If you're like most people, your closet holds not just boast-about bargains but also special garments with eye-popping prices that your weak-willed shopping self just couldn't resist. You know — the ones you always end up shrinking. It's heartbreaking when it happens but good to know that it's avoidable when what you put in the dryer is made of fabrics like acrylic or polyester.
Basically, neither fabric will shrink under normal conditions. You do, however, need to keep in mind that subjecting them to excessive temperatures can cause minor shrinkage or even melting due to the synthetic fibers. This is why it's important to follow all care instructions and to make sure your dryer isn't overheating.
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Properties of Acrylic and Polyester
Soft and warm, acrylic is used in things such as sweaters, socks, knitted goods, fleece items, and blankets and is often viewed as a substitute for wool. Because the different methods used to produce acrylics create different characteristics, care instructions can vary from one acrylic garment to another.
Polyester, the most popular synthetic fabric, is used for all types of clothing. Its strength and durability make it a go-to fabric for outerwear, and polyester fibers are often blended with such fibers as wool, cotton, linen, and acetate to make them easier to care for.
Both fabrics are wrinkle-resistant, launder easily, and resist damage from sunlight, moths, and mildew, but both will actually melt when exposed to dryers that are too hot.
Taking Precautions With Your Dryer
Because acrylic and polyester are so heat sensitive, tumbling these fabrics in a dryer with an overheating problem can spell death for clothing you love. If they shrink a bit, you may still be able to use them. If they melt, it's over.
The best thing to do — beyond always making sure you read your care instruction labels to identify when you're dealing with acrylic or polyester — is to take precautions to prevent dryer problems.
When a dryer cabinet feels too hot or the items you unload feel warmer than they should on the setting you used, you should call for a service technician. If you have a gas dryer, the technician will check for problems with thermostat regulation, heat sensors, and air circulation. If your dryer is electric, the check will involve additional components, like heating elements. One of the most common problems, however, which results in thousands of house fires each year, is lint buildup, which you can easily control yourself by cleaning lint from your lint screen, lint trap, and vent and duct system.