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Get your shrink on! How to shrink clothes

Learning how to shrink clothes that are too big is easy with the right guide. Read our top tips to shrink clothes here.

Updated By Cleanipedia Team

Open tumble dryer with clothes, beside a basket of clothes on a chair in a laundry room

Finding your jumper has shrunk in the wash isn’t always a reason for despair. Sometimes your clothes are a little too large, and you need to shrink them to make them fit just right. If you want your wardrobe to last, though, you’ll need to know how to shrink jeans, shirts and other clothes without damaging them. From learning how to shrink a top or trousers to answering those burning questions like "does cotton shrink?" you just need to read on to discover all the basics to shrink clothes with ease.

If you don’t have a tumble dryer - or your clothes don’t take well to tumbling - you may want to know how to shrink clothes by hand. Harness the shrinking potential of hot air by using a hair dryer. Put it on the highest setting to dry your clothes.

You will need:

  • Washing machine
  • Tumble dryer
  • Hair dryer
  • Saucepan
  • Tongs
  • Towel
  • Water

How to shrink a shirt, trousers or other clothes in the wash

Always check the care label to make sure the item you’re shrinking can endure washing and drying in a machine. You may need to ignore the care label’s recommended temperature when you’re shrinking your clothes, though, as the label will want to prevent shrinking. Once you have a rough idea of the care instructions, follow these steps for how to shrink polyester, cotton and other fabrics that make up your favourite item of clothing.

  1. Follow these 5 simple steps

    Use this step-by-step guide to help you:

    Step 1: how-to-shrink-clothes-in-the-wash
  2. Use a high heat.

    If you're wondering how to shrink leggings and other clothing items, you need to run the item you want to shrink through a wash at high heat.

  3. Leave out the conditioner.

    Resist the urge to reach for the fabric conditioner for this particular wash. Fabric conditioner relaxes the fibres of clothes, and you want them to contract, so leave the Comfort Intense Fuchsia Passion until you’ve got your shrinking done.

  4. Use a tumble dryer with caution.

    If it looks like the item could use further shrinking after the wash, put it in the tumble dryer on a high-temperature setting. Check on it every five minutes or so to make sure it’s not getting too small.

  5. Repeat.

    If it’s still not down to your perfect size, you can repeat the wash-and-dry until you’re satisfied.

  6. Turn down the heat.

    Whilst you may want to know how to shrink a cotton shirt that doesn't fit, you don't want to shrink clothes that do fit. Remember to turn down the heat for your next regular wash!

When using the washing machine, you may wonder what the symbols actually mean. We have a guide for this ! Check it out and discover what the symbols on washing machines mean.

How to shrink clothes by hand

Sometimes the above steps for how to shrink trousers, tops and other clothes in the wash won't be the best for your clothing. So, how do you shrink clothes if the material can’t endure machine washing? Well, the machine’s not the only way you can expose your clothes to high heat. You probably don’t boil your clothes every day, but it can really help if you want to know how to shrink clothes.

  1. Follow these 7 steps

    Use our guide to shrink clothes by hand:

    Step 1: how-to-shrink-clothes-by-hand
  2. Boil a big pan of water.

    It’ll need to be large enough to contain whatever you’re shrinking completely.

  3. Turn off the heat.

    Once it’s boiling, turn off the heat.

  4. Submerge.

    Submerge your garment in the water.

  5. Leave it.

    Leave it there for five minutes.

  6. Fish it out, carefully.

    It’s best to use tongs for this to ensure you don't burn yourself.

  7. Use a towel.

    Let it cool until it’s safe to handle, then use a towel to press out excess water.

  8. Hang it up to dry.

    If you’re concerned that the weight of the water will stretch it back out, you can instead lay it flat on a towel, although drying will take longer.

  9. Learn how to care for clothes

    Don't froget to give your garments long-lasting love!

    Step 9: care-for-clothes-with-comfort-Comfort2020-UK0027
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So, with just a handful of easy to follow steps, this guide has provided you with everything you need in terms of how to shrink cotton, polyester and other clothing that doesn't fit.

Now that you know how to shrink clothes, why not check out some other articles from our clothing care category? We can help you learn how to get colour run out of clothes, how to remove static from clothes, how to stop clothes bobbling and even how to make clothes smell good and stay fresh.

Originally published