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Clothing 101: how to shrink or unshrink your clothes

Whether you want to know how to unshrink a shirt or how to shrink jeans, this is your DIY guide on how to get your clothes to the size you want.


silk dress hanging against a white wall

It’s happened to the best of us. We buy a new piece of clothing only to find that it’s shrunk half-in-size the first time we wash it. While you may think there’s little you can do to unshrink clothes, there are surprisingly simple ways you can undo the damage.

On the flip-side, there may even be times when you want to shrink clothes on purpose to make larger clothes fit better. Whether you want to know how to unshrink clothes or how to shrink clothes without affecting the quality of a garment, here’s how to do it.

One advantage of using the boiling method over the dryer method to shrink clothes is that it makes it easier to shrink a specific part. For example, if you only want to shrink the waist of your jeans, you just need to soak that particular part in boiling water and iron it dry.

Check your fabric is suitable

Before following any of shrinking or unshrinking methods detailed below always check that the garment fabric is suitable. Avoid shrinking wool, silk and any fabric that needs to be dry cleaned. Exposing delicate fabric or wool to high temperatures can cause irreparable damage and irreversible shrinkage.

How to unshrink clothes

Unshrinking clothes is surprisingly easy. If you want to know how to unshrink a shirt or any other garment, do the following:

  • Fill your sink with lukewarm water and a tablespoon of baby shampoo

  • Soak the shirt for 30 minutes

  • Wring the shirt out with your hands

  • Get rid of extra moisture by laying the shirt out flat on a large towel and rolling it in the towel

  • Unroll the shirt and then place it on top of another towel

  • Stretch the shirt to its original size

  • Hang it up to dry naturally

Do not apply more heat or put it in the dryer, or it may shrink again. Once dry, it will keep its size.

How to shrink clothes

Whether you have an old pair of jeans that are too loose, or you want to know how to shrink a shirt on purpose, there’s one main thing you need: heat, and lots of it.

The quickest and easiest method by far is by putting a garment in a dryer at the highest possible setting. You can even kill two birds with one stone; you can wash the garment you want to shrink with your favourite laundry detergent, like Omo, before drying it. That way it will smell like new and also be the desired size afterwards. However, for hardier fabrics like denim, you’ll need to use a slightly different method.

How to shrink jeans

  • Turn jeans inside out to reduce fading

  • Boil a large pan of water

  • Lower jeans into the pot very slowly to avoid splashing

Warning: Be extremely careful as you do this as boiling water can cause severe burns. Use tongs to add the jeans to water if necessary and a wooden spoon to submerge them in water.

  • Boil jeans for 20-30 minutes

  • Put boiled jeans in a dryer on the highest setting until damp

  • Iron the jeans, following the label settings, until completely dry

Once dry, your jeans will be a lot more tight-fitting – perfect if you’re going for skinny jeans look. If, for any reason, you regret your decision, you now have the knowledge to unshrink clothes too!

  • Check fabric is suitable for shrinking or unshrinking

  • Unshrink clothes using baby shampoo and warm water

  • Shrink clothes by boiling them in water

Originally published