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Does Fleece Shrink In the Dryer or When Washed?

Everyone loves warm and cozy fleece when the weather gets colder, whether that be fleece clothing or fleece blankets. But whether you’re buying ready-made fleece clothing or using it for a sewing project, one of the things that is important to know about any fabric is whether or not it will shrink when you wash it.

Most fleece made from synthetic fabrics such as polyester shouldn’t shrink, but fleece that is made from cotton might. Cotton fleece is most likely to shrink in the dryer when using a high-heat dryer cycle, but it’s possible that it could shrink in the washing machine if you use hot water.

In this article, I’ll share with you everything you need to know about whether or not fleece shrinks. This includes what conditions could make fleece shrink, how to wash it so it doesn’t shrink, and how to unshrink it if it does.

Does Fleece Shrink In the Dryer

Does Fleece Shrink In The Dryer?

The first thing you need to understand about fleece is that it was initially created to be an alternative to wool. If you know anything about wool, then you know that it is incredibly prone to shrinking, especially in the dryer.

With that being said, fleece can be made from different materials. But most of the fleece clothing and fabric on the market today is made from polyester. This is because polyester can be made to have similar properties to wool while being durable and resistant to shrinking. Polyester fleece should not shrink in the dryer.

Another type of fleece is made from cotton. Cotton tends to shrink as well, but it doesn’t usually shrink as much as wool. And since cotton and wool are both natural fabrics and share similar properties, it makes cotton an ideal material to use. However, cotton fleece may shrink in the dryer when it is exposed to heat.

If you want fleece fabric that doesn’t shrink in the dryer, then your best bet is to go with polyester fleece. But fleece made from polyester isn’t completely immune to damage from the dryer. Although shrinking isn’t a problem, the dryer could melt some of the fibers if the temperature is too hot, so you still need to be careful.

Does Fleece Shrink When Washed?

Whether fleece is made from cotton or polyester, it should not shrink when it is washed. Polyester fleece definitely should not shrink, but cotton fleece may be washed in really hot water. This is especially true if the fabric is not pre-shrunk.

The reason why this is the case is that in natural fabrics such as cotton, the fibers tend to relax when exposed to hot water. This is what causes the fabric to shrink. As long as you wash the fabric with the right water temperature, shrinking should not occur in the washing machine.

How To Wash Fleece So It Doesn’t Shrink?

Does Fleece Shrink When Washed

The type of fleece you have should be labeled somewhere on the tag, along with instructions about how to care for it to prevent shrinking and other damage. But if, for some reason, you don’t know what type of fleece you have or the care tag is missing, the following steps will explain how to wash it to ensure that it doesn’t shrink.

Wash With Similar Items

First, you’ll want to make sure that you wash the item by itself or with similar items. This is because items of one type of fabric often need to be washed the same way. Following this recommendation will help keep everything consistent and keep the unique texture of fleece fabric in the best shape possible.

Use Mild Detergent

Next, you’ll also want to make sure that you use a mild detergent, especially with cotton fleece. Mild detergents are free from harsh chemicals that could build up in the fibers or in the washing machine, causing damage.

Use the Normal Cycle

You don’t have to use a special cycle, for example, the gentle cycle, when washing fleece. You can if you want to, but fleece isn’t considered a delicate fabric, especially if it is made from polyester. A normal wash cycle is fine unless you’re washing several fleece blankets. In this case, you may want to use the heavy-duty cycle to ensure that the blankets get clean.

Wash With Cool or Cold Water

To prevent shrinking in the washing machine, you’ll want to use cool or cold water, especially cotton fleece. Even though hot water shouldn’t cause polyester fleece to shrink, it can cause damage in other ways. A good rule of thumb is to just use cool or cold water for any fleece fabric.

Dry On Low or Medium Heat

Finally, what’s most important is how you dry the fabric, as this is the leading cause of shrinking. You’ll want to use the low or medium-heat dryer cycle. Typically, it’s a good idea to use low heat with cotton and medium heat for polyester.

Even though you don’t have to be as careful when washing polyester fleece, you need to be careful with how you dry it. This isn’t because it could shrink. Rather, it’s to prevent the fibers from becoming burned or melted, especially due to the unique texture of fleece. That’s why the medium is best as opposed to high heat.

Can You Shrink Fleece?

In some cases, such as fleece clothing or too big fabric, you may wish to shrink it to make it smaller. It’s possible that this could be done, just depending on the type of fleece you have.

For example, it is unlikely that you will be able to shrink fleece made from polyester. Remember that polyester fabrics are generally resistant to shrinking. But there are exceptions to everything, and polyester may shrink when you wash and dry it using high temperatures. Be aware, though, that this could also damage the fabric in ways that aren’t repairable.

You’ll have more luck trying to shrink fleece that is made from natural fibers, such as cotton. However, some cotton fabrics are pre-shrunk, so if this is the case, the fabric or garment may not shrink as much as you would like. You can still give it a try, but you may not get the results you want.

How To Shrink Fleece Clothing

How To Shrink Fleece Clothing

If you still want to shrink your fleece clothing, the best way to do this is to wash and dry it using high water and dryer temperature. However, doing so could also cause damage, so you’ll want to check the clothing periodically to make sure that you don’t accidentally over shrink or otherwise damage the fabric.

You’ll have the most success in trying to shrink fleece that is made from cotton. If you try to shrink polyester fleece and it doesn’t work, don’t be disappointed. Remember that polyester is made to be resistant to shrinking. Follow the steps below if you want to attempt to shrink fleece.

  1. You’ll want to be sure to wash whatever clothing you’re trying to shrink by itself. This is to prevent other clothes from shrinking as well.
  2. You can use detergent if you want to, but if you’re just trying to shrink the clothing instead of washing it, then the detergent isn’t necessary. If you do use detergent, opt for a mild one.
  3. Set the water temperature dial to warm. It’s a good idea to use warm water first instead of hot, that way you don’t over shrink the clothing.
  4. If you don’t have success with warm water, you can try again with hot water. But remember that hot water can be damaging to some fabrics.
  5. After washing the fabric, place it in the dryer and set the temperature dial to medium heat. Again, you’ll want to use medium heat first to don’t shrink it too much.
  6. If that doesn’t work, you can change the dryer temperature to high heat. But be careful so that you don’t burn the fabric.
  7. No matter whether you use a medium or high heat dryer cycle, you’ll want to check the fabric periodically to make sure you don’t shrink it more than you intended to.
  8. Check the clothing every 5 to 10 minutes. Once it has shrunk the desired amount, remove it from the dryer and air dry the rest of the way.

Will A Fleece Blanket Shrink?

There are many different types of fleece that a blanket can be made from, but usually, they are made from polyester because it is durable and more versatile. A fleece blanket isn’t likely to shrink, but again, it just depends on the type of fleece.

Polyester fleece blankets usually won’t shrink very much, if at all. But, if you have a blanket made from cotton fleece, it can shrink up to ¼ of its original size. In some cases, cotton fabrics can even shrink each time you wash them, especially if you consistently wash them using the wrong temperature.

How To Unshrink Fleece

If your fleece clothing did shrink accidentally, it’s possible that you may be able to unshrink it. If you succeed at unshrinking it, just know that it may not hold that shape forever, especially if you wash it the wrong way again. But, you can use the method below to unshrink fleece.

  1. Fill a sink or tub with warm water and add a capful of baby soap or hair conditioner to the water. Stir the soap around to make sure it is evenly dispersed.
  2. Place the clothing in the water and let it soak for 30 minutes to an hour. The soap and warm water will help to soften and relax the fibers, making them easier to stretch.
  3. Take the clothing out of the water, but do not rinse it. You want the soap to stay in the fibers so that they stay relaxed (you can rinse it out later.)
  4. Lay the clothing flat on a dry towel, and roll the towel up with the clothing inside. Press on the towel to squeeze out excess water.
  5. Remove the clothing from the towel and lay it on a flat surface.
  6. Stretch the clothing lengthwise, widthwise, or both depending on where you need it to be bigger.
  7. You may wish to lay weights or books on top of the clothing to hold it in place while you stretch it.
  8. After stretching the clothing, you will want to wash and dry it using cooler temperatures in the future to prevent shrinking and help the clothing maintain its shape.


Most fleece fabric shouldn’t shrink in either the washer or the dryer as long as it is made from polyester. You may experience some shrinking with fleece made from cotton, especially if you use heat when washing and drying it. To avoid this, use cool or cold water and a low-temperature drying cycle every time you wash it. If you found this article helpful, share it with others and leave a comment. Thanks for reading!