Why do some fabrics shrink?

Why do some fabrics shrink?

We of the hotel trade, we’ve all been there; buying custom designed linen in bulk from this supposedly great brand, laundering and drying it, and then much to our chagrin, finding out they really don’t fit our furniture any more.

It’s a mini disaster; a mini heart-ache even. But it’s happened before and left us wondering what happened to our custom fitted sheets that somehow don’t reach the edges to be tucked in.

The linens have shrunk, and there’s an explanation for it.

Let’s quickly glance through why shrinkage happens.

Fabrics manufactured from natural fibre such as cotton, linen and silk have a greater propensity to shrink, especially if they have not been pre-shrunk during the finishing process. The stretching process the fabric undergoes too has an affect on its shrinkage.

However, synthetic fibre material such as polyester and nylon do not shrink.

Simply put, shrinkage is a change in the dimensions of a particular fabric; this could either be a reduction in the original measurements of the fabric, or sometimes, even an increase. Either way, the change could affect the length, width or thickness of the fabric. Shrinking can also result in a distortion of decorative stitching, or a pull-and hang syndrome of the material.

A fabric’s fibre content, type of weave and the manufacturing process determines its shrinkage or stretch quality. Woven materials are far likely to be susceptible to shrinkage that their knitted counterparts.

The best solution to prevent this, however, is to look for sanforized linen.

What is Sanforization?

Sanforizing is a mechanical finishing process of treating textile fabrics to prevent the normal dimensional change, widely known as shrinkage. This process is also called anti-shrinkage finishing process. The sanforization treatment is employed mainly for cotton fabrics and also for some other fabrics manufactured from natural fibres. This treatment occurs before the cutting and sewing of linen-ware so as to prevent shrinkage after washing the end product. It involves stretching, shrinking and fixing the woven cloth both lengthwise and width-wise.

Simply put, sanforization is the stretching and manipulation of the fabric prior to washing.

During this process, the fabric is fed into a sanforizing machine where it is treated with water or steam to bolster shrinkage, it is then pressed against a heated rubber band to relax and re-contract the fibers.

When all’s said and done, sanforization is known as fabrics’ best friend. Next time you go linen shopping for your business, make sure you pick fabrics that are sanforized. That is if you don’t want to be disappointed later.