Science Fair Project:

Which Fabrics Shrink the Most in the Wash? Does Washing or Drying Cause This?

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Research Questions:

  • Is there a way to prevent fabric shrinkage?
  • Do all fabrics, regardless of size, shrink the same percent of their total size?

Many people complain about their clothes shrinking in the wash. Many more complain, but much fewer know why this happens. Well, there are a few possibilities. It could be that the heat denatures the protein present in the fabric to cause shrinkage or that when fabrics are made, the fibers are stretched, but when heat is applied, they want to go back to their original state.

Materials:

  1. Washer & Dryer
  2. Ruler
  3. Fabric of the Same Dimensions
  • 100% Cotton Fabric x 2 pieces
  • 100% Polyester Fabric x 2 pieces
  • 100% Rayon Fabric x 2 pieces
  • 100% Wool Fabric x 2 pieces
  • 100% Nylon Fabric x 2 pieces

Experimental Procedure

  1. Take a ruler and measure the length and width of the fabrics before they are washed.
  2. Put the pieces of fabric in the washing machine and start the cycle to “warm”. Wait until the time is up (which is most likely 30-45 mins.)
  3. Take the pieces of fabric out. Check the dimensions again.
  4. Put one of each of the fabric samples into the dryer and let the other samples air-dry on a flat drying surface.
  5. Wait for the dryer to complete the cycle. Take the samples out and measure again.
  6. After the air-dried samples are done drying, take their dimensions.
  7. Is there any difference?
  8. Do some research to find out why certain fabrics shrink.

Suggested Chart

Fabric

Initial Dimensions

After Wash

After Dried
Dryer

Cotton

Wool

Polyester

Rayon

Nylon

Air-Dried

Cotton

Wool

Polyestery

Rayon

Nylon

Terms/Concepts: Fabric Shrinkage; Protein denaturation; Properties of Heat; Properties of Water; Expansion/ Contraction

References:

Author: Jennifer Penn-Chiu
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