Why the headache with new clothes?

This is another one of those INAMG (“I’m not a marketing genius”) questions, but since the beginning of time, it seems to me that with 100% cotton clothes, as well as those with any color whatsoever, as soon as you wash them, they shrink and the colors run.

As a result, you end up having to buy clothes a size too big and hope they shrink back to a size that fits, and you have to do a separate small wash with JUST that one item the first time to let the colors run out.

Now for the question…why the hell don’t they make pre-shrunk clothing that have already been washed so the colors don’t run? I vaguely remember pre-shrunk clothes (at least) being available a while back, but I don’t see them anywhere anymore. Perhaps they’ve given way to cotton/ polyester blends that don’t shrink as much. Still, what about the running color problem?

And as long as I’m on a rant, with men’s long sleeve nicer shirts, is it REALLY necessary to have 10,000 straight pins in them, making them a total pain in the ass to try on? I know it’s for presentation’s sake, but really, it ends up putting so many damn creases in the clothes you have to iron them for a half hour before you can wear them the first time…Oh, and the colors will still run on those too in that first wash!

Pre-shrunk is still popular on clothing tags I get. It must cost more, so it’s on better items.

What I find strange is that T’s will shrink far more in length than width. This disproportioning should be overcome at the cutting stage, even if they expect you to expect their clothes to shrink.

They do make clothing like that. You just haven’t been paying attention. :wink: There’s been a big comeback in recent years of cotton shirts, usually billed as being made with “100% Mexican cotton”, like that means something special, :rolleyes: and they’re real soft and comfy and kinda wrinkled, but when you wash them–yep, they fade and shrink. You have to really look around to find Perma-Press cotton blouses and shirts anymore (but they are still out there. And yeah, they are usually a cotton/polyester blend anymore–is that a problem? :confused: )

Okay, Yarster, here is a tip from a Shopping Mom. Next time you’re shopping for shirts, look at the label for the Clothing Care Recommendations. If it says, “Machine wash cold water, line dry only”, then that’s a dead giveaway that you’re looking at something that’s going to shrink and/or fade if you don’t treat it juuuuust right. You want to look for the labels that say, “Machine wash warm, tumble dry”, or possibly, “Machine wash cold, tumble dry low”. The “machine wash warm, tumble dry” is practically guaranteed not to fade or shrink. It means that the cotton fabric was pre-shrunk, and the dye was set, after it was woven but before it was made up into clothes.

I will make a WAG here and say that you’re in the habit of shopping for what looks good when you try it on in the store, rather than for what will wash without wrinkling, fading, or shrinking. Learn to read labels, my dear, and your life will be much simpler. :smiley:

Also, you know, if it says “Line dry”, that means you have to iron it before you can wear it. :frowning: If you’re in the habit of buying shirts that say “Line Dry Only”, then you’ve got bigger problems than we can help you with here at the Straight Dope. :smiley:

Oh, and on the “pin thing”? The manufacturers who put those pins in there are assuming that the sort of person who buys that kind of shirt is also the sort of person who has a wee little wifey at home to deal with them. That’s her job. :rolleyes:

To deal with the creases in a new shirt, don’t bother to iron it. It’s full of sizing (starch) from the factory anyway, and the iron makes it smell funny, right? And kind of sticky. The sizing is what’s actually holding the creases in there. The best thing to do is to wash it, then iron it (if it requires ironing). Just wash it a quick cycle, like Knits for a couple of minutes, and run it through the dryer, maybe 15 minutes if it’s one shirt (yeah, yeah, I know, it wastes energy, so sue me).

The reason T-shirts shrink so much is because they get washed in hot water. You tend to think, “Oh, underwear material”, and you toss it in with the underpants and socks, but a Looney Tunes or Beer Olympics T-shirt isn’t the same fabric as an underwear T-shirt. The only tees you can wash in hot water are the regular Hanes/Fruit of the Loom underwear tees. All others–warm or cold water only.

My mother used to work in a large clothing store, and she says that you should ALWAYS wash new clothes before you wear them. They have all sorts of chemicals on the clothes to repel insects, and to keep them fresh. (After she would unpack large boxes of clothes, her hands would be coated with those chemicals.)

Also, add a cup of salt to the water when you wash the clothes for the first time. This helps “lock in” the color and keep it from leeching out. Just to be safe, wash them seperately.

Thanks all for the good advice, and yes, I admit I am one of those people who (strangely enough) buys affordable clothes I think I look good in. That is enough of a challenge without being a label reader and discounting half the clothes I buy as unreasonable because of wierd washing instructions.

Perhaps I just need to be less of a whiner. !) I guess my thinking is that considering how long textiles have been around, you’d think it would have become standard to use dyes that don’t run and pre-shrunk fabrics since it would make everyone’s life so much easier.

I’m even willing to take the color running, but what really pisses me off is the shrinking thing because I can adjust for the length shrinking, but what do you do about the damn sleeves getting shorter? Also, who the hell uses a clothesline these days? I’ve tried hanging clothes on a hanger to dry and I end up with a funky hanger pattern in the shoulders that you have to iron out.

Get cloth-padded hangers for when you’re going to hang-dry. Victoria’s Secret used to sell them, and I think you could get three for $12 at one time. That way you don’t get the line.

Oh, yeah . . . how to stretch sleeves . . .

Depending on what kind of fabric it is, I’ve found this to be useful:

While it’s still wet, saftey-pin the sleevs closed. Then put a small weight, like a tennis ball, or a couple golf balls in a sock, and drop it into the sleeve. The weight usually pulls the sleeve down to its previous length and when it dies, again, depending on the fabric, it should stay that way.

When in doubt about the shrinkage/color fast factor, I wash in cold water and line dry it.

I don’t know if it’s feasible for you but we have a retractable clothes line in our laundry room. One wall has the device that holds line (think of those dog leashes with the retractable leash) and on the other wall is a hook. It was the perfect solution for us.

It depends on the style, and every major clothing and textile manufacturer has hundreds of differnt styles. Some styles are pre-washed before the fabric is cut, while other cloth is pre-shrunk when it is made. Other fabrics are not processed for shrinkage and colorfastness in the pre-manufacturing stage.

However, reputable manufacturers usually do large amounts of testing of the fabric. How much each receives affects the final selling cost of the garment. For example, a cloth that is tested to withstand 5 years of average washing is going to cost you more than one tested to withstand 2 years. So, it comes down to the type of clothing you are buying. Look for pre-washed or pre-shrunk items. You can get these in 100% cotton as well. It is going to cost more, because of the extra time that goes into the processing.

The straight pins are put in place by the manufacturer, not the store. Remember that the majority of these shirts are produced overseas and are handled a number of times before actually getting to the store. The pins keep the shirt pressed and neat. Would you buy one that was wrinkled and looked like no attention had been paid to it?

And as far as ironing the wrinkles out before you wear it? You should wash it before wearing it the first time. A number of chemicals are used in pre-manufacture process, and you could react to them, AND sometimes garments are overdyed, which can lead to the dye rubbing off on your skin. Take the time to wash your shirts first, or if you don’t want to do that, find a local laundry and buy enough shirts so that you can drop off around 5 a week and have at least 6-7 in your closet. That way you don’t have to deal with it at all.

Yeah, I figured you’re probably only doing laundry for yourself, a grownup, whereas I am doing laundry for 2 grownups and 3 kids, none of whom is allowed to even consider purchasing something that says “Line dry only” unless she’s prepared to deal with it herself. :smiley:

To line dry a top without getting hanger creases in the shoulders, if you don’t have a padded hanger, and if you DO happen to have a couple of wooden clothespins and a plastic or wooden hanger, you can very carefully clip it upside down by the hem to the hanger, so it dries upside-down. However, this is only if it isn’t a really heavy fabric, like one of those woven cotton sweaters, because otherwise the hem will stretch out and it will look weird. Do not try this with a metal hanger or metal paper clips, unless you want rust stains on your shirt.

For a really heavy woven cotton sweater, you can lay it flat on top of a couple of bath towels, laid flat on the floor. Don’t spread this out on your bed, unless you really WANT to sleep in cold, wet sheets later on that night.

They DID used to have clothes that were non-shrinking, non-fading, and non-wrinkling. This was back in the 1970s. Sometime during the 1980s, we all got very rich and very bored and decided that Perma-Press wasn’t good enough for us, we had to have status symbols to demonstrate our social superiority and fitness for breeding, in the form of clothes that shrink, fade, and wrinkle, and hence have to be Looked After. It’s a form of conspicuous consumption–“I am so rich that I have so much leisure time that I can afford to fiddle around with my clothing for hours and hours every week, instead of merely flinging them into the washer and dryer as the Simple Folk do.” It’s similar to the Late Victorian fashion for those elaborate ladies’ dresses with gazillions of buttons and hand-embroidery out the wazoo.