Does Linen Shrink | Avoid It Like a Pro

How to make your clothes stop turning doll-size

Written by Olivia Paxton. Updated on bed linen in bedroom

We take laundry as something simple but sometimes improper washing can result in ruined clothing. Linen is especially predisposed to changes, shrinking in particular, that is why it is vitally important to wash it carefully, strictly following the care instructions.

Since this fabric is very useful, we suggest everyone follow the basic care guideline so that your linen could always stey neat and good-looking.

And, does linen shrink? Yes, Linen can shrink if you wash it or dry it at a high temperature. And because of the specific of the fiber, it will shrink irrevocably. Never dry Linen at a heater or at a temperature over 100°F to 140°F in a dryer.

Linen. The Specifics Of the Fiber

So what is it and why this fabric requires any special care attitude?

As you are probably aware, linen is produced from the flax plant. Due to its origin, the fiber has certain significant features that are good to know.

  • First of all, this fiber is super breathable. 
  • Second, it feels comfortable by balancing body temperature and sponging away the moisture.
  • Third, this fiber is much stronger and durable compared to cotton, for instance. That is why linen is a preferable choice for household textiles and clothing.
  • Linen is known for its elasticity which means your linen apparel will keep its shape no matter what.
  • As for clothing, linen always looks elegant which makes this fabric one of the favorites among both men and women.

Even though linen is not that picky as silk or wool, it doesn’t mean that we can just toss the item into the barrel and start the laundry on a random regime.

There are many reasons why we should not do that, and we suggest you check out the most common ones.

  1. Not all linen items are 100% linen. This fabric is easily mixed with other fibers which means we have many mixed garments on the market. Respectively, the care instructions will vary. We advise you to check the care tag every time before starting the laundry.
  2. Though pure linen apparel can be easily laundered, any additional trimming or stitching materials might need special care (e.g. dry cleaning). Check everything attentively!
  3. How well the fiber will stand the laundry hangs upon its quality. That is why we strongly suggest you purchase the items made of this fabric from reputable retailers only.

And perhaps the major benefit is that linen items are very simple to take care of! However, certain precautionary measures must still be taken to make your garments or home textiles look gorgeous as usual.

Washing Linen
Photo by Katsia Jazwinska

So Why Does It Shrink After All?

Everyone heard at least once that linen is highly predisposed to shrinkage. In fact, it is not that super shrinkable, but a certain tendency exists.

To understand why it happens, it will be useful to figure out how this fabric is produced.

Ask Charlie - Washing & drying your bed linen so there's no need to iron!Ask Charlie – Washing & drying your bed linen so there’s no need to iron!

As we already mentioned, linen is a result of processing the stems of the flax plant. 

The fibers are extracted when the plant is submerged in water before it’s taken out to dry.

The extracted fibers are then combed to get the short ones which later will be turned into yarn.

Since the manufacturing process makes the fibers stretch, moisture relaxes them making the fibers get back to the initial size. And this is what makes that shrinking effect!

Temperature also matters since linen doesn’t like heat.

And, does linen shrink in the dryer?  Yes, linen can shink in the dryer if the heat is more than 100°F to 140°F. Even the linen fabric can be damaged at this high temperature, and the linen will shrink for up to 5% to 7%. You should choose lower heat more or choose an even dry flat method for your favorite clothes.

Linen. The Specifics Of the Fiber
Photo by Andrew Buchanan

Cold Water Or Hot Water? How to Wash Linen Clothes

When it comes to washing linen clothes, many of you probably face the same question: shall I use cold or hot water? Depending on the water temperature, the fabric may not shrink as much. That’s because linen is made of flax fibers that stretch during the process of fabric making. 

When they become wet, the fibers relax to their original, unstretched state, which results in shrinkage. This is why hot water, a hot dryer, and hot irons lead to flax fibers contraction and shrinkage.

To avoid that, wash your linen items at low temperatures in lukewarm or cold water. Use the gentle machine cycle and mild detergent to protect the fibers. 

 Why Does Linen Shrink?

If you have never used linen fabrics, you should know that this material is prone to shrinkage. Why does it happen? See, linen fabric is made of flax fibers, and during the process of making the fabric, these fibers stretch. 

When you wash your linen item using hot water, its fibers become wet. Because of that, they relax and become unstretched, which is their initial and original form. As a result, you have shrunk clothes after each wash.

This is why manufacturers recommend avoiding hot water for washing linen. Also, using a hot tumble dryer, as well as hot iron, is not recommended since it can also cause flax fibers to contract and shrink.

Why Does Linen Shrink
IgorVetushko via VistaCreate

Machine Wash For Linen Clothes

Since linen fabrics are considered quite demanding when it comes to maintenance, people often wonder whether it is safe to wash such items in a washing machine. The good news is that linen clothes and other items made of this material can be machine washed. 

However, you should follow a few washing tips to avoid damaging the fabric:

  • Turn linen clothing inside out. It will protect the fibers in the washing machine.
  • Always use the gentle cycle when you wash linen.
  • Use mild detergent to wash linen clothes. 
  • Avoid using hot water and hot tumble drying not to shrink the item. 
Machine Wash For Linen Clothes
alexkich via VistaCreate

Hand-Washing Linen Clothes

It may seem that, since linen is quite demanding regarding maintenance, it’s better to wash this fabric by hand. Well, to a certain point, it makes sense since manual wash is gentler than machine washing. 

On the other hand, you should still follow specific rules when washing your linen items by hand if you don’t want to damage the fibers! If you hand wash linen clothes (or any other items made of linen), make sure you use only gentle swishing motions. Also, you should never wring, twist, or vigorously scrub the fabric! Using brushes on linen is also not recommended.

Another thing you must keep in mind is that hand washing might not be suitable for all kinds of washing purposes. For example, a manual wash is recommended for clothes that are not heavily soiled or dirty.

Also, washing linen by hand will be more suitable for fabric with a loose weave since this kind of fabric is more predisposed to getting damaged during a machine wash. Finally, large items like tablecloths, bedding, or curtains are better to be washed in a washing machine.

Hand Washing Linen Clothes
EdZbarzhyvetsky via VistaCreate

 How to Prevent Shrinkage In the Dryer?

Since linen can basically be tumble dried, you can use this method to dry large linen items like bed sheets. However, there are still rules that must be followed if you don’t want to ruin the fabric accidentally.

  • If your linen item is pre-washed during the production process, you can dry it in a tumble dryer. 
  • If your linen garment/item can be tumble-dried, use a low temperature.
  • Remove the garment from the dryer while it is still slightly damp.
  • Always try to air dry your linen clothes flat. Hangers or clothespins can leave marks on the fabric, making the garment lose its original shape.
How to Prevent Shrinkage In the Dryer
EdZbarzhyvetsky via VistaCreate

How to Launder Linen Safely. Anti-Shrinkage Hints For Any Occasion

They say that linen is highly predisposed to shrinkage, but it is not quite true. This sort of fabric can indeed shrink significantly but only if we launder it improperly, e.g. in too hot water (over 104°F). What is even worse, wrong care will most likely lead to its ruining in the future.

That is why remember the basic requirements for laundering linen so that your garments and textile could last longer.

How to Wash Your LinenHow to Wash Your Linen
  • Linen needs laundering on a gentle lukewarm cycle only at the maximal water level. Remember that the fabric must move in the barrel freely!
  • Don’t load the barrel too much to avoid twisting the fabric.
  • If you wash linen items together with other apparel, ensure that all the items have the same care instructions, weight, and color.
  • In case you happen to launder this fiber manually, never wring, twist, or scrub them! Accurate swishing moves will be just fine.
  • Launder the items with a loose weave only manually to avoid ruining them.
  • It’s ok for the new items to shrink after the first laundering. Consider this and don’t panic!
  • For laundering linen, a mild detergent is the best. Also, meticulously wash off any residue before drying the fabric.
How to Launder Linen Safely

As for the drying, it would be handy to keep in mind a couple of suggestions that will make your garments and linen home items last to their longest.

Try to dry them flat since any holders will leave marks that will be pretty hard to get rid of.

If your apparel allows tumble drying, use the lowest heat cycle, and take it out when the fabric is still a bit damp.

How to Launder Linen Safely
Photo by Maddi Bazzocco

Linen is quite sensitive to ironing, so do this while the item is slightly damp.

Storing Linen Correctly

Yes, sometimes we might need that! If you use linen household items like tablecloths, towels, pillowcases, etc often enough, you probably have quite many extra ones that are kept somewhere until they are needed.

And that’s where most of us make mistakes by tossing the linen items carelessly into the drawers. To avoid that happening, mind several handy hints:

Storing Linen Correctly

  • Always iron your linens before storing them
  • Store them flat and carefully folded to avoid unnecessary shrinking
  • If the shelves in your cabinet are wooden (especially made of cedar), it’s better to line the linen with tissue paper since certain sorts of wood contain oils that can damage the fabric
  • Always keep linen in a closed cabinet section to avoid any sunlight or moonlight exposure, otherwise, the items will fade
Storing linen correctly

As you can see, linen is not that troublesome as it seemed. It does shrink, but if the fabric is taken care of according to the instructions, this shrinkage will be almost invisible.

Anyway, any fabric, especially natural ones, has this issue, but does it worth refusing to wear all-natural garments?


Now you know more secrets about washing and drying such a tricky fabric as linen! We told you what makes linen shrink and why. In addition, you got a bunch of helpful tips and recommendations on keeping this fabric shrink-free with minimal effort. With all this, you will enjoy your linen clothes longer and make the fabric look great.

Frequently Asked Questions

⭐ How much will Linen shrink in the dryer?

Usually, linen shrinks up to 4-5 percent, but sometimes, when the fabric is mixed with other fibers, shrinkage can be up to 10 percent.

⭐ How do you keep linen from shrinking?

To avoid shrinking, use a mild detergent and lukewarm water with the gentle cycle; don’t load the washing barrel to the full since linen needs space while being laundered. Also, try not to wring or twist the fabric.

⭐ Can you wash 100% linen?

Yes, pure linen can be laundered. After each wash, you will notice the fabric getting softer and more absorbent.

⭐ Can you iron linen?

Ironing is allowed, but make sure you use the lowest heat setting, and iron linen items while they are still slightly damp. This fabric is quite sensitive to heat.

⭐ How do you fix a shrunken linen shirt?

For unshrinking, prepare a tub/sink with lukewarm water, and a capful of any gentle shampoo/soap. Dissolve the product in water and soak the item for half an hour at most. Delete water from the fabric and lay it dry on a flat towel.

⭐ Does linen shrink after washing?

Certain shrinkage is possible, especially if the item is new and was never washed before.

Written by
Olivia shares all she knows about the hotels, houses, and home cleaning with Beezzly readers. And she knows a lot! 15 years of work experience as a Manager in a former Four Season Service gave Olivia an exceptional base of professional knowledge and practical experience.
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