Viscose is a type of rayon fabric that drapes like silk but has the soft feel of cotton. It is also cheap to make, so it’s common in a lot of fabrics and textiles today. Since it’s everywhere, it’s a good idea to know how to care for it and to know, does viscose shrink when you wash it?
Viscose can shrink in the dryer or when washed. It is a very delicate fabric, and the heat and motion of a washer and dryer will shorten the fibers and cause them to shrink. Handwashing and air-drying viscose will stop shrinking, or you can dry clean it.
Because viscose is so delicate, it’s often present in fabric blends. But does a blend keep it from shrinking? What if you want to shrink it on purpose? This guide will tell you everything you need to know about viscose shrinking.
Does 100% Viscose Shrink?
Viscose does shrink, especially if you put it in the dryer. 100% viscose is a semi-synthetic fabric that is especially fragile because of how the manufacturer processes the fibers. It is an affordable substitute for silk, but it lacks the strength of natural silk.
Machine washing or drying your viscose clothes can shrink them, especially if you use hot water and lots of agitation. It can also tear viscose or leave holes.
Why Does Viscose Shrink?Viscose shrinks because of its structure. To make viscose, manufacturers treat wood pulp and other plant materials with chemicals. These treatments turn the pulp into long filaments that the manufacturer spins into yarn. The result is a fabric that’s made out of plant cellulose.
Cellulose is strong in its natural state, but the processed form that makes viscose loses that strength. The fibers absorb water like natural plant cellulose, but that water can weaken the bonds between the cellulose molecules, changing the shape of the fabric.
Viscose absorbs a lot of water—more than most natural fibers. The more water that’s in the viscose, the weaker the cellulose bonds are and the more likely it is you’ll damage the fabric. Wet viscose is easy to shrink, tear, or misshape.
This can lead to shrinking or tearing. The more wet viscose is moved around, the higher the risk of shrinking or tearing. That is why the washer and dryer have a particularly strong impact on viscose damage.
How Much Does Viscose Shrink?
How much viscose shrinks depends on whether it’s blended with other fibers and the exact way it was manufactured. Different companies use slightly different chemical processes on their viscose, which can change the strength.
The processing makes viscose shrinking unpredictable. The same wash cycle could shrink two pieces of viscose from different manufacturers in a different amount. Some manufacturers use anti-shrink coatings on their fabric or pre-shrink them, which can help reduce shrinking.
Since it’s unpredictable, there isn’t an exact measurement for how much viscose shrinks. You can get a closer idea of how much your viscose might shrink if it’s a blend. If the blended fiber is less prone to shrinkage, you can expect your viscose to shrink less than 100% viscose. However, if you have a high-shrink fabric in the blend, such as wool, you could shrink your viscose even more.
Can Viscose Shrink More Than Once?
Viscose can shrink every time you wash it, especially if you use hot water and heavy machine cycles. The amount it shrinks depends on the way you wash it. A viscose garment might shrink a small amount if you wash it by hand in cold water but then shrink a lot if you wash it in warm water in the machine the next time.
Unlike fabrics such as 100% cotton, trying to “pre-shrink” a viscose item will not stop it from shrinking during later washes. A garment with a shrink-resistant coating will not shrink as much in early washes as it will once the coating starts to wear off. The early washes might seem like they pre-shrunk the garment, but the effect will eventually wear off.
Does Viscose Shrink When Washed?
Viscose does shrink when washed. How much it shrinks depends on the way you wash it. You can minimize how much your viscose fabric and garments shrink if you’re careful with how you launder them.
Drying it causes more harm than washing it. One round through your washing machine won’t be as much of an issue as a dryer cycle.
Most viscose won’t last very long when you wash it at home. It isn’t built to last. If it doesn’t shrink, the fabric is likely to tear or fray quickly. Check the care tags on your viscose garments carefully. Many garments will recommend you dry clean them rather than wash them with water at home.
Can You Wash 100% Viscose?
Washing 100% viscose carries the risk of shrinking it. However, most of the shrinking happens during drying. Heat is a major component of shrinking viscose, so if you wash it in cold water, it will shrink less than if you wash it in hot water or try to dry it with heat.
Motion is the other factor that increases shrinking. The agitation of your washing machine can damage the viscose when the wet fiber is at its weakest point. The changes that happen to the fiber when they’re wet can get set into the fabric when it dries. So, the more damage you do during the wash cycle, the more shrinkage you’ll get when the fabric dries.
Washing your 100% viscose by hand or taking it to the dry cleaner are the safest ways to clean it.
Does Viscose Shrink With Every Wash?
Every time you wash viscose, you risk shrinking it. Even if it doesn’t shrink in one cycle, the water will weaken the fiber a little. That may lead to more shrinking the next time you launder it.
However, if you’re mindful of only ever washing viscose by hand in cold water, you can minimize shrinking. Never putting viscose in the dryer will help too. On the other hand, if you’re throwing your viscose clothing into a regular cycle every week, it’s going to shrink a little every time.
Does Viscose Shrink After Washing?
You may not see the shrinkage when your viscose items are wet. This is because when they’re wet, you can still stretch and massage the fibers back into the right shape and size. The change to the fibers won’t stick until the garment is dry.
When you pull wet viscose out of the washing machine, it might not seem shrunken yet because of the water in it. Laying it flat to dry or hanging it will help it stay the right size. However, you may still see it shrink up as it dries.
How To Wash Viscose Without Shrinking
The best way to wash viscose without shrinking it is to dry clean it. Taking it to the dry cleaner will help you avoid water damage and accidental shrinking. However, you don’t have to take it very far if you have a tumble dryer.
You can use a home dry-cleaning kit to launder your viscose garments without taking them to the cleaners. Put the clothes in a lingerie bag or a dry cleaning bag, add the at-home dry clean sheets and tumble the clothes in the dryer. Do not use heat, only motion.
Check the package for cycle times. Afterward, if the clothes are damp, lay them out to dry or hang them on a clothesline.
If you don’t want to use a dry cleaning kit, or if your dryer doesn’t have a no-heat setting, you can carefully wash viscose by hand.
Use cold water and a mild detergent. Treat any stains on your clothing, then swish them gently in the sink of cold water and detergent. Let them soak for 15 to 20 minutes, then drain the sink. Fill the sink back up with cold water and swish the clothes again until no more bubbles form. You may need to drain and refill the sink more than once.
When the water doesn’t bubble anymore, drain the sink. Gently squish the water out of the clothes. Lay them flat to dry, re-shaping as necessary. Alternatively, you can hang them on a rack or a clothesline once they’re almost dry. Don’t hang them up soaking wet or the weight of the wet cloth might weaken the fibers.
Does Viscose Shrink in the Dryer?
While water makes viscose weak and susceptible to damage, most shrinkage won’t show up until you dry the garment. The dryer will shrink your viscose even more than the washing machine.
Heat and motion are the primary causes of fabric shrinkage. These factors easily shrink viscose, so a tumble dry with heat is the worst way to dry viscose garments.
Can You Put Viscose in the Dryer?
You should not put viscose in the dryer. Unless you use a no-heat tumble cycle for at-home dry-cleaning, there is no reason to put your viscose clothing in the dryer. If you do use the at-home dry cleaning method, use it sparingly.
Putting wet viscose into a hot environment and shaking it around is the fastest way to damage the fibers. Even if you want to shrink your viscose items, you should avoid using the dryer. The heat and motion may shrink it unevenly or break down the fibers, which leads to holes and tears.
How Much Will Viscose Shrink in the Dryer?
Viscose doesn’t shrink in a consistent, measurable way. In general, the hotter the dryer, the more the fabric is likely to shrink. Tumbling viscose without heat will not shrink it but could harm the fiber in other ways.
It’s important to remember that viscose is a delicate fabric, even though it comes from a similar source as natural fabrics. Completely natural fibers can take more aggressive laundering than viscose and other semi-synthetics. The chemical processing makes the fibers vulnerable to damage.
How to Prevent Viscose From Shrinking in the Dryer
The best ways to minimize shrinking in the dryer are to put your viscose items in a mesh bag (like a lingerie bag) and use a heat-free dryer setting. Otherwise, you will shrink your viscose. The mesh bag will help protect the garments from snags and tears.
Even low heat can shrink viscose some. Tumble-only cycles may not dry your viscose clothing all the way, though. After a tumble cycle, there will be less water in the fibers of the viscose fabric. You can hang-dry the clothes at this point without risking too much stretch or misshaping.
Drying viscose flat is always the best option for keeping your clothing in good condition. It helps the garment maintain the right size and shape, especially for heavier garments like dresses.
Do Viscose Blends Shrink?
Viscose blends can shrink. How much they shrink depends on what the other fabrics are in the blend. Even if the other fibers are very sturdy, the fabric will still shrink if you wash it incorrectly. Blends are more likely to shrink unevenly, as the viscose fibers may shrink more than the other fibers in the blend.
Because it is so delicate, many manufacturers blend viscose with other fibers before they weave or knit it into the fabric. It’s an affordable fabric, so blending viscose with cotton, linen, and other fibers makes high-quality fabric fiber more affordable.
However, when you have a fabric blend, it is always best to treat it the way you would treat the most delicate fiber in the blend. The other fibers might add their qualities to the fabric, but they won’t erase the most delicate fabric’s qualities.
Using a viscose blend may reduce shrinking a garment experience, but it won’t make it completely shrink-proof.
How to Shrink a Viscose Dress, Shirt, PantsSince the dryer shrinks viscose, it may seem like a great choice when you want to shrink your viscose clothing intentionally. However, shrinking viscose in the dryer doesn’t give you much control over the results.
There’s a more effective way to shrink clothing, like dresses, shirts, and pants. This method also works if you want to shrink just one portion of a garment, as the cuffs or waistline.
- First, you need to get the viscose wet. If you are going for a major shrink, use warm or hot water. If you only want to shrink the garment a bit or only want to shrink some of it, use cool water.
- Gently swish your viscose clothing in the water so that it soaks up as much water as possible. Once it feels wet all over, submerge it.
- Let the garment soak in the water for up to 3 hours. The longer you soak it, the more shrinkage you’ll get in the end. For a smaller shrink, leave it for about 20 minutes.
- Take the garment out of the water and press it between two clean towels. Don’t wring it out or twist it. The fabric will be delicate at this stage, so twisting could tear it, especially at weak points like the seams.
- Lay the garment out flat on a stable surface. Don’t hang it up, as that could stretch the wet fabric back out. Use a hairdryer to slowly blow heat against the garment. For all-over shrinkage, move the dryer steadily for even heat. To shrink some areas more than others, very carefully aim the heat in those places, checking as you go. Be mindful of making the fabric uneven or lumpy.
- Let the garment dry the rest of the way, laying flat.
Once you’ve shrunk viscose, it can still shrink more in the wash, so continue to wash it delicately. Also, be mindful that hanging up wet viscose can stretch it, as the weight of the water will pull the bottom of the garment down.
However, if your viscose ever unshrinks, you can always repeat the 6 steps above to readjust the size. Be careful not to re-shrink very often, or you could wear the clothes out too quickly.
How To Unshrink Viscose
When you shrink viscose by mistake or want to restore intentionally shrunk viscose to its original size, you may be in luck. Depending on how much the clothes shrunk, you may be able to stretch them back out to their original size.
However, if your viscose shrunk significantly, or it has shrunk multiple times over the course of some time, you may not be able to restore it all the way. Water and a softening agent like hair conditioner or baby shampoo can unshrink viscose, but severe shrinkage can be irreversible.
Can You Unshrink Viscose?
Just as shrinking viscose can be unpredictable, unshrinking it isn’t an exact guarantee. Minor shrinking is easy to address. Dramatic size and shape changes will be harder to correct. The sooner you address unwanted shrinking the more likely you’ll have good results.
It may seem counterintuitive, but water is an important step in unshrinking viscose. It can help make the fibers more adjustable. However, water can also shorten viscose fibers, so there’s a limit to how much water can do for your viscose.
How to Unshrink Viscose: Step by Step
The early steps to unshrinking viscose may seem close to the steps to shrink it. But pay attention—leaving your viscose clothing in the water too long could have the opposite effect on them than you want.
- Dissolve hair conditioner or baby shampoo into a bowl of room-temperature water. The ratio should be one tablespoon of conditioner or shampoo to one quart of water. Make sure to stir it in gently, so it doesn’t bubble too much.
- Submerge the fabric in the water solution. Make sure the whole garment is soaked. Leave it in for no more than 5 minutes.
- Pull it out of the water and squeeze it dry between towels. Don’t wring or twist it!
- Lay the garment out flat on top of another towel. Starting from the center, gently pull the fabric to stretch it out. Work slowly, pulling a little at a time. Pulling too hard could rip the fabric.
- Once it is the size and shape you want, leave it to dry the rest of the way. For larger items like dresses, you can hang them up when they’re still a little damp for some extra stretching on the bottom.
The conditioner in the water solution helps loosen the fibers while still protecting them. Stretching viscose with just water won’t give you the same results. You shouldn’t need to rinse the conditioner or baby shampoo out of the viscose, either.
Does Dry Cleaning Shrink Viscose?
Dry cleaning will not shrink your viscose. Even though dry cleaning doesn’t keep the clothing entirely dry, it uses chemical cleaners rather than water. During the process, the viscose won’t have as much exposure to liquid as it would in a washing machine.
Professional dry cleaners also know how to work with viscose. It’s a good idea to use a professional for more structured viscose items that may have more seams, like blazers or pleated skirts and dresses.
Viscose is a fun, versatile fabric that can add a lot of color and pizazz to your wardrobe without breaking the bank. However, to keep that wardrobe vibrant and un-shrunk, you have to wash your viscose carefully.
Hand washing and dry cleaning your viscose garments will stop them from shrinking. Taking the time to give your viscose clothing proper care will keep it looking as good as new for years to come.
Share your viscose laundry tips and tricks in the comments below, or share this article if these tips are new to you!