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How to unshrink clothes and stop your clothes from shrinking

Want to know how to unshrink a shirt made of natural fibres like cotton? Follow these tips to learn why does cotton shrink and how to prevent it.



Finding that one t-shirt or dress which fits just right is a wonderful feeling. However, after plenty of wear and washes, you may find they don’t feel the same. Knowing how to unshrink a shirt or how to unshrink rayon, cotton and polyester clothes is essential to keep your wardrobe in shape.

While it isn’t always possible to undo the damage, we can help you prevent (or at least reduce) shrinking in the first place. Read on to find out.

Most natural fabrics will shrink a little so try hand washing them in cold water for the first wash to reduce the effects.

Why do clothes shrink? Learning how to shrink cotton and other fibres

Does cotton shrink? Does polyester shrink in the wash? The truth is that most natural fabrics will shrink a little over time so while polyester is usually shrink-resistant, cotton can suffer a little.

This is due to two reasons:

  1. Fibre shrinkage: plant fibres natural response to heat

  2. Fabric shrinkage: the result of tension applied during the manufacturing process

In essence, the tension applied during manufacture is released with the heat of washing and drying clothes which can cause shrinkage. If you wash new clothes on a hot wash then this could explain why you find them a little snug afterwards.

How to prevent shrinkage

There are a few easy ways to do this:

  • If handwashing, use a special detergent dissolved in lukewarm or cool water. Soak the fabric before rinsing in cool water and air drying naturally. Do not wring the fabric.

  • If machine washing, use a mild detergent on a cold temperature wash (such as 30°C) and a delicate setting. Shake the clothes out gently when removing from the machine and leave to dry naturally. Do not use a tumble dryer.

How to unshrink clothes

Need to know how to unshrink rayon, cotton or other fabrics? Once clothes have shrunk, it is almost impossible to get them back to their original state but you may be able to stretch them out a little while they are still wet. Work slowly and carefully to avoid damage and remember to wash the clothes in cold water to avoid causing further shrinkage.

how to hand wash your clothes

What if you want to know how to shrink cotton?

While most people are interested in learning how to unshrink a t-shirt or other clothes, there are times when you actually want to make your clothes a little snugger – such as trying to get a new pair of cotton gloves to fit you properly!

You can learn how to shrink cotton and other natural fibres by reversing the advice above – apply lots of heat while the items are still wet! Follow these steps to help you:

  1. Read the label and make sure your garment is 100% cotton. A mixed blend will not shrink in the same way.

  2. Wash the garment on a hot setting or soak in a pot of hot water.

  3. Once washed, put it in a tumble dryer on a high heat. Check your garment often until you’re happy with its size.

  • Remember: natural fibres, like cotton, are more likely to shrink in the wash

  • Prevent shrinkage on clothes by washing them on a cool, delicate setting and air drying naturally. Keep you washing machine set to 20° (cold) and avoid the tumble dryer.

  • Learn how to shrink cotton by following the reverse: wash on a hot temperature, use the tumble dryer, and reshape while wet.

Originally published