It can be hard choosing garments to be decorated with printing or embroidery and one of the concerns when choosing is will the T-shirt/Polo/Hoodie/Jumper shrink when I wash it.
The short answer is some products will shrink yes and some will shrink even more if washed incorrectly.
So why do some products shrink?
The fibres in the fabric are made up of polymers. To make clothes, these polymers are stressed and stretched out of their natural state which is much shorter. If any form of heat is applied to these stretched fibres then the heat relieves the tension and the fibres return to their natural shorter state, in essence shrinking them.
The more heat applied during the laundry process, either hot water or hot air (in a tumble drier) the more the garment dimensions will change mostly resulting in shrinkage.
What fabrics shrink the most?
Natural fibres like Cotton and Wool both absorb a large amount of water. The more water the more fibre contact and therefore more shrinkage will occur. As a result cotton and wool based products are more prone to shrinking. Whereas synthetic fibres like nylon and polyester are more heat resistant as they absorb less water.
The amount of shrinkage will also depend on the weave used to make the garment. Woven fabrics are more stable to shrinkage than knitted fabrics.
What should I consider when choosing products?
If you like a cotton-based product, then look for pre-shrunk or shrink proof clothes. These should not shrink in the wash as the tension in the fibres has already been released through several laundry cycles before the material is cut and sewn into a garment.
The other option is to purchase cotton clothing that is blended with a synthetic fibre such as polyester, these will help reduce the amount of shrinkage.
Preventing shrinkage in your cotton-based garment.
If you only want a cotton-based product, then the best way to prevent shrinkage, is to follow the care labels on the garment and wash with care. Do not use a tumble drier, air dry instead and consider washing these garments by hand or in cold water.