Shrinking a t shirt can be done in a number of different ways, with the two most effective methods being the washer and dryer, as well as using boiling water

Most T-shirts are made from either 100% cotton, a cotton blend, a polyester blend, or a cotton poly blend. Shirts made from cotton fiber will shrink more than shirts made from polyester, as polyester is a synthetic fabric that has been specially designed not to shrink. 

To shrink a T-shirt, use the washing machine on the highest heat setting possible, and when that is finished, move the shirt over to the dryer and run the cycle on tumble dry high. Not tumble dry low or tumble dry medium, these will not be hot enough,

Check our more detailed guide with how to shrink a T-shirt in the wash.

To use boiling water, simply fill a pot with water and bring it to a boil. Submerge your shirt in the boiling water and leave it there to soak for 5 to 15 minutes or until it has shrank to your desired size.

Continue reading to learn how to make a t-shirt tighter with these detailed step-by-step instructions for the 5 most effective methods for shrinking a T-shirt

Table of Contents

  • Fastest way to shrink a t-shirt: Use an iron
  • Best way to shrink a t-shirt: With a steamer
how to shrink a t-shirt

How To Shrink A T-Shirt

Total Time: 1 hr 30 min

Cost: $0

There are several methods to choose from when attempting to shrink your t-shirt. The most effective way to shrink your t-shirt is by using the washing machine and dryer on the highest levels of heat possible. Boiling water is also a great alternative way to shrink your shirts. Alternatively you can make your t-shirt smaller by taking it into a tailors. If there is no tailor near you, try your local dry cleaner.

100% Cotton t-shirts and cotton blend t-shirts will shrink more than t-shirts made out of polyester. Polyester has been specifically designed not to shrink or wrinkle, and is also non-resistant to heat, which means that you shouldn’t attempt to shrink your polyester clothing too frequently. Polyester mixed with cotton, such as a 60/40 poly cotton blend, will shrink to some degree, but not as much as a 100% cotton t-shirt.

Learn more about polyester with can you shrink polyester?

Because of all these different blends of fabrics a shirts weight and thickness will vary.

Not all clothes shrink equally! Follow our detailed guide on how to shrink clothes for examples on all your clothing.

Below are our detailed instructions on the 5 most effective ways to shrink your t-shirts.

To shrink your t-shirt in the washer and dryer, carefully follow the instructions outlined below. Also know how to use a dryer properly & know how long does a dryer take.

1. Turn it inside out

Turn the t-shirt inside out to protect the colors and prints on the outer layer of the fabric.

This is a photo of Tall Paul turning his t-shirt inside out to shrink in the dryer

2. Put in washer

Place the shirt in the washing machine.

This is a photo of tall paul putting his t-shirt into the washer

3. Add soap (optional)

Add liquid laundry detergent. Refer to the detergent’s label to add the correct amount. Adding cleaning soap is not needed for shrinking the shirt, however a good cleaning doesn’t hurt since its already going in the washing machine.

This is a photo of Tall Paul adding detergent to the wash

4. Change the settings

Adjust the washing machine’s settings to the hottest water temperature, and the longest rinse cycle possible.

This is a photo of tall paul changing the settings on the washing machine to shrink his t-shirt

5. Press start

Push start on the washing machine (curious how long does a washer take?).

This is a photo of the settings of a washing machine

6. Transfer to dryer

Once the wash cycle is finished, remove the t-shirt and place it in the dryer.

This is a photo of a wet t-shirt inside a drying machine to be shrunk

7. Change the settings on the dryer

Adjust the heat setting on the dryer to tumble dry high (learn how hot does a dryer get).

This is a photo of tall paul changing the settings of the drying machine to shrink his t-shirt

8. Press start

Push start and run the drying cycle.

This is a tall paul pressing start on the drying machine to shrink his t-shirt

9. Remove and store

Once finished, remove the t-shirt and fold to store or wear!

This is a photo of a folded t-shirt after it was shrunk and dryed

How to shrink a t-shirt: quick tips

  • Machine wash the t-shirt in hot water. Hot water can cause the fibers to contract, leading to some shrinkage.
  • After washing, tumble dry the t-shirt on high heat. The heat from the dryer can further aid in shrinking the fabric.
  • When removing the t-shirt from the dryer, avoid stretching it while it’s still hot. This can prevent it from reverting to its original size.
  • If the desired shrinkage is not achieved in one cycle, repeat the washing and drying process until you achieve the desired fit. However, be cautious not to over-shrink the shirt.
  • Some fabrics, like 100% cotton, are more prone to shrinking than others. Keep this in mind when attempting to shrink a t-shirt and consider the material’s natural characteristics.

Boiling Water

Since heat is the most important element involved in the shrinking process, boiling water is a great way to shrink your t-shirt. Review the instructions below to find out how to use boiling water to shrink shirts.

Total Time: 1 hr 30 min

Cost: $0

1. Fill large pot to shrink your t-shirt in

Fill a large pot with tap water to about 3/4 full. Make sure that there is enough room in it to add the weight of your t-shirt without making the water spill over.

this is a photo of a large pot being filled with water to shrink a t-shirt

2. Bring the large pot to a rolling boil

Put a lid on the pot and turn the heat to high. Make sure the water is fully boiling before taking the lid off for the next step.

3. Carefully put t-shirt into the boiling water for 5-15 min

Carefully put your t-shirt into the boiling water. I suggest using tongs and pushing the t-shirt down with them. Let your t-shirt soak in the boiling water for 5 to 15 minutes, depending on the degree of shrinkage you desire.

4. Remove the t-shirt from the boiling water

Once the desired time is done, you can remove your t-shirt by picking it up with the tongs or dumping the entire pot into a clean kitchen sink.

this is a photo of a boiled t-shirt being removed from water to be shrunk

5. Wring out your t-shirt once cool enough

Let your t-shirt cool down once out of the boiling water, or pour cool tap water onto it. When it is cool enough, pick up your t-shirt and wring it out as best you can.

6. Put the t-shirt into dryer or air dry

Once your shirt is wrung out of excess water, hold it up to see if it has been shrunk enough. If it has not, then dry it in your dryer because this will shrink it more. If it has, then air dry it by laying it flat on a drying rack or line drying.

Use An Iron

An iron is a great tool to shrink your t-shirt in a specific spot, rather than having to shrink the entire garment. If perhaps the neck, sleeve, or stomach area of your t-shirt are too loose, then you may choose to use an iron to shrink it.

To shrink a t-shirt using an iron:

Total Time: 30 min

Cost: $0

1. Turn your t-shirt inside out

First off, turn the t-shirt inside out to protect the outer layer of the shirt.

this is a photo of a t-shirt turned inside out before shrinking it with an iron

2. Lay t-shirt onto ironing board

Lay the t-shirt flat and evenly on an ironing board.

this is a photo of a t-shirt on an ironing board before shrinking it

3. Spray your t-shirt where you want shrunk

Use a spray bottle to add moisture to the area you wish to shrink. The fabric should be damp/moist but not soaking wet.

this is a photo of tall paul spraying a t-shirt before ironing it to shrink it

4. Turn the iron on high to shrink your t-shirt

Turn the iron on to the highest heat setting possible. Heat is the key to shrinking your t-shirt.

this is a photo of an iron turned on hi to shrink a t-shirt

5. Iron over the damp spots on your t-shirt

Hand press the iron in the spots you wish to shrink. Briefly press the iron down, remove, and repeat.

this is a photo of tall paul ironing over a damp spot on a t-shirt to iron it

6. Once shrunk by iron, hang your t-shirt

Once the water has been fully evaporated, check to see if it has shrunk enough. If it has, hang up your t-shirt. If not, then spray the areas again and repeat.

this is a photo of a shrunk t-shirt from an iron is hanging up in the closet

Use A Steamer

If you are out of options and you need an alternative way to shrink your t-shirt, then you may choose to use steam! Steaming is an effective way to shrink your t-shirts in small but precise areas, without shrinking other parts of the garment.

Total Time: 20 min

Cost: $0

1. Fill steamer with clean water to shrink t-shirt

Fill the steamer’s water tank with fresh, clean water. Try not to use old, stale water to steam any of your garments.

this is a photo of tall paul filling a steamer with clean water to shrink a t-shirt

2. Hang your t-shirt in an open space

Put your t-shirt onto a clothing hanger and hang it in an open space. Do not put it in a full clothing rack.

this is a photo of a t-shirt hung in a doorway

3. Start steaming areas of the t-shirt you want shrunk

Keep the head of the steamer an inch or two away from your t-shirt. Move the head and steamer up and down over the areas you want shrunk, or simply run it over the entire t-shirt.

this is a photo of tall paul steaming areas of t-shirt he wants shrunk

4. Adjust the t-shirt with your free hand

Use your free hand to move and rotate the t-shirt. This will allow you to cover every inch of fabric for optimal shrinking.

5. Leave t-shirt where it is once shrunk by steamer

Once the t-shirt looks shrunk enough, stop the steamer and leave the t-shirt so it can cool fully. Once it is not warm you can try on the t-shirt to see if it has shrunk enough. Repeat steps if not.

this is a photo of a t-shirt left after it has been steam shrunk

Use A Blow Dryer

Using a blow dryer to shrink your t-shirt may be slow and not quite as effective as using the washing machine and dryer, but it’s worth a try if you are in a bind. Follow the simple steps below to use a blow dryer to shrink your t-shirt.

Total Time: 20 min

Cost: $0

1. Put your clean t-shirt on a hanger to be shrunk by a blow dryer

Hang your t-shirt on a hanger. Make sure the t-shirt is clean.

this is a photo of a clean t-shirt hanging on a hanger to be shrunk by a blow dryer

2. Spray t-shirt with a spray bottle before blow drying

Use a spray bottle filled with water to add moisture to the areas of the shirt you wish to shrink.

3. Turn blow dryer on high for all settings

Turn the blow dryer on to the highest heat and wind levels.

this is a photo of a blow dryer turned to high to shrink a t-shirt

4. Blow dry the damp areas of your t-shirt

Hold the blow dryer 1 to 2 inches (3 to 6 cm) away from the surface of the fabric and apply hot air until you have shrunk the t-shirt to your desired fit.

this is a photo of tall paul blow drying his t-shirt to shrink it

5. Let t-shirt cool off before trying it on

Once you have blow dried the t-shirt so all of the water has been evaporated, let it cool off fully. Once cool, try the t-shirt on. If it needs to be shrunk more, repeat from step 1.

this is a photo of a t-shirt cooling off after being shrunk by a blow dryer

How much do 100% cotton t-shirts shrink?

Cotton is one of the most shrink prone fabrics on the market and can shrink anywhere from 5% to 20% depending on if the shirt has been pre-shrunk or not. Fibers such as cotton, wool, and linen, will shrink the most when they are placed in hot water or in the dryer on tumble dry high. Polyester, nylon, and spandex, are examples of fabrics that do not shrink much or at all.

FAQ

The most effective way to shrink t-shirts is by using the washing machine and dryer on their highest heat settings. Set the washing machine to the hottest water temperature possible, and set the dryer to tumble dry high, to shrink your t-shirt most effectively.  

You can shrink a shirt a size if it is made from a fabric such as cotton, wool, or linen. Most synthetic fibers such as polyester are specially treated so that they will be resistant to shrinkage while in the wash. Shirts made from 100% cotton have the greatest ability to shrink a size. 

The best way to shrink clothes is by placing them into the washing machine on the highest water temperature setting, followed by placing them into the dryer on the tumble dry high setting. Heat is what shrinks clothes, and the high levels of heat in these two machines will effectively shrink most types of clothes.