How to Shrink a T-Shirt in the Wash: 8 Steps

Learn how to shrink your t-shirt by using the washing machine and dryer on their highest temperature settings.

How to Shrink a T-Shirt in the Wash

Cotton and Polyester

Shrink cotton and polyester blend t-shirts by using the washing machine and dryer on their highest heat settings. Place the t-shirt into the washing machine and rinse on the highest water temperature setting possible, and then transfer to the dryer and run on tumble dry high. 

This is How to Shrink a T-Shirt in the Wash: 8 Steps.

If your t-shirt is one size too big or you stretched it out while wearing it, you can shrink it down a size by using the washing machine and dryer on their highest heat settings. 

If shrinking your t-shirt to take make it tighter is not what you want, you can always tailor your t-shirt. Your local dry cleaner may also have altering options.

T-shirts made from cotton will shrink more than t-shirts made from polyester, since polyester is a synthetic fiber that is specially treated to be resistant to shrinkage. These shirts will weigh less and be thinner.

Learn more about polyester, with can you shrink polyester?

Start by placing your t-shirt into the washing machine and running the cycle of the highest water temperature possible. After the wash cycle has finished, transfer the t-shirt to the dryer and run the cycle on tumble dry high. Let us show you how to use  dryer properly.

This process will cause substantial shrinkage to occur in your t-shirt and you may even be able to shrink your t-shirt by a size. 

How to Shrink a T-Shirt in the Wash

Shrink t-shirts in the wash using the 8 steps described below. 

  1. Turn the t-shirt inside out. 
  2. (Optional) If your t-shirt is especially delicate, place it into a mesh laundry bag.
  3. Place your t-shirt into the washing machine. 
  4. (Optional) Add liquid laundry detergent.
  5. Adjust the settings on the washing machine to the highest water temperature possible. 
  6. Press start and run the wash cycle (how long does a washer take). 
  7. Once finished, transfer your shirt to the dryer and run the cycle on the tumble dry high setting (how hot does a dryer get).
  8. Repeat the steps as necessary until you have achieved the degree of shrinkage you desire. 

If the washing machine has shrunk your t-shirt to the size you desire then line dry, dry flat or air dry your shirt until ready to wear or fold your shirt and put it away. There are many ways to dry your shirt without a dryer.

Follow our step-by-step guides on shrinking any piece of clothing in the wash, properly.

How to Shrink a T-Shirt: Alternative Methods

In addition to the washing machine and dryer, there are a handful of other methods you can use to shrink your t-shirt. They are:

  • Boiling Water
  • Iron
  • Steamer
  • Blow Dryer

The second most effective way to shrink shirts is by using boiling water. Heat shrinks clothes and boiling water has a whole lot of it!

If you just want to shrink a certain area of your shirt without having to shrink the entire garment, you may wish to use the iron, steamer, or blow dryer. These 3 tools can shrink your shirt in specific places in a very short amount of time, so if the sleeves or neck on your shirt is a little loose you may choose to use one of these 3 options.

To learn more about these methods read our article how to shrink a T-Shirt.

How to Shrink a T-Shirt in the Wash FAQ

The best way to shrink clothes that are too big is by putting them into the washing machine and dryer on the highest heat levels possible. Place your clothes into the washing machine and adjust the settings to the highest water temperature possible. In the dryer, use the tumble dry high setting. Fabrics like cotton and linen will shrink more than clothes made from polyester or spandex. 

Hot water is the key to purposely shrinking something in the wash. Adjust the settings on the washing machine to the highest water temperature possible and run the wash cycle. Once the cycle is done you may also want to place your clothing into the dryer on the tumble dry high setting.  

The fastest way to shrink a shirt while still having good results is to use boiling water. Fill a large pot with water and bring it to a boil before adding your shirt into the water to soak for 5 to 15 minute. After you are finished, wring the shirt out to remove excess water and either air dry or continue to shrink by using the dryer on tumble dry high. 

Most types of shirts will not become ruined if you use hot water and tumble dry high to shrink them. However, some shirts made from synthetic fibers such as polyester are non-resistant to heat. This means that if they are repeatedly placed into high temperature environments the fabric will become damaged and could possibly even melt. Shrinking clothes requires a high level of heat, so try not to do it too frequently with clothing made from synthetic fibers such as polyester. 

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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