How to Stretch Clothes: 4 Useful Methods

If your clothes are too small or have shrunk in the wash, use one of these four methods to stretch them out once again.

How to Stretch Clothes

Shrink a Shirt

Fill a basin with lukewarm water and add a few drops of hair conditioner or fabric softener. Submerge the clothes in the water for 15 to 30 minutes and then remove and rinse under cold water. Remove excess water from the garment and stretch it out on a flat surface. Use heavy items to place overtop the edges of the garment to permanently stretch it, and leave it overnight. 

This is How to Stretch Clothes: 4 Useful Methods.

Clothes that fit too tight can be uncomfortable and look awkward. 

Clothes can often shrink in the wash if they are cared for incorrectly, which is usually accidentally done by using hot water in the washing machine or the wrong tumble dry setting in the dryer

Many household substances such as baby shampoo, hair conditioner, baking soda, vinegar, and fabric softener can help to stretch out clothes when mixed with water. 

Use our step-by-step instructions throughout this guide to effectively stretch your hoodie, t-shirt, sweatpants, joggers, shorts, and jeans.

How to Stretch Clothes

If your clothes shrank in the wash from hot water, or were too small when you bought them, there are a handful of effective methods you can use to stretch them out!

Once stretched to your liking, put them away properly by hanging or folding your clothes so they stay in the shape you want and don’t wrinkle.

Follow our other guides if you have a specific piece of clothing you need stretched.

Continue reading below to see our step-by-step instructions on 4 useful methods you can use to help stretch your clothes. 

1. Fabric Softener or Hair Conditioner

This method is often the most convenient since it’s likely you have hair conditioner or fabric softener already in your household.

This stretching method is good for cotton, polyester, and knitted garments.

1. Fill container to soak

Fill a container, basin, or sink with lukewarm water.

this is a photo of a plastic basin being filled with water to stretch clothing

2. Add softnere/conditioner

Add a few drops of hair conditioner or fabric softener to the water. Add ¼ cup at the most. Mix it in the water to dissolve.

this is a photo of tall paul adding conditioner to the full water basin

3. Submerge the clothes

Submerge your clothes in the water and let soak for 15 to 30 minutes depending on the thickness of the item.

this is a photo of fully submerged clothes in a plastic basin of water with conditioner in it

4. Remove the clothes

Remove the garment from the container and rinse under cold water until the soap is completely removed and the water runs clear.

This is a photo of the clothes being removed from the water basin and rinsed

5. Wring the clothes

Wring the garment or roll it up in an absorbent towel in order to remove excess water.

This is a photo of the clothes being removed from the water basin and being wrung

6. Stretch the clothes

Lay the garment evenly on a flat surface. Stretch the garment as far as possible and use weighted items to hold the garment in place.

This is a photo of tall paul putting weights on the clothes to be stretched

7. Leave the clothes for 24hrs

Leave the garment for 24 hours to dry and stretch permanently.

This is a photo of clothing with weights on it as it sits for twenty four hours

8. Repeat as necessary

Repeat the process as necessary if you require further stretching.

2. Vinegar and Baking Soda

This method involving baking soda and vinegar works best on garments made from natural fibers such as linen, cotton, and wool. It is not as effective on synthetic fabrics such as polyester and rayon. 

  1. Fill a basin, container, or sink with 8 to 10 cups of lukewarm water.
  2. Add two tablespoons of baking soda to the water. Mix the baking soda in the water until it has fully dissolved. 
  3. Submerge your garment in the water and let soak for 5 minutes. 
  4. Remove the garment from the water and wring out the excess water. If your garment is delicate then use an absorbent towel to roll it.
  5. Grab opposite sides of the garment with your hands, and proceed to gently pull and stretch the garment. 
  6. Place the garment back into the water.
  7. Add four more cups of warm water to the mix. 
  8. Add one cup of white vinegar to the mix. 
  9. Let the garment soak for 45 minutes to an hour. 
  10. Remove the garment from the water and wring the excess water out of the fabric until the item is slightly damp, and not soaking wet. 
  11. Allow to air dry by hanging (line dry) or laying flat (dry flat) on an indoor drying rack.  Do not use the dryer.

3. Baby Shampoo

Using baby shampoo is a gentle way to stretch your clothes because it doesn’t contain any harsh chemicals. Use the baby shampoo method with garments made from cotton, cotton blends, wool, or knitted clothing. 

  1. Fill a container, basin, or sink with lukewarm water. 
  2. Add one cup of baby shampoo to the water and mix until completely dissolved.
  3. Submerge the garment in the water and let soak for 10 to 15 minutes. 
  4. Use your hands to agitate and mix the garment in the water so that it can make plenty of contact with the baby shampoo.
  5. Remove from the container and wring out the excess water or roll in an absorbent towel. 
  6. Lay the garment evenly on a flat surface. Stretch out the edges of the garment and hold them in place with heavy items. 
  7. Let the garment stay in place for 24 hours to dry and stretch. 
  8. Repeat as necessary. 

4. Stretching Tool

If you are looking to stretch a stubborn area on heavy clothing, such as the waistband on a pair of jeans, you may wish to enlist the help of a stretching tool. There are a range of good stretching tools that are very useful for trying to stretch out the waistband, thigh, or calf areas of pants and trousers. 

  1. Use a spray bottle filled with water to add moisture to the waistband area of your pants or jeans. The waistband should be damp, but not soaking wet. 
  2. Insert the stretching tool into the pants, and extend and lock. Follow the instructions that are provided with your stretching tool.  
  3. Allow the stretching tool to remain in place for 24 hours. Once finished, remove the stretching tool, and observe the results. 

How to Stretch Clothes FAQ

Using elbow grease is one of the most effective ways to loosen tight clothes. You can also use fabric softener, baby shampoo, or hair conditioner mixed with water, to help loosen your clothes. 

The fastest way to stretch clothes is by grabbing one end of the garment in each hand, and pulling. Do this all around the garment and you will likely have increased the size of the garment dramatically. 

Use fabric softener, baby shampoo, or hair conditioner mixed with water, to help stretch out clothes that are too small. 

If your shirt is made out of cotton the best way to stretch it is by using your hands and a little bit of elbow grease. Grab both ends of the shirt and pull with your hands in opposite directions. 

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.

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