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How to Shrink a Shirt to Your Perfect Fit

Last Updated: April 11, 2022

Just got a brand new shirt, but it doesn’t fit how you wanted it to? We’ve got you. Read below to find out how to shrink a shirt properly.

We can’t tell you how many times we’ve bought a great shirt, only to try it on and realize it’s far too big. That disappointment is real, and we’re sure you’ve had similar experiences.

That’s why we’re going to teach you how to shrink a shirt the right way. You’re going to want to pay attention to what materials your shirt is made out of

The easiest material to shrink is 100% cotton, but oftentimes shirts are “pre-shrunk.” But don’t worry, you will still be able to shrink a pre-shrunk shirt by about 5%. 

Natural fabrics like cotton, linen, and rayon are the easiest to shrink. Other synthetic fabrics, like polyester, might not shrink as easily. Either way, you will still be able to make it fit better, even if it’s a small change. Below, we’ll discuss how to shrink natural fabrics and synthetic fabrics.

Before we begin, we do want to mention that this process doesn’t have to be used solely for shrinking shirts. It will work on whatever type of clothing or product you want to use it for. 

Now that you’re ready, follow these steps on how to shrink a shirt and you’ll have the perfect fit in no time.

How to Shrink a Shirt

Step 1: Fill a Pot of Boiling Water

The key to any method of shrinking is heat. We like the boiling water method because it is more hands-on and customizable. 

(We also want to note that this is the best method for natural fabrics. Keep scrolling if you need to know how to shrink synthetic fabrics, like polyester.)

You’re going to want to find a pot that will easily fit whatever item of clothing you’re trying to shrink. Fill the pot ¾ full with water and bring it to a boil

Once the water is boiling, immediately turn off the heat

Step 2 : Turn Shirt Inside-Out

This step is mostly for those who are shrinking a shirt with graphics or a design on it. Though, we think it’s beneficial for everyone to do. 

When your shirt shrinks, everything on it will too. This might damage the design.

Turning the shirt inside-out will protect the design of the shirt, as well as protect against the color fading from the heat. 

Flip it inside-out and scrunch it into a loose ball. 

RELATED: How to Hand Wash Bras to Make Them Look Brand New

Step 3: Place Shirt in Water

Once the boiling water is removed from the heat, you’ll want to submerge the shirt into the hot water. It might go without saying, but be careful not to stick your fingers in it.

It’s helpful to use a pair of tongs or a wooden spoon to make sure the shirt is completely covered. This will also protect you from burning your hands. 

Step 4: Let it Sit

This part is easy; just let the shirt soak for 5 minutes

The more you want it to shrink, the longer you can leave it in. The max time is around 20 minutes for the shirt to shrink to its full capacity.

You can also finish the process and then repeat it if you decide you want it smaller. 

Step 5: Remove and Dry

After the time’s up, carefully remove the shirt from the hot water using the same tongs or spoon. 

You’ll want to have a place to set it to cool down a bit before you wring it out. After you wring the shirt out, you can either let it air dry or throw it in the dryer.

Using the dryer at the highest temperature will aid in shrinking the shirt even more. 

Step 6: Evaluate Results

Once the shirt is dry, the shrinkage should be visible. You can turn it back from inside out to make sure everything looks alright. 

If you want to shrink it even more, just repeat the process. Make sure you use the dryer method this time to assure that it successfully shrinks.

How to Shrink Synthetic Fabrics

The boiling method works best for natural fabrics (cotton, linen, etc.) rather than synthetic fabrics. Natural fabrics are just easier to shrink in general. The only fabrics this method isn’t the best for are synthetic ones.

Any temperature over 178°F can damage the structure of synthetic fabrics. Polyester is a super common material used in clothing, so let’s look at a better method for these fabrics

This is a super simple technique that contains only 2 steps:

Step 1: Wash in Cold Water

Use the washing machine to wash the shirt using the cold water setting. This will protect the structure and stitching of the shirt. 

Step 2: Dry on High Heat

Once the item is done washing, place it in the dryer at high heat. Use the highest heat setting possible, as this is what will do the shrinking. 

From here, you’ll just want to periodically check the item to monitor how small you want it. When you’ve shrunk it to the right size, turn the heat down to a normal temperature until it’s fully dry. 

Other Shrinking Methods

  • Washing Machine: This is another easy option for most fabrics. Just wash the item on the highest heat setting for both the washer and dryer. This is often how clothes are accidentally shrunk.
  • Hairdryer Method: Wet the shirt with hot water, or wash it at high heat. Remove, wring it out, and lay it down. Use a hairdryer on high heat and apply air all over the shirt.
    Make sure to leave some distance if working on synthetic fabric.
    This method is awesome if you have a specific area you want to shrink.

Final Thoughts

There you have it, how to shrink a shirt the right way. Now, you won’t have to worry about ordering a size too big. The most important thing to keep in mind is that you’ll need some type of heat to successfully use any of these methods. 

Once again, pay attention to the fabric your shirt is made out of, as this might affect which method you should use. In addition, it’s helpful to know the fabric to be able to tell how much the item will be able to shrink!

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