How to Shrink Clothes

Whether your shirt is a half-size too big or your new pants are an inch too long, learning how to shrink clothes can go a long way in getting a good fit.

How to Shrink Clothes

While it’s not possible to shrink all types of fabric or predict the outcome of shrinking clothes, there’s one method you can try. 

The Only Way to Shrink Your Clothes

The only way to shrink your clothes is to wash them in hot water and dry them with high heat. The heat helps some types of fabric shrink. The problem is you can’t control where or how much the item will shrink.

What Type of Fabrics Can You Shrink in the Washer and Dryer?

Clothing made of natural fibers are the easiest to shrink. These include:

  • Cotton
  • Wool
  • Silk
  • Linen
  • Rayon

Clothes made of nylon and polyester are hard to shrink, even with high heat. Check your item’s label. If it says “preshrunk,” placing it in the washer or dryer won’t help.

How to Shrink Clothes: Step by Step

While you can shrink some clothes, the outcome is not always what you expect. (You know this if you’ve ever put a wool sweater in the dryer and had it come out toddler size.)

Instead of shrinking items all at once, go slow to control the process.

Step 1: Wash the Item in Warm Water

Start by laundering the clothing in warm-hot water. Only start with the hottest water setting if you want significant shrinkage.

Step 2: Dry in High Heat, Five Minutes at a Time

Throw your piece of clothing in the dryer at the highest heat setting. Check the garment every five minutes to ensure it’s not shrinking too much. (Most typical for wool and rayon fabrics.)

If the item is the desired size, pull it out of the dryer and let it air dry.

Step 3: Wash in Hot Water if Needed

Rewash your clothing using the hottest water setting if it hasn’t shrunk enough. Then, dry on high heat, monitoring the garment.

Related: How to Unshrink Clothes

How to Shrink Clothes without a Dryer

If you have a washing machine but no dryer, put your clothing in the washer on the highest heat setting, then air dry to shrink.

To shrink clothes without a washing machine, boil a pot of water. Allow the pot to cool for a minute, then place the garment in the pot. Leave it in the hot water for at least five minutes. The longer it remains, the more it will shrink. Next, remove the item, wring out excess water, and hang it to dry.

Shrinking Polyester

Polyester fabric is a hydrophobic synthetic fiber, making it resistant to most stains. Shrinking polyester requires numerous cycles through a hot washer and dryer. Even then, expect shrinkage to be minor.

Shrinking Denim Jeans

Some jeans, like 100% cotton, can experience up to 15% shrinkage in the dryer. If you’re trying to make your loose jeans fit better, wash them in hot water, dry them on high heat, and add ten minutes extra to the dry cycle.

Check your label first, though. Jeans that say “preshrunk” are a waste of your time.