Does Organic Cotton Shrink? How to Care For and Wash 100% Organic Cotton

Neal Tucker

9 min read Lifestyle

Does Organic Cotton Shrink? How to Care For and Wash 100% Organic Cotton


Does organic cotton shrink? Here’s everything you need to know to care for, wash and dry your 100% organic cotton perfectly every time.


When you get new organic cotton bedding (or clothes), you’re taking a big step in the right direction for your health and the planet. But to make sure your cotton lasts as long as possible, you also want to know how to care for it. A big part of this involves learning how to properly wash and dry it. Plus, a natural question with the washing and drying process is a big one: “Does organic cotton shrink?”


Well, we’ve got good news! We have all the answers you need right here. Plus, we’ve made it super easy.

All of these great tips and tricks come from industry experts and provide the best way to take care of your organic cotton. Most importantly, they can be used by anyone, no prior experience necessary!

We don’t just stop at the fundamentals of organic cotton care, either. We also walk you through a bunch of the most popular 100% organic cotton questions, to make sure you get all the info you need.

This includes a number of very common questions. We answer if, and how much, cotton shrinks with each wash; the right washing machine and dryer modes; cool water versus warm water; and much more.


We answer if, and how much, cotton shrinks with each wash; the right washing machine and dryer modes; cool water versus warm water; and much more.

AKA: We’ve got all the insider industry secrets to taking care of your organic cotton sheets, bedding, and more.

Follow along to learn all the basics (and a handful of pro tips) for handling your 100% organic cotton sheet sets, cotton shirt collection, and other cotton garments with care. Let’s get started!

Important Note: You may have already noticed that we used “organic cotton” and “cotton” separately. Even though the focus is organics here, the same rules apply in general to other cotton products, even if they aren’t organic. While non-organic cotton isn’t as high quality and won’t last as long, the general principles are mostly the same. While our particular focus for this page is organic cotton (and bed sheets specifically, because we’re bedding people!), these tips should mostly apply to most organic cotton products, including non-organic cotton clothes and bedding.



Does Organic Cotton Shrink?

As one of the most popular fabrics on the planet, it stands to reason that literally millions (if not billions!) of people likely use cotton every single day.


Because of this, there are a lot of questions surrounding the fabric itself, as well as the cotton plant it comes from.

One of the biggest questions for cotton is this: “Does organic cotton shrink?” And, again, to put it more generally: “Does cotton shrink?”

While there are related topics (that we will cover shortly), let’s dig into this one in all its complexity and detail.


Does organic cotton shrink? Here’s the answer.

We know you’re probably wondering if, and how much, organic cotton shrinks up in the wash, so let’s get right to it.

Does organic cotton shrink? Yes, organic cotton can shrink up after washing and drying. Organic cotton will almost always shrink when you wash it, but the amount depends on whether it’s pre-shrunk or not.

We’ll repeat this part, because it’s super important: organic cotton shrinkage is primarily going to happen when the cotton product is not pre-shrunk. This applies to non-organic cotton as well.

That’s the very short and sweet answer.

As you probably guessed, there is a whole lot more to it than that, so let’s get into the details.

Yes, 100% organic cotton may shrink in the wash, but that is absolutely no reason to be concerned.


Yes, 100% organic cotton may shrink in the wash, but that is absolutely no reason to be concerned.

In fact, cotton fabric shrink is a good thing, whether organic or non-organic. It’s often better that your cotton does shrink in the wash. The main reason for this is that many sheet sets need to be washed in order to fit properly.

Here’s the deal with most new cotton sheet sets. Natural, unbleached cotton can either be pre-shrunk or not pre-shrunk

For example: Colored cotton sheets (which are dyed) are usually pre-shrunk.

Pro tip: You might see the phrase “pre-washed” on cotton products. This is similar, but not exactly the same as pre-shrunk, due to the process involved.


Pro tip: You might see the phrase “pre-washed” on cotton products. This is similar, but not exactly the same as pre-shrunk, due to the process involved.


How to Care for Organic Cotton

All that being said, you still need to know what to do with your 100% organic cotton products.

But first, some extremely important background info…

Cotton Fibers and Thread Counts

One very important thing that most people don’t know is that cotton comes in different sizes of fiber: long or short. The same is true for both organic and non-organic cotton types. (Sometimes these are also called staples, as in long-staple or short-staple.)

The very best cotton in the world is made from the longer cotton fibers. The less expensive materials are typically made from the shorter cotton strands, which tend to both break and pill (which is obviously not good for your sheets or clothing).

While short fibers don't necessarily start out short, it’s the lower quality cotton that breaks more easily, resulting in shorter fibers. 

That’s the simple truth about the difference between the best fabrics and the lower quality ones:

Longer fibers = better fabrics.

That’s the simplest way to put it.

Here’s an example: 2,000 thread count sheets are usually not worth their price tag. Why? Because the sheets are made entirely from the short strands of cotton.

One more example: More than 500 thread count is also typically not worth its price tag either, because 500 is the absolute max amount of threads that a bedding maker can get from long-strand cotton.

(Also: Lower quality cotton produces more lint in your clothes dryer, and the sheets are going to get more brittle and coarse over time, and they won’t last nearly as long. This is part of the whole “break and pill” discussion we mentioned above.)

As you can see, better quality cotton goes a very long way. Luxury cotton may not even shrink from its original size as much as the lower quality cotton fabrics. That goes for sheets, shirts, and everything in between.

This is because long-staple (aka, long-strand) cotton is stronger — and even silkier too, with a sateen weave. Using these longer cotton strands during the manufacturing process makes it less likely to pill or tear. As an added bonus, high-quality cotton will even become softer over time, instead of rougher as the lower quality cotton often does.

Here’s our official advice: Regardless of whether you get pre-washed or not, we recommend that you always wash cotton sheets before putting them on your bed.


Here's our official advice: always wash cotton sheets before putting them on your bed.

We know that may sound surprising to some people. But it’s actually for a pretty simple reason that has to do with cotton shrinkage in general:

  • When sheets are packaged, they tend to have a nice pristine sheen to them.
  • This is mostly due to a starch-like material that is used during the packaging process.
  • In addition, most sheets are likely not being pre-washed or pre-shrunk in the factory.
  • So, if you don’t wash your organic cotton sheets before using them, you could be disappointed at the fit.

To sum it up…

If you don’t wash your cotton sheets first, you might end up with a droopy set that doesn’t actually fit snugly to your mattress when you put them on. (Fitted sheets can be tricky enough without that kind of surprise! 😉)

How to Wash 100% Organic Cotton

Now, among other things, you know that caring for your organic cotton means washing it first.

That’s important to note, because now we’re going to cover how to wash your 100% organic cotton sheets. (Again, this should apply generally to both organic cotton clothing and non-organic cotton fabrics too.)

We’re going to answer all the major common concerns and frequently asked questions people have with washing their new 100% organic cotton.


Does organic cotton stretch or shrink?

Organic cotton usually shrinks a little bit after the wash, but it really shouldn’t stretch much. In other words, you shouldn’t expect it to “size up” from a queen mattress to a king bed.


Does cotton shrink only once? / Does cotton stop shrinking?

Your cotton sheets should only shrink up substantially once, after the first wash and dry. Cotton typically stops shrinking after it’s washed thoroughly the first time, but it really shouldn’t shrink much more after the second time. To answer the question more directly: no, your cotton sheets should not shrink repeatedly with each wash.


How often should I wash my organic cotton sheets?

Plain and simple: Whenever it’s dirty, you can wash it. Normal washes go a very long way. If you do NOT wash them enough, they can get smelly, pilly, and rough. Yuck!


How long does organic cotton last?

High-quality organic cotton products should last a really long time. If you take care of them, follow the proper care instructions on the care label, and use mild detergents without toxic chemicals, you can extend their life even further. The rule of avoiding harsh chemicals applies to cotton sheets, cotton shirts, and pretty much every other cotton product on the market.


Should you wash organic cotton in hot water or cold water?

Cold water is typically best. We officially recommend cool water for our 100% organic cotton sheet sets at SLEEP365®.


How to machine wash organic cotton?

You can absolutely machine wash your organic cotton. This is because, thankfully, cotton is not a delicate material. Cotton is actually quite resilient, which makes it resistant to wear and tear. That being said, do not bleach your sheets, because (even though it may help remove unwanted stains) it can make them brittle. Of course, you can also hand wash your sheets, and hang dry them, but this takes much longer and really isn’t necessary for the fabric itself.


How to machine dry organic cotton?

Your organic cotton is not delicate, so you can definitely machine dry it easily and confidently. We officially recommend tumble dry for our sheet sets. As noted above, having “long-strand staple cotton” is the more important factor, which is what we sell. With that kind of cotton, you can safely go about washing and tumble drying without any worries. Low-heat is always going to be best, in terms of temperature, and some people even recommend only partially drying your sheets in the dryer, promptly removing them and laying them out flat (or hanging them over a door) to fully dry. This allows your sheets to fully dry without having to use high heat or letting moisture drip into your home. Finally, according to at least one study, wool dryer balls may help reduce overall dryer time too.

What’s Next?

Now, you’ve got all the tips and tricks you need to properly care for your organic cotton sheets (and other products) at home, safely and easily.

But, you may be wondering, what if someone hasn’t been using 100% organic cotton yet? In other words, how do you get started with organic cotton?

Never fear! That’s quite literally exactly why we’re here.

Our bedding specialists are eager to help you find the perfect sheets and pillow sets for your organic home.

Book a free virtual visit consultation or stop by our showrooms today.

And don’t forget to sign up for our email alerts, full of sleep tips and tricks, discounts, and even a home and garden magazine — all for free!



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