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.

Table of Contents

how to shrink shorts

How To Shrink Shorts

Total Time: 45 min

Cost: $0

Supplies & Tools

  • Stain removal spray
  • Cloth
  • Dryer
this is a photo of a stain removal spray bottle used to clean shorts before shrinking shorts
Stain removal spray
this is a photo of a cloth that is used to clean stains on shorts before shrinking them
this is a photo of a dryer needed 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.

The first method below is best for cotton & denim shorts (lifestyle shorts.)

1. Check the care label of your shorts

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.

this is a photo of the care label in your shorts to be shrunk

2. Remove dirt and stains from your shorts

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, then wash your shorts.

this is a photo of a clothe, spray bottle and shorts

3. Put shorts into dryer for short bursts

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.

this is a photo of tall paul putting shorts into the dryer to shrink them

4. Check them often and try them on if need to

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.

this is a photo of tall paul wearing the shrunk shorts to chek on them
Me wearing the shorts
this is a photo of shrunk shorts being air dried if still damp
Air drying once perfect

How to shrink shorts: quick 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. 

How To Shrink Synthetic Shorts (Gym Shorts)

Total Time: 45 min

Cost: $0

Supplies & Tools

  • Large pot
  • Drying machine
this is a photo of a large pot to sink synthetic shorts
this is a drying machine to shrink synthetic shorts

1. Check synthetic shorts care label

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.

this is a photo of tall paul checking synthetic shorts care label

2. Boil pot of water to cover synthetic shorts in

Place your synthetic shorts in carefully with tongs or 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.

this is a photo of a boiling pot of water to sink synthetic shorts in

3. Soak shorts until water becomes room temp

Soak your shorts until the water returns to room temperature. Usually, this will take around 30 minutes.

this is a photo of synthetic shorts soaking in boiled water to shrink

4. Remove synthetic shorts and wring them out

Once the water has cooled down, pull the shorts out of the water and wring them out once squeezed, there should be no drips.

this is a photo of synthetic shorts wrung out after boiling water

5. Dry synthetic shorts in dryer

Dry the shorts on tumble dry high (or the highest setting you have) for 50 to 60 minutes.

How to shrink synthetic fiber shorts: quick 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.

How To Spot-Shrink Shorts

1. Mix hot water and fabric softener in a spray bottle

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 shorts

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 sprayed shorts into the dryer or let them air-dry

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.

How to spot-shrink shorts: quick 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.

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


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.