how to unshrink clothes

When you don’t follow the laundry label on your clothes, colors will fade, whites will dull, and clothes will shrink. Unfortunately, few of us take the time to wash clothes by hand when the label calls for it, and sometimes we forget to use cold water or the delicate wash cycle when we should. The result can be a shirt, sweater, or beloved pair of jeans that seems to get smaller every wash and dry cycle.

So what makes clothes shrink? Most of us have experienced drying shirts or pants made with natural fibers and ending up with clothes that are suddenly too tight. When we use too high of a heat setting on our dryer, fibers like cotton, wool, and other natural materials will tighten and cause the clothing to shrink. But some fabrics can shrink when we wash clothes using hot water, and mohair and cashmere can even shrink from a washer’s agitation.

If you think your only options are to lose a few pounds or replace the shrunken clothes, we’ve got news for you. You can learn how to unshrink clothes, and it may not be as difficult as you may think. So instead of going on a crash diet or shopping for new clothes, use this guide to learn how to unshrink cotton, synthetics, and even wool.

How to Unshrink a Shirt

It’s not easy keeping your favorite shirt or blouse looking its best, especially if it’s made with cotton or a cotton blend. That’s because cotton fabric naturally shrinks a little when it’s washed for the first time, and it can shrink again and again if we don’t wash and dry it correctly. We know it’s tempting to skip ironing and give a blouse or dress shirt a quick tumble in a hot dryer to remove wrinkles. But while that heat is smoothing wrinkles, it’s also shrinking fibers.

While you can hide makeup stains, dull colors, and even a tear here and there, you can’t hide a shrunken shirt! So when your shirt comes out of the dryer two sizes too small, what do you do? Learning how to unshrink clothes made from cotton and other natural fibers is something anyone can tackle when they follow this handy guide.

  • Fill your sink with room temperature water and add two tablespoons of hair conditioner.
  • Mix the conditioner in with the water and submerge the shirt completely.
  • Agitate the shirt with your hands to work the conditioner and water into the fabric.
  • Let the shirt soak in the conditioner and water for 30 minutes.
  • Drain the water and wring out the shirt without rinsing.
  • Lay the shirt out flat on a towel and roll it up tightly to remove as much liquid as possible.
  • Unroll the towel and spread the shirt out flat.
  • Take your time and gently stretch out the shirt.
  • Use pins or something heavy to hold the shirt’s shape.
  • Let the shirt air dry, and you should find that it’s back to its correct size and shape.

If you need to know how to unshrink polyester or other synthetic shirts, follow the same procedures used for cotton, but don’t wring out the shirt. Instead, after you soak the shirt, lay it out flat on a towel and squeeze the excess water out. Let the shirt air dry, and you should find that your shirt is back to its normal size.

How to Unshrink Jeans

We’ve all been there. You’re getting ready for a night out, and you zip up your favorite jeans only to find that they don’t quite fit like they used to. In a worst-case scenario, you can’t even button them because they are just too tight.

Did you suddenly gain a few pounds without knowing it? Did someone switch out your jeans for a smaller size as a joke? Probably not. When your clothes have shrunk overnight, the likely culprits are your washer and dryer.

So how do you stretch out clothes like blue jeans and other heavy fabrics so you can wear them again without holding your breath?

Before skinny jeans, bell-bottoms, and boot cuts, shrink-to-fit jeans were the only game in town. As the name implies, these jeans were designed to shrink, and many jeans companies recommended taking a bath with your jeans. The idea was the wet jeans would shrink to conform to your body as they dried—and it worked.

The trick to stretching out those jeans is to use this age-old method, but instead of shrinking, we’re going to be unshrinking! Here’s make your jeans fit again by making them stretch-to-fit instead of shrink-to-fit:

  • Fill your bathtub with enough warm water to let you submerge your lower body.
  • Pull your jeans on, zip them up, and button them. If you can’t, do it as soon as you get the jeans wet.
  • Get into the tub and completely submerge your lower body and the jeans.
  • Sit in the bath for about 15 minutes and add hot water if the water gets too cool for comfort.
  • Drain the tub, stand up, and squeeze out excess water from the waist down.
  • li>Hop out of the tub and spend at least an hour wearing the damp jeans.
  • Walk around, squat down, and sit as your jeans dry to allow the fibers to stretch back to their original shape.
  • Let the jeans dry as long as possible while you’re wearing them for the best fit.
  • Take off the jeans and hang them by the waist to finish drying.

While it’s a tried-and-true method for shrinking and unshrinking jeans, we realize that wearing jeans in a tub of water (or wet jeans for an hour afterward) isn’t for everyone! You can still get good results by soaking your jeans without you having to take a bath. Follow the process above, but simply soak your jeans without you in them. After soaking, wring out the jeans in the tub and put them on, then follow the rest of the steps.

How to Unshrink a Sweater

Many of us have a favorite sweater we break out when temperatures drop, and if it has been stored away for winter, it probably could use a wash before we wear it. But if you’re not careful how you wash and dry that sweater, you could end up with a sweater that’s a few sizes too small.

If the sweater is made from cotton or a synthetic fabric, use the same techniques above for how to unshrink clothes. But if the shrunken sweater is made from wool, cashmere, or similar materials, it’s going to take a little more work. Here’s how you can unshrink clothes made from wool and get them back to their natural size.

  • Fill a sink with room temperature water and ⅓ cup of hair conditioner.
  • Add a few drops of liquid clothes detergent to wash the sweater while you’re unshrinking it.
  • Submerge the sweater in the solution and hand wash it gently to clean and relax the fibers.
  • Drain the solution but don’t rinse the sweater.
  • Press down on the sweater to remove excess water while it’s in the sink.
  • Remove the sweater and lay it flat on a bath towel.
  • Roll up the sweater in the towel to absorb excess water, but don’t wring it out.
  • Unroll the sweater and lay it flat on a dry bath towel.
  • Gently stretch the sweater evenly to untighten the fibers being careful not to pull it out of shape.
  • Don’t use pins or heavy objects to hold the sweater down while it dries, or you could damage the fibers.
  • Leave the sweater to air dry on the towel or use a drying rack.

You can also use this method to unshrink clothes made with wool, such as socks, winter caps, and gloves. For smaller wool items like these, only use a few drops of conditioner and follow the directions above for unshrinking a wool sweater.

If you’re the victim of shrinking laundry, use this guide to learn how to unshrink clothes and get in the habit of checking those clothing labels more often before doing the laundry. For more proven laundry tips, check out our other housekeeping guides for everything from removing ink stains to keeping your laundry room clean and fresh.

Whether you use our handy housekeeping tips or choose one of our convenient residential cleaning services, The Maids wants everyone to enjoy a clean home. Learn how to have a cleaner home without all the work when you get your free estimate online.


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