In short: Dickies pants made of cotton will shrink, while pants made of cotton/poly blend will shrink slightly. Avoid multiple hot water washes and high-temperature drys to prevent shrinkage.
There’s nothing worse than a shrunken pair of work pants. Since Dickies is a popular brand of workwear, let’s find out whether Dickies pants shrink in the wash or not.
What are Dickies pants made of?
Some Dickies pants are made of cotton, while some are made of cotton/poly blend.
The Dickies Original 874 Work Pants, Dickies Cargo Pants, and Dickies Skateboarding Pants, for example, are made of an ultra-durable twill blend that’s 65% polyester and 35% cotton.
The Dickies Lead In Flex Trousers and Dickies Jogger Pants are made of 98% cotton, while the Dickies Garyville denim pants and Dickies Utility Painter’s Pants are made of 100% cotton.
Why is it important to know what each pair of pants are made of? Because different materials have different levels of resistance to shrinkage.
Dickies pants made of cotton shrink in hot water
It’s no secret that cotton will shrink. Pre-shrunk cotton will generally only shrink 2-5%. Non-pre-shrunk cotton, on the other hand, can shrink as much as 20% if you’re not careful.
The good news is, Dickies pants are pre-shrunk.
Still, wash your Dickies pants made of cotton on a delicate cycle and in cold water. This will reduce the risk of excessive friction and agitation, which can cause shrinking.
Here is a list of Dickies pants made of cotton:
- Dickies Garyville Denim Trousers (100% cotton)
- Dickies Utility Painter’s Pants (100% cotton)
- Dickies Lead In Flex Trousers (98% cotton 2% elastane)
- Dickies Jogger Pants (98% cotton 2% spandex)
If you have one of the pants listed above, please be careful when washing them. You could also check the garment care label to see the materials and how to wash them properly.
Dickies pants made of cotton/poly blend shrink by 2%
To answer this question definitively I wanted to find out first-hand. So, I took two of my most popular pairs of Dickies work trousers (made of cotton/poly blend) and put them to a proper test.
Both Dickies pants were washed and dried 5 times, using hot water and a high-temperature dryer cycle. No detergents, fabric softeners, or dryer sheets. Just hot water and hot air.
Keep in mind that what I consider hot water is typically above 130 degrees Fahrenheit (54°C) or warmer. Between 90 and 110 degrees Fahrenheit is considered warm water.
The results were surprising: Both pairs of Dickies work trousers noticeably shrank to some degree. Not by a full size, not quite by half a size, but they did shrink.
Both Dickies work pants shrank to varying degrees, but none seemed to shrink much more than 2%, which is considered a normal and acceptable amount by most manufacturers.
And remember, this was purposefully and repeatedly disobeying the recommended wash instructions. Follow the normal instructions and there should be virtually no shrinkage.
This is notable because polyester is not known for shrinking. But as you can see, no garment is a match for multiple hot washes and drys, especially cotton/poly blend fabrics like Dickies pants.
If I did this same test with 100% cotton shirts, I imagine the shrinking would be much more dramatic. Cotton/poly blends would be less so, and tri-blends even less.
Polyester is more resistant to shrinking
Polyester fabrics will not shrink in the washer unless under extreme conditions. High heat with 140 degrees Fahrenheit minimum temperature can shrink the 100% polyester fabric.
Cotton fabrics, on the other hand, can shrink every time you wash them, especially if you expose them to hot water and high dryer heat settings.
To summarize, 100% polyester will shrink slightly – over multiple hot water washes and high-temperature drys. Cotton/poly blends can also shrink slightly.
How to wash Dickies pants to prevent shrinking
If you follow the normal instructions for Dickies work pants – cold water wash and cool temperature or permanent press dry – they will not shrink. Follow these guidelines.
1. Check fabric care labels
The first step to preventing your Dickies pants from shrinking is to follow the laundry instructions on your garment’s care tag. Check the care tag carefully before laundering.
2. Use cold water and the proper wash cycles
If you only remember one rule about how to avoid shrinking Dickies pants, remember this: keep it cool. Trousers are more likely to shrink when exposed to hot water or high dryer settings.
Even if the care tag recommends warm water, using cold water is always better. Not only does cold water prevent shrinkage, but it can also reduce fading of the color.
Avoiding heavy-duty cycles, fast spins, and high-heat drying can also prevent shrinkage. Use delicate cycles instead, and place your trousers in a mesh laundry bag for added protection.
3. Select the tumble dry or air dry setting
Drying your Dickies pants on a tumble dry or air dry setting can help keep them from shrinking by minimizing wear to the fabric fibers, especially ones made of cotton.
4. Avoid over-drying
Overdrying and exposing your Dickies trousers too long cycles of high heat can damage the fabric and cause them to shrink. Instead, opt for tumble or air-dry settings in shorter intervals.
5. Try air drying your Dickies pants
Does air-drying Dickies pants help prevent shrinking? Yes. Instead of using your dryer, consider air drying your trousers for a fresh, natural drying alternative that helps prevent shrinkage.