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How to Wash Organic Clothing to Prevent Shrinkage

“Will organic cotton shrink, and how do we wash organic clothing to prevent shrinkage?”
This blog covers just that, and more. First things first, yes, 100% organic cotton will shrink if not washed with the appropriate techniques. Apart from the clothing’s soft texture and friendliness towards the environment, like everything, it’s down to have at least one downside. Let’s explore the details about how organic cotton shrinks, what causes it to shrink, how to avoid shrinkage, and a plan for you to follow to wash your organic clothes.

Will Organic Cotton Shrink?

Unfortunately, organic cotton clothing is not chemically treated, so in VERY high heat it is possible for the cotton to shrink more than 4%. However, this comes with an upside. Due to the lack of harsh chemical treatment within the clothing, the cotton is less damaged, and therefore can be seen as a durable piece of clothing if cared for properly. On average, organic clothing will shrink 2-5% overtime, at a maximum.

What Contributes to Shrinkage?

Several factors contribute to the shrinkage of organic cotton:
Heat: High temperatures during washing and drying are what’s doing the damage. Heat can cause the fibers to shrink.
Water: Excessive water exposure, especially hot water, can swell-up the fibers and then cause them to contract as they dry.
Mechanical Action: The movement during washing n high-speed cycles can cause fibers to tighten (an obvious cause of shrinkage).
Drying: The type of drying method plays a significant role. High heat in tumble dryers speeds up shrinkage, while air drying does the opposite.

How to Avoid Shrinking Organic Clothing

It’s fairly simple to avoid shrinking organic clothing. Simply, avoid heat as much as possible. This could mean washing the fabric with cold or lukewarm water. Here’s a simple plan to follow:

Wash Carefully

Read the Labels: Before washing, always check the care labels.
Use Gentle Cycles: Gentle cycles result in less movement, and therefore less fiber tightening.
Cold or Warm Water: Wash the clothing in cold or lukewarm water.
Eco-Friendly Detergent: Choose a mild, eco-friendly detergent that’s free from harsh chemicals. This keeps the fabric in good condition and also helps with sustainability.

Dry Carefully

Air Drying: The best method for drying organic cotton is to air dry. Hang your clothes on a line or lay them flat on a drying rack.
Low Heat in Dryer: If you must use a dryer, set it to a low heat setting. Remove the clothes while they’re still slightly damp and allow them to finish drying naturally (best practice).
Flat Drying for Sweaters: For knitted items like organic sweaters, lay them flat to dry. This helps maintain their shape and prevents stretching.

Wash by Hand

Hand washing can help maintain the original fit by reducing risks of heat. Use cool water and a gentle detergent, and avoid handling the fabric too much. Instead, gently squeeze out excess water and lay the item flat to dry.

Extra Tips to Keep Organic Clothing in The Best Condition 

Proper storage of organic cotton clothing can help maintain its size and shape. Here are some tips:
Fold, Don’t Hang: Hanging can stretch out certain items, especially organic sweaters. Fold your clothing neatly and store them in a drawer or on a shelf (as most do, anyways).
Avoid Overcrowding The Storage: Give your clothes some breathing room. Overcrowding your storage can lead to wrinkles and distort the fabric’s shape.
Use Cedar Balls: To keep any animals away, place cedar balls or lavender sachets in your storage areas. Repellents are safe for organic fabrics.

Spot Cleaning

For minor stains, what’s known as spot cleaning is an effective way to preserve the fabric without having to do a full wash:
Blot, Don’t Rub: When treating a stain, gently blot it with a clean cloth instead of rubbing, as rubbing can push the stain deeper into the fibers.
Use Natural Cleaners: A mixture of water and mild soap or baking soda can be effective for spot cleaning. It’s best to avoid harsh chemical stain removers.

Keep Organic Clothing Fresh

Organic cotton clothing can often be worn multiple times between washes. To keep them fresh:
Air Out: Hang your clothes in a well-ventilated area to air out after wearing. This helps get rid of any odors and reduces the need for frequent washing.
Steam: A handheld steamer can be used to refresh the fabric and remove wrinkles. This is safer than ironing.

How Organic Clothing Protects the Environment

Choosing organic cotton over everyday cotton has significant environmental benefits:
Water Conservation: Organic cotton farming typically uses less water. Everyday used cotton is known for its high water usage.
Soil Health: Organic farming improves soil health by avoiding fertilizers and pesticides. 
Reduced Chemical Use: By avoiding harmful chemicals, organic cotton farming reduces pollution and protects the health of farmers and surrounding communities.

Choosing Sustainable Cotton

By choosing organic cotton clothing, you’re choosing high-quality clothing, AND saving the environment. And here’s how you can further invest in this lifestyle:
Invest in Quality: Choose well-made, durable pieces that will last longer. This reduces the frequency of replacement and the overall environmental impact.
Support Ethical Brands: Buy from brands that prioritize ethical practices, fair wages, and safe working conditions.


In conclusion, while organic cotton has the potential to shrink, this can be easily managed with proper care techniques (similar to most clothing!). By washing with cold or lukewarm water, using gentle cycles, and air drying, you can maintain the integrity and size of your organic cotton clothing. Additionally, good storage practices and spot cleaning can prolong the life of your clothing. 
Found some value in this blog? Feel free to explore our collection of 100% organic cotton clothing.

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