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How to prevent baby clothes from shrinking

How to Prevent Baby Clothes from Shrinking (Plus Other Tips!)

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As a new parent, it can be easy to get lost in the world of shopping for baby clothes. So many brands have the most adorable outfits for our little ones to don, so it’s natural to want to take good care of those items once you get them. It can be pretty annoying if the clothing you just bought for your infant begins to shrink. How do you prevent baby clothes from shrinking?

Preventing your baby’s clothes from shrinking in the laundry starts with the care settings you select. For the best results, wash the items with cold water and dry on a low heat setting. 

Read on to learn more about the reasons why our clothes shrink in the washer and dryer, as well as some tips to keep baby’s clothes in tip-top shape.

How to Stop Baby Clothes from Shrinking

Baby clothes are small and often made of a blend of soft fabrics. So, we often can’t treat these items like we would our regular wardrobe. When you are working on a load of laundry for your infant, it’s best to treat their clothes like you would your more delicate items. This means washing the load with cold water and setting the dryer to a low-heat tumble dry.

But just what is it about the clothing that makes the pieces so susceptible to shrinking?

Do baby clothes shrink in the wash?

Yes, baby clothes can shrink in the washing machine; this happens most often when you wash delicate clothes with really hot water. Why is that, you ask?

Well, the various clothing fibers react in their own unique way when they’re exposed to continual wear and washing. Many natural fibers like wool and cotton tend to be more flexible to stretching than synthetic fibers like polyester and nylon.

To find out what type of fabrics you’re dealing with, check the labels of your baby’s clothes. This can even be helpful to do in the store even before you make a purchase. That way, you can choose the items with the most durable fibers and easy care instructions.

Because fabrics with a loose weave will stretch more than those with tight ones, they will often tighten and shrink more after going through multiple washes and drying cycles. Fortunately, choosing the correct temperature and other settings can help you prevent this shrinking from happening.

What temperature to wash baby clothes

Always check the tag on your baby’s clothes to learn the manufacturer’s recommended wash and dry instructions. These notes can tell you the materials used in that item of clothing and the best way to know you’re washing it correctly.

The best temperature setting for washing baby clothes is a cold wash cycle or delicate setting. This is because cold water is a lot less harsh on clothes than hot water. Also, cold temperatures so well to clean clothes and prevent shrinking. This setting also helps reduce color bleeding from your darker reds and blues.

When you’re trying to prevent baby clothes from shrinking, you also have the option to handwash baby clothes. This process is a lot more gentle on the clothing than the washing machine is. However, this tends to be more labor and time-intensive. You may want to reserve handwashing for the most delicate items or ones with heavy baby stains—you know the ones.

Do you wash baby clothes inside out?

It is not always necessary to turn baby clothes inside when you’re washing them. However, it may be beneficial to take this extra step if you are washing other items with buttons, zippers, or other abrasive materials. These embellishments could rub against other items and cause wear—even rips in the clothes!

Do I have to wash all new baby clothes?

This is a personal preference.

There will be many people that tell you there is no need to wash new baby clothes because they haven’t been worn and you might as well save the time. Still others would tell you that you must wash your new baby clothes before your baby wears them because they could have gotten germs on them before you purchased them.

While there is probably no real danger to not washing new baby clothes, we always wash them first in a baby-safe detergent so that we know there isn’t anything on them that could irritate our baby’s skin. Plus, they will smell like your baby’s other clothes which could help them feel better as well.

Do baby clothes shrink in the dryer?

Drying baby clothes is also a big part of preventing shrinking. Just like with the setting of your wash cycle, the setting you put your dryer on will also have an impact on the fibers of your baby’s clothing. So yes, baby clothes can shrink in the dryer, too if the heat setting is high and too harsh for the clothes.

Tumble dry baby clothes for best results

Again, it’s best to refer to the tag on your baby’s clothes for the best instructions to dry them. However, parents can often find good results when they tumble dry baby clothes with low heat. This setting tends to be more gentle on tiny baby clothes and prevent shrinking. 

Drying on a high heat can definitely get your clothes to dry faster, but that can end up ruining your clothes if you repeat the cycle too often.

Like handwashing, there’s also the option to air-dry your baby’s clothes. Hanging dry or laying clothes to dry is probably the most gentle way to dry your clothing. An added bonus? This method can also save on energy costs in the long run. While allowing your clothes to air dry will take a lot longer than a traditional dryer, it will help prevent your delicate clothes from shrinking.

How to wash baby clothes the right way

While you’re learning the best tips to prevent baby clothes from shrinking, why not improve your overall laundry game? Check out some more tips and best practices to maximize your baby laundry time:

  • Pre-wash new baby clothes before your child wears them. This gets rid of any germs from manufacturing, shipping, or sitting in a store.
  • Only hand wash the items that especially need it, like clothing with lace accents or jewel embellishments.
  • Try to avoid leaving your baby’s clothes in the dryer for too long after the cycle is complete. Remove them and fold them as soon as possible to keep them fresh and reduce wrinkles.
  • When washing knit or woven clothing like sweaters, lay them flat to dry. Putting sweaters in the dryer can cause the material to become matted or rough and lose quality over time.
  • Consider the type of washer you’re using. Front-loading washers or high-efficiency top-loading washers tend to be more gentle on clothes than those with a center agitator.

Choose the right laundry detergent for baby clothes

Probably one of the most important tips parents get when doing baby laundry is to choose the right type of detergent. Many traditional detergents come with extra dyes, perfumes, or other chemicals that can irritate a baby’s sensitive skin.

To avoid skin irritation and triggering allergies, choose a baby laundry detergent that is fragrance-free and dye-free. You want a gentle detergent that has no bleach or fabric softeners in it either. There are many laundry detergents on the market that are specially designed for infant and toddler clothing.

In my house, we LOVE the Puracy brand because it has a great ingredients list and it’s super concentrated. That means the bottle is much smaller than the giant container of laundry detergent that you normally have to lug around. We prefer the unscented one here, but there is normally a naturally-scented one as well!

However, you may not always need to spend the extra bucks just for the baby stuff. Many other “all-ages” detergents come free of those dangerous ingredients and are safe for babies who do not have any allergies.

With that being said, it should be safe to combine baby’s clothing with your regular laundry if you’re using the right type of gentle detergent. This can help many families save a little time and money on energy costs.

Do Carter’s Clothes Shrink?

Some parents stated on online forums that they had some issues with Carter’s clothing shrinking, while others state that they have no issues at all. It all comes down to how you care for your baby’s clothes. Carter’s does not have any special instructions on its site about caring for their clothing, because each garment is different. Refer to the care instructions on each item’s tag for the best recommendation for care.

For the best results, use delicate, low-heat settings for baby clothes from Carter’s.

Do Children’s Place Clothes Shrink?

Like Carter’s Children’s Place also has mixed comments from parents. Some comments claim that Children’s Place manufacturers may actually prewash and preshrink items to avoid shrinking when the consumer gets them. This may depend on the item and in my experience pre-washing does not always guarantee that your clothes won’t shrink. At the end of the day, it’s best to follow the care instructions on each item carefully.

Do Old Navy Baby Clothes Shrink?

Most people online stated that they did not have an issue with Old Navy baby clothes shrinking. But, again, this may depend on the particular item of clothing.

If your baby clothes end up shrinking after a wash or two, you may be able to save them. Many parents turn to a good ol’ stretch before dressing your child. Putting your fist in the clothes and stretching the fibers can help bring the clothes back to normal size and become wearable again.

Do Baby Gap Clothes Shrink?

Many online mom forums include threads of parents talking about the possibility of baby clothes from The Gap shrinking. When you’re shopping at Baby Gap, compare the sizing to other brands to see if they run small or large. You can plan for shrinking by ordering a larger size than you originally would have for your child.

Or, you can choose a handwashing or air-drying method to prevent shrinkage in your Baby Gap clothing.

Joshua Bartlett
Joshua Bartlett

My name is Joshua Bartlett I run this blog with my wife Jarah. We have more than 11 years of parenting experience including three girls and one boy. I started this blog in late 2018 when I realized that I was dealing with baby-related issues on a constant basis…please read more about me here!