Does Recycled Polyester Shrink?

If you’ve ever wondered whether clothing or other items made from recycled polyester will shrink when washed or dried, you’re not alone. Recycled polyester has become an increasingly popular fabric choice as more consumers aim for sustainability.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Recycled polyester can shrink slightly when washed in hot water or dried using high heat, but it generally shrinks less than virgin polyester. Preshrinking recycled polyester fabrics before sewing can help minimize shrinkage.

What is Recycled Polyester?

Recycled polyester is a type of polyester fabric that is made by recycling plastic bottles. It is a sustainable alternative to traditional polyester, which is derived from non-renewable resources such as crude oil. By using recycled polyester, we can help reduce the amount of plastic waste in the environment and minimize our reliance on fossil fuels.

Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles

Recycled polyester is made by collecting plastic bottles, cleaning them, and breaking them down into small chips. These chips are then melted, spun into fibers, and woven into fabric. The process of converting plastic bottles into recycled polyester not only helps reduce waste, but it also saves energy and reduces greenhouse gas emissions compared to producing virgin polyester.

According to Plastics Europe, approximately 1.5 million tons of plastic bottles were collected for recycling in Europe in 2020. This represents a significant amount of material that can be transformed into recycled polyester, thus reducing the demand for virgin polyester.

Properties Similar to Virgin Polyester

Recycled polyester shares many properties with virgin polyester. It is durable, wrinkle-resistant, and quick-drying, making it an excellent choice for various applications such as clothing, upholstery, and outdoor gear. Recycled polyester fabrics can also be dyed in a wide range of colors, allowing for versatile design options.

It is worth noting that while recycled polyester is an eco-friendly option, it is not without its limitations. Some critics argue that the recycling process still requires energy and resources, and the fabric may shed microplastics when washed. However, advancements in technology and manufacturing processes are continuously being made to address these concerns.

Does Recycled Polyester Shrink?

Recycled polyester is a popular choice for environmentally-conscious consumers looking for sustainable clothing options. However, one question that often arises is whether or not recycled polyester shrinks. Let’s take a closer look at this common concern.

Tends to Shrink Less Than Virgin Polyester

When it comes to shrinkage, recycled polyester tends to perform better than virgin polyester. This is because the recycling process breaks down the fibers, making them less prone to shrinking. The fibers are then spun into new yarns, creating recycled polyester fabric.

Compared to virgin polyester, recycled polyester has a higher resistance to shrinkage. This means that garments made from recycled polyester are less likely to shrink when exposed to heat or moisture. So, if you’re worried about your clothes shrinking, choosing recycled polyester can be a great option.

Preshrinking Helps Minimize Shrinkage

While recycled polyester has a lower tendency to shrink, it’s always a good idea to take some preventive measures. Preshrinking the fabric before sewing or wearing the garment can help minimize any potential shrinkage. This can be done by washing and drying the fabric on a gentle cycle before using it for your projects.

Preshrinking is especially important if you plan on washing your recycled polyester garment in warm or hot water. By preshrinking the fabric, you can ensure that it has already gone through the shrinking process, reducing the risk of significant shrinkage later on.

Wash in Cold Water, Line Dry or Dry on Low Heat

To further minimize any potential shrinkage, it’s best to follow proper care instructions when washing and drying your recycled polyester garments. Washing them in cold water and avoiding high heat settings can greatly reduce the chances of shrinkage.

Line drying your garments is the gentlest option, as it eliminates the risk of heat-related shrinkage altogether. If you prefer to use a dryer, consider using a low heat setting to minimize any potential shrinkage. Taking these precautions will help maintain the shape and size of your recycled polyester clothing.

Remember, it’s always a good idea to refer to the specific care instructions provided by the manufacturer. They will have the most accurate information on how to care for your particular garment to prevent shrinkage.

So, if you’re wondering if recycled polyester shrinks, the answer is that it tends to shrink less than virgin polyester. However, taking some precautions such as preshrinking and following proper care instructions can help minimize any shrinkage that may occur. By choosing recycled polyester, you’re not only making an eco-friendly choice but also ensuring that your clothes stay looking great for longer.

What Causes Shrinkage in Fabrics?

Shrinkage in fabrics is a common concern for many people, especially when it comes to caring for their favorite garments. Understanding the causes of shrinkage can help you take the necessary precautions to prevent it. Here are some of the main factors that contribute to fabric shrinkage:

Heat Can Damage Fibers

Heat is one of the primary culprits behind fabric shrinkage. When exposed to high temperatures, the fibers in the fabric can constrict and tighten, leading to shrinkage. This is why it’s important to be cautious when washing or drying your clothes, especially those made from delicate materials such as polyester. High heat settings can cause the fibers to warp and shrink, resulting in a smaller garment.

Agitation and Friction During Washing

Agitation and friction during the washing process can also contribute to fabric shrinkage. When the fabric is constantly rubbed against other garments or the walls of the washing machine, it can cause the fibers to shrink and tighten. This is why it’s recommended to wash delicate fabrics on a gentle cycle and to avoid overcrowding the washing machine. Giving your garments enough space to move freely can help minimize the risk of shrinkage.

Putting Fabric in Dryer

The act of putting fabric in the dryer is another common cause of shrinkage. The heat and tumbling action of the dryer can cause the fibers to contract and decrease in size. To avoid this, you can opt to air dry your clothes or use the lowest heat setting on your dryer. Taking these precautions can help preserve the size and shape of your garments, preventing unwanted shrinkage.

Remember, each fabric type may react differently to heat, agitation, and dryer settings. It’s always a good idea to refer to the care instructions on the garment’s label or consult the manufacturer’s website for specific guidance on how to properly care for your fabrics.

How to Minimize Shrinkage

Recycled polyester is a popular and sustainable fabric choice for many clothing and textile products. However, like any other type of polyester, there is a possibility of shrinkage when it is not cared for properly. Here are some tips to minimize shrinkage and ensure the longevity of your recycled polyester garments:

Wash in Cold Water

One of the most effective ways to prevent shrinkage in recycled polyester is to wash it in cold water. Hot water can cause the fibers to contract and shrink. By using cold water, you can preserve the structure of the fabric and lessen the chances of shrinkage. Additionally, using a gentle or delicate cycle on your washing machine can also help protect the fabric.

Line Dry or Dry on Low Heat

When it comes to drying your recycled polyester garments, it is best to avoid high heat. High heat can cause the fabric to shrink and lose its shape. Instead, opt for line drying whenever possible. Hanging your clothes to dry allows them to air out and maintain their original size and shape. If you prefer using a dryer, make sure to use the lowest heat setting or the delicate cycle to minimize shrinkage.

Preshrink Fabric Before Sewing

If you are working with recycled polyester fabric for sewing projects, it is recommended to preshrink the fabric before cutting and sewing. This can be done by washing and drying the fabric using the same methods mentioned earlier. By preshrinking the fabric, you can anticipate any potential shrinkage and adjust your measurements accordingly, ensuring a better fit for your finished garment.

By following these simple tips, you can minimize the risk of shrinkage in your recycled polyester garments. Remember to always check the care instructions on the garment label and take proper care of your clothing to maintain their quality and longevity.

Alternatives to Recycled Polyester

While recycled polyester has gained popularity in recent years as a sustainable fabric option, there are also other eco-friendly alternatives that you can consider for your clothing and textile needs. These alternatives not only help reduce environmental impact but also offer unique properties and benefits. Let’s explore some of them:

Organic Cotton

Organic cotton is grown without the use of synthetic fertilizers or pesticides, making it a more sustainable option compared to conventional cotton. It is grown using methods and materials that have a low impact on the environment. Organic cotton is also softer and hypoallergenic, making it a great choice for those with sensitive skin. Additionally, it promotes fair trade practices and supports farmers who adopt sustainable farming practices. You can find a wide range of organic cotton clothing and textiles in stores and online.


Linen is a natural fiber made from the flax plant. It is known for its breathability, durability, and moisture-wicking properties. Linen fabric is highly absorbent, making it perfect for hot and humid climates. It is also biodegradable and requires less water and energy to produce compared to polyester. Linen is often used for summer clothing, bedding, and home textiles. Its natural texture and aesthetic appeal make it a popular choice for those seeking a more eco-friendly alternative.


Lyocell, also known by the brand name Tencel, is a type of cellulose fiber made from sustainably sourced wood pulp. It is produced in a closed-loop process, where solvents are recycled, minimizing waste and water consumption. Lyocell fabric is soft, breathable, and has excellent moisture-wicking properties. It is also biodegradable and resistant to wrinkles. Lyocell is commonly used for clothing, bedding, and home textiles. Its eco-friendly production process and luxurious feel make it a great alternative to recycled polyester.

Remember, when choosing alternative fabrics, it’s essential to consider not only their environmental impact but also their quality, comfort, and durability. By opting for sustainable options like organic cotton, linen, and lyocell, you can make a positive contribution to the environment while enjoying the benefits of these fantastic fabrics.


To summarize, recycled polyester can shrink slightly if washed in hot water or dried using high heat, but it generally shrinks less than virgin polyester. Preshrinking fabric helps minimize shrinkage. To get the most wear out of recycled polyester clothing and other items, wash in cold water, line dry or dry on low heat, and preshrink fabrics before sewing.

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