Cleaning Tips, Guides & Resources

How to Unshrink Shrunken Clothes

Adriana Aziz
March 14, 2023
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how to unshrink shrunk clothes custom graphic

Raise your hand if you’ve ever pulled something out of your closet, put it on, and then realised that it seems a size too small. Did you magically grow taller and bigger overnight, or has the clothing item shrunk? 

No prizes for guessing that it is, indeed, the clothes piece that has shrunk! Unfortunately, no matter how much to stretch and tug at different ends of the item, it will spring back to its newly acquired small size. 

At this point, you might consider giving it away, especially if it’s a piece of clothing that you feel neutral about. However, if it’s one of your favourite blouses or T-shirts, it can be very disappointing to give it up, or give up on it! Well, MaidForYou is here to tell you that you don't have to.

Through tried and tested results, we have eliminated the useless methods and are here to bring you a very effective way to unshrink your clothes. 

NOTE: Clothing made from polyester, rayon, or silk may be difficult to reshape as they have tighter weaves than clothes made from cotton, wool, or cashmere. 

Why Do Clothes Shrink?

different coloured polyester fabrics under the text 'looser woven natural fibres such as cotton, wool, linen, and silk are more prone to shrinkages.'

Before we begin, let’s understand what could have made your clothes shrink in the first place. Exposure to elements such as hot water, agitation from your washing machine, and heat from your dryer may cause the fibres in fabrics to shrink which, in turn, results in the overall shrinkage of clothes.

Looser woven natural fibres such as cotton, wool, linen, and silk are more prone to shrinkages. Therefore, you may find your T-shirts and sweaters shrinking more often than other clothes. The good news, however, is that they are more likely to respond well to the unshrinking process below.

Let’s get started!

Step-By-Step Process to Unshrink Clothes

iron, towl, bucket and other tools needed to unshrink clothes on a white background

What you will need:

  • Hair conditioner or baby shampoo 
  • Lukewarm water
  • A basin, bucket or sink
  • Two dry towels 
  • Heavy items like big books 
  • Steamer/steam iron (if needed)

Step 1: Prepare the Water for Soaking

Fill the basin/bucket/sink with lukewarm water that will allow your clothes to be submerged entirely in the water. Lukewarm water will help the fabric to soften, thus making stretching easier. Cold water makes it harder to stretch while hot water can damage the fibres and cause further shrinkage. Once you have filled your basin upto the desired level, add a capful or a tablespoon of hair conditioner or baby shampoo to it (maintain a ratio of approximately 1 capful per 1 litre of water). Hair conditioner and baby shampoos have a softening agent that helps relax the fibres.

Step 2: Soak the Shrunken Clothes

Add the piece of shrunken clothing to the mix. Allow the clothes to sit in the solution for approximately 30 minutes. This soaking process will allow the fibres to relax/loosen up, and will aid the reshaping process. If needed, you can begin stretching the clothing under water by very gently and lightly pulling at both ends of the fabric so that it is evenly stretched.

Step 3: Drain the Water

After no more than 30 minutes, drain the water away from the basin and gently squeeze the water from the clothing with your hands. Do not wring or twist the clothes. Note that synthetic fibres should be soaked for approximately 15 minutes only. 

Step 4: Squeeze Out the Water

Spread a dry towel on a clean flat surface. Place the clothing on the towel without rinsing it. Roll the towel with the clothing inside to help squeeze out excess water. Unravel the towel and remove the clothing.

Step 5: Stretch and Reshape the Clothing

Lay the clothing flat out on the second dry towel. Gently stretch the clothing piece to its original size and shape using your hands. If the fabric has not softened enough, add steam from a steamer or steam iron to further relax the fibres. Focus your stretching efforts on those areas that have shrunk the most. It helps to use some heavy weights like books to keep the clothing stretched out on the towel whilst it dries. When you allow the piece to air-dry without rinsing it, the softening agent continues to work on the fabric.  

Step 6: Keep an Eye On It

Check on your clothing to ensure it maintains the desired shape. After it dries completely, it is ready to wear again! If you feel the clothing texture has changed, you may wash it after it has fully dried following the care label instructions.

How to Stretch Tight Jeans

person using spray bottle to spray clear solution on blue denim jeans

For minor stretching of jeans, spray on a mixture consisting of 1 part baby shampoo/hair conditioner to 3 parts lukewarm water. Use this to slightly dampen the entire pair of jeans, and then gently stretch them using your hands. 

For major changes, soak your jeans in a slightly milder mixture (1 part baby shampoo/hair conditioner to 4 parts lukewarm water) for 15-20 minutes. Then lay them out of a dry towel and stretch the jeans using your hands; focus on the areas that are the tightest. Allow your jeans to air-dry in a cool spot away from heat.

Alternatively, you can wear your jeans and sit in a tub with lukewarm water (without adding conditioner or shampoo) for about 15-20 minutes. Then continue wearing the wet jeans for between 30-60 minutes and move around in them as much as you can to allow the material to stretch.

Tip & Tricks on How to Safeguard Your Clothes from Shrinking

woman changing cycle type on front loader white washing machine

  • Follow the washing instructions on your clothes’ care tag. 
  • Washing your clothes on a cold, gentle cycle without a fast spin cycle can help prevent shrinking/stretching.
  • Avoid hot water as it can result in stretched clothes.
  • Clothes made from natural fibres that are more prone to shrinking like wool and cotton can be placed in laundry mesh bags whilst being washed. It will help prevent extra stretching and pulling of the fibres whilst being washed. 
  • If possible, use a front loading washing machine. The tumbling action of the agitator that sits in the middle of a top-loading washing machine can distort fabrics and cause clothes to lose their original shape.
  • Air drying your clothes will help maintain the shape. If you choose to use a dryer, opt for the low-temperature. 

Adriana Aziz is the operations manager at MaidForYou. With over 6 years of experience managing cleaning operations, she knows all the best hacks when it comes to cleaning residential and commercial buildings. With expert experience in managing house cleaning operations, interior design and logistics. She spends her free time with her family and as a freelance food critic.

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