How to Shrink Clothes in the Wash

Depending on the fabric, you can shrink your clothes two to even three sizes.
Depending on the fabric, you can shrink your clothes two to even three sizes.
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Did your kids play tug-of-war with your new cashmere sweater? Have you shed those extra pounds and now your wardrobe is too big and baggy? Sounds like it's time to shrink those items to right size. Here's how it's done:

Most manufacturers allow for 2-plus percent shrinkage tolerance, according to the column "Hints From Heloise" in the San Diego Union-Tribune. That sounds great, but what if you need to shrink your clothes even more than that? The best way to do it is to use heat, typically from your both your washer and your dryer. The hotter the settings, the more shrinkage results you'll get. But keep in mind that some fabrics shrink more than others under these conditions. You can expect successful shrinkage with cotton and wool, for example, but synthetics such as nylon and polyester may not shrink as easily, and pre-washed and older clothes could be resistant as well. As for silk, dry cleaning or hand washing is usually recommended, as heat from a dryer can dull the fabric's finish. With silk, you may want to consider a tailor instead of DIY shrinking; otherwise you're gambling with an expensive garment. And don't try these shrinking methods with leather or fur; the moisture and heat will destroy them!

You can also spot-shrink cuffs that have stretched out of shape. Real Simple suggests that you boil water, dampen the cuffs, re-shape them as desired, and then blow dry with a hair dryer on a high setting.

Next, we look at how to shrink clothes just the right amount.

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