How to Shrink Shorts: 3 Options

Take these 3 different methods to shrink your shorts.

How to Shrink Shorts

Athletic & Lifestyle

To shrink your shorts you will want to first use hot air, and if that doesn’t do the job then added in hot water. Hot air will come from your dryer and the hot water from your washing machine. Another way to get hot water to shrink your shorts is boil water on the stove and apply your shorts to that water.

This is How to Shrink Shorts: 3 Options.

Welcome to our article on how to shrink shorts. 

Below you will find answers to shrinking your lifestyle shorts (day-to-day), your gym shorts and a spot-treating method that can work on both types of shorts.

Before you start shrinking whichever type of shorts you have, I suggest you contemplate if altering the shorts may be possible instead. There are multiple ways to make shorts tighter without shrinking them, which will most likely give you the most accurate outcome. And also, let your shorts live a little longer!

Heating fabrics too often will shorten their lifespan.

Check out our other guides on shrinking separate pieces of your wardrobe.

Now, let me take you through the three processes that can help you get set up for this summer fashion. Or pop those quads a bit more in the gym!

How to Shrink Shorts

Follow these three methods below to help you find the perfect size of shorts. If you decide that shrinking isn’t the best option, try altering them yourself or take them to a tailor (dry cleaners also do minor alterations like this). Use this guide on how to measure shorts inseam if you do it yourself.

Read our other articles on making the most of your shorts.

1. How to Shrink Cotton & Denim Shorts (Lifestyle Shorts)

  1. Check the care label. Shorts made of these natural fibres will shrink easily: denim, cotton, silk, linen, and wool. Cotton blends may need some more heat and attention.
  2. Remove dirt and stains from your shorts. Putting dirty shorts into the dryer will bake in the dirt/stain. You can treat the stains with a stain remover spray or use some elbow grease with soap and water.
  3. To avoid shrinking your shorts too much, dry them in short bursts. Put the shorts in the dryer (how to use a dryer) for 15 to 20 minutes to start on high heat. Dry shorts can go into the dryer, but you’ll get a more significant shrinking effect if you put them in wet.
  4. Check the shorts and dry them for longer if you want them to be smaller. If they are not small enough, do 10-minute intervals in the dryer until you are happy with the new size. Lay them on a drying rack to finish drying if still damp.

How to Shrink Cotton & Denim Shorts: Tips

  • For new, never-been-washed shorts, try just washing them first with warm or hot water. 
  • If the care tag says the shorts should be air dried, try putting them in the dryer for 10 minutes and then air dry them the rest of the way.
  • Dry the shorts by themselves for the best and fastest results. 

2. How to Shrink Synthetic Fibers (Gym Shorts)

  1. Check the label. Synthetic fibres are harder to shrink than natural fibres. Spandex and polyester are hard to shrink, while rayon and other cotton-synthetic blends will shrink more easily.
  2. Use a tea kettle or a pot on the stove to heat enough water to cover your shorts. If you’re using a tea kettle, place the shorts into a bowl and pour the boiling water over the top of them. For the pot on the stove, you can put the shorts directly into it (with the heat turned OFF).
  3. Soak your shorts until the water returns to room temperature. Usually, this will take around 30 minutes.
  4. Once the water has cooled down, pull the shorts out of the water and wring them out once squeezed, there should be no drips.
  5. Put the shorts in the washing machine for the hottest cycle possible (how long does a washer take?). Use a small amount of laundry detergent and run the smallest load possible in your washing machine. Use hot water only for this process. NO COLD!
  6. Dry the shorts on tumble dry high (or the highest setting you have) for 50 to 60 minutes. Keep an eye on the washing machine so you can move the shorts over as soon as it’s off. This will help the shrinking process.

How to Shrink Synthetic Fibers: Tips

  • Heat is an essential part of shrinking clothes, especially synthetic fibers. The more heat used, the more your shorts will shrink.
  • If your shorts were already clean, you do not need to pr-clean them.
  • Avoid using the moisture-sensitive drying option, as the machine will shut off as soon as the shorts are dry.

3. How to Spot-Shrink Shorts

  1. Mix hot water and fabric softener in a spray bottle. Use 3⁄4 cup (180 mL) of hot water and 1⁄4 cup (59 mL) of liquid fabric softener. Pour the liquids into a spray bottle, put on the lid, and shake.
  2. Spray the mix onto the needed area. Lay your shorts out flat and start spraying areas that you want to shrink. The common areas are the waist and crotch. Fully saturate. Lay a towel over the areas that you do not want to shrink.
  3. Put the shorts into the dryer or let them air-dry. For synthetic fibers (athletic shorts), put the shorts into the dryer on the highest heat setting for 10 to 15 minutes. For natural fibers (daily wear), let them air dry to avoid shrinking the entire pair of shorts too much. If that doesn’t work, reapply the spray and put the shorts into the dryer for 5 to 10 minutes.
  4. Depending on the shorts, it may take a few tries to get them to the correct size. In general, 2-3 attempts will be all you need.

How to Spot-Shrink Shorts: Tips

  • This method will work best with cotton or denim shorts.
  • Use the hottest water you can get from the sink. Do not use boiling water.
  • Be careful to measure out the fabric softener to the exact amount.
  • If three attempts at this don’t shrink your shorts to the size you want, you will want to take them to a tailor to get them altered.

How to Shrink Shorts FAQ

Yes, shorts will shrink in the dryer if you are not careful. If you do not want your shorts to shrink, you should dry them without a dryer.

You can shrink the shorts’ length by putting them dry in the dryer. However, the best way to shrink the length of your shorts is to hem them. This can be done by taking them to a tailor or altering them yourself at home.

The simplest way to shrink stretch shorts is to throw them into the dryer while they are dry. But be careful; they shrink easily. 

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.

Get Men's Fashion Tips