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The general consensus on the internet (if you Google around, visit forums, Yahoo! answers, some from people who claim to work in the laundering business) is that high dryer heat causes clothes to shrink.

But I recently came across this Washington Post article from an 'expert' that got me wondering if that's true.

The first myth debunked: Dryer heat does not shrink garments. After all, as Ottusch pointed out, a hot iron does not shrink clothes; in fact, the heat and pressure of the iron cause the garment to stretch out. Rather, she said, shrinkage is caused by the tumbling action as the garments hit the sides of the dryer.

Could anybody verify which is true? It seems like someone with some science knowledge might know the answer to this, since there may not be many articles studying the effects of heat on clothing shrinkage.

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Yes. Heat in the dryer can cause clothing to shrink. This answer is based completely on an NPR story from December 27, 2008, "Why Clothes Shrink".

Wool

When wool fibres are warmed, their scales extend. During agitation, these scales lock against the scales of nearby fibres. The fibres bundle up and the fabric becomes thicker, and shorter. When done intentionally, this process is called felting.

Cotton and other fabrics

Shrinkage in other fabrics is due to stress relaxation. High temperatures can cause the stress within long drawn-out fabrics to relax, shrinking them.

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