Viscose is a popular fabric made from cellulose fibers that has some unique properties when it comes to washing, drying, and care. Many people wonder if viscose shrinks in the dryer or when washed – and the answer is not straightforward. In this complete guide, we will provide a detailed overview of how viscose reacts to heat and water so you can properly care for your viscose clothing and textiles.
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How is Viscose Fabric Made?
To understand viscose shrinkage, it helps to first understand how viscose fabric is made. Viscose starts as cellulose from trees or plants which is chemically treated to produce viscose filaments or fibers.
The cellulose is treated with sodium hydroxide and carbon disulfide to form a viscous solution called viscose. This viscose solution is then spun into fibers and filaments which can be used to create fabric.
The key characteristics of viscose fibers are:
- Made from natural materials (cellulose)
- Absorbent and breathable
- Drapable with a smooth, soft texture
- Dyeable to vivid colors
- Prone to shrinkage if not properly cared for
Understanding the production process for viscose gives insight into why it behaves differently than other natural and synthetic fabrics. The chemicals used make the fibers prone to damage from heat and moisture if proper care isn’t taken.
Does Viscose Shrink in the Dryer?
Yes, viscose can significantly shrink when tumble dried in a clothes dryer on high heat. The amount of shrinkage depends on several factors:
- Heat setting – Some viscose garments are “heat set” which helps stabilize the fibers. Heat set viscose will shrink less.
- Temperature – High heat damages viscose fibers causing extreme shrinkage. Lower temperatures around low to medium minimize damage.
- Over drying – Viscose that is dried too long can continue shrinking in the dryer past proper dryness.
- Agitation – The tumbling motion of a dryer can damage viscose fibers and increase shrinkage. More delicate cycles are better.
As a general rule, it is best to avoid putting viscose clothing into the dryer completely. The combination of heat, agitation, and overdrying is a recipe for disastrous shrinkage.
If you must dry your viscose items, follow these tips:
- Use the lowest heat setting possible. Medium or low heat is preferable.
- Remove items promptly when they are just barely dry to prevent overdrying.
- Use a more delicate dryer cycle with intermittent tumbling.
- Or dry flat to avoid tumbling damage.
Drying on high heat can shrink a viscose dress or blouse by several sizes – definitely not recommended! Stick to low heat and delicate cycles only if needed.
Does Viscose Shrink When Washed?
Viscose can also shrink slightly when washed, although generally not as extremely as when tumble dried.
The amount of shrinkage from washing depends on:
- Water temperature – Hot water can damage viscose fibers causing shrinkage. Use cold or warm water.
- Agitation – Vigorous washing and spinning can stress and shrink viscose. Use a delicate cycle.
- Overwashing – Repeated washings weaken fibers over time leading to incremental shrinkage.
To minimize shrinkage when washing viscose:
- Wash in cold or lukewarm water on a delicate cycle.
- Avoid overwashing. Wash only when needed to extend the life of the garment.
- Reshape and lay flat to dry instead of putting in the dryer.
Wool wash detergents or specialty detergents for delicates can also help prevent shrinkage by being lower impact on the fabric.
While machine washing does not shrink viscose as severely as a clothes dryer, taking proper precautions can help limit shrinkage over time.
Will Pre-Washing Prevent Viscose Shrinkage?
Pre-washing or pre-shrinking viscose garments is generally not an effective way to prevent future shrinkage. Here’s why:
- The fibers are weakened by washing and drying during pre-treatment.
- More shrinkage can still occur with subsequent washing or drying.
- Aggressive pre-washing can damage the fabric and distort drape or size.
Instead of pre-washing, it is better to simply handle viscose gently from the start. Wash in cold water on delicate and reshape while still damp. Avoid the dryer and repeated washings when possible.
Some viscose garments are advertised as “pre-shrunk” which means the manufacturer has pre-treated the fabric, however shrinkage can still happen. Go by the care instructions for each individual garment.
How to Unshrink Viscose After Shrinking
It is very difficult to fully unshrink viscose fabric once it has shrunk, but you can try stretching it back to size while damp. Here are some methods:
- Rewash the shrunken item in cool water on delicate, then gently tug and reshape the garment while still wet. Lay flat to finish drying.
- Fill a spray bottle with cool or lukewarm water. Lightly dampen the fabric then gently pull and shape it. Let it finish air drying laid flat.
- Use a steamer to apply gentle steam while carefully pulling and smoothing the fabric. Avoid pressing creases.
These techniques work best on mildly shrunken items before the fibers take on the new shape. Severely shrunken garments are harder to resize without distorting the fabric.
It is better to take precautions when laundering and drying to avoid shrinkage in the first place. But you can try gently reshaping damp viscose if needed.
Viscose Shrinkage Compared to Other Fabrics
How does viscose shrinkage compare to other common clothing fabrics? Here is a quick overview:
- Cotton – Shrinks moderately due to its natural fibers if dried at high heat. Lower temperature drying reduces cotton shrinkage.
- Polyester – Minimal shrinkage since it is a synthetic fiber resistant to heat damage. Can handle machine drying well.
- Wool – Shrinks substantially when agitated or machine dried. Wool is prone to felting and must be hand washed.
- Linen – Shrinks moderately when dried at high heat like cotton. Does well air dried.
- Silk – Sensitive natural fiber that shrinks when exposed to high heat or agitation. Must be gently hand washed.
- Viscose – Shrinks severely when tumble dried or washed at high temperatures. Must be delicately handled when laundering.
So viscose’s high shrinkage tendencies put it in the same category as other delicate, heat-sensitive fibers like wool and silk. Take extra care when laundering viscose to preserve the size and drape of the fabric.
Best Way to Wash Viscose Clothing
Follow these best practices when it comes to washing clothing, bed sheets, or other items made from viscose:
- Check the garment label and follow any special washing instructions.
- Turn the item inside out – This protects the outer fabric surface during the wash.
- Use a mesh laundry bag – Keeps viscose contained and prevents stretching and friction damage.
- Wash in cold water – Hot water can damage viscose fibers causing excess shrinkage.
- Delicate cycle – Low agitation helps minimize shrinkage from friction and pulling.
- Gentle wash settings – Skip any high intensity spin cycles that could damage fibers.
- Mild liquid detergent – Avoid detergents with bleach or optical brighteners which weaken fibers over time.
- Lay flat to dry – Do not wring out excess water or hang viscose items which can stretch the shape.
Following these steps when washing viscose will help maintain the shape and feel of the fabric while refreshing it as needed.
How to Dry Viscose Without Shrinking It
These are the best methods for drying viscose fabric without causing it to shrink:
- Lay Flat to Air Dry – Lay viscose garments flat on a drying rack or towel. Reshape seams or hems as needed while damp. This prevents shrinkage from hanging or high heat.
- Low Heat Dryer – If you must dry viscose in a machine, use the lowest heat setting possible and remove promptly when dry. Keep an eye on items to avoid overdrying.
- No Heat Drying – Some dryers have a no heat air dry cycle. This just circulates air to dry with no added heat to damage fibers.
- Hang on Padded Hangers – If hanging, use wide, padded hangers to maintain the garment’s shape as it dries. Avoid wire hangers that can create divots.
- Dry Flat – Lay damp viscose clothes between towels or on towel lined drying racks. Turn over halfway through drying.
The key is to avoid high heat, overdrying, and hanging viscose items while wet. With some patience and the right technique, you can easily dry viscose without any shrinkage issues.
Will Viscose Stretch Back Out After Shrinking?
Unfortunately viscose does not readily stretch back out after significant shrinking. Here’s why:
- The cellulose fibers lose their elasticity when shrunken with heat.
- Repeated washing and drying weakens the fibers over time.
- Viscose lacks stretchy synthetic fibers that can “bounce back”.
You may be able to gently coax back some size by reshaping damp items as covered earlier. But severe shrinkage is difficult to fully reverse once it has occurred.
That’s why it is critical to care for viscose properly from the start. Follow all garment labels, wash gently in cold water, and avoid tumble drying. With proper care, you can help viscose maintain its shape and drape for the long term.
Viscose Shrinkage FAQs
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about dealing with shrinking issues in viscose:
Does viscose shrink when steamed?
Yes, steam heat can shrink viscose fabric just like dryer heat. Use a cool setting if steaming is necessary or avoid steaming altogether.
Can you put viscose in the washing machine?
Yes, but only on the delicate cycle and with cold water. Hot water and high agitation can damage viscose fibers.
Does hand washing viscose prevent shrinkage?
Hand washing is gentler but shrinkage can still happen if immersed in hot water. Wash in cool water and lay flat to dry for best results.
Will dry cleaning shrink viscose?
Dry cleaning uses alternative solvents instead of water so there is less risk of shrinkage. But heat from pressing could still potentially shrink viscose fabric.
Can I put viscose in the dryer if I don’t mind it shrinking?
You can, but excess shrinkage is hard to reverse. It’s best to maintain the original size by avoiding the dryer altogether.
How much does viscose shrink in the dryer?
It can shrink up to several sizes if dried on high heat. Lower temperatures will cause less dramatic shrinking of 1 to 2 sizes.
To prevent unwanted shrinkage, it is vital to take proper care when laundering and drying viscose clothing and other items. Avoid exposing viscose to high heat settings, tumble drying, or other aggressive treatment that can damage and shrink the delicate fibers. With a gentle approach, you can keep your viscose garments and fabrics looking and feeling fabulous for the long term. Follow our tips in this guide for handling all your viscose wash and dry needs.
Viscose Shrinkage FAQ
Does viscose shrink when washed?
Viscose can shrink slightly when washed, especially in hot water. Use cool water and delicate cycles to minimize shrinkage in the wash.
How much does viscose shrink?
When tumble dried on high heat, viscose can shrink several sizes. Washing causes less dramatic shrinkage of 1 to 2 sizes if done properly.
Should you wash viscose before wearing?
Pre-washing viscose is not needed and risks initial shrinkage. Follow garment labels for any special washing recommendations.
Is viscose supposed to shrink?
Yes, shrinkage is an inherent property of viscose fibers. That’s why proper washing and drying methods are needed.
Can you put viscose in the dryer?
You can, but only using the lowest heat setting. Air drying is best to prevent shrinkage for viscose fabrics.
Does viscose stretch back after shrinking?
Unfortunately viscose does not readily bounce back after significant shrinkage. Take steps to prevent shrinking when caring for viscose items.
How do you dry viscose without shrinking it?
Lay flat or hang viscose to air dry. If using a dryer, opt for the no heat or lowest heat setting. Remove items promptly before overdrying.
Can viscose be unshrunk?
It’s very difficult to fully unshrink viscose once it has shrunk. You may be able to gently stretch it back when damp but severe shrinkage is hard to reverse.
Is hand washing viscose better than machine washing?
Hand washing is gentler on viscose fibers but shrinkage can still occur if using hot water. Cool water hand washing is ideal.
Does viscose shrink when steam ironed?
Yes, the steam heat from ironing can cause viscose to shrink. Use a cool setting or avoid steam if needed to iron viscose fabrics.