How to unshrink clothes

Can you unshrink clothes? Here’s what to do if your favourite top is suddenly teddy-bear sized.


How to unshrink clothes: A laundry basket of clothes

Key steps

  1. Soak in a mixture of warm water and a little hair conditioner.
  2. Press out excess water.
  3. Reshape by hand.
  4. Hold it in place to dry in its new shape.

Maybe you’ve been trying to shrink your clothes to fit better, and it’s gone a bit too far. Maybe a regular wash has just gone awry. Either way, your favourite shirt now looks like it belongs in a dollhouse.

Can you unshrink clothes? They’ll probably never be quite as they were when they were brand new, but you might be able to stretch them out to fit you again. Here’s some advice on how to unshrink clothes.

Most processes for how to unshrink clothes involve getting your clothes wet, so you may be tempted to throw them in the tumble dryer afterwards. Resist! There’s a good chance it’ll shrink them again. If you hang them up to dry instead, the water weighing down your clothes might also help with the stretching process.

How to avoid having to unshrink clothes

It may be too late if you’re already looking at this article, but the simplest way to make sure your clothes are the right size is to avoid shrinking them in the first place. Make sure you always wash your clothes on a temperature setting that suits the fabric. Take a look at our guide to stop cotton from shrinking. If you tumble dry your clothes, it’s worth brushing up on how to use tumble dryers.

On the other hand, if you’re actively trying to make your clothes smaller, make sure you’re going about it properly. Check out our advice on how to shrink clothes.

How to unshrink clothes

If you’re wondering how to unshrink a jumper or how to unshrink a shirt, for example, try out this simple method. If you’re considering how to unshrink a jumper made of wool, we have some more specific advice on how to unshrink a wool jumper.

  1. Mix a tablespoon of hair conditioner into a sink or small tub of lukewarm water. To avoid shrinking it further rather than helping it stretch, the water shouldn’t be too hot or too cold.
  2. Soak the garment in the water for half an hour.
  3. Don’t rinse; you want the conditioner to stay in the fabric in order to make it more pliable. Gently squeeze excess water out of the garment with your hands (don’t wring it), then use a towel to press it out further. Your clothes should be damp, not dripping.
  4. Lay the damp item of clothing on a dry towel and gently stretch it back into its original shape by hand. If you’re unsure how to unshrink a T-shirt to the right size, you could lay out one of your unshrunk T-shirts next to it so you have a reference for what sort of size it should be.
  5. Peg your garment in place on the towel, or hold it down with clean paperweights, so that it stays in the shape you’ve stretched it into as it dries. If you check back while it’s still damp and find it’s been shrinking as it dries, you can stretch it out again.

What if you need to know how to unshrink jeans? Jeans tend to be stretched out through being worn. You can accelerate the stretching process by pulling on your over-tight jeans and sitting in a shallow bath of warm water (not hot, but not uncomfortably cold either), jeans and all, for ten to fifteen minutes. Keep the wet jeans on for another hour or so after climbing out of the bath, then hang them up to dry.

If it’s impossible to get the jeans on, or if you don’t have the spare time to go prancing around in wet trousers, you can just soak them in warm water for fifteen minutes and stretch them out by hand; see steps 4 and 5, above.

What to do if you can’t unshrink clothes

Sometimes, unfortunately, our clothes resist our best efforts to unshrink them. If they’re still something that a human could feasibly wear, you could give them to a younger relative or donate them to charity.

Originally published