What is "Relaxation Shrinkage" - Definition & Explanation
Relaxation Shrinkage

Relaxation shrinkage is a phenomenon that occurs in textile fabrics after they have been subjected to various mechanical and chemical processes during manufacturing. It refers to the dimensional change or shrinkage that happens when a fabric is allowed to relax from the tension and stress induced during these processes. Relaxation shrinkage is primarily caused by the release of internal stresses within the fabric's fibers and yarns.

Types of Relaxation Shrinkage

There are two main types of relaxation shrinkage:

  1. Wet Relaxation Shrinkage: This type of shrinkage occurs when the fabric is exposed to water or moisture. It is common in natural fibers such as cotton, linen, and wool, which have a higher affinity for water. When these fibers absorb moisture, their molecular structure relaxes, leading to a reduction in size.
  2. Thermal Relaxation Shrinkage: Thermal relaxation shrinkage occurs when the fabric is subjected to heat, such as during ironing or laundering. The application of heat causes the fabric's fibers and yarns to relax and contract, resulting in shrinkage. Synthetic fibers like polyester and nylon are particularly prone to thermal relaxation shrinkage.

Tips for Handling Relaxation Shrinkage

To minimize the impact of relaxation shrinkage, here are some tips:

  • Pre-Shrinking: Pre-shrinking fabrics before garment construction can help reduce the potential for further shrinkage during washing or wearing. This process involves subjecting the fabric to water or heat treatments to allow for initial shrinkage.
  • Testing: Conducting shrinkage tests on fabric samples before using them in production can provide valuable information about their potential for relaxation shrinkage. This allows manufacturers to adjust their processes or inform customers about expected shrinkage rates.
  • Proper Laundering: Following the care instructions provided by the fabric manufacturer is essential to minimize relaxation shrinkage. Washing fabrics in cold water, using gentle cycles, and avoiding high heat drying can help prevent excessive shrinkage.
  • Steam Ironing: When ironing fabrics prone to relaxation shrinkage, using a steam iron with low to medium heat can help relax the fibers and reduce the likelihood of shrinkage. It is important to avoid prolonged exposure to high heat.

Top International Users and Manufacturers

Numerous international textile manufacturers and brands utilize relaxation shrinkage control techniques in their products. Some of the top users and manufacturers include:

  1. Lululemon Athletica: Lululemon is a renowned athletic apparel brand that focuses on incorporating performance fabrics with controlled shrinkage to ensure longevity and proper fit.
  2. Patagonia: Patagonia, a well-known outdoor clothing company, emphasizes shrinkage control in their garments, especially when dealing with natural fibers like wool and cotton.
  3. Gap: Gap is a global retailer that emphasizes the use of shrinkage control techniques to maintain the integrity and fit of their garments, catering to a wide range of customers.
  4. Uniqlo: Uniqlo, a popular Japanese clothing brand, emphasizes shrinkage control in their garments, ensuring that they maintain their shape and fit after multiple washes.
  5. Hanes: Hanes, a well-established manufacturer of underwear and basic apparel, implements shrinkage control techniques to provide consistent sizing and fit in their products.
  6. Zara: Zara, a leading fast-fashion brand, employs relaxation shrinkage control methods to maintain the quality and fit of their garments despite frequent washing and wearing.


Relaxation shrinkage is a common occurrence in textiles, resulting from the release of internal stresses within fibers and yarns. It can be categorized as wet or thermal relaxation shrinkage, depending on the triggering factor. Manufacturers and brands implement various techniques to control shrinkage, such as pre-shrinking fabrics and providing care instructions to customers. By employing these strategies, top international users and manufacturers like Lululemon Athletica, Patagonia, and Gap ensure that their garments maintain their intended fit, durability, and overall quality.

Relaxation Shrinkage
A shrinkage induced by the relaxation of strains present in a textile.


Strains of a temporary nature can be relaxed to a varied degree, e.g. by steam pressing or by immersion in water.

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