By: Heather Bien
Viscose (the most common type of rayon) is a semi-synthetic fabric with a lot going for it. Affordable, breathable, with a beautiful drape and soft finish, this durable yet delicate fabric is a popular option for clothing, sustainable underwear, as well as home textiles.
So is viscose a good material for clothing? Although viscose is a relatively strong and durable woven fabric in the right conditions, it can shrink when wet, especially at higher temperatures. If you think of viscose as a superhero, its kryptonite is hot water.
But when handled with care, does viscose fabric shrink? Let’s find out.
How to prevent viscose from shrinking
Keeping your viscose fabrics in prime condition and at their original size means taking good care of the material. To help you do just that, here are some tips.
Tip #1: Read the tag
Viscose fiber care instructions can vary based on the make-up of the fabric—both the weave and finish as well as whether it’s a blend or 100% viscose. Be sure to read the fabric care instructions to see what is unique to the item.
Quick hint: If you have trouble interpreting care instruction symbols, bookmark or download a care label guide for reference, such as this one from the I Hate Ironing blog.1
Tip #2: Handle with care
The key to cleaning viscose clothes is being gentle. Care instructions will generally instruct you to use gentle washer and dryer settings or hand wash and air dry. Avoid high-spin and rigorous wringing out of the synthetic fabric material. Viscose fiber is at its weakest state when wet, so it needs to be treated lightly.
If you’re hand-washing viscose clothing:
- Mix a gentle detergent with cool water before adding the clothing
- Squeeze suds through the synthetic fabric softly, submerge and soak for up to 30 minutes
- Rinse thoroughly under clean, cool water
- Wrap in a dry towel and press down to remove excess water without wringing
- Reshape flat on a separate clean towel or drying rack in a cool location
If you’re machine-washing viscose, help protect it by:
- Turning the clothing inside-out
- Placing it inside a mesh laundry bag
- Selecting cool and low-spin settings for delicates
- Using a gentle detergent
- Reshaping it flat on a clean towel or drying rack in a cool location
Tip #3: Keep it cool
Viscose is not a fan of high heat, especially when wet. You can anticipate seeing either warm or cool settings for both washing and drying viscose. If you’re hand-washing, keep the water temperature cool to lukewarm water temp. If air-drying, viscose garments should be kept out of the sun and either dried indoors or in a shady area.
If your clothing’s care instructions include machine laundering at medium settings, it’s probably made with a blend of viscose and other materials and able to endure more heat and manipulation while wet than 100% viscose.
Quick hint: Avoid machine drying unless your blended material has at least 30% of the non-viscose fabric.
Tip #4: Keep it dry
The feature that makes viscose clothing perfect for summer—i.e. that it absorbs water and sweat, keeping you dry—is also a potential weakness. Unless kept in a low-humidity environment, viscose can mildew because it absorbs water from the air.
Quick hint: Never store viscose in plastic bags or containers. This will increase the risk of mildewing.
Tip #5: Pre-wash
Responsible clothing and textile makers will have pre-washed viscose fabrics prior to cutting and forming them into end products.
If you’re using the material in a sewing project, opt for pre-washing to address shrinkage from the get-go, but do a spot test first to check colorfastness. You’ll still want to wash the viscose garment gently and avoid heat and agitation. Even if you’re planning on shrinkage, regular machine laundry settings and heat can agitate the fibers that make up viscose, changing its smooth and soft feel to a rougher texture.
How much will viscose shrink?
You may be wondering if viscose is biodegradable and how to avoid shrinking the fabric? When washed in hot water on normal settings and machine-dried, 100% viscose can shrink by up to 25% in a first wash, though 3–5% shrinkage is more typical.2 The amount of shrinkage depends on:
- The percentage of viscose in a blended material
- Whether the material was pre-shrunk by the fabricator
- The original quality of the viscose material
Whether it continues to shrink after multiple cleanings depends on continued care in using recommended gentle laundry practices.
Viscose fabrics you can depend on—Boody Eco Wear
So, is viscose sustainable? Knowing where your clothing comes from and caring for it once it’s in your hands can make all the difference. Boody Eco Wear creates sustainable clothing made from bamboo and cotton viscose blends that are sustainable and designed to last. These are just a few of the many bamboo benefits! Most of our viscose blends are machine-safe for both washing and drying, and they’ll stay indulgently soft for years to come.
View our collections for women, men, and babies, as well as learning more about our sustainability and design practices.
If you’re looking for eco-conscious and luxuriously comfortable athleisure, underwear, and bras you’ve found it with Boody Eco Wear.
About the Author:
Heather Bien is a copywriter and writer based in Washington, DC. She works with retail, ecommerce, and creative brands on their website copy and digital presence, and her freelance writing has appeared on MyDomaine, Apartment Therapy, The Everygirl, and more. When she's not with laptop and coffee in hand, you'll find her planning her next weekend getaway, working on her budding green thumb, or scouting for her next great vintage find.
- I Hate Ironing Blog. Laundry Symbols Explained: Ultimate Guide to Care Labels. https://bonazzieavvocati.com/blog/laundry-symbols-explained/
- Sewing Is Cool Blog. Does Viscose Shrink When You Wash It? (Tips To Avoid It). https://bonazzieavvocati.com/does-viscose-shrink/