How to Shrink Clothes in the Wash

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How to Shrink Clothes in the Wash

Three Methods:

Shrinking clothes in the wash can be an effective and cheap method to downsize your clothes. If you own an article of clothing that's a little too large, try shrinking it in the wash as a first step before taking it to a tailor. Whether it's a shirt, sweater or pair of jeans, you may be able to successfully shrink it to the size you need without having to pay for alterations.


Shrinking Cotton, Denim, or Polyester Fabric

  1. Adjust the temperature setting on your washing machine to hot.Fabric is constantly being stretched and stressed in the process of being made. When fabric is heated, the stress relaxes out, causing the fabric threads/yarn to shorten.Applying heat is the most successful way to shrink almost all kinds of fabric.
  2. Wash the clothing on the longest wash cycle available.Heat is even more effective when combined with moisture and movement. This is known as consolidation shrinkage. It releases the tension in cotton, denim, and to some extent polyester threads, reshaping the garment. The longer the fabric can be placed in these conditions, the more it's likely to shrink.
    • Remove the clothing right after the wash cycle. Do not air dry. Air drying cools off fabric very quickly, making it less likely to shrink.
  3. Dry the clothing on a high cycle.High heat is what's needed to cause cotton, denim, and polyester to contract. Just as hot water causes fabric to condense, so does hot air.
    • Choose the longest cycle available. Agitation (such as the spinning of the dryer) may help with shrinkage. As the threads receive heat and undergo movement, they shrink.
    • Leave the fabric in the dryer until it is completely dry. Hanging it to air dry will cool the fabric too quickly. In the case of denim, it may also cause it to stretch.
  4. Repeat the wash and dryer cycles for polyester if the garment hasn't shrunk to your needs.Polyester is a synthetic fiber, and more difficult to shrink than most other fabrics. It is durable and can go through many cycles without damage.

Shrinking Wool Fabric

  1. Wash the clothing on a delicate, short cycle.Wool is a relatively delicate fabric. It should be treated carefully. Wool fibers, because wool is made of animal hair, consist of hundreds of tiny scales. When exposed to heat, water, or agitation, these scales interlock and mat together, shrinking the fabric. This process is called felting.Wool is highly responsive to heat and movement, so a short cycle is ideal.
  2. Dry the garment on a low heat cycle.For wool, movement is at least as important for shrinkage as temperature. The movement of the dryer rubs the scales together and causes the wool to shrink. Wool shrinks very quickly, so it's best to use a low setting.
  3. Check the garment periodically during the cycle to make sure it's shrinking evenly on all sides.Because wool is so responsive to heat and movement, it's easy to shrink it too much. If you accidentally shrink the garment smaller than you would like, immediately soak it in cool water for about thirty minutes. Then wrap it in a towel to dry.

Shrinking Silk Fabric

  1. Use a mesh bag to protect silk in a in top-loading washer.Top-loading washers open upward, as opposed to front-loading washers with the door built into the side.Top-loading washers function using an agitator that sticks up into the basket, spinning and turning the clothes.This can be rough on fabric. The mesh bag helps to protect the delicate silk.
  2. Wash the clothing on a delicate, short cycle.Most washing machines have a "delicate" setting with a low temperature, which is ideal. Low heat can tighten the weave, causing it to shrink as the threads pull closer together.
    • Use a mild detergent. Avoid chlorine bleach at all costs as it will damage the silk.
    • Check the silk periodically. You may choose to take the garment out after half a cycle.
  3. Wrap the clothing in a towel for a few minutes.This will remove the excess moisture. Do not wring out the garment, as this could damage the fabric.
  4. Air dry the garment.Unlike many other fabrics, silk retains its shape well, and will not stretch. You may hang it up to dry without harming it. Do not place in direct sunlight as this can fade the color, and avoid a wood drying rack as the silk can leave stains on the wood.Allow to dry nearly completely. At this point, you may choose to use a dryer to complete the drying process.
    • Put the garment in the dryer for five minutes at a time.Some tumble dryers have a silk setting. If yours does not, use a heatless air setting.
    • Check it often to make sure the silk isn't being damaged. You may want to set a timer to make sure it doesn't stay in the dryer too long. Once the garment has shrunk to your taste, remove.

Community Q&A

  • Question
    How much will the first method shrink my garments?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    The hotter the water, the more it will shrink. The change shouldn't be enormous though.
  • Question
    Should I use detergent or fabric softener?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    It depends on the material you're washing. Detergent will work on most materials, but softener could work as an alternative.
  • Question
    How do I know what type of fabric it is if it doesn't have a label?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Some fabrics are distinguishable, like silk, which feels smooth and slippery. If the fabric is not distinct, you may need to try and find the shirt online or guess by comparing it to your other shirts.
  • Question
    How do you shrink nylon pants?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Nylon clothing typically does not shrink, but will stretch out over time if it has any spandex rubber woven in. Nylon itself may melt in hot dryer. Best bet is to have the pants altered by a seamstress.
  • Question
    How do I shrink 52% viscose & 42% cotton?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    You cant; cotton shrinks, viscose doesn't. Cotton shrinks at very high temperatures, and viscose will only crush.
  • Question
    How can I shrink leggings that are 95% cotton and 5% spandex?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    The first method will work fine. I have leggings that are cotton and spandex and it worked for me.
  • Question
    Best-case scenario, how much smaller would the garment be when doing the shrinking cycle once?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Don't expect there to be a big difference at first. You'll have to keep trying until it gets to your desired size.
  • Question
    How do I shrink a bath mat?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Wash it in cold water and then dry it in the dryer. I've done it before, and it worked fine.
Unanswered Questions
  • If I shrink a shirt with a stamp, will the stamp shrink too or end up all messed up?
  • How can I shrink clothing without washing it?
  • How do I shrink something that is made up of two different materials?
  • How do I shrink a sweater knitted with cotton yarn?
  • How do I shrink a cotton dress with a silk lining?
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  • For long drying cycles, check the clothing periodically to ensure that you don’t over-shrink the garments.
  • If you did not achieve the desired shrinkage on the first cycle, repeat the process again. Some fabrics like polyester will take more wash cycles to shrink a significant amount.
  • To shrink cotton fabrics even further, you can iron them on a warm-steam setting in between the washer and the dryer.
  • Repeat the process until you have achieved the desired size.


  • Do not try to shrink jeans by wearing them in the bath. This is not as effective as hot washing machine and dryer cycles, and is much more uncomfortable.
  • Drying jeans in a dryer cycle that is over 100 degrees will ruin any leather patches there may be on the jeans.
  • Never try to shrink leather or fur with a washing machine. The moisture and heat can seriously damage the clothing.

Things You'll Need

  • A washer
  • A dryer
  • Clothing that needs to be shrunk

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Date: 15.12.2018, 06:43 / Views: 35191