lowest heat setting. Remove garments promptly when finished to prevent over-drying.
Putting modal in the dryer with heat can be risky. The safest method is always air drying flat or on hangers.
Dryer Shrinkage Tips
- Use the low or delicate heat setting
- Remove from dryer immediately, do not over-dry
- Use dryer balls to separate garments and prevent rubbing
- Air dry modal instead of machine drying
- Dry modal flat or hang to maintain shape
With care, modal can be safely tumble dried on low without severe shrinkage. Never use high heat, and avoid over-drying. For best results, opt for air drying when possible.
How to Shrink Modal
While most people want to prevent modal shrinkage, you may need to shrink an oversized modal garment intentionally to achieve a better fit.
The easiest way to shrink modal fabric is by washing it in hot water and drying on high heat. Agitation and high temperatures get the fibers to tighten and contract.
For extreme shrinkage, wash in hot water then dry on high until completely dry or slightly damp. The heat will aggressively shrink the modal fibers.
Putting modal in the dryer is the fastest, most effective shrinking method. The hot tumbling action causes fibers to mesh and tighten.
For more moderate shrinkage, wash in warm water and dry on medium heat. Check frequently and remove immediately when damp.
Smaller modal items like socks and undergarments can be shrunk by boiling in hot water for 5-10 minutes before air drying.
Once modal shrinks, it will not stretch back out. Only shrink intentionally for a permanent fit change. Test shrinking on an inconspicuous area first.
How to Prevent Modal Shrinking
To keep modal from shrinking, handle with care and avoid heat. Here are some tips for preventing shrinkage:
- Wash in cold water, warm at max
- Line dry or flat dry only
- Dry clean instead of washing
- Skip the dryer completely
- Store folded or hung up
- Follow garment care labels exactly
- Pre-treat stains instead of washing
- Hand wash delicates with cold water
- Use a mesh wash bag for knits
- Look for pre-shrunk modal
With a gentle approach to laundering and drying, most modal garments can maintain their original size and shape. Stop shrinkage before it starts with proper care.
Can You Unshrink Modal?
Unfortunately, there is no reliable way to reverse shrinking in modal fabrics. Fibers that tighten under heat do not stretch back out.
While methods like steam treatments may work on cotton, they do not unwind the fibers in shrunken modal.
Once the structure of modal is damaged by shrinkage, it cannot be restored to its original state.
Instead of trying to unshrink modal, focus your efforts on preventing shrinkage in the first place. Handle modal garments gently right from the start.
How to Wash Modal
Follow these best practices for washing modal clothing and fabric:
- Sort carefully – Wash modal separately from cottons and linens to prevent pilling. Group like colors and delicate modal together.
- Pretreat stains – Spot clean stains before washing to avoid excessive agitation. Dab with a damp cloth and mild detergent.
- Use a mesh bag – Place modal delicates in a mesh laundry bag to prevent stretching and friction damage.
- Wash on delicate or cold – Hot water can damage modal’s cellulose fibers. Use cold or warm water with delicate detergent.
- Limit the load size – Overcrowding causes garments to rub and abrade. Leave room for them to move freely.
- Skip fabric softener – Softeners and dryer sheets can coat the fibers and reduce wicking ability.
- Lay flat or hang to dry – Avoid shrinkage by air drying instead of tumble drying.
With the proper precautions, modal can be washed at home without shrinkage or damage. Never use hot water or aggressive wash cycles.
How to Dry Modal
To safely dry modal without shrinking:
- Lay flat on a towel or drying rack. Shape garments and smooth seams while damp.
- Hang up delicate modal garments and undergarments using sturdy hangers. This prevents stretch and maintains form.
- Use the no heat or air dry cycle in a dryer if needed. Check frequently to avoid over-drying.
- If using heat, only use the low temperature delicate setting. Max out at medium heat if unavoidable.
- Pull modal items out of the dryer immediately when finished and hang up or fold right away.
- Allow thick modal fabrics to air dry partially before finishing drying with no heat.
With air drying methods, modal will maintain its size and texture. Take care to avoid exposing modal to any unnecessary heat during the drying process.
Modal Care FAQs
Does modal shrink when air dried?
Air drying does not cause shrinkage in modal fabrics. Hanging or laying flat to dry is the best way to maintain the size and shape of modal garments.
Can you tumble dry modal on low?
Yes, drying modal on the low, delicate, or no heat setting is reasonably safe with minimal shrinkage. Check frequently and remove items immediately once dry.
Does pre-washing modal prevent shrinking?
Pre-washing can help stabilize the fibers but does not guarantee the fabric will never shrink. Handle pre-washed modal with the same care as unwashed.
Should modal be washed in cold or warm water?
For minimal shrinkage, wash modal in cold water. Warm water is acceptable with delicate detergent. Never use hot water.
Can you dry clean modal clothing?
Dry cleaning is an excellent way to clean modal without shrinkage. Take modal items to a professional rather than home dry cleaning.
How do you soften modal after washing?
To soften rough modal, rinse with a half-cup of hair conditioner or liquid fabric softener diluted in water. Roll items in a towel to absorb excess moisture. Air dry flat.
Modal fabric is prone to heat-related shrinkage when improperly dried or washed using hot water and high heat cycles. Around 5% shrinkage is common if the incorrect care instructions are followed.
To keep modal from shrinking, always use cooler water temperatures and air dry away from direct heat. With a gentle approach, modal maintains its shape and does not shrink excessively.
Look up the garment care instructions and laundry symbols to determine the best washing and drying methods. In general, wash modal in cold water on the delicate cycle and line dry or dry flat to prevent shrinkage problems.