Jo Dope | bed Sheet Care Australia

How To Shrink Or Unshrink Linen

Summary Of Shrinking Or Unshrinking Your Linen

  • Understanding fabric shrinkage can save your clothes and money.
  • Different fabrics shrink differently; always check care instructions.
  • Cotton can shrink 2-5% if pre-shrunk, 5-20% if not.
  • Wool can shrink 3-5% if pre-shrunk, 20-30% if not.
  • Polyester mix shrinks 1-3%, pre-shrunk or not.
  • Linen or hemp shrinks 3-5% if pre-shrunk, 5-10% if not.
  • Silk shrinks less than 1%, pre-shrunk or not.
  • Hot water soaking can intentionally shrink linen naturally.
  • Using a dryer on high heat causes maximum shrinkage but may damage fibers.
  • Steam can help unshrink linen by relaxing fibers back into shape.
  • Check out the range of hemp linen sets available on our website.

Everyone has had that horrible moment when their clothes have emerged from the drier two sizes smaller. Linen shrinkage and stretching causes a loss of quality clothes and fabric, and consequently, also loss of money. However, we have discovered a few tips and tricks that can help you avoid the problem in the first place, and then find solutions for the situation if you accidentally find your linen out of shape or the wrong size.

Before we begin, let’s try to understand a little bit about what we’re dealing with and clear up one important thing. So, when you wash and dry your bed linen, especially in hot water or high heat, the fibres contract, leading to that annoying shrinking effect, and sometimes also wrinkles. However, different fabrics shrink more or less according to their composition. And that is why, before anything else, you have to check the tag of your sheets and investigate their care instructions. This way you’ll avoid any shrink-related mishaps. Interestingly, hemp is one of the least shrinkable fabrics found in bed sheets, and you don’t usually see more than 10% shrinkage, but this can still be a problem. Here’s a list of the fabrics you generally find in bed sheets, and the percentage they can shrink when heated.  

Fabric Pre-shrunk Fabric Non-pre shrunk Fabric
Cotton 2-5% 5-20%
Wool 3-5% 20-30%
Polyester mix 1-3% 1-3%
Linen or hemp 3-5% 5-10%
Silk <1% <1%

*Estimated shrink percentage in a heated wash/dry

How To Shrink Linen

The hot water trick

If you're looking to shrink your bed linen intentionally, consider soaking them in hot water (for up to 10 hours), then air drying. This will encourage the fibres to contract, resulting in a snugger fit for your bedding. This is the most natural, controllable way of shrinking your sheets. We recommend avoiding putting your sheets in a dryer and opting for this method instead, as it will preserve the strength of the hemp fibres. If you want to be especially fancy, you can add some essential oils into the water and give a beautiful smell to your now-shrunken bed linen. This shrinking effect can also be achieved in a conventional washing machine, however it places the fabric under more stress and heat, so we recommend trying the hot water method first.

Pop them in the dryer

Place the linen in the dryer on a high heat setting for maximum shrinkage, or on a medium or lower for controlled shrinkage. The combination of heat and tumbling action will coax those fibres into submission, leaving you with smaller sheets. Be careful however, because with this method it is harder to control the amount of shrinkage. We recommend checking your sheets in the dryer rather frequently to avoid the dreaded ‘king size reduction’ situation. We’ve been there. We don’t want to go back. Be warned that high heat can seriously damage hemp fibres and reduce their durability. Also, don’t overload the dryer to ensure an even distribution of heat and steam.

How To Unshrink Linen

The Steamy Stretch

For those looking to unshrink their linen, steam is your new best friend. Hang your shrunken sheets in the bathroom while you take a hot shower, or use a garment steamer to gently coax the fibres back into their original shape. It really works, however, make sure you take care with hot steam, and don’t burn yourself. 

Specific Tips for Hemp Bed Linen

So, the above tips and tricks are great, and indeed they work well if appropriate care is taken. However, the real question is how does this specifically apply to our beloved hemp fabric? Well, hemp fabric is a hero among bed linens, and it needs to be treated as such. Here are some hempen pointers to help you give back to the sheets that give you joy every night. 

Make a pre-wash inspection:

Before initiating any shrinking, it’s really important to check for tears or weak spots in the fabric. If you’re going to be soaking or drying the hemp using the methods described above, it’s going to either be quite heavy, or under a lot of movement stress. As a result, if there’s an existing weakness it can rip. Hemp fabric is notoriously durable, but you can’t be too careful! 

If air-drying, hang them away from direct sunlight 

Just like humans, hemp doesn’t like UV. Think of it like you would your face, but you just can’t put sunscreen on it. Protect it. If air-drying after process one (described above) your hemp sheets need shade and airflow, and they should be dry in no time. 

Avoid chemical products during any wash process

This is relevant to method one again. If you decide to soak or put your sheets in the machine, then don’t put in any brightener or conventional detergent. Hemp is a naturally organic, pure product designed to be washed with minimal abrasive chemicals. Any eco-friendly detergent that possesses no toxic additives and nourishes the hemp fibres will do.

In any case, that’s that. Bed linen shrinking and unshrinking really is an art form, but once mastered you will have control over one of the most frustrating aspects of conventional washing and drying processes. Most importantly, don’t stress! Everything about caring for your bed sheets is a learning process, and if you take the time to look after them, we guarantee there will be plenty of quality sleep to come. Here’s a link to our range of bed linen sets if you’re interested in having your own.

The Jodope Team ❤️

Oscar Langoulant

Written By Oscar Langoulant

Founder/Owner of

Driven by a passion for hemp's potential in sustainable bedding, Oscar, alongside Jess, champions ethical manufacturing with Their mission is to leverage hemp's superior sustainability to revolutionize the bedding industry.

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