8 Fabric Preparation Methods for High-Quality Garments Fabric relaxation and pre-shrinking is a crucial step in garment manufacturing. This step lies behind the secret of well-sized garments, as the procedures ensure that the fabric is in the right condition to be cut and sewn into garments. So, how can garment factories reach the best results possible?

Garment factories usually get their fabric delivered in large rolls. This means the first step in garment production is to unroll the fabric. Due to being tightly rolled up the fabric is in a tense state. Additionally, during the spinning, weaving, bleaching, dyeing and finishing process, the fabric is constantly under tension. So, depending on the type of fabric, garment manufacturers use different techniques to let the unrolled fabric reach its natural state. This can take, depending on the technique and fabric, up to 12 to 48 hours.

The Essentials behind Fabric Relaxation

As mentioned before, fabric relaxation or pre-shrinking is the first and very essential step of garment production. After all, it is the only way to minimize the risk of distortion and shrinkage of the final product’s quality and fit. There are several factors and different techniques to consider when it comes to fabric relaxation or pre-shrinking, depending on the material. This guide gives a short overview of all aspects garment factories need to pay attention to for the best results.

1. Different Fabrics, Different Behavior

In order to know which methods of relaxation to use for garment production, it is important to understand that every type of fabric behaves differently. Several factors, such as fiber content, type of weaving, type of finish, or type of dye, come into play here.For example, natural fibers are more easily affected by humidity and therefore can be loosened more easily than synthetic fibers. Tighter weaves or knits on the other hand need a longer relaxation process to reach their natural state. And, chemical treatments or dyes will affect the fabric’s behavior during the manufacturing process.

So, after understanding the fabric, garment manufacturers can decide how long the fabric needs to be relaxed and also what method to use for their intended use.

2. Finding the Right Method

There are several methods garment factories can opt for to bring the fabric into its natural state. In general, there are two options: Fabric relaxation and pre-shrinking fabric. Both methods use different techniques. The goal of both methods is to speed up the process of bringing fabrics into the ideal state for production. With the high demands of the garment industry, it is therefore important to evaluate the right method and machinery for this step.

Some examples of different fabric relaxation methods:

• Steam Relaxation: For fabrics, mostly with natural fibers like cotton or wool, that wrinkle easily this is a preferred method. With applying steam to the fabric, like with this Fabric Steam Relaxing Machine, it relaxes the fibers and reduces tension. This method also speeds up the process by a lot, saving time during the garment manufacturing process.

• Tension Relaxation: In order to relax certain fabrics, stretching them can reduce their tension. While manual stretching is often used for specific tension areas, mechanical stretching releases tension on the entire fabric surface. Some garment manufacturers prefer controlled relaxation for their purpose and use tension frames during this process.

• Rolling and Hanging: Some garment factories roll up their fabrics or hang it up on bars to stretch and relax the fibers naturally over time without applying additional tension. This method is especially popular for fabrics that are prone to wrinkling and creasing.

• Shaking Relaxation: For lightweight fabrics relaxing through shaking is the right method. With the help of machines, such as OSHIMA’s Fabric Relaxing device, a shaking motion redistributes the tension across the fabric and over time it releases the tension so the fabric can settle into its natural shape. As this method is quite quick and efficient, many garment factories use it in their manufacturing process.

Some examples of different pre-shrinking methods:

• Washing and Drying: This is a simple method of pre-shrinking fabric that also happens a lot (mostly accidentally) in daily life. Garment manufacturers wash and dry the fabric at high temperatures, aiming to shrink it as much as possible before cutting and sewing.

• Steam Shrinking: For fabrics that are quite delicate or cannot be washed, using steam is another effective method. The fabric is rolled into a machine that moistens and relaxes the fibers with steam. During the drying process, the machine applies high heat to uniformly shrink the fabric. For medium sized garment factories this Fabric Steam Shrinking OC-100 Machine by OSHIMA is a good solution. For thin materials like cotton, silk, or wool, the OSP-2000 works very well. On the other hand, the OSP-2008 is the all-around solution for all types of fabrics.

• Chemical Treatments: In some case of fabrics, garment manufacturers apply chemical treatments to fabric to pre-shrink it. Due to the chemicals altering the structure and fibers, the end product becomes less prone to shrinking. However, for this method, environmental concerns should be taken into consideration.

• Hot Water Soak: By soaking the fabric in hot water over a longer period of time it can be pre-shrunk. In this process, the fibers absorb moisture and shrink gradually.

3. Constant Quality Control

Throughout the relaxation or pre-shrinking process thorough monitoring is very important to maintain consistency. Also, as each fabric behaves differently it is highly advised to keep detailed records of the process to be able to reproduce the exact method in terms of duration, tension, humidity, and temperature again. Despite that, fabric samples should still be tested beforehand to ensure that the desired results can be achieved. These quality control procedures aid in identifying problems in the early stages and therefore prevent possible defects.


Though it may sound tempting at first to skip the fabric relaxation or pre-shrinking step in garment manufacturing to prevent backlogs in production, the guide above clearly shows how important this step is. With the right execution consistent high-quality garments can be produced to meet the high standards set by the industry and customers. Not sure what method and solution is the right one for your garment factory? Contact us now and let OSHIMA guide you to the right solution.

{Contributed by Oshima Apparel Machinery (Taiwan)}