How To Shrink Clothes – Techniques For Different Materials

Dyed Clothing Problem

Whether you cannot find that perfect jumper in your size or you have lost some weight and your dress is too large, learning how to shrink clothes is fairly simple and will give you the ideal size in no time.

However, the operation is not safe if you have no clue what you are doing. Different materials shrink at different rates and in different ways. Therefore, you may end up turning a shirt in the ideal size for a doll. All in all, here are the most common materials on the market and the easiest way to shrink them to the right size.


How To Shrink Clothes – Reasons To Do It

Clothes Being Washed

There are no doubts about it – buying new clothes can be expensive and challenging. If you love your old clothes but you have also lost some weight, learning how to shrink clothes will save you some money. Most commonly, you only need some cold water and heat, as well as a high heat tumbler. Shrinking clothes will also save you money on professional tailors.

Shrinking is also a great idea if you care about the nature and you want to reduce your environmental impact. Increase the lifespan of your wardrobe and avoid unneeded waste by shrinking clothes, rather than buying new stuff.

Last, but not least, the shrinking process will also save you time – all the hassle associated with going to the mall, shopping, walking around and so on. Plus, the option is great if you have an emergency meeting and your time is limited.

Now, how do different materials react to shrinking? More importantly, how do you shrink them in the optimal way without ruining them?


Ways To Shrink Clothes – Dealing With Cotton

Cotton is one of the most common materials out there, so chances are many of your clothes are based on it. Cotton garment is also relatively easy to shrink, but doing it the wrong way can cause your clothes to go too small.

The first step involves washing your clothing in hot water. The water temperature does not have to be extreme though – anywhere around 40 to 60 degrees Celsius. Also, do not wash the garment in hot water manually – instead, throw it in a washing machine. Let it go through a full cycle.

When done, grab the clothes you want to shrink and throw them in a dryer. Make sure the dryer is on full heat. Let it run a cycle. Based on the dryer, it may take anywhere between an hour and a few hours.

Most importantly, you have to keep an eye on your clothing during the drying cycle. Take the garment out every 20 minutes and make sure the size is right. Leaving it in there for a full cycle may turn it too small. Once you find the ideal size, simply turn the dryer on low heat and let it finish the cycle. The fabric will then maintain its size throughout the remaining part of the cycle.


How To Shrink Polyester With Cold Water

There is a general rule of thumb when it comes to shrinking clothes – hot water in a washing machine and a tumbler on high heat. Things are a bit different when it comes to polyester. The fiber is synthetic – based on petroleum and coal. Therefore, it requires a slightly different treatment.

For the shrinking process to be efficient, you must wash your polyester clothing in cold water. Check out the available temperatures in your machine. Make sure you choose the lowest setting. Hot water is likely to damage the seams in the long run.

Once done, take the clothing out and put it in a dryer. Set the highest heat setting, then let it run. Check the garment every 20 minutes and make sure it is in the right size. When you get to this size, simply turn the dryer on a low heat setting and let it finish the cycle.

Unlike cotton, polyester may not shrink too much. Even if you find the perfect size, you may leave the unit on high heat without risking to go too low – however, it is a chance you do not want to take, so you should still keep an eye on it throughout the drying process.


How To Shrink Clothes – Wool Is Different

Wool is one of the best materials out there. It is considered to be luxury sometimes, mostly because its great looks and properties. It makes an excellent insulator – it keeps you warm in the wintertime and cold in the summertime. So, how do you shrink it without ruining it?

First of all, wash the wool clothing in hot water. Go for a relatively high setting in your machine – nothing special so far. The secret is in your drying procedure. Put the garment in your dryer, but do not run it on a high setting or you might shrink the garment to doll size. On the other hand, a very low heat setting will not really shrink it. You need a dryer with a good middle choice.

Many dryers come with two settings only – low and high. At this point, you could try running it on high heat for a bit, keep an eye on the garment and turn it to low heat once you get a perfect size. If you have a medium setting, simply throw the garment in and let it go through a wash cycle with no further checks.


How To Shrink Older Clothing That Has Already Been Shrunk

Thinking about shrinking older clothing? Chances are those clothes have already been through a shrinking process before – voluntary or not. Despite most myths and misconceptions, you can get them slightly smaller if you follow the right steps. The procedure is manual in its first stages.

Boil some water in a large pan. Get the garment you want to shrink and soak it in the water. Make sure the entire piece of clothing is covered in water. Leave it there for a minute, then transfer it to the washing machine. You will need a stick or some insulated gloves or you risk burning yourself.

Run it through a simple wash cycle – medium temperature. Do not use too much detergent, but a quarter of what you normally use. Once the washing cycle is done, place the clothing in the dryer and run it on high heat.

The problem is some garments may not shrink too much. You will most likely have to perform the same procedure a few different times until you reach the desired size.


When To Go To A Professional Tailor

Sometimes, you can try the above-mentioned techniques and fail to get to the optimal size. Other times, you simply do not want to take any risks, especially if the garment is expensive. In any of these situations, a professional tailor may get the job done for you.

Some materials may not shrink too easily in a washing machine and a dryer. Some others are already shrunk, so they will not go too small anyway. In fact, many manufacturers sell pre-shrunk stuff, only to prevent their customers from accidentally shrinking the garments.

No matter what situation you are in, a professional tailor will get the respective item in the perfect size without too much hassle. If you have never been to a tailor before, the process is relatively inexpensive and easy. No matter what article of clothing you are trying to shrink, a professional will be able to do it in no time.

Man Stretching Shrunken T Shirt

Frequently Asked Questions

Still not sure how to shrink clothes?


Can you shrink clothes on purpose?

The truth is most people shrink clothes by mistakes. They do not care about the washing temperature and they never check the labels for washing instructions. If you can do it by mistake, you can obviously do it on purpose as well – each material comes with specific instructions though.


How do you shrink clothes without ruining them?

There are more ways to shrink your clothes and they depend on the material. Washing at the wrong temperature or drying on the wrong setting can ruin clothes. Some garments may end up with ruined seaming, while others will be smaller than expected.


How do you shrink clothes after losing weight?

Make sure you pay attention to the material before attempting any shrinking procedure. Each material has its own specifications. Wool is shrunk differently from polyester, for example. If the garment is very expensive and you do not want to take any risks, simply reach to a professional tailor. Costs are usually affordable and an expert will not fool around taking risks.


As a short final conclusion, you do not have to be a genius to learn how to shrink clothes. Different materials come with different specifications. As a general rule of thumb, you will require two things – a washing machine and a dryer. From that point on, everything is about temperatures and heat settings.

It might be a good idea to practice with old clothes that you no longer wear – or clothes that you only wear around the house or when washing your car. A bit of practice will give you more confidence when shrinking your best clothes.

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