10 Clever Ways to Shrink Clothes (2022)

While clothes shopping, we often put off buying desired items until they go on sale. The downfall to waiting for the best deal is when it comes around, you might not find your size. Luckily, if it’s too large, you can learn how to shrink clothes at home to get the perfect fit.

Shrinking clothes is excellent for when you lose weight, as you don’t have to give up your favorite article of clothing. If you want to shrink clothes on purpose, it is vital to learn how to make clothing shrink correctly, as doing it wrong ruins your clothes and wastes your money.

There are many different ways to shrink clothes because of how many different materials there are. Beware that when shrinking clothes at home, irreversible damage is possible, including pilling and misshaping.

Not every material shrinks the same way, so always know what content you are working with before proceeding. Knowing how to shrink clothes correctly involves knowing what material you are working with and what causes that material to shrink.

10 Clever Ways to Shrink Clothes (1)

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Table of Contents

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  1. Easy and Effective Ways to Shrink Clothes
    • Best Ways to Shrink Clothes from Polyester and Synthetic Blends
    • How to Shrink Clothes Made from Cotton
    • Tips on Shrinking Jeans or Other Denim Items
    • Everything you Need to Know to Shrink Wool
    • How to Make Clothing Shrink with a Steam Iron
    • Is the Wet Sheet Method Effective at Shrinking Fabrics?
    • Best Way to Shrink Your Sweater
    • What Can I Do if My Garments Don’t Shrink?
    • Can I Prevent Clothes from Shrinking?
    • Is It Possible to Reverse Shrinking?

Easy and Effective Ways to Shrink Clothes

Before you shrink clothes, always look at the type of fabric, as natural fibers shrink differently than synthetic ones. Certain items such as leather and fur don’t shrink and attempting it will ruin it.

Cotton shrinks easily, and so does wool, so you run the risk of shrinking it too much, while synthetic blends create a bit of a challenge. It’s even possible to take care of shrinking rubber with certain guidelines and some care to the process.

Best Ways to Shrink Clothes from Polyester and Synthetic Blends

Can you shrink polyester? The simple answer is yes. There are several different ways to shrink this fabric and other synthetics. One of the biggest challenges you face when trying to shrink polyester, spandex, or other synthetic fabrics is their design.

These fibers are known to hold their shape, so the shrinking process is a bit more work and takes a little extra time. Never use hot water for shrinking these fibers, as it damages the thread in the seams.

Only wash in the washing machine with cold water and then dry on high heat. Check for size throughout the dryer cycle to prevent over shrinking. Once shrunk enough, use low heat to finish drying.

However, if you can shrink fabrics, know that you can make them larger, too. How to unshrink a dress made from synthetic blend fabrics is just as easy as making them smaller. Hand stretching in a water and hair conditioner solution and air drying works best.

How to Shrink Clothes Made from Cotton

Cotton fabrics or blends of cotton and another material are the easiest ones to shrink, as long as they are not preshrunk. To make your favorite t-shirt smaller or for how to shrink a sweatshirt or jeans, begin by laundering the garment in hot water.

Once washed, place it in the dryer on the highest heat setting. Don’t leave the garment alone in the dryer for an extended period. Every once in a while, pull it out and check its size, so it doesn’t shrink too much.

Once you are satisfied with the size, switch heat to low or air only to gently dry the cotton garment. This strategy is one of the best ways to shrink pants made of a cotton blend, too.

Tips on Shrinking Jeans or Other Denim Items

The first thing is to check the label on your favorite pair of jeans for washing instructions. Never try shrinking denim at home that contains the instructions dry clean only.

Jeans and other denim items often shrink after the first wash cycle completes, so wash them first before trying to shrink them further. For general washing, use cold water on jeans and denim and allow them to hang dry. To further shrink them, wash in hot water and then dry in a hot dryer.

Use care when shrinking dark clothing like jeans. Hot water not only makes clothes smaller but it can also fade fabric or bleed onto other garments. Be sure you know how to wash darks before attempting shrinking strategies.

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Everything you Need to Know to Shrink Wool

Wool is by far the easiest fiber to shrink but do so cautiously at home because of how easily and quickly it works. Shrinking wool items requires three general things: heat, agitation, and moisture.

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DIY Wool Shrinking

  • Warm water
  • Laundry detergent
  • Drying rack
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Never attempt to shrink or wash wool items that require dry cleaning. The reason for this is it shrinks more than you want it to, and reversing the shrinkage is nearly impossible.

Wash the wool by hand, gently wring out excess water, stretch out to desired shape and size, and lay on a drying rack. Repeat until you achieve the desired results. Never dry wool items in direct sunlight.

How to Make Clothing Shrink with a Steam Iron

Using the steaming function on your iron is an easy and effective way of shrinking cotton and other fabrics. For best results and one of the best ways to shrink a hoodie, use an iron with a decent supply tank and one that delivers a steady stream of pressurized steam.

Steam is most effective on wool and Thai silk fibers, in addition to cashmere, boucle, tweed, camel, loosely woven fabrics, mohair, and organza.

When turned the wrong side up, steam will also work to shrink velveteen fabrics and velvet items. To use steam for shrinking, fill the iron with water and turn it on to its hottest setting. Opt for the press function; never use the iron setting as it may distort and ruin the fabric.

To prevent water spots from forming, don’t use this technique as one of the ways to shrink rayon or delicate silks. Keep the iron half an inch above the material and slowly move it above, making sure you cover every inch. Lay flat to dry and do not place on a hanger as it will distort the fabric.

A tailor steam press is a variation of the steam iron approach. In tailoring shops, there are vacuum and steam tables set up with dry irons to shrink clothes as needed.

To do this at home, buy a professional iron rather than an ordinary home iron. These irons reach higher temperatures and are heavier than your home use ones.

Is the Wet Sheet Method Effective at Shrinking Fabrics?

Not everybody employs this process, but it is useful. This works by pressing the item with a heavy-duty iron while protecting it with a wet sheet. With the wet cloth on top of the item, press with a hot iron until you achieve your desired results.

For fabrics you don’t want to wash, use a damp cloth to sponge the item and then press with the iron. This technique works for shrinking leggings, pants, shirts, and other garments if you don’t want to use the washing machine and dryer to shrink them. Repeat until results are achieved.

Best Way to Shrink Your Sweater

Shrinking sweaters is not as hard as you think; chances are, it’s already happened to yours. Doing it accidentally is one thing, but we want to teach you how to shrink your wool sweater on purpose. Before proceeding any further, check the care labels for the type of material.

Never shrink cashmere and mohair sweaters using hot water or high temperatures as the shrinking process ruins the fabric. For a wool and cotton blend or a pure wool sweater, start the shrinking process by washing in hot water. Once clean, tumble dry on medium heat, as a higher heat setting changes the way the sweater looks and ruins fibers.

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Pull the sweater from the dryer during the drying cycle to check the size. Once it is the desired size, lower the heat setting to gentle or allow it to air dry. To prevent further shrinking, always hand wash using an approved hand wash laundry detergent.

What Can I Do if My Garments Don’t Shrink?

Sometimes, even when you try one of our clothes shrinking techniques, they don’t work as well as you hoped or actually don’t seem to work at all. This is often due to the piece of clothing being preshrunk, which is only useful for not shrinking your new clothes by accident. It becomes a problem when you are intentionally trying to make your favorite garment smaller.

Older garments are difficult to shrink further because of already going through the shrinking process, but they are not impossible to shrink. For any items you are struggling with, follow these steps to try shrinking them down to size. Bring some water to a boil and gently pour it over the item.

Once submerged in boiling water, allow the garment to soak for several minutes. Use rubber gloves or some other form of protection to pull it from the hot water.

Wash it using hot water and a small amount of laundry detergent. Dry using the highest heat setting on the dryer and check the size occasionally to determine if it is the right fit. This is important to keep the clothing from shrinking too much.

Can I Prevent Clothes from Shrinking?

If clothing is going to shrink, there is no real way to stop it as the more it is washed, the more obvious the shrinking becomes. There is no guaranteed way to prevent shrinkage, but there is a way to keep it from happening all at once.

When washing, use the gentlest washing cycle possible, and air dry the item. Avoid putting tension on clothing by laying flat to dry after you reshape them. If you opt for the dryer, use a moisture sensor setting to prevent over-drying.

Is It Possible to Reverse Shrinking?

Occasionally we shrink clothes accidentally. Although it’s rare, there are some cases where it’s possible to reverse the shrinking. The best way to reverse shrinking involves soaking the item in water.

Once significantly wet, stretch the garment out to its original size and shape. Carefully lay it out on a flat surface and use weights to hold it in place. Allow the item to air dry.

Some garments shrink faster than others. Repeat the shrinking as many times as necessary until you reach your desired size. Almost all material types respond to a boiling water soak followed by a hot laundering; some just respond slower than others.

Thank you for reading our ideas on how to make clothing shrink. If you found any of our ways to shrink clothes useful, please take a minute to share these cloth shrinking tips with other people on Facebook and Pinterest so they can learn how to shrink clothes correctly at home, too.

FAQs

How do you shrink your clothes fast? ›

Regardless of the type of garment—shirts, cotton, hoodies, and pants/jeans—or fabric, from rayon to 100 percent cotton, the most common process for potentially shrinking clothes is to machine wash them with hot water and machine dry them with high heat.

Is there a way to purposely shrink clothes? ›

3) Turn up the heat

For example, both cotton shirts and denim jeans will shrink more in a warm or hot wash, followed by a high heat drying cycle. Steam heat will effectively shrink wool clothes, and some fabrics will even shrink when soaked for long periods in warm water.

How do you shrink clothes without a dryer? ›

How to Shrink Your T-Shirt With and Without a Dryer - YouTube

How do u shrink clothes? ›

Cotton
  1. Wash the garment in hot water.
  2. Put in the dryer on high heat.
  3. Check periodically throughout the drying cycle to make sure you don't over-shrink the garment.
  4. When it's the right size, change the dryer setting to low heat or air and dry the rest of the way gently.

Does cold water shrink clothes? ›

Cold-water washing means clothing is less likely to shrink or fade and ruin clothes. Cold water can also reduce wrinkles, which saves energy costs (and time) associated with ironing.

Does warm water shrink clothes? ›

"Both hot and warm water may cause certain fabrics to fade or shrink," she notes. "However, hot water shrinks items to their maximum shrinkage capacity after one wash, whereas warm water will shrink them more gradually over multiple washes."

Can I shrink clothes in boiling water? ›

Boil Your Shirt in Hot Water

If you'd like your tee to shrink as much as possible, let it boil for up to twenty minutes.

How do you shrink clothes without washing them? ›

You can soak it in hot water, use a hot iron, boil the shirt or use a dryer machine on the hottest setting to shrink a shirt without washing. Simply soak it in a sink or tub with hot boiling water for 30 minutes. The fibers of the shirt are more likely to shorten if saturated for a long time with extremely hot water.

How do you shrink a shirt overnight? ›

The fastest way to shrink a shirt is to wash is to first place it in cold water, then put it in the washing machine in a very hot setting. Then put it in the tumble dryer, again on a high setting.

How do I shrink XL to L? ›

Housekeeping Instructions : How to Shrink a Shirt - YouTube

How do you fix a shirt that is too big? ›

DIY: How To Alter a HUGE Shirt to a FITTED Shirt! - by Orly Shani

Do clothes need to be wet to shrink? ›

If you lay your wet garment flat to dry after washing, no additional shrinkage will occur and the fibers in your clothing will de-swell and reform to their original size. However, if you machine dry the clothing, it can indeed shrink for good.

Can you shrink clothes with an iron? ›

The first myth debunked: Dryer heat does not shrink garments. After all, as Ottusch pointed out, a hot iron does not shrink clothes; in fact, the heat and pressure of the iron cause the garment to stretch out. Rather, she said, shrinkage is caused by the tumbling action as the garments hit the sides of the dryer.

Does warm or hot water shrink clothes? ›

Does hot water cause shrinkage? Yes, hot water does shrink clothes sometimes. The washer can cause clothes to shrink in both hot and warm water. However, hot water shrinks items to their maximum shrinkage capacity after one wash, whereas warm water will shrink them more gradually over multiple washes.

How do you shrink pants that are too big? ›

"Boiling your jeans for 20 to 30 minutes and then drying them in a hot dryer will usually shrink them more quickly than the washer method—and shrink them slightly more effectively," says Abrams.

Do clothes shrink in the washer or dryer? ›

Do clothes shrink in the washer or the dryer? Clothes may shrink in the washer if they are washed in a hot water cycle with heavy agitation, as well as in a dryer in high-heat settings that may cause overdrying. As a rule of thumb, high temperatures increase the likelihood of clothes shrinking in your laundry routine.

Do clothes have to be wet to shrink in the dryer? ›

If you want more shrinkage, use a high heat dryer machine to shrink the wet shirt even more. Shrinking in a dryer requires that the shirt is wet, so after boiling is a perfect time to shrink a bit further.

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