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How to Shrink Clothes (On Purpose) – Easy Tips & Tricks

Last Updated: June 29, 2021

Everybody wants a perfect fit, especially when it comes to clothing. For many, the idea of purposely shrinking your clothes in the wash might seem a little too far fetched. But, there may be items that we want to take down in size and you will want to figure out how to shrink your clothes.

For many common types of garments, this process is fairly easy! However, it can be difficult or even impossible for others, so it’s important to educate yourself on methods that can be used for specific fabrics. Keep reading for our guide on shrinking the most common types of clothing.

How to Shrink Clothes

Whether you have lost weight, want a trendy look, or just simply bought a piece that doesn’t fit exactly as intended, sometimes the quickest solution one may have is to throw it in the dryer.

However, not all garments are made equally and some react differently to shrinking methods than others.

It is always frustrating when your clothing does not look like it used to, but with a little help you can fit your tops and bottoms just a little bit better to your figure once again.

NOTE: Before applying any method to tighten up your clothes, it is always important to make sure that you know the makings of your garment. Many fabrics act differently and will react to the shrinking methods with differing levels of change. 

Oftentimes natural fabrics or blends like cotton, wool, mohair or rayon will shrink easier than synthetic options. 

Check out the labels on your clothing to make sure the item hasn’t come “pre-shrunk” or has any specific washing instructions.

Once you have found the basic makeup of your garment, you can more easily decide which method of shrinking would work best for your needs.

How to Shrink Cotton Garments

Shrinking 100% cotton clothes is generally a very simple process. 

  1. Wash in Hot Water
  1. Put in the dryer on a highest heat setting. 
  1. While the dryer is running, make sure to check on it periodically to see the progress. 
  1. Once your garment has reached a size that you are comfortable with, change the setting to a normal heat and let the garment run the rest of the way through.

How to Shrink Synthetic Fabrics

While it may seem counterintuitive, cold water is actually the best route to take for shrinking more synthetic fabrics

  1. Wash the Fabric in Cold Water
  1. Put in the dryer on a highest heat setting. 
  1. Make sure to check throughout the process to see how much the garment has shrunk.
  1. Once the clothing has reached a size you feel comfortable with change the setting to a normal low heat.

How to Shrink Heavier Garments

While it may seem that you would shrink sweaters in the same way you would other wool or cotton products, it can actually be damaging to these fabrics to run them through very high heats. 

Fabrics like cashmere will be damaged by any shrinking process and should not be attempted. 

However, some sweater fabrics (such as cotton or wool) can be safely shrunk down. Here’s how you can do so:

  1. Begin by washing them with hot water and then running them through the dryer on a medium heat.
  1. Once the garment has reached a size you feel comfortable with, change the dryer to a lower and more gentle setting.

How to Shrink Pre-Shrunk Garments

Sometimes a garment can come “pre-shrunk” which means that it was put through a process by the manufacturer in order to decrease further shrinkage once you have brought the garment home. 

Due to this process, pre-shrunk pieces can be slightly more difficult when trying to shrink down. However, there are some ways to overcome these issues. 

  1. Boil water and then soak the garment, making sure that it is fully submerged. 
  1. Once the garment has finished soaking, shift it from the boiling water to the washing machine, making sure to use safety precautions to keep away burns. 
  1. Wash the garment in the washing machine with a very minimal amount of detergent and then make sure to transfer the garment over to the dryer as soon as it is done washing.
  1. Dry the garment on high heat to ensure the best outcome. Make sure while the garment is drying to check up continuously to see how the process is going. 
  1. Sometimes you may have to repeat the process a few times due to the steps taken on the pre-shrunk garment to make sure it avoids shrinking. However, you should be able to shrink the garment to a size you are happy with after a few cycles.

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Bottom Line

Clothing mishaps happen and sometimes it can feel frustrating to not know the correct methods to take to change the fit of a garment. However, it is always important to do the research on your clothes to make sure that you are taking the correct approach to shrinking it. 

Many fabrics act differently and can change sizes within different temperatures ranges and time frames. 

While shrinking clothing is not always a common goal, sometimes it is necessary and when you find a piece of clothing that doesn’t fit quite right – knowing how to shrink your clothing can save your garment. 

If you’re concerned about potentially ruining your clothing when attempting to shrink it, consider upcycling your garment instead. For example, you can easily upcycle an oversized shirt or sweater into a trendy crop top. Or, if your jeans are too large, there are simple sewing tricks that can shrink the waist.