Does Linen Shrink? Explained

If you recently added a lovely garment made from linen to your wardrobe, you might have some questions about this fabric.

One of the questions might be: does linen shrink? 

The answer is quite simple: linen does naturally shrink, but many linen fabric manufacturers use different methods to prevent this from happening by pre-shrinking or pre-softening process. Linen shrinks like any other fabric made with natural fibers – it can change its shape during an incorrect way of washing. 

Shrinkage possibility is increased if you decide to wash your clothing in very hot water, that is the reason why we are always advising all the lovely Son de Flor ladies to use slightly cold or lukewarm water to wash their linen dresses and other linen garments.

What To Do if Linen Shrinks? 

As we mentioned before, all linen clothes are likely to shrink, it is a completely normal thing.

Yet, there are ways to avoid or reduce the shrinkage as much as possible. For example, linen fabric in lukewarm water instead of very hot or very cold water using a delicate detergent.

It is also advised to avoid tumble drying as much as possible and let the clothes air dry instead. Proper care instructions often recommend air linen drying

How To Prevent Linen From Shrinking?

  • Cool wash:

Wash linen in cool water. Avoid hot water since it contracts fibers and shrinks linen. Cold water will keep you healthy.

  • Gently is best:

Choose the mild cycle for your washer. This setting is better for linen, preserving its quality.

  • Consider handwashing:

Handwashing linen is best if you have time. Swirl linens in cold water and light detergent. The cloth is least stressed by this procedure.

  • Watch your detergent:

Choose a gentle fabric detergent. Avoid harsh chemicals and bleach, which damage linen.

  • Avoid high heat:

Hot weather is linen's worst enemy. Choose the coldest setting for washing and drying. If using a dryer, use the lowest heat setting and remove goods moist. Helps prevent shrinking.

  • Drying by air is key

Air-drying linen is ideal. Lay or hang your pieces flat on a clean towel. Sunlight can deteriorate fabric, so keep them away of direct sunlight.

  • Damp ironing:

Iron linen while slightly moist. Press lightly with a medium-hot iron to remove creases without stretching cloth.

  • Smart storage:

Store linens in a cool, dry area while not in use. Avoiding heat and moisture will help them maintain their shape.

Can You Fix the Shrunken Linen? 

Even if you took all the precautions to prevent shrinkage, if your linen garment wasn’t pre-shrunk, it will almost always shrink after the first wash.

Companies selling linen are most of the time very aware of it, and you should normally be able to wear your linen garment just like before.

However, sometimes, if the linen is not of the best quality or if you washed it with too hot or too cold water or tumble dry it, your garment might have shrunk more than expected and might have become too small for you. 

However, if this happens, there are two easy methods to fix your linen garment.

With these methods, you can get at least 1.3cm (or 0.5in) of cloth dimensions back to their original length. 

So here is what to do:


  • Fill your bathtub or a bucket with some lukewarm water. Make sure the water is not too hot or it will damage your clothes even more. Proper care includes monitoring water temperature to maintain textile integrity. 

  • Dip your linen garment in the water for 10 to 15 minutes. Do not let the garment in the water more than this, it is completely unnecessary. After a maximum of 15 minutes, take the garment out of the water. This is crucial for proper care to prevent over-shrinking.

  • Carefully squeeze the water out of the garment. Make sure to do this gently because squeezing your linen garment too much can cause damage to the natural fibers, make it lose its elasticity, and deform it. 

  • Hang your clothing outside so it will air dry. If you do not have the possibility to air dry it outside, hang it in a room and open your windows so it will be well-ventilated. Let it dry for approximately 15 or 20 minutes (it must not be completely dry for the next step). Of course, this drying time will depend on the climate of the region where you are living and on the season – with cold weather, it can be twice as long, whereas if you live in a very hot country, it can only take 5 minutes. 

  • When the fabric is still a little bit wet, spread it evenly on an ironing board. 

  • Put your iron on low heat (ironing linen with high heat will damage it) and place it on the center of the linen garment. Now you just have to slowly move it across the length and breadth in outward strokes. This method is delicate for quality linen. It is very important to start ironing from the center of the garment and then cover the entire piece of clothing as slowly as possible; take your time for this process! This outward ironing process will stretch the fabric back to its original size and dimensions. 

This method is very effective and will normally completely undo the effects of unwanted shrinkage.

However, you must know that ironing wet clothing can cause them to fade. If you only make this process once, it will be alright and the color of your garment will probably stay intact, yet it should not become a habit and something you would do each time you wash your linen clothing – it should only be used as an emergency solution! 

Also, keep in mind that if your linen garment is of a darker shade, like for any other dark clothing you would have to iron, it is recommended to place something like a handkerchief or some kitchen roll on top of the linen fabric and then iron it (this will not affect the effectivity of the ironing and it will prevent your dark garment to have marks of the iron on it). 


If you do not have a bathtub or a large bucket to dip your linen clothing in, then this second method is for you. It works with a very similar process to the first one and here are the steps you should follow:

  • Take a spray bottle – if you want to reuse a spray bottle that contained something else than water before, make sure to wash it carefully to avoid staining your linen garment with the rest of the previous product that was in it – and fill it with lukewarm water. 

  • Spread the linen clothing on a flat surface; it can be a table or your floor if you do not have any other solution. 

  • Spray some water on the linen clothing – make sure it is not completely soaked and only damped slightly. 

  • Place the damp garment on an ironing board and start ironing on low heat in outward strokes – as explained in method 1. 

Why Are Linen Garments Shrinking? 

As we mentioned before, all the garments like linen, made with natural fibers will shrink during the first wash and that is completely normal.

This happens because plant fibers are more likely to lose their elasticity under extreme temperatures of water than other fabrics. Shrinkage can be minimized by using lukewarm water to wash your linen, but it will be increased by using very hot water for example. 

Does Linen Fabric Shrink When Washed? 

Linen does shrink like most other fabrics made from natural fibers, such as cotton or hemp.

Generally, depending on the fabric and its quality, the garment can shrink by 3 to 10%, which is considered normal.

On average, the natural shrinkage of a linen garment is around 4%. But do not worry about it: nowadays, many companies selling linen garments are providing pre-shrunk or pre-softened linen clothes, sheets or beddings to avoid shrinking.

After that, what is left for you to have in mind is only whether your linen is washed with care and in proper condition.

At Son de Flor, all garments are pre-softened so your timeless linen dress won’t shrink when you wash it!

Does Linen Shrink in Cold and Hot Water? 

Yes, linen can and will shrink in both cold and hot water.

Choosing extreme temperatures from either side of the scale will automatically damage the natural fibers of the fabric.

By using too hot or very cold water, your linen garments can become smaller, lose their elasticity, and maybe their original color as well.

So the key to protecting your linens is to wash them in lukewarm water and avoid their exposure to any source of high heat or cold. This ensures proper care and longevity of quality linen.  

Does Linen Shrink in the Dryer?

It all depends on how you are using your dryer. Tumble dry is quite a nightmare for linen fabric and can cause your item to shrink up to 15% - which is way above the normal shrinking percentage of linen.

Tumble dry can also create permanent creases in the fabric that will remain forever, and since it is a very harsh process in general for linen, it will of course reduce your garment’s lifespan. 

However, if you really want to tumble dry your linen items, you have to set your dryer at the lowest temperature possible, and absolutely below 30°C (85°F). Anything higher than this will cause irreversible damage to your garment and damage it.

We generally advise keeping your Son de Flor items away from dryers since it is way better to air dry them – and less risky. 

Does Linen Shrink More Than Cotton? 

It all depends on the type of cotton.

Usually, in fashion, cotton is mixed with other materials, like polyester, for example, which will change the way the garment can shrink – and will also impact the washing temperature.

However, if we are talking about a piece of 100% pure cotton, it is more likely to shrink as much and exactly in the same way as linen – because cotton is also a natural plant fiber.

Thus, pure cotton fabric can also be damaged if washed at a very high or very low temperature or if tumble dried, and it is better to use lukewarm water during washing. 

Why and How to Shrink Linen Clothes?

Ophelia Dress, 3/4 Sleeve, Gentle Lilac

You might wonder what the point of shrinking your linen clothes is.

There are some reasons why you would want to shrink linen; one of the most common reasons is because the garment is too big.

If you feel like your garment is slightly too big for your body, shrinking it might resolve the problem.

Moreover, if your linen garment is cut in a way that it is a bit loose on your body and you prefer close-fitting clothes, you can shrink it as well – please note that if your linen garments are old or not cared for properly, they can become too large as well. 

Fortunately, shrinking linen fabric is a very easy process. Linen will shrink naturally with the right approach. Indeed, most fabrics will shrink during their first wash if they were not pre-shrunk or softened beforehand.

All you have to do to shrink linen is to wash it in hot or very cold water or tumble dry it at a temperature higher than 30°C (85°F).

But please note that this process can be harmful to linen if done too often since it will weaken and damage the natural fibers of the fabric.

So, if a linen garment is really too big for you, the best option is probably to just exchange the garment for a smaller size instead of trying to shrink it yourself.

This process should only be used occasionally, especially if your linen has been pre-shrunk or pre-softened. 


We shared all of our experience with linen and its shrinkage and we hope it will help you to broaden your knowledge of why and how linen can shrink, what to do to avoid it, how to repair it, and how to shrink any linen garment correctly if you want it to be smaller on your body.

We hope this guide will help you on how to take care of your linen and avoid any unwanted shrinkage.