How to Shrink Clothes

By: HowStuffWorks.com Contributors

Different materials shrink in different ways so be sure to read the label before you wash anything. Darren Robb/Getty Images
Different materials shrink in different ways so be sure to read the label before you wash anything. Darren Robb/Getty Images

Different materials shrink differently and require different methods of shrinking, so it's important to determine what the garment is made of before you try shrinking it. For example, cotton shrinks the best, polyester shrinks less, while leather and fur will get ruined rather than shrink.

Let's take a look at some ways to shrink clothing. Note: For cotton, wool and polyester, if the process doesn't shrink the garment enough, follow the directions for pre-shrunk and older clothes later in this article.

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Cotton

  1. Wash the cotton garment in hot water.
  2. Put it in the dryer. Turn the dryer on high heat.
  3. Check the garment's size at various points during the drying cycle. This is especially important if this is the first time you're washing the garment and it's not a pre-shrunk garment. If it looks small enough, set the dryer to low heat/air dry and let it run until the garment is dry.

Wool

  1. Wash the wool garment in hot water.
  2. Put the garment in the dryer. Run the dryer on medium heat until the garment's dry.

Polyester

  1. Wash the polyester garment in cold water.
  2. Put the garment in the dryer. Run the dryer on high heat until the garment's dry.

Pre-shrunk and Older Garments

  1. Boil water.
  2. Soak the garment in the hot water. Be sure the water covers the entire garment.
  3. Transfer the garment to the washing machine. Use insulated gloves or a long stick to avoid burning yourself.
  4. Wash the garment in hot water using a very small amount of detergent.
  5. Place the garment in the dryer as soon as the washing cycle ends. Dry the garment on high heat.
  6. Check the size of the garment. If it's still too large, repeat steps 1-5 until the garment shrinks enough.

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How to Shrink a Shirt FAQ

Does 100 percent polyester shrink?
Polyester does not shrink under regular circumstances because its synthetic fibers resist shrinkage.
What shrinks more – cotton or polyester?
Cotton is prone to shrinking and wrinkling. On the other hand, polyester is cheaper, durable and resists shrinkage at all costs.
How do you shrink a shirt with a design?
Turning the shirt inside out before washing it with cold water can protect the design on the shirt. Put it in a dryer at high speed after it is thoroughly washed to shrink it and protect the design.
Can you shrink a shirt without washing it?
To shrink a shirt, you need to wash it with hot or cold water, depending on the fabric. Without this step, the process cannot be completed.

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