How To Shrink Clothes – A Detailed Guide

Imagine buying your favorite piece of cloth just to find out that it is TOO LARGE for you to wear! So, what possible options do you have to downsize your dress? Let’s find out!

Shrinking clothes is an easy task but can get really tricky if you deal with a delicate fabric. The feasible and safer option is to shrink your dress during the wash instead of taking it directly to a tailor. No matter if it is a shirt, sweater, formal dress, or pair of jeans, you can shrink the fabric by following specified guidelines.

Important points to consider for shrinking clothes 

Now the question is, “how to shrink clothes?”, well, here are the steps and factors you need to remember whenever you plan to shrink any fabric.

Find out the fabric type

The first step should be finding out the type and quality of the fabric that you will shrink. Why? Because every material has different requirements when it comes to shrinking. Don’t forget to look for the label saying “pre-shrunk” so you know how to deal with the clothes without ruining their quality. Typically, every dress or fabric comes with washing instructions, and you must read them thoroughly to avoid wasting your time and effort.

Cotton, linen, rayon, wool, and silk (natural fibers) tend to shrink rapidly compared to synthetic fibers such as nylon and polyester. 

Bonus: The shrinking course relies on the material used in making clothes and equally on their manufacturing procedure.

Opt for the proper technique

Shrinking cannot be done with only one but multiple techniques depending on the type of fabric. Choosing the right way is a critical step, or else the results will be disastrous. If you are thinking about how to shrink clothes in the wash, then you must know that there are many other approaches, too. The best ways to shrink clothes are:  

  • Regular machine washing
  • Warm water soaking
  • Steam iron
  • Wet sheet
  • Tailors steam press
  • Fabric Manipulation

Where in the washing machine a cotton t-shirt will shrink slightly, giving you an excellent fit, a wool clothing article will shrink excessively, making your dress too tight or simply turning it into a compact, hard piece. Either way, it will become unsuitable to wear. That means, ALWAYS PICK THE RIGHT METHOD!

A universal rule to shrink clothes – Turn up the heat

Heating is the one technique that will indeed shrink your clothes, although the fabric responds differently. Or we can say, heat can downsize most, if not all, fabric materials. Act sensible and always double-check before exposing the material to the heat, so that it won’t damage your dress.

  • For shrinking cotton shirts and denim jeans, please put them in warm or hot water in a wash and put the machine on a high-temperature cycle.
  • For shrinking wool, the best option to use is steam heat
  • Soaking your clothes in warm water for long periods can also help them shrink
  • The least preferable option is agitation

Shrinking is not an instantaneous process

You would see most people asking, “how to shrink clothes fast?”, BUT there is no way!

No matter how fast you want your dress to shrink, you have to go slow. No doubt, all fabrics can shrink easily, BUT it takes time. If you try to speed up the process, your dress might be downsized a little too much. You have to be careful! For instance, keep checking the cloth from the window periodically when put inside a washer or a dryer. You can also remove your article after every 5-10 minutes to have a close look.

Do you want your dress to shrink evenly? You need to let the dress shrink slowly.

By careful, we also mean to be cautious after shrinking your clothes. Be gentle with the fabric and never wring, twist, or squeeze it, especially if the item is dripping wet. You better spread it evenly on a plane surface and then roll it up to press it lightly to remove the excess water. Now, hang it up inside the room, away from the sunlight in a cool surrounding.

Shrinking Cotton, Denim, or Polyester Fabric

  • While manufacturing any piece of clothing, the fabric is subjected to extensive stretching and stressing. As a result, whenever heat is applied, the fabric threads tend to relax, causing it to shorten slightly. For cotton and denim, set the temperature to hot when washing.
  • To make the heating/hot water process more effective, combine it with water and movement. Commonly called consolidation shrinkage, it works on cotton, denim, and polyester. Try Washing the clothing on the lengthiest wash cycle. Once you remove the clothing, do not air dry ever.
  • And, now, you must be asking yourself, “how to shrink clothes without a dryer?”. The successful alternative is the use of hot air instead of hot water. After washing your clothing, dry them on a high and the longest cycle that would produce enough heat and agitation by spinning the clothes rapidly.

Shrinking Wool Fabric

  • In comparison to other natural fibers, wool is most delicate to deal with. It would help if you were extra careful when dealing with heat as the threads tend to interlock and mat together on high heat exposure. To avoid felting, always wash the wool clothing on a moderate temperature and short cycle.
  • Coming to the net step! For drying, put the machine on a low heat cycle because movement is somewhat necessary for proper shrinkage. As the wool downsizes abruptly, it would be better to go slow.

Bonus: In any case, if your wool item has been shrunken excessively, DO NOT PANIC! The best way is to soak it immediately in cool water and leave it there for almost half an hour and then wrap it in a towel for drying.

Shrinking Silk Fabric

  • Silk is delicate enough and needs careful handling. Set a “delicate” setting at a low temperature if you have this feature on your machine. Well, if you don’t have this option, wash the silk dress on a low heat and a short cycle. Never use any strong detergent or washing soap and chlorine bleach.
  • For removing extra water, you must wrap the washed cloth inside the towel and leave it there for a few minutes. Never squeeze, twist, or wring out.
  • For the finishing step, air-dry your garment without stretching. You can also hang it up for drying but avoid placing it directly in the sunlight, or the color will fade away. Moreover, not spread it over a wooden floor to prevent the risk of staining.

Bonus: if you are using the top-loading washer, you need to use a high-quality mesh bag for protecting silk, or the quality will be ruined