How to Unshrink Clothes Without Ruining Them

Do Laundry

Discover how you can unshrink clothes using common household ingredients and a few minutes of your time.

Have you shrunk your favorite sweater or hoodie and can’t bear the thought of throwing it out? Or maybe that comfortable pair of jeans shrank in the dryer and now they’re too tight to zip? Don’t panic. The chances are good that you can unshrink your clothes with a few minutes of effort and some patience. Read on to find out how to fix shrunken clothes without ruining them.

How to Unshrink Clothes

Yes, you can unshrink clothes that came out of the dryer too small. The looser the weave of your clothing's fabric, the better this method works.
Time Required45 mins
Print
45 mins
Total Time45 mins

Equipment

  • Bathtub, sink, or large bucket
  • Measuring spoon
  • Large towels, 2
  • Heavy jars or paperweights

Materials

  • Lukewarm water
  • Mild hair conditioner - can also use baby shampoo, Castile soap, or fabric softener

Instructions

  • Fill your bathtub with a few inches of lukewarm water. Use a bucket or sink for smaller items. Gently swirl in one tablespoon of mild hair conditioner (or one of the listed substitutes if you prefer). This step relaxes the clothing fibers to help you stretch them back into shape.
  • Add the piece of clothing that you want to unshrink. Swirl it around a little to make sure it's completely saturated. Add more lukewarm water if needed to cover the item completely.
  • Let the clothing sit in the water for 30 minutes to 1 hour. The fabric's fibers will continue to relax and loosen as it soaks. While you wait, lay one of the large towels on the floor.
  • Without rinsing or wringing, remove the soaked piece of clothing from the water. Drape it over your hands to keep it from stretching out of shape and let it drip for a minute. Then, lay it flat on the towel.
  • Roll the towel from the bottom to the top. Lightly press as you roll, so the towel absorbs some of the water. You want the item of clothing to still be damp, but not dripping, for the next step
  • Lay the second bath towel on the floor or other flat surface. Unroll your clothing and move it to this fresh towel. Then, working one section at a time, use your hands to tug and smooth the item to its original shape.
    Once you've reshaped a section, weight it down with a heavy jar or paperweight to hold it in place. (If you want, you can put a similar, unshrunken item of clothing on top of to use as a guide.)
  • Let the piece of clothing air dry on the towel. You don't need to rinse after this process, but can if you want. Just be sure to follow the item's care label so you don't shrink it again.
Shirts soaking in sinkful of water to unshrink clothing

Tips to Unshrink Clothes of Specific Fabrics

The method above will unshrink most types of clothing. Here are a few more tips for unshrinking specific fabrics, including an easy way to stretch your jeans.

Synthetic fabrics (Rayon, polyester, etc.)

It’s easy to overstretch synthetics when they’re wet. To avoid this risk, cover the shrunken clothing with one that’s still the right size. Using this second piece as a guide, stretch the shrunken one a little at a time and weight it down.

For example, stretch one arm to the proper length and weight it down. Next, pull the other arm and weight it—repeat, pulling from each shoulder to the hem. Finish by stretching the bottom hem to the right width.

Wool, Cashmere, and Other Animal Fibers

Tight knits take more patience to unshrink because heat toughens their fibers. For these fabrics, start the reshaping process while they’re soaking in the warm water. Massage the conditioner (or substitute) into the fabric as you stretch each section underwater. Then continue the reshaping process before you roll the item to blot it, and again after unrolling it.

Denim and Denim Blends

The easiest way to unshrink jeans is to put them on and sit in a bathtub full of lukewarm water. If you can’t pull them on completely, pull them up as high as you can. After 5 minutes, try pulling them higher and repeat until you can pull them on all the way.

Wait another couple of minutes, then get out of the tub. Leave your jeans on and pat yourself dry with a towel. Bend, stretch, do a few squats and walk around for about 15 minutes. Then take off the wet jeans and let them air dry. Once they’re dry, they should fit perfectly again.

How to Stop Clothes from Shrinking

Most of the time, clothes shrink in the wash due to improper laundering. That’s why it’s essential to check the laundry labels to find out the safest water temperature and drying method. (Related: How to Sort Laundry the Right Way.)

The best way to keep your clothes from shrinking is to wash them in cold water, which is less likely to cause shrinkage. Then, skip the dryer and line-dry your clothes indoors or out. Line-drying not only helps keep clothes from shrinking but avoids the kind of friction that makes them wear out faster, too. (Related: How to Line Dry Clothing.)

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