It’s a question as old as time itself: How do you keep clothes and underwear from shrinking? No man wants to pull his favorite underwear out of the dryer, only to discover it’s a half-size too small.

It’s a sad fact of life: Most of our favorite materials shrink when exposed to high heat in the dryer, and there’s no easy solution for undoing that damage.

Our best bet, then, is to stop shrinkage before it happens. What can you do to help underwear retain its size? We take a look.

Read the Label

We’ve mentioned it in previous “Wash Your Drawers Wednesday” posts, but at the risk of sounding like a broken record: Seriously, read the label.

No matter the brand or garment, every manufacturer will include a label that provides instruction for properly washing and drying your apparel. It should tell you which wash cycle to use, what water temperature to select, and how to dry—whether in a machine (and at what setting) or air drying. All that information is provided to prevent shrinkage.

Pro tip: If your underwear is made from 100 percent cotton, it is far more likely to shrink than most other materials. Take extra care of cotton during the washing and drying process.

Wash in Cold Water

Whenever possible, wash your clothes in the coldest water possible. The warmer the water, the more susceptible to fiber damage your clothes are—and the more likely they are to shrink.

Skip the Dryer—If Possible

In a perfect world, you’d air dry your underwear after every cycle. Doing so allows underwear to retain its size (but it might fade if left in the midsummer sun too long) and minimizes the risk of shrinkage. If you don’t have an outdoor clothesline at your disposal, consider drying your underwear on a shower rod or an apparel rack in your home.

And, if you can’t air dry your undies, use the lowest possible heat setting.

Fold Your Dry Underwear as Soon as Possible

The longer your underwear stays warm in the dryer, the more likely it is to shrink. Take it out of the dryer as soon as it’s dry—in many cases, this occurs before the drying cycle fully completes—and fold your underwear immediately.

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