How to Shrink Sweatpants: 6 Useful Methods

6 step-by-step methods for you to use when attempting to shrink your cotton or cotton blend sweatpants.

How to Shrink Sweatpants

Hot Water & Heat

The best way to shrink your sweatpants is to use hot water and hot air. The heat will affect the mainly cotton fabric and make it shrink. When washing your sweatpants in hot water, ring out your sweatpants as best as you can before you start drying them.

This is How to Shrink Sweatpants: 6 Useful Methods.

Most sweatpants are made from cotton fleece material which is usually either 100% cotton or a cotton polyester blend. If your sweatpants are made from 100% cotton material they will have a greater ability to shrink. However, since polyester is meant to be resistant to shrinkage, a cotton polyester blend will shrink much less than a 100% cotton garment.

If your sweatpants are made from a cotton polyester blend you should avoid attempting to shrink them too frequently. A high amount of heat is necessary to shrink clothing, and since polyester is not resistant to heat you could end up damaging your sweatpants over the long run.

Learn more how polyester reacts with heat can you shrink polyester?

If you are a taller guy looking to find the perfect fitting sweatpants, I created these guides of the top brands just for you.

In this article we will provide you with 5 Useful Methods for shrinking your sweatpants.

How to Shrink Sweatpants

Below are 5 different methods to shrink your sweatpants, listed in order of effectiveness, with the washer and dryer method being the most effective option.

Before you administer any type of care to your sweatpants, it is imperative to first check the garment’s care label.

1. Check the Care Label

Before you attempt to shrink your sweatpants you must first check the garment’s care label. You should first know if your sweatpants are 100% cotton, or if they are a cotton polyester blend. This is important information as it will make a difference in how much shrinkage you could potentially achieve, as well as the type of heat you use.

Plus the care label will help you understand the best way to wash your sweatpants.

2. Use the Washer and Dryer to Shrink Sweatpants

Using the washing machine and the dryer is the most effective way to shrink your sweatpants. Follow these steps to do it properly.

  1. For 100% cotton sweatpants set the washing machine to the highest water temperature setting, and adjust the wash cycle to the longest possible time (how long does a washer take?). If your sweatpants are a cotton poly blend, consider using medium heat or a shorter wash cycle, and observe the results.
  2. Remove the sweatpants from the washer. Check the sweatpants to make sure they are damp, not soaking wet. If they are soaking wet, put them back in the washer and do a spin cycle to remove any of the excess water.
  3. Shake the sweatpants out before you place them in the dryer to make sure there is no excess dirt or debris.
  4. Place the sweatpants in the dryer. If your sweatpants are 100% cotton, adjust the heat setting to tumble dry high. If your sweatpants are a cotton poly blend then use tumble dry medium and observe the results and modify as necessary.
  5. Feel free to check on the sweatpants periodically to ensure that you don’t over shrink them. Understand how long does a dryer take, to get exact times. Also do you know how hot a dryer gets?
  6. Remove the sweatpants and wear or store them appropriately.

We have given you the basics here. Dive deeper into each piece of equipment to properly shrink your sweats how to shrink sweatpants in the wash & how to shrink sweatpants in the dryer.

3. Use Boiling Water to Shrink Sweatpants

Heat is the catalyst for shrinking sweatpants, or any type of clothing, and there is nothing hotter than boiling water! Follow these steps to shrink your sweatpants using boiling water.

  1. Fill a pot or basin with water and bring it to a boil.
  2. Carefully place your sweatpants into the boiling water.
  3. Let the sweatpants boil for 10 to 15 minutes or more if you are seeking a greater level of shrinkage.
  4. Remove the sweatpants from the water with tongs.
  5. Wait for the sweatpants to cool and then wring out the water.
  6. Lay your sweatpants flat to dry or use the dryer on tumble dry high if you would like the shrink further.

Note: If your sweatpants are a cotton poly blend, do not use this method too frequently.

4. Use an Iron the Shrink Sweatpants

Although not as effective as the first 2 methods, ironing your sweatpants can still have a shrinking effect on your sweatpants.

  1. Dampen your sweatpants using a spray bottle or by using the tap and sink.
  2. Make sure your pants are damp but not soaking wet.
  3. Turn the iron onto the highest heat setting.
  4. Press the iron down onto the areas you wish to shrink.
  5. If you require greater shrinkage, place the sweatpants into the dryer on high heat after ironing.

5. Use a Steamer to Shrink Sweatpants

A steamer can be used to shrink your sweatpants, however the effectiveness of this method will vary.

  1. Fill your steamer machine with clean water and turn it on.
  2. When ready, steam your sweatpants using long downward strokes.
  3. Keep the steamer close to the surface of the fabric to maximize the heat.
  4. Repeat the steps until you have achieved your required level of shrinkage.

6. Use a Blow Dryer to Shrink Sweatpants

The blow dryer method may be strenuous, slow, and less effective than our other methods, however it’s up to you whether you want to give it a try or not!

  1. Dampen your sweatpants or soak them in hot water.
  2. Make sure your sweatpants are damp but not soaking wet when you begin blow drying.
  3. Turn the blow dryer onto the highest heat and wind settings and use long downward strokes. You may want to turn your sweatpants inside out so you don’t damage the fibers on the outside.
  4. Repeat until shrinkage has been achieved.

Now that you have 5 effective ways to shrink your sweatpants so they fit you better, you best make sure you put them away properly so no wrinkles appear. Our two articles will not only save you space but time how to fold sweatpants & how to roll sweatpants.

How Much Do 100% Cotton Sweatpants Shrink?

100% Cotton sweatpants have a great ability to shrink, and may shrink up to 5% or more if the pants are not already pre-shrunk during production. If the sweatpants are not pre-shrunk they may actually shrink by up to 20%!

If you do not want to shrink your 100% cotton sweatpants, use the washing machine on the cold water setting, and either use tumble dry low to dry your clothes, or simply lay them flat to dry (or line dry.) Also check out all the ways to dry your clothes without a dryer we have for you.

Dive into the full system and understand what is tumble dry, and all the settings it has.

Will Warm Water Shrink Clothes?

Yes, warm water will shrink clothes, and hot water will %100 shrink clothes. The most essential component for shrinking clothes is heat. Applying heat to your clothing is most easily done by using the washing machine on a high heat setting, paired with the dryer also on its highest heat setting.

The degree of shrinkage will depend on the type of material your clothing is made from. Items like sweatpants are usually made from 100% cotton and will have a great ability to shrink. Natural fibers such as cotton, linen, and wool will shrink to a greater degree than man made synthetic fibers such as polyester, spandex, nylon, and viscose. 

What Materials Shrink in the Dryer?

The materials that are most likely to shrink in the dryer are cotton, linen, wool, and rayon. The materials that are least likely to shrink in the dryer are nylon, polyester, spandex, and viscose. To shrink clothes in the dryer, set the machine to its highest heat setting, usually called tumble dry high. Understand how to use your dryer better.

How to Shrink Sweatpants FAQ

Clothing garments made from 100% cotton material will shrink in the dryer when using tumble dry medium or tumble dry high. If you do not want to shrink your cotton garments in the dryer then use tumble dry low, or air dry. If you really do not want to shrink your 100% cotton clothing then lay flat to dry or line dry.

To shrink a sweatshirt, place it in the washing machine and adjust the settings to the highest heat and the longest wash cycle settings. After the wash cycle has completed, place the sweatshirt into the dryer and run the machine on tumble dry high. The degree of shrinkage will vary depending on which type of material your sweatshirt is made from. 100% cotton sweatshirts will shrink to a greater degree than sweatshirts made from a cotton polyester blend.

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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