How to Shrink Clothes: Methods for All Types of Fabrics

Shrink clothes the proper way depending on which kind of fabric your garment is made from

How to Shrink Clothes

Use Heat!

Shrinking your clothes is easy if you follow these simple steps. The first thing you must know that heat it a must when it comes to shrinking anything, from a t-shirt to your jeans. You can also use your washer and dryer combined, or separately to shrink any garments.

This is How to Shrink Clothes: Methods for All Types of Fabrics.

In this article I will share with you the exact steps to shrinking your clothes depending on what type of fabric they are.

Shrinking your cotton, rayon, linen or wool garments can usually be done by using the washer and dryer and setting them both to high heat levels. 

If you are looking for a specific clothing garment that needs to be shrunken, check out our other articles getting more precises on the topic.

How to Shrink Clothes

Yes it’s true, hot water does shrink clothes. Hot air does as well, do you know how hot a dryer gets?

The most common way to shrink clothes is to machine wash them in hot water and then dry them using high heat. The extent to which your garments shrink will depend on the type and quality of fiber being used.

Not all of your garments will have the ability to be shrunk. Fabrics such as linen, cotton, or rayon can shrink to a much higher degree than polyester or nylon. Typically natural fibers will shrink more easily than synthetic fabrics, as the synthetic fibers have received more treatment and are made to keep their size and shape.

If it’s not possible to shrink your clothes to get the fit you want, the next option is make your clothes tighter.

Make sure your garment’s fabric label does not say “do not tumble dry” or “pre-shrunk” and that you are aware of what kind of material the clothing is made from. Make sure you are using the dryer correctly by first understanding what tumble dry & tumble dry low means.

this is a photo of the washer and dryer setting

Which Type of Fabric are Your Clothes?

Before you attempt to shrink your clothes you must first check to see which kind of fabric the garment is made from. The type of fabric will affect if, how, and to what degree you are able to shrink your clothes. 

You may be here to learn:

  • Does linen shrink
  • Does rayon shrink
  • Does cotton shrink
  • Does nylon shrink
  • What fabrics shrink

Use the information below to find which shrinkage method is appropriate for your kind of clothing.

1. How to Shrink Cotton

Shrinking 100% cotton garments is easy, and some cotton clothing will have the ability to shrink up to 20%!

To shrink your cotton clothing, such as sweatpants, first wash the clothes in the washing machine while using a hot water setting. Not sure how long does a washer take?

After washing, place the garment in the drier and dry it on high heat. Make sure to check the garment periodically so that you do not over-shrink it. Learn how long a dryer takes to get the proper timing.

If you find the clothes have shrunk all you want in the first wash, then follow our steps to dry flat, line dry or dry your clothes without a dryer.

And finally once they are shrunk, washed and dryer, you can fold your clothes (or hang them) in preparation for the next time you want to wear them.

*Be aware that some cotton garments will have a treatment added to them in order to limit shrinking.

2. How to Shrink Polyester

Polyester is a man made synthetic fiber that is much less prone to shrinkage because of the way it is manufactured and the chemicals being used. Polyester garments are meant to hold their shape and are difficult to shrink.

It is possible that machine washing and drying on high heat could cause shrinkage in the length, however polyester clothing doesn’t relax and shrink the way a cotton garment would.

It is not possible to shrink polyester garments significantly.

Understand more about the fabric with this article Can you Shrink Polyester: Yes, Learn How.

3. How to Shrink Rayon

Rayon is a fabric that is highly shrinkable.

To shrink rayon first soak your clothes in a basin full of hot water for 2 to 4 hours.

Then use a spoon to rotate and agitate the clothes to help enhance the shrinkage.

Finally put the garment in the drier and use a low heat setting to dry. You can also dry the garment on a rack in a warm place.

4. How to Shrink Linen

Linen is a soft and lightweight fabric that has great shrinking abilities.

Throw your linen garment in the washing machine and adjust the settings to the longest cycle as well as the hottest heat setting.

Transfer your linen from the washing machine to the dryer immediately after it finishes and set the dryer to the hottest heat setting available. Be sure not to allow your linen clothes to cool after washing as this will affect its ability to shrink in the dryer.

Periodically stop the dryer and check the shrinkage to make sure you are getting the right amount.

5. How to Shrink Wool and Cashmere

Wool and Cashmere are both made from animal hair fibers and should not be shrunk. If you attempt to shrink a wool or cashmere garment, you will likely ruin the garment.

Try to buy wool and cashmere clothing in the correct size to avoid having to shrink them.

If you desperately need to shrink a wool sweater for example, try steaming the garment to gently promote shrinkage.

6. How to Shrink Jeans

Jeans can be shrunk several different ways. One of the most effective ways to shrink the waistband on jeans is to boil the waistband in hot water.

You can shrink your jeans by up to one size by first boiling them, and then throwing them into the dryer until all of the moisture is removed. You can also shrink your jeans in the washing machine.

How Hot Should the Water Be?

Depending on the degree of shrinkage you require you may choose to you one of three different water temperatures:

  • For a high degree of shrinkage you may want to set the temperature to a high heat of 130°F or 54.4°C
  • For a more moderate degree of shrinkage you can set the temperature from 90°F to 110°F or 32.2°C to 43.3°C
  • For a small degree of shrinkage set the water to a low heat level of 60°F to 80°F or approximately 30°C

Ways to Shrink Clothes Without a Dryer

If you do not have access to a dryer there are still two ways to shrink your clothes. Although not as effective as a washer and dryer, these methods can still help to shrink your clothes.

1. Use an Iron

You can spot shrink clothing by first adding moisture to the garment, and then by ironing it. Set the iron to a high heat temperature, dampen your clothes, and iron in the loose areas.

2. Boiling Water and a Blow Dryer

Fill a basin with water and bring it to a boil. Let your clothes soak in the basin for 10 to 15 minutes and then remove, let dry, and finally use a blow dryer to promote shrinkage.

How to Shrink Clothes FAQ

Most natural fabrics shrink to a higher degree than man made synthetic fabrics. The fabrics that have the greatest ability to shrink include rayon, cotton, linen and wool. On the other hand fabrics such as viscose, polyester, nylon, and spandex offer very little to no shrinkage.

Heat is the key! Put your clothes into the washing machine and adjust the settings to a high heat water setting. After the wash is complete, place your clothes into the dryer and once again use a high heat setting. Be sure to check which kind of fabric your clothes are made of so you are sure they will not be damaged by the process.

One of the best ways to avoid damaging your clothes in the washing machine or dryer is to turn them inside out. Applying high levels of heat to clothing has the ability to deteriorate and fade the fibers. You should also avoid drying your clothes in direct sunlight as this will harm your clothes and fade the colors over time. This is especially true for sheen fabrics such as silk.

Higher quality clothing is usually less likely to shrink because specific finishes and techniques have been applied that work to prevent shrinking. This is because premium clothing brands want you to be able to wear your garment again and again over a long duration of time, without the garment losing its shape, size, and look.

In order to keep your clothes from fading you can turn your garment inside out before entering the washer or dryer. You can also add a cup of white vinegar in the washing machine as the acidity in vinegar helps fabrics to retain their colors.

Written and reviewed by:
Tall Paul
Tall Paul
Paul Marlow is a 6'7 (203cm) / 235lb (106 kg) mental health speaker, fashion expert and ex-athlete. He is a global leader in helping tall men find clothing that fits them and showing them how to style it properly. Paul also spends his time modelling in the fashion and film industries. Paul is also the founder of Never Alone, a global leader in providing mental health and therapy inspiration. He started the Mental Growth Newsletter to help others that were dealing with mental health struggles, like he has.

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