Does Fleece Shrink? And when and how to avoid it

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Fleece is a common material that is used to make jackets, sweatpants, blankets, hoodies, gym clothes, and many more. However, one question that plagues fleece is does fleece shrink?

This material is popular as it is easily manufactured from recycled plastic bottles. The name ‘fleece’ refers to the coat of a sheep based on the old English interpretation. However, the modern meaning of the word refers to the 100% polyester made material that is currently preferred over wool.

Fleece is lightweight, softer, and breathable compared to wool. There are a variety of fleece, such as polar fleece, microfleece, sherpa, cotton blended fleece, slub fleece and the French terry fleece. Although fleece is not environmentally friendly like wool, it is kinder to the skin as it does not cause itchiness.

Does fleece fabric shrink in the wash?

All types of fleece shrink. The difference is that man-made versions such as polyester and lycra spandex fleece are less likely to become smaller compared to the cotton or cotton blended fleece. There are instances a garment is shrunk on purpose, either to prepare it for sewing or to reduce the garment down to size.

To shrink fleece, wash it in the hottest water temperature possible from the laundry machine. After washing the material, dry it on the hottest dryer setting. Once you take the garment or material out of the laundry, you will notice that it is smaller. If you wish to shrink it further, repeat the same process.


Microfleece fabric is not expected to shrink. Whether you wash it with the hottest water or dry it with the driest settings, microfleece is likely to retain its shape. Still, if you are working with a fabric before sewing, you should stretch it first to the desired length before you cut it or sew it.

Alternatively, the cotton-blended version will definitely shrink during the wash. If the fleece is 100% cotton, it is advisable to pre-shrink the fabric before sawing it, that way you will get the right size for your outfit after the sawing. Cotton blended with polyester fleece fabric does not recoil that much.

Slub fleece

Slub fleece is made from different sizes of yarn twisted together. The result is a textured type of fleece that is great for sweaters, hoodies and blankets. This fabric is susceptible to shrinkage when washed in hot water or left for a long time in high heat in the dryer.

French Terry fleece

The French terry fleece is made from polyster, cotton, rayon, or a combination of cotton with polyester. This fabric is more woven and less fluffy compared to other types of fleece. Like most of its variants, this fabric does not respond well to prolonged washing, hot water, and long periods in the dryer. If you opt to dry a garment quickly, you might end up with a lot of static from the cloth.

Final thoughts

The extent of fleece shrinking has a lot to do with the material. As a rule of thumb, fleece fabric should be washed in a low temperature setting. Use mild-laundry detergent and hang the fleece to dry. Do not leave the fabric in the dryer for too long or use hot water. Once you leave it out to dry, you can put it in the dryer on cool and fluff it up for about 10 minutes.

You don’t have to wash your outfit frequently. Once after every four weeks is still okay. If you want to buy the fleece material for sewing, then it is recommended that you purchase material that is one-and-a half times the expected size of the outfit. The additional length caters for the degree of recoiling depending on the type of fleece.

The best way to handle synthetic fleece is to follow the manufacturer’s advice on the label. The instructions provided will help you preserve the size, color, and finish of you clothes. Wash the outfit when it is inside out. Use cold or Luke-warm water.

If you want to put it in the dryer, then use the lowest heat settings possible. Do not iron, dry-clean, or press the outfit as this is likely to melt the polyester. A majority of the new gym clothes our outdoor outfits are made from synthetic fleece as it does not retain odor.

Moreover, polyester is more resistant to fading, pet hair retention, and pilling compared to natural blended fleece. Cotton made fleece should be washed in warm water. Overall, hanging the clothes out to air dry is the best way to avoid shrinkage.

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