Does Bamboo Shrink? How to Wash Bamboo Without Ruining It

Shrinking in size is great if you are trying to lose weight. But when it comes to bedding or clothing, shrinking is never acceptable. To protect against shrinking one has to be careful about how they launder their fabrics. Even strong fabrics like bamboo have water issues.

Does bamboo shrink? Yes, bamboo can shrink. While it is a good strong fabric to use in clothing and bedding, it has about a 6% shrink factor when washed incorrectly. In comparison, cotton has about a 4% shrink factor. Different bamboo styles may have different shrink rates.

To learn more about bamboo and its flaw just continue to read our article. It has the information you need in order to handle bamboo fabrics better. Take a few moments and see what you can do to avoid shrinking bamboo.

Does Bamboo Shrink?

The answer to this question is positive. Yes, bamboo can shrink on you if you are not careful. Like many other fabrics that shrink, the main culprit is hot water. If you are going to launder bamboo clothing and bedding it is best not to use water that is warmer than cool.

As reported already, some bamboo options have up to a 6% shrink rate. that may not seem like a lot but it does matter if those sheets were just big enough, to begin with. Also, like other fabrics that shrink, you should pre-wash any bamboo fabric you buy for your sewing projects.

Also, using a gentle cycle is recommended. When you go to place the fabric in your dryer you need to be careful that the material does not overheat. It is best to line dry bamboo materials to avoid shrinking.

How Much Does Bamboo Shrink?


Of course, the amount of shrinking you will experience will depend on the quality of the bamboo fabric and the style it was woven. But on the conservative side, you can expect up to a 6% shrink rate as an average.

Some people have claimed that bamboo will shrink up to 15% if you are not careful. that higher percentage is usually due o the bamboo fabric losing all of its moisture. However bamboo will get larger again once that moisture has been returned.

One way to avoid shrinking in your bamboo sheets, etc., is to air dry them. Find a nice spot that has plenty of airflow and your clothes should remain the same size as they were before you washed them.

The shrink factor is one explanation why some manufacturers make their bedding a little bit larger than other fabric bed sheets. They are taking into account the shrink rate and want to make sure you use their products for a long time.

Does Bamboo Shrink in The Wash?

If you use the wrong water temperature yes the bamboo fabric will shrink on you. Some people say that you can wash bamboo material in water temperatures up to 40 degrees C or 112 degrees F and you should not have a problem.

Others say that only cold or cool water should be used when washing this fabric. The cooler the temperature the less likely the bamboo material will shrink on you. This is also why when you go to use your dryer, you should only use cool or no heat settings.

Heat is not the friend to bamboo and it will damage the fibers enough that the material will lose its size. Also, don’t use any cycle greater or stronger than the gentle one. While it is a hardy fabric, the strong friction action created by the washing machine can damage the fibers as well.

Does Bamboo Shrink When it Dries?

The best way to dry bamboo sheets or clothing items is by putting them on a line and letting the air do the work. Direct sunlight may not be the best location for bamboo but read the drying instructions to make sure.

Heat is not a friend to bamboo which is why if you are going to use your dryer, you should use the cool or no heat settings. Then you should take the fabric out of the dryer before it is completely dry. Losing all of its moisture will also help the material shrink in size.

When you apply too much heat to the bamboo material its fibers can be damaged and that damage will cause shrinkage. While it is only a 6% possibility, your experience may be greater than that depending on the weave style and quality of the material.

Can You Shrink Bamboo Clothing?


Yes, you can but since there is no control dial on the clothing, the amount of shrinking you get may not be to your liking. Some bamboo clothing may shrink too much before it stops and you will be left with a garment that is too small instead of too large.

While we have said that the shrink rate is about 6% that is the average and may not be the norm for your bamboo clothing. If you are going to purposefully try to shrink bamboo materials just be forewarned and proceed with caution.

Some bamboo may shrink as much as 15% which may not be the amount you want to be taken off. You must be careful when trying to shrink clothing or fabric on purpose as it is hard to get the precise amount taken off that you need. Not all bamboo fabrics are made from top-quality fibers.

How to Shrink Bamboo Fabric

The easiest and most simple way to shrink bamboo is to apply heat. The fibers do not react well when you raise the temperature and remove all the moisture from the fabric. That means you can use your washer or dryer or both to shrink bamboo fabrics.

Another method you can try is to use chlorine bleach but the damage done to the material when you use that chemical may not be limited to shrinking. this is a risky way of trying to get your clothing to a smaller size.

You can try using your iron but like chlorine bleach, it is also risky in that it may not shrink the clothing at all or not a large amount if it does. Your best bet will be your washer and dryer and using hot water or a high dryer temperature. Again, there are no guarantees you will get the right amount taken off when you do this.

Can You Wash Bamboo Pillows in the Washer?

The good thing about bamboo is that no matter what fabric form it is made into, you can wash it. Clothing, bedding, and bamboo pillows all can be washed and the same washing instructions apply.

Use cool to cold water only when the washer is used or when you wash those pillows by hand. Then let them hang dry. Hang drying may take longer but it is the safest method to maintain the shape and size of those pillows.

Keeping bamboo pillows clean not only helps the fabric remain anti-bacterial, but it also helps your allergy or asthma sufferer sleep better at night. When you follow the correct washing methods, those good night sleeps can last for years before you have to replace those pillows.

The washing machine makes cleaning your bamboo pillows easy and you can get the stains out a lot faster than if you hand wash them.

How to Wash Bamboo Towels


One of the very first things you should do is to think gently. While you can clean bamboo towels like you do cotton, the fabric is a little bit more fragile than cotton due to its process method.

Next set your washer to gentle and cold or cool water temperatures and as the machine is filling up, add a mild laundry soap. Do not use any laundry soap that has whiteners or fabric softeners included in their formula.

Also, you do not use chlorine bleach or other products that contain that bleach. Fabric softeners are not needed either. Once washed the best method of getting them dry is to hang dry them.

But with hang drying, you need to take the towels in as soon as they are dry. If you let them stay out in the heat, the fabric can overheat and damage the fibers. When you are using your dryer, keep the heat down to cool.

As we said, you do not need to use fabric softeners to get bamboo towels nice and soft. Hang dry them until they are almost dry then place them in your dryer on cool for the rest of the way and your bamboo towels should come out nice and soft.

Over-drying is what makes bamboo towels rough and stiff.

Should You Wash Bamboo Sheets Before First Use?

It is a good idea that you do. Not just to make sure the shrink factor is taken out but because you never know where those sheets have been or who handled them before being packaged. Being safe is better than being sorry.

Also, it is not a bad idea to do so, as some manufacturers make bed sheets a little larger than stated on the package. They do this to counter any shrinking that may take place in your first wash. These companies want you to use those sheets and be satisfied with them.

They do not make any money if you are not satisfied and refuse to buy their products because they shrank too much. pre-washing makes sure you can sleep on those new bamboo sheets with a relaxed mind. You get a better sleep when you do pre-wash those new sheets.

What Happens if You Wash Bamboo Sheets in Hot Water?

If your new bamboo sheets follow what is known about bamboo then your bed sheets will probably shrink and you won’t be able to use them anymore on your bed. While a 6% shrink rate is not that much, it can still be just enough to make them too small to be used.

Also, since the fibers get damaged it is hard to say what results you will get other than shrinking. You may find them looking bad, feeling bad, or just not usable once you use hot water.

This is not to say that bamboo sheets will always be damaged by hot water. Some people may have had nothing but positive results and that will be the exception and not the rule.

It is best to just follow the correct washing instructions and avoid high temperatures when washing and drying your bamboo clothing and bedding.

What Temperature to Wash Bamboo Sheets


Some people have mentioned that 40 degrees C or 112 degrees F are the highest temperatures you should wash bamboo. Other people just say do not go hotter than tepid water. tepid is basically lukewarm water and that is about as hot as you should go.

The best temperature to use is either cool or cold water. That way you are taking no risks and have little chance of damaging those bamboo fibers. Cold water is the safest temperature to use no matter which fabric you are cleaning.

If you want, 30 degrees C or 90 degrees F is also a good temperature to use. it should be about lukewarm status so you should be safe. We say should because it is hard to know in advance what fabrics will do. The quality of the material and the weave style will play a role in how much shrinkage happens.

Ironing Bamboo Fabric

This is not a risky task to do when getting the wrinkles out of bamboo clothing or bedding. The key is to make sure you have your iron on the right settings. If your iron is modern you may have a bamboo setting listed already.

If not, then you should set your iron to low or medium heat only. Any higher and you may damage the fibers in the clothing, etc., and ruin them. You can use your steam button if you want as long as the steam is not too hot.

The key to successful ironing though remains with what the care tag says for you to do. If it says do not iron, then you should avoid that step in the laundry process. Always follow the care instructions and err on the side of caution.

Others may have had success at ignoring those instructions but your experience may not be so good.

How to Dry Bamboo Sheets


Bamboo sheets are like bamboo towels and clothing. Do not let them overheat and you should be fine. That means you can use your dryer or hang them up on the line until they are just dry enough to put away.

If you leave bamboo sheets out in the sun too long the sun’s heat can damage the fibers in bedding as easily as it can with bamboo clothing or towels. It should be said that bamboo will come out of washers, etc., feeling a little rough and not soft but that is normal.

It takes a little bit for the softness to return and you do not need fabric softener to make the sheets soft again. You can put your dryer on cool and fluff up the sheets with a few minutes in that appliance but make sure the sheets are still a little bit wet before you attempt this.

Bamboo Fabric Care Instructions

Here is a list of care instructions to help guide you in your laundry time when you need to clean bamboo fabrics, etc.:

  • Read the care labels first and follow their instructions.
  • Separate the light colors from the darker ones. You can still get dye bleed from bamboo fabrics.
  • Use mild laundry soap, no bleach or cleansers, whiteners having bleach in them, and avoid harsh detergents, etc.
  • Stick to cool or cold water and don’t take risks you do not have to with the water temperature.
  • Use a gentle cycle only and more friction and you could damage the fibers.
  • Line dry your bamboo materials but if you use the dryer, use cool or no heat settings and no dryer sheets.
  • Don't overheat the fabric or you can damage the fibers, cause shrinking or ruin the materials.
  • ​Iron using low to medium heat with the steam function turned on. You shouldn’t linger on one spot for too long either.

Some Final Words

Bamboo is a great material to use for clothing, bedding, and other fabric options. It is anti-bacterial and has other health benefits that will make you feel better. Also, this material is great for allergy sufferers and helps them get a good night’s sleep.

Properly taking care of your bamboo-made items means you can enjoy those benefits for many years.

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