Does spandex shrink? Surprising answer. Keep your clothes in shape

Yes, spandex shrinks if it is exposed to warm temperatures. This can be the hottest setting of your washing machine or dryer. Therefore it is better to wash it on the lowest setting of your washing machine and air dry this type of material. Take a look at the washing instructions of the item that you are wearing. There are several ways to produce spandex. Some of these production methods make the material more resistant to heat than others.

In cheaper clothes spandex is used that is quite sensitive to heat. In more expensive clothes, more advanced spandex is used and this can be washed in warmer temperatures. The material that is used to make this material is quite similar to plastics and this can explain why it is not able to withstand the heat that well. Therefore you should always check the washing instructions before you use spandex material in your washing machine or dryer. The fibers in the fabric start to curl up and the material gets smaller. It can shrink quite a lot (up to two sizes) and even break down if it is exposed to too much heat. Therefore you shouldn’t use the hottest setting on your washing machine as Spandex can start to shrink around 150 degrees Fahrenheit.  Washing machines can get a lot hotter than this as some fabrics need high temperatures before they get cleaned. It is important that you check the settings of your washing machine before washing spandex. You also shouldn’t iron clothes that contain a lot of spandex as the material can’t withstand this type of heat. The same is true about using a steamer.

Spandex is found in a lot of clothes as a blend with other materials. It can also be found in a lot of sporting gear, such as volleyball shorts as it stretches very well. It is also called Lycra, or elastane, and is all the same material. The main qualities of this material are that they resistant to abrasion, elastic, lightweight, and quite strong. These qualities make it perfect to make clothes with. This material is man-made (or synthetic). Natural materials such as cotton can also shrink if you expose them to heat but are more resistant to this. Synthetic materials are cheaper to manufacture but you have to be careful when you wash them. They are also less able to wick sweat. This is why most clothes are a blend of a synthetic material (such as spandex) and a natural material (such as cotton). This is the right balance between price and performance. Clothes are often made with anything between 3 and 20% spandex and the rest is one or two other materials. Pieces of clothing that are made with more Spandex might be more sensitive to temperature than blends of materials but it is always better to take precautions. 

Next to heat, time will also shrink spandex. As the material gets heated up more often, it starts to lose its flexibility and starts to bundle together. It can also start to tear over time. This material should last anywhere from 4 months to 2 years. Sporting materials are washed often and this shows after a while. This can lead to creases or tears in the material.

How to make sure that spandex doesn’t shrink

The heat of the sun will make spandex shrink. It mainly happens during the washing process. Let’s take a look at what you can do to make sure that it doesn’t shrink. Always follow the washing instructions that are sewn in the clothes. 

Here are some general instructions to wash it in the washing machine without shrinking:

-Separate the Spandex materials from other items.

-Use a mild detergent that does not contain harsh materials such as bleach. Don’t use a fabric softener as this doesn’t work well with Spandex.

-Wash on a ‘delicates’ cycle or check the washing programs that use low temperatures. 

-Optional: place the material in a mesh washing bag

-Air dry afterward. Wait until it feels completely dry. Don’t use an iron. 

Here are some instructions on how to hand wash spandex so that it doesn’t shrink:

-Fill a bucket with cold or lukewarm (max 85 degrees Fahrenheit). The water shouldn’t feel hot.

-Add some mild detergent

-Let is soak, don’t squeeze the clothes

-If it really smells you can add some soda instead of detergent and let it rest for a night. Sporting gear can capture a lot of sweat and have a strong odor after a while. Given that this process takes quite some time, it can be a great idea to have multiple pieces of the same item so that you can switch it up and let things dry. Volleyball players typically train 2 times per week and have a match so they often have 3 to 4 shorts and shirts. If you sweat a lot during a training session, it will be needed to wash your gear. Shorts can be washed less often than shirts as there is often less sweat in this area. 

-Let is airdry until it feels dry. Don’t iron the item.

 Manufacturers are aware of this shrinking process and are working on new materials. Sorana is an example. Spandex is often made out of byproducts of petroleum. Sorona is made out of corn and more agricultural elements. They are also experimenting with new ways to manufacture spandex so that it is better to withstand the heat. 

How to unshrink spandex

Is it too late and have your spandex-based clothes shrunk? Fortunately, there are some ways to stretch it out again. This is not a foolproof method so try at your own discretion. Let’s take a look at how this can be done:

You can fill up a bucket with lukewarm water. Add some hair shampoo to it. Then you let your shirt soak in it for about 30 minutes. Then you rinse it off. Once this is done, you stretch the item out. You can pull quite hard on it but don’t break it. Finally, let’s airdry it. Don’t expect miracles from this but it can help to relax the material somewhat and make it bigger again. You are putting a lot of pressure on the fabric so it can break. Therefore you have to be careful.

To conclude, we can state that spandex is very flexible and lightweight and this makes it a unique material that is often used. Unfortunately, the material is not able to withstand very high heat and can shrink. Therefore you have to be careful when you use spandex materials in your washing machine. Sporting gear such as volleyball shorts contains a lot of spandex as it needs to stretch when you move. Therefore it can be a great idea to read the washing instructions before you wash these items. Often you will have to hand wash and air dries them if you want to keep them in shape for a long period of time. If you follow the washing instructions, your clothes that contain Spandex shouldn’t shrink too much and retain their shape for several months.