Will Polyester Shink?: Pretty and Practical Polyester Questions Answered
Do you enjoy the easy, wash and wear convenience of modern polyester fabrics? You can machine wash polyester with confidence, giving no thought to the question, “Will polyester shrink?” It will not. You can buy or sew garments with confidence they will stay true to size.
Polyester was once a much-maligned fiber. Early polyesters were plastic-feeling and had a shiny, artificial look. Modern microfiber polyesters, however, can mimic the appearance of rayon/viscose, silk, or even cotton. These versatile fibers also are used to create a variety of novelty yarns and trimmings for all manner of clothing.
What is Polyester?
Chemically speaking, polyesters are a type of polymer (a compound with molecules made of many repeating units) containing esters in their molecular structure (1). Polyester is made using a chemical reaction involving coal, petroleum, air, and water. But fortunately, you need not be a chemist to appreciate the properties of this modern fiber! Polyester fibers are long and can be used to create a strong thread which is then woven or knit into fabric. The fibers may be blended with other fibers such as cotton or nylon, producing a fabric with some qualities of both fibers.
As a synthetic fiber, polyester does not biodegrade easily. It is resistant to stains and to shrinkage. A disadvantage is its lack of absorbency—it is not as cool and breathable to wear like cotton, nor is it as warm as wool. When blended with cotton or wool, it makes those fabrics shrink less than 100% wool or cotton would.
Can you shrink polyester? No, not unless you dry it in excessive heat repeatedly.
How to Wash Polyester Garments
Learning how to wash polyester properly is simple. First, check your garment’s care label for any special instructions. In general, use a permanent press cycle or warm water to machine wash. Machine dry on low heat or use a permanent press setting if available. Remove polyester promptly from the dryer or the residual heat in the machine may heat-set wrinkles in the garments. When removed immediately, there should be almost no issue with wrinkles.
Polyester is also easy to hand wash in warm water and mild detergent. Rinse completely, squeeze out excess water, and hang to drip dry. Polyester is quick to dry, making it an ideal fabric for travelers. You can wash a polyester shirt in a hotel sink and hang it to dry overnight in the shower! Most polyesters can also be dry cleaned (2).
Cautions with Polyester Care
While polyester is generally worry-free, the fabric can snag easily. Be careful of jewelry or long fingernails when hand washing or getting dressed. Polyester can also be damaged by chemicals such as nail polish remover (acetone.) Although polyester rarely needs pressing, be sure to use a low setting on your iron if you must press out a wrinkle. Polyester may not shrink, but it can certainly melt!