Does Canvas Shrink When Washed? (How to Shrink Canvas Items)

Water is not everyone’s friend. Different fabrics respond to water in different ways. Even the heavyweight fabrics tend to lose their size when washed in the wrong water temperature. How much each fabric shrinks is up to the weight of the fabric and how it is made.

Does canvas shrink when washed? Canvas will shrink only if it has not been pre-washed and shrunk. If you are not working with that material then you can expect a 12 to 15% reduction in size when washing canvas. The dyed canvas may only shrink about 8%. Add in enough fabric to cover this shrink amount.

To learn more about canvas and its shrinking ability, just continue to read our article. It has the information you want to know about before you start sewing with canvas. Make sure to have 2 wash loads in a row without shrinking before you use the material.

Will Canvas Shrink?


If it is made of cotton, it will shrink on you. That is a fact you can live by when you live in the fabric world. The good thing about cotton, in general, is that it usually only shrinks once. If that applies to canvas, then your worries should be over after the first washing.

But if you have a cotton-poly blend canvas fabric, you may not see much shrinkage at all. The polyester in the blend may help the material be more shrink resistant. After all, regular polyester resists shrinking.

That lack of shrinking may be due to fact that the polyester and cotton were coated with a chemical to resist that fabric change. If it wasn’t then be prepared to lose some fabric size.

If you want it to get all the shrinking out of its system, then wash in hot water. You may lose between 3 inches one way and 5 inches another.

Does Canvas Shrink When Washed?

Yes, canvas will shrink but not if you wash in cold water, or that is the theory. If your canvas material has not been pre-washed or treated to resist shrinking then expect the material to lose a large portion of its size.

Some people, when washing in hot water, lost either 12 to 15% or 3 by 5 inches. That is a lot if you did not buy extra material to cover this issue. Then if dry different canvas material on high heat, you should see some shrinkage.

Just be careful when you do wash and dry the canvas as the amount lost may ruin your sewing project. But the good news is if you do dry the material it should come out of that machine with a tighter weave and a smoother feel.

Does Canvas Shrink When Wet?


Your canvas material may shrink when it gets wet. But there is a caveat to that as usually cotton only shrinks once so after the first time, the material should not shrink again.

Nothing is certain though and your results may differ. That is okay as it is impossible to put an average amount any fabric will shrink. A lot depends on the quality of the fibers and how the canvas was made.

If you have a canvas tent and you camp in the rain a lot, either by accident or choice, you may expect the material to shrink about 1 to 2%. That is not a lot but it may be noticeable after a while.

Does Canvas Shrink in Hot Water?

This is the preferred temperature to sue when you want to remove any shrink element from your sewing project. Cold water is reserved for when you want to avoid shrinking no matter the fabric.

If you are trying to get all the shrink out at one time, then the hotter the water the better. When you shrink the material the first time, expect to see a lot of fabric disappear. Canvas seems to lose a lot of its volume when it shrinks.

This means you should factor in about 20% more material when you are buying by the yard. That extra amount should cover any shrinking taking place and leave you enough left over to cover the seam allowances. Plan ahead to avoid any sewing project disasters.

Does Canvas Shrink in The Dryer?


Yes, canvas can and the dryer with its high heat potential is another good source when you want to remove the shrink factor from your work. How much the canvas will shrink will probably depend on how much shrinking was removed when you washed them material in hot water.

The good thing about using the dryer to shrink canvas is that the machine can smooth out the feel of the fabric and take away its rough nature. You get a better feel when you touch the canvas making it more enjoyable to work with.

For canvas shoes, 10 to 15 minutes should be all the time you need to get them a size or two smaller. Just make sure to wet them first. Keep in mind, the shrink rate is not automatic and you may lose more material than you bargained for.

How Much Does Canvas Shrink?

If you are measuring in inches and remember what we said earlier, then you would find that some canvas materials will shrink up to 3 inches one way and 5 another. Your results may differ but this gives you an idea of what to expect.

But if you do not measure n inches but percentages, then count on anywhere between 1 to 15%. That rate depends on how the material gets wet, how it is used, or if it as been pre-shrunk or not.

All rates are approximate and not set in stone. Some people may get more shrinkage while others may get less. There is no hard and fast rule on how much canvas will shrink on you.

Can Canvas be Washed in The Washing Machine?


The answer to this question is also positive. Canvas is made from cotton for the most part and since you can wash cotton, you can wash canvas. Just be wary of the blends or any other fibers that are used to create the canvas fabric. They may not wash as well as cotton does.

The thing to worry about if you do not want to shrink the material is the water temperature. Use cool to cold when washing canvas then hang dry to avoid dryer heat and miscues. Proper care will always prevent damage to the material, usually.

Should I Wash Canvas Before Sewing?

Experienced sewers already know the answer to this. No matter what fabric you are sewing, including canvas, you should always pre-wash the material. But before you do that, make sure you bought enough extra material so that your sewing project will go smoother and not run out of fabric at the wrong time.

The amount extra you buy ranges between 10 and 20%, so for a yard of material you want to buy just over a yard. Sometimes you are not allowed to do that and you end up with leftover fabric. That is okay as there will always be a sewing project that can make use of the leftovers.

How To Shrink Canvas Jacket


The first thing to do is to check the fabric label. If the canvas jacket is made from 100% cotton, then your shrinking the jacket simply needs a few turns in the washer and dryer. Just be cautious as you can’t control the shrinking rate. Once in both may be enough to get the jacket to the right size.

The temperatures of the water and dryer heat can start at warm. Going slow helps you control the shrink factor better. If the jacket is made from a blend, you may not be able to shrink it at all.

Polyester in the mix may make a mess of your project and leave you with something you cannot use.

How To Shrink Canvas Shoes That are Too Big

We alluded to this a little while ago and it is not hard to shrink canvas shoes. Just remember this old saying before you start the process- ‘it is better to fit big than to fit small.’ The logic behind that is that you can still adjust items that are too big in safer methods but you can’t do anything when the fit is too small.

The blow dryer method may work on canvas, Just wet the shoes and use that to dry the material. But the main method is to soak your canvas shoes, and we mean soak them, then dry them in the dryer at high heat for 10 to 15 minutes. That should do it.

Some Final Words

Canvas is a heavyweight and thick material. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be shrunk to the size you want it to be at.

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