How to Shrink a Shirt: 3 Effective Methods

Learn how to properly shrink your shirts!

How to Shrink a Shirt

Hot water and heat

When shrinking a shirt you do not want to damage the fibres.  Shrink 100% cotton, linen, wool, polyester, and rayon shirts is possible when you follow the right steps. Be sure you use plenty of heat and dry your shirt properly once done. If you need more altering, I suggest you go to a tailor.

This is How to Shrink a Shirt: 3 Effective Methods.

Its not often that tall men will want to shrink clothes, as finding clothes big enough to wear is already difficult enough! However, the time may come when you need to shrink your shirt, sweater, hoodie, or jeans after they get stretched out.

Read our articles on more specific pieces of clothing to help your shrinking needs.

If these techniques below don’t give you that exact fit you are looking for, check out our guide to the best t-shirts for tall men on the market.

Now, go ahead and follow our instructions below to learn how to properly shrink your shirts!

How to Shrink a Shirt

There are 3 methods to choose from when trying to shrink your shirt, and all of them involve the use of heat and moisture. Different shirts will have different shrinkage capabilities, depending on the type of fabric the shirt is made from. Shrinking will change the size of the shirt, weight of the shirt and ability to stand up to long-term wear.

Even though the amount of shrinking will change, the one constant is that hot water will shrink your clothes, so watch out.

1. Check the Fabric

Before performing any of the following shirt shrinking techniques, you must first check the fabric of your shirt. Shirts made from natural fibers such as cotton, linen, or wool, will have a much greater ability to shrink, when compared to shirts made from synthetic fibers such as polyester (read can you shrink polyester?), rayon, or spandex. A 100% cotton shirt will have a much greater ability to shrink compared to a polyester shirt.

Being aware of the fabric type your shirt is made from will help you to avoid over shrinking or damaging your clothes. Some shirts are also “pre-shrunk” which means they have been specially treated during the production process and will have almost no ability to shrink.

Once you know the fabric type your shirt is made from, use our article on how to shrink clothes to find out how different fabrics react to hot water and heat. 

2. Washing Machine and Dryer Method

The most commonly used method to shrink shirts involves using the washing machine and the dryer.If you don’t have a drying machine, that’s ok you can still dry yours clothes without a dryer, or simply follow the line dry or dry flat process.

If time is an issue, learn how long does a dryer take and how long does a washer take. Then make sure you can get it done before you need to lave the house. You may also want to know how hot does a dryer get.

How to shrink shirts using the washer and dryer:

  1. Put your shirt into the washing machine.
  2. Set the washing machine to the highest water temperature possible and run the wash cycle.
  3. Once the washing machine has completed its cycle, remove the shirt and place it into the dryer.
  4. Turn your dryer onto the highest heat setting and run the machine.
  5. Periodically check on your shirt to make sure you do not shrink it too much, especially if it is a linen or cotton shirt as shirts made from these fabrics will shrink up to 20%.
  6. Remove the shirt from the dryer when you have found the right size for you.

Before using the dryer, read our articles on tumble dry low meaning , what is tumble dry? & do not tumble dry meaning.

3. Boiling Water Method

Using boiling water to shrink shirts is a highly effective method that can be used to shrink all types of clothing.

How to shrink shirts using boiling water:

  1. Fill a pot or heat resistant basin with water.
  2. Put the pot on the stove and turn up the heat until you have a pot full of boiling water
  3. Put your shirt into the boiling water and let the garment soak for at least 5 minutes. You will achieve a greater level of shrinkage if you allow your shirt to soak in the boiling water for a longer period of time.
  4. Once completed, carefully remove the shirt from the boiling water and gently wring the shirt out to remove excess water. Be careful not to re-stretch the shirt.
  5. Hang dry the shirt or put the shirt into the dryer if you want to further increase shrinkage.
  6. Allow the shirt to dry and repeat as necessary until you achieve a satisfactory level of shrinkage. 

4. Iron and Water Method

If you do not have access to a washing machine or dryer, or need a quick fix to shrink your shirt, then this is the method for you.

How to shrink shirts using the iron:

  1. Use a spray bottle or sink/tap to add moisture to your shirt. Your shirt should be damp but not soaking wet.
  2. Turn the iron on to a high heat setting.
  3. Iron your shirt in the areas you wish to shrink.
  4. Once you finish ironing lay the shirt flat to dry if possible. This will ensure that the shirt doesn’t stretch out once again.

How to Shrink a Shirt: Tips

  • Check the fabric label before starting. Be aware of the type of fabric the shirt is made from, and if it is pre-shrunk or has received any anti-shrinking treatments.
  • Turn your shirt inside out before you put it into the washing machine or dryer. This will help avoid damaging your shirt over the long run.
  • Be sure you know to use a dryer properly first.
  • When your shirt is in the dryer, periodically pause the machine and check your shirt to make sure you haven’t over shrank your clothes.
  • Be aware that natural fibers will shrink at a much greater rate than shirts made from synthetic fibers and blends.

How to Shrink a Shirt FAQ

Using hot water and heat will allow you to shrink most types of clothing. Cotton, linen, and other natural fibers will shrink greatly by simply using the washing machine and dryer with hot water and high heat settings. Clothes made from rayon, polyester, or spandex will not shrink much and are meant to keep their shape.

You may be able to shrink your shirt down a size if it is made from 100% cotton, linen, or a cotton blend. If your shirt is made from spandex, rayon, or polyester, it is unlikely you will be able to shrink it down a size, as shirts made from synthetic fibers are meant to keep their shape and size.

If you want to shrink your shirt by a size the two most effective methods to use will be boiling water, and the washer and dryer. Both of these methods use hot water and heat to shrink your shirt, and the hotter the water temperature, the greater chance you will have of shrinking your shirt by a size.

Before you attempt to shrink your shirt, you should check to see which fabric the shirt is made from. Some shirts can be ruined by soaking in hot water and high heat, while others are meant for it. Turning your shirt inside out while in the washer or dryer will also help to avoid damage and ware.

Written and reviewed by:
Tall Paul
Tall Paul
I am 6'7 (203cm) / 235lb (106 kg) model and ex-athlete. Since I was a teen I had trouble finding clothes. I was too tall for off the rack and was too lean for Big & Tall.

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