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How to unshrink and stretch clothes

Got a laundry emergency on your hands? If you need to know how to unshrink clothes then these tips on how to stretch clothes can help.


How to unshrink and stretch your clothes

We all have our laundry day disasters, but few things inspire panic like seeing your best work shirt or your favourite pair of jeans come out of the machine in miniature. But don’t throw them out just yet – it’s easy to learn how to unshrink clothes.

Tumble drying your clothes is almost guaranteed to shrink them. Avoid using the dryer whenever possible and you’ll spend less time working out how to unshrink your clothes.

Has your lifestyle during the Covid-19 lockdown affected the type of stains you get on your clothes?

What causes clothes to shrink?

Clothing shrinkage happens when heat from the dryer (or an accidental boil wash) changes the structure of the garment. Heat makes the threads expand and loosens the weave in the fabric, especially in a loosely-woven stretchy T-shirt. It’s annoying, but often reversible. You just need to learn how to stretch clothes using stuff you have at home.

How to stretch a shirt

When it comes to learning how to unshrink your clothes, getting a cotton shirt back to its original size is easy. Here’s how to stretch a shirt in a few quick steps:

  1. Fill a sink or bucket with warm (not hot) water and drop in two tablespoons of ordinary hair conditioner or baby shampoo.
  2. Leave it to soak for 30 minutes.
  3. Drain away the water (without rinsing the shirt) and wring out the fabric.
  4. Lay the shirt flat on a towel and roll it up to get rid of the excess water.
  5. Unroll the towel and lay the shirt flat again.
  6. Stretch the shirt out with your hands and use safety pins or a heavy object to pin it.

Air dry your shirt either hanging up or lying flat. Once it’s dry, it should be back to normal. If there are traces of conditioner left behind, just throw it in a (cool!) wash with a detergent you trust, like Skip.

How to stretch clothes made of mixed fibres

Learning how to unshrink clothes made from synthetic fibres works broadly the same way as with cotton but requires a gentler process. Here’s what’s different:

  1. Use one tablespoon of conditioner per 1.5 litres of water, rather than two.
  2. Let the garment sit for 20 minutes rather than half an hour.
  3. Gently squeeze excess water out of the garment instead of wringing it out.

If you find the material is too stiff after you’ve squeezed the water out then you can use a small amount of steam from an iron to relax it a little.

How to stretch jeans

Jeans don’t tend to shrink because they’re made with a denser and tighter weave but it can still happen. Learning how to stretch jeans isn’t exactly fun, but it is easy. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Fill your bathtub with warm water. It needs to be deep enough to cover you while sitting.
  2. Wear your jeans in the tub for 15 minutes.
  3. Squeeze the water out and put them back on.
  4. Walk around the house and try and do a few squats and lunges to make sure there’s room for your full range of movement.
  5. Remove the jeans and let them dry naturally. Dry yourself off too!

Hopefully, these tips have helped you revive your shrunken shirts but next time you put a wash on check the temperature and cycle first to avoid repeating the mistake in the future. That way, you might not need to look up how to unshrink your clothes again.

  • Use room temperature or warm water – never hot.
  • Follow instructions for whatever fibre makes up most of your garment.
  • Avoid wringing out synthetic fabrics.
  • Pin your cotton shirts out or weight them down to stretch them.
  • Originally published