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How To Shrink Clothes

by | Mar 20, 2022 | Cleaning Tips

Why shrink clothes

It makes you wonder, why would anyone want to shrink clothes at home? You might be surprised that there are many people who do this, especially when those clothes are well-loved! 

Say you bought a pair of jeans that’s a little bigger than your usual size, but it was on sale and you really loved the design. Or you have a cotton t-shirt that’s your favourite among your tops, but now it looks too big on you because you lost weight. Instead of hiding the pair of jeans and your cotton T-shirt in the closet, you can shrink them at home so you can still enjoy wearing them.

Speaking of, I’m wearing a linen top right now that shrunk in the dryer by accident, and now it fits better than when I originally bought it. Talk about serendipity.

The right size of clothes can make us feel good about ourselves, and finding the right fit helps our self-esteem in more ways than one. There are times when you just feel like wearing an oversized comfy sweater, and other times when a jacket that’s a few sizes smaller does the trick. Either way, clothes are always one of the easiest ways to express and take care of ourselves.


Best way to shrink clothes

When you buy an item of clothing that’s a bit too big for your liking, trying to shrink it at home is an option. Whether your reason for wanting to shrink your clothes is to feel more confident about your outfit or to be more comfortable in them, it’s important to use the right techniques when you DIY. Here are our best tips on how to shrink clothes:


1. Know the type of fabric

Clothes are made from different materials. Knowing which fabric your clothes are made with will help you determine how best to shrink it and take care of it after the shrinking process.

If you’re unsure about the material, check the clothes’ label to know its fabric type and proper care. Natural fabrics like cotton and linen are usually more responsive to heat than synthetic ones, like nylon and polyester. Rayon or viscose is also prone to shrinkage.

Before you shrink the cute denim jacket you just bought, check if it’s already pre-shrunk. The shrinking process is not effective on ‘pre-shrunk’ fabrics and you’ll be better off not doing it anyhow to save yourself the time and frustration.

Don’t try to shrink leather, suede, beaded or upholstery fabric, and clothes labelled ‘Dry Clean Only’ – these have special care instructions and will get damaged during the shrinking process.


2. Determine the shrinking technique you’ll use

Different fabrics mean using different methods of shrinking. Wool, cotton, polyester, silk, and denim, to name a few, all have different responses to heat. You need to know which method or shrinking process is suitable for the type of fabric of your clothes to get the desired effect. Otherwise, you might end up with an overly shrunk piece of fabric that you won’t be able to wear anymore!


3. Which heat level to use

If you’ll read through the techniques on how to shrink clothes below, you’ll probably notice that heat appears frequently throughout the shrinking process. From using warm or hot water to turning up the dryer’s heat setting to medium or high, you’ll find that the right temperature and heat level can make or break your clothes. Keep in mind that each type of fabric will have its own preferred heat level, and this should be followed in order for your clothes shrinking to be effective.


4. Check frequently

When running your clothes under hot water or during a drying cycle under high heat, it’s important to keep your eyes peeled! Always check that the fabric is still intact and in good condition throughout the whole shrinking process, taking care to see if your clothes are not damaged during any step of the process and if you’ve achieved the desired size already.


5. Dry slowly and gently

The last step of the shrinking process is as important as all the others. As soon as you’ve achieved the desired size of your clothes, carefully remove them from the dryer and allow them to air dry gently to prevent any damage on the fabric. Following post-shrinkage care ensures that your clothes are not subjected to further stress and retain their good shape.


How to shrink clothes

These are the best ways to shrink clothes that are too big.


How to shrink clothes in the dryer


How to shrink cotton

When shrinking cotton, remember to wash the item of clothing in hot water before putting in the dryer. Once you’re done, put the dryer on high and simply place the clothes inside. Check frequently if the clothes have reached their desired size, then shift the dryer’s heat setting to low and let dry gently after.


How to shrink polyester

Polyester and other synthetic fabrics require a different approach when shrinking. Wash the item of clothing in cold water before going through the shrinking process. When you’re done, set the dryer on high and put the clothes you want to shrink in the dryer. Once you have the desired size for your clothes, change the dryer’s setting to low and allow your clothes to dry.


How to shrink viscose

Viscose, or rayon as these terms can be used interchangeably, is a fabric that can easily shrink. To shrink viscose, soak the fabric in warm water for several hours. You can ‘agitate’ the fabric to help in the shrinking process by mixing it in the basin with a wooden spoon. After soaking, put in the dryer using the low heat setting, or allow your clothes to air dry on a rack in a warm spot in your house. You can also try drying with a hair dryer or an iron to speed up the shrinking process. 


How to shrink a sweater

Before trying to shrink your sweaters, check the type of fabric used. If your sweaters are made from cashmere or mohair, it’s best to avoid shrinking them in the dryer, as high heat can damage the fabric. Sweaters made from wool or cotton and wool blends can withstand the shrinking process and should be washed with hot water prior to shrinking. Set your dryer on medium heat and place your sweater inside to shrink. When you’ve reached the right size, take your sweater out of the dryer and air dry gently.


How to shrink denim jacket / shorts

When shrinking a denim jacket or shorts (this technique comes in handy during the summer months when you want to look trendier than usual!), turn the heat of your wash setting on the highest level and run your clothes on the longest cycle. Once done, transfer immediately to your dryer on the highest setting, checking from time to time if you’ve achieved the right size. Allow your denim jacket or shorts to air dry on a rack and voila! A new piece of denim you’ll get to enjoy wearing for your next beach trip.


How to shrink clothes without a dryer 

How to shrink pants and how to shrink jeans

When shrinking pants made of khaki, corduroy, denim or cotton drill, warm water soaking is the best method because this ensures even shrinking. This method is recommended because the sizing and tailoring of your pants or jeans is retained.

Soak the clothes in warm water for 6 hours or even overnight, then wash as usual using detergent. Remove excess water from the clothes by pressing against the sides of the basin. It’s important to avoid wringing them during this step to prevent distorting the fabric. At this point, you can hang them on a rack and allow to air dry. 


How to shrink clothes in the wash


How to shrink a jumper

Jumpers are very comfortable and are easy to wear with jeans and a pair of sneakers. You’ll see influencers wearing oversized jumpers on Instagram and Pinterest and can’t help but think that they look so cozy! But what if your jumper is a little too big for comfort and you want to scale down the size a bit? 

The best way to shrink a jumper is in the wash. You can use warm water and a little detergent while you’re washing. The mechanical and drying action in the wash will cause the cotton fabric of your jumper to shrink. You can also use this technique on fabrics made of linen, jersey, and hemp.


Best care for your clothes

Following proper care instructions ensures that you’ll get to keep your clothes intact and enjoy wearing them for a long time. But what are you to do if doing the laundry isn’t your forte?


Before you get overwhelmed and think that laundry care may be too much of a chore for you, here’s a suggestion. Requesting your local professional cleaners to include laundry care in their next house cleaning service can be quite helpful. There are some professional cleaning services who will gladly take care of your laundry concerns, like washing dirty clothes and folding the laundry. A big plus? You’ll find it’s easier to keep track of your clothes now that you have extra time on your hands and that they’re even well-maintained, too.


About Author

Sophie Franklin

Sophie is the subject matter expert within Maid2Match. Most importantly though she is our biggest fan girl and generous in sharing what she knows.


About Author

Sophie Franklin

Sophie is the subject matter expert within Maid2Match. Most importantly though she is our biggest fan girl and generous in sharing what she knows.