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Does nylon shrink?

Nylon is used in many garments, but what can you do if it's too big? Can you shrink it? Let's find out.

If you wear a lot of nylon clothing, you may have wondered if at some point does nylon shrink? It’s a perfectly legit question, especially because it’s known to stretch and breathe with you. If you want to shrink nylon, there are a few things you should know about the first.

As a general rule, nylon does not shrink after washing. In most cases, nylon that does shrink is not actually 100% nylon. If nylon is mixed with other fabrics, creating a nylon blend, you may see this blended material shrink.

Table of Contents

What Exactly is Nylon?

Nylon is a synthetic material, also known as a polymer fabric with low breathability. Nylon is easy to stretch, even though some may think it’s a natural fabric. Nylon is more expensive to produce but can be compared to polyester, which is also a synthetic fabric. There is also a rayon spandex blend that can shrink with heat.

How to Shrink Nylon

If you’re a gym rat, chances are you wear nylon a lot (it’s not a bad thing), but you don’t want to only have nylon and polyester clothing in your closet, do you? When trying to shrink nylon, there are a few techniques to try depending on the type of clothing it is:

Washing Machine

Although using the washing machine to try and shrink nylon, the washing machine may not do what you are expecting. When the nylon fibers absorb water and start to swell, this causes the fibers to grow, essentially making the fabric smaller. This occurs with most nylon clothing, but every situation is different. As a rule of thumb, washing nylon in very hot water can be problematic unless your ultimate goal is to ensure the nylon fabric shrinks.

It’s important to consider the blend of nylon. For instance, leggings or leggings-type material is usually preshrunk. When using hot water in the washing machine, the movement of the washer may help the fibers shrink a little more. Wash the leggings on a full cycle on the hottest setting and add ammonia. Once the cycle is done, add the item to the dryer on medium heat for 25 minutes. Once the drying cycle is complete, lay them flat to fully air dry.

Overnight

Another way to shrink nylon is by letting the item soak in hot, boiling water all night. To begin, wash and rinse the fabric, then soak. Do not wring the fabric and air dry. If the fabric is colored, using ammonia can help.

Dryer

Once you wash nylon, putting the item into a hot dryer will shrink it. Put the dryer on medium-high heat for about 15 minutes. Use 15-minute increments until the item is dry. This is a good way to shrink dresses and shirts. In some cases, nylon can shrink when the heat hits it. When dealing with a nylon and rayon blend, you never know the outcome.

Ice Water

While a spandex nylon blend can stretch when heat is applied, this may not last. Placing it into ice-cold water bypassing the dryer can temporarily shrink the fabric.

Ironing

With blends of nylon and polyester, putting heat from the iron will shrink fabric on clothing that is too big. There are a few steps to follow. Use cold water in the iron and make sure the setting is hot enough to apply steam from the iron, but do not put it directly onto the fabric. If you are attempting to get the wrinkles out of a nylon jacket, you must use really low heat. Too much heat will result in the jacket being ruined due to melting.

Does nylon shrink in the dryer?

Yes, nylon can shrink in the dryer under the right conditions and using very high heat. 100% nylon clothing is not known to shrink but a little if at all. It can shrink or stretch with other fibers that have nylon blends. Polyester fabrics usually have a combination of nylon and polyester. When washing nylon, using cold water usually helps retain the shape.

One thing to remember is that nylon is very delicate. Pure nylon is very hard to shrink, including jackets blended with polyester. Again, pure nylon does not really shrink but will melt when too much heat is applied. If you are working with 100% nylon, if it does shrink, it won’t be that much.

Think of it like this – nylon clothing can’t remain in its true state in very high temperatures. Using medium heat, if any at all, is recommended. While a number of nylon blends can stretch and conform, nylon is not a breathable material. It keeps water and doesn’t absorb water quickly. On the other hand, wearing nylon can be very hot against the skin, causing you to sweat. On its own, nylon is not a stretchy material.

When nylon shrinks, how much should I expect?

Again, it depends. Blends are prone to shrinkage depending on what the nylon is mixed with. Here’s an example: If you have a garment made of 100% cotton, and it isn’t pre-shrunk, you can almost guarantee there will be shrinkage, but if you have a comparable garment made of cotton and nylon, the shrinkage won’t be as significant. Whenever you have a high percentage of nylon in the fabric, the shrinkage won’t be as much as it may be standing alone.

Now that you know nylon shrinks but is very difficult to do, you may want to consider other types of synthetic material that coincide with nylon clothing. The last thing you would want to do is damage your clothing by trying to shrink the nylon. Here are a few tips to consider when caring for clothes:

Wash the fabric

Putting the garment through a cycle in the washing machine will give you a lot of information, especially if you don’t see a tag. Additionally, if the garment is going to shrink, this will show up quickly. Use the hottest setting on the cycle. If you’re just washing the garment to see what will happen, you don’t need to use laundry detergent.

Read the tag

Every manufacturer should have a tag or labeling present that indicates what materials are being used in the garment. If the fabric is 100% nylon, there’s a good chance that it will not shrink – or at least not right away.

What Nylon Blends Shrink?

Nylon and Polyester

Nylon and polyester blends don’t usually shrink. With both of them being synthetic fibers, it is difficult for them to shrink because they are made from different types of plastic. In a worst-case scenario, the garment will melt instead of shrink.

Cotton and Nylon

When the fabric is cotton and nylon, there’s a better chance of the nylon shrinking. The cotton fibers will cause the garment to shrink. How much it shrinks depends on whether there is more cotton than nylon. If the garment is more nylon, chances are the shrinkage won’t be that much.

Nylon and Spandex

Spandex is also a synthetic fiber, so the shrinkage won’t be significant. Although spandex is partly elastic fiber, a combination of the two will end up stretching rather than shrinking.

The best solution when attempting to shrink a garment that’s based on nylon is to get something that has a blend of additional fabrics and fibers. If the garment is one that has to be smaller, another solution would be to hire a seamstress to get the garment exactly how you want and need it.

Synthetics have a life of their own and are designed to avoid shrinkage. They also resist water-based stains. If you have items that have nylon, spandex, polyester, acetate, or acrylic, you will have some difficulty getting them to shrink. While we’re discussing how to shrink nylon, let’s look at another perspective – can you unshrink a nylon garment after you’ve had success with shrinking it? The answer is yes. A tablespoon of shampoo per quart of lukewarm water should do the trick in about 15 to 20 minutes. Let it air-dry afterward.

There are instances where swimsuits appear to stretch and shrink, but if they are made of natural nylon, polyester, or spandex, the likelihood of that being the case is slim. This is why it is not recommended to have swimsuits in the dryer for long periods of time, or at all. Additionally, putting polyester in the dryer is not recommended unless on a low setting, because high temperatures tend to destroy the fabric. Low temperatures, whether in the dryer or using an iron, is the best solution.