I’m assuming you are here because you have done the exact thing you did not want to happen to your sweatpants and shrunk them. 

If you still have that pair of sweats, try this article on how to stretch your sweatpants. You might be able to save them or at least make them more manageable instead of donating them to charity.

If you have given up on that pair, have bought a new pair of pants, and don’t want to make the same mistake twice, then this article is for you.

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How to Prevent Sweatpants from Shrinking

How to Prevent Sweatpants from Shrinking

Now that I have given you some more insight on what to do if your sweatpants do shrink and how to wash your sweatpants properly let me guide you through the specifics to not allowing your sweatpants to shrink ever again.

If you have a pair of sweatpants that you don’t want to chance getting ruined. The best option is to take them to your local dry cleaner. Dry cleaning doesn’t take too long and the cost per clothing is reasonable.

1. Hang dry the sweatpants

Putting your sweatpants up to hang dry/air dry is your safest bet when preventing any shrinkage. To do this properly, wash the sweatpants in cold water and let the washing machine go through the whole cycle. This will allow the washer to complete the spin-cycle, eliminating excess water.

If the weather is above 15c/59f, you can hang your sweatpants and clothing outside to dry. The combination of the sun’s rays and the warm breeze will quickly dry your garments. 

Options to hang your sweatpants on:

  • Drying rack
  • Towel rack
  • Shower curtain bar
  • Back of chair
  • Clothing line
this is a photo of sweatpants hang drying on the back of a chair

2. Tumble dry low on dryer

If you are in a rush and letting your sweatpants air dry is not an option, then using the ‘tumble dry low’ setting on your dryer is an option. There is a possibility that your pants will still shrink a bit, I must warn you!

Read more about tumble drying and all its options like ‘do not tumble dry.’

Here are the most common tumble dry settings if your dryer doesn’t use these words exactly:

this is a photo of sweatpants on a dryer

Why are my Sweatpants Shrinking?

The basic answer to your question of why my sweatpants are shrinking is this: hot water makes clothes shrink and so does hot air! (How hot does a dryer get?).

Sweatpants are primarily made of cotton, which will want to shrink anytime heat is applied to them when in a wet state. Learn more about what are sweatpants made out of.

So if you are putting your sweatpants into the dryer after washing them or any other hot source of air, perhaps blow dryer, then that is why your sweatpants are shrinking. Make sure you are using your dryer properly and understand how long does a dryer take plus how long does a washer take.

Instead of using a dryer, try drying them flat, line drying or learn to dry your sweats without a drying machine.

Read: How to Wash Sweatpants Without Shrinking.

How do you Unshrink Cotton Sweatpants?

Luckily for you, there are a few ways to reverse the shrinking of your sweatpants. Our article mentioned above, ‘How to stretch your sweatpants,’ is an excellent guide to start. However, I can save you a few clicks and run down a 6-step process for you right here.

  1. Fill a sink or tub with lukewarm water and add a capful of baby shampoo or hair conditioner. 
  2. Soak for 30 minutes.
  3. Remove your sweatpants from the water and gently squeeze them, but do not rinse the sweats.
  4. Lay them on a flat towel. Roll the towel with the sweatpants inside, squeezing gently to release more water until the fabric is damp rather than wet.
  5. Lay the clothing on another dry flat towel, gently stretching it back to its preshrunk size.
  6. Leave to air dry.

How do you Prevent Clothing Shrinkage?

The best way to prevent your sweatpants from shrinking is never to put them in the dryer. The constant heat and tumbling will make the cotton fibres restrict, leaving your sweats shrunk. Instead of using a dryer, you should hang them on a drying rack, back of a chair or outside anywhere clean. 

Should Sweatpants be Washed Inside out?

Yes, you should turn your sweatpants inside out when putting them in the wash. Doing this will help clean the dead skin and sweat you have built up from weeks of wear. Honestly, our sweatpants and hoodies are the least frequently washed pieces of clothing we wear.

Other factors to think of when putting your sweatpants in the wash.

  • Wash with cold water
  • Wash them alone (less chance of pilling)
  • Hang dry

How much do Sweatpants Shrink?

Sweatpants are mostly cotton and will shrink between 3-5% if you add heat to them while drying. This shrinkage can drop 1 to 2 inches in the legs plus make every other part, like your quads and butt, tighter. 

Our article on how to shrink sweatpants will dive deeper into how much sweatpants shrink.


Yes, sweatpants shrink. There is a 100% chance your sweatpants will shrink if you wash them in hot water or dry them in the dryer. To prevent this from happening only wash them in cold water and hang to dry.