Dear Home Ec 101,
I’ve been subbed to your feed for quite some time and thought you might know how to help me with a laundry problem. I just can’t seem to pick the right search terms to find this info myself or else it’s not been discussed online?
My problem has to do with the hems on some of my pairs of cotton shorts. I live in Florida where it is shorts weather all but a few days a year. I prefer cotton for obvious reasons. Several pairs of shorts, made by different manufacturers and of different styles, have a hem problem. The hems on the shorts will wrinkle and fold, effectively shortening the shorts to be too short! I try ironing, the hem lays flat until washed again. I’ve tried spray starch, then ironing, same result. I hate having to iron something so casual, but also hate having to constantly adjust the legs of my clothes. They always seem to wrinkle the same way and they come out of the dryer this way, pressing them flat while still hot and putting them away that way doesn’t help, only ironing immediately before wearing. Any ideas on what I can do to get these hems to lay flat and stay that way?
Your problem is actually quite common, just spend an hour or so people watching anywhere people don’t feel the need to dress up. You’ll see bunchy hems, crumpled pockets -especially on on cargo pants, and decorative pockets on blouses do all kinds of crazy things. It also happens to towels with a band of decorative stitching, but hopefully you won’t observe this during your people watching adventure. Frequently, the thread used in the hems of some fabrics shrinks at a different rate than the material it is used to hold.
Did you know that manufacturers actually include all those choices on your washer and dryer for a reason? It’s true, I can’t make this stuff up. Different fabrics have different optimal temperatures for washing; the same is true for your dryer.
The cotton thread is shrinking in the heat of the dryer and if you wash your clothes in hot water, that could be contributing, too.
Now that we know the problem, how do you prevent cotton fibers from shrinking in the laundry?
Try washing cotton clothing in cold water, since you’re in Florida, your water is typically not too cold for most detergents. In Northern parts of the US, you may need to use the warm setting to keep your detergent working effectively. Typically this is more of a problem with powdered detergent than liquid.
Partially dry your clothes on low, tumble and then hang to finish drying, or simply hang to dry. If you choose to hang your clothing to dry, don’t forget consider where the drips may fall? In other words, don’t hang over a hardwood floor. Additionally, make sure there is air flow around the hanging item. You cannot stuff your clothing in a crowded closet and assume it will dry. It may eventually, but mildew will have had a field day by that time. You can lie some articles of clothing flat to dry, just be sure to flip them over or use a drying rack.
I want you to understand that it is possible the thread in the hem has shrunk so much that it may never lie flat without a little help from your iron. However these tactics to prevent shrinking will save future articles of clothing from this obnoxious problem.