The Trouble with Shrinking Shirts

What can you do to prevent wrinkled heat transfer appliques? Possible solutions include buying pre-shrunk tee-shirts or pre-pressing garments prior to heat pressing an applique.

Should it be a surprise that cotton tee-shirts shrink?  Even us guys know that! Cotton garments shrink. 100% cotton can shrink as much as 10% to 12%. Especially if you simmer the clothes in hot water in your washer, and then bake it on high in the dryer until it’s bone dry.

Of course, we all know that there are right ways and wrong ways to wash and dry. It’s our customers that we have to worry about. When they abuse a tee-shirt and it shrinks, expect to hear the complaint that the heat transfer applique also shrunk and shriveled up with the shirt.

So what can a shop owner do to avoid these complaints? Some thicker vinyl heat transfers will hold their shape a little better – but not much.  The problem with the thicker films is that they are as stiff and as uncomfortable as a plastic placard. You might as well give the customer a sandwich board to walk around in.

The fact is that the whole heat transfer industry is developing thinner, softer and more stretchable films. If the fabric shrinks, the film will shrink with it and it will look wrinkled.

Probably the best solution to the problem is to buy pre-shrunk shirts. The shirts will cost a little more, but they are worth it. Or you could buy a cotton blend which will shrink less.

Of course, you could always pre-wash the shirts yourself.  This is not very practical because it is time-consuming. A better practice is to pre-press the shirt  for three to five seconds prior to heat pressing the applique also helps pre-shrink the shirt.