How to Unshrink Clothes

How to Unshrink Clothes

We’ve all gone to put our best pair of jeans on only to find that they no longer fit! This usually results in a lot of cursing, sometimes tears and the wearer rolling around on the floor trying to button the jeans up! 

But does it really have to be so difficult? Surely there must be a way to unshrink clothes to make them fit again. It seems silly to discard clothes just because they’re fitting a little more snuggly. 

Well, there is… and you can find out how to unshrink clothes below! 

Why Do Clothes Shrink?

Before I dive right into telling you how to unshrink your items, it’s important that you know why your clothes have shrunk in the first place.

There are actually three reasons why clothes shrink and these are:

1. Felting shrinkage

This type of shrinking usually happens to clothes that are made up of animal fibres, wool and cashmere are examples. It happens to these items because the fibres have tiny scales, and when these scales are exposed to hot temperatures and water, they compress and bind together. This compression results in clothes shrinking. 

Interestingly, the more you wash these fibres in the wrong way, the more they shrink.

2. Relaxation shrinkage

This typically happens to absorbent clothes that are made from silk, linen and cotton. In this case, these kinds of fabrics absorb water until they swell up and then shrink down in size. 

3. Consolidation shrinkage

This type of shrinkage is caused by too much heat, hot water and how the clothes move around in the washing machine. When you combine these three factors together, they reverse the ‘stretching phase’ that the clothes went through when they were being manufactured. This means that the fibres in the clothes won’t sit together nicely, and the item will be out of shape or will have shrunk in size. 


How to Unshrink Clothes

Why Do Clothes Shrink

There are a few different ways you can unshrink your clothes, however, it is always best to stick to the method that best suits the material you’re working with. For example, denim is unshrunk in a different way to cottons!

Denim (jeans)

Note: Jeans are generally made from denim and another material, like elastane or polyester, and this is why they can shrink. 

What you need to do to unshrink these types of clothes:

Option 1 – The less appealing and more inconvenient method! 

  1. Pop the jeans on as best as you can. 
  2. Fill a bathtub up with lukewarm water. 
  3. Sit in the bath with the jeans on for 15 minutes. 
  4. Get out of the bath and dab yourself down – you don’t want to be saturated in water. 
  5. Walk and move around while wearing the wet jeans for about an hour or so. 
  6. Dry the jeans on the line when you’re done. 

Option 2 – The more appealing method! 

  1. Pop a large towel on a flat surface. 
  2. Lay your jeans out on this towel – be sure to separate the legs from each other. 
  3. Pop some lukewarm water in a spray bottle.
  4. Spray the jeans with this warm water. 
  5. When the jeans are damp, start stretching the material out – you may not have to do all of your jeans, just the parts that need to be stretched.
  6. When you’re done just pop your jeans on the line to air dry.  


Tip: Be very careful when working with synthetics, the fibres can be quite sensitive to changes. 

What you need to do to unshrink these types of clothes:

  1. Fill a bucket with lukewarm water.
  2. Add a tablespoon of baby shampoo (conditioner is another option) to this water. 
  3. Stir the mixture around. 
  4. Pop the item into the water. 
  5. Remove the item after 20 minutes. 
  6. While the item is still saturated in water, stretch it ever so gently. 
  7. When you’ve stretched the item enough, pin the item down on a flat surface (so it holds its shape) and allow it to dry naturally in this state.

Cotton, Silk and Linen

Tip: Conditioner can be used instead of baby shampoo because it also relaxes the fibres in these materials. Shampoo, that’s made for adults, should never be used! 

What you need to do to unshrink these types of clothes:

  1. Fill a bucket with lukewarm water.
  2. Add about a tablespoon of baby shampoo (conditioner can be used instead) to the water. 
  3. Mix the water so that bubbles appear.
  4. Pop your shrunken item into the bucket of water. 
  5. Allow the item to soak like this for about half an hour. 
  6. During this time some people gently knead the item of clothing, but this isn’t always essential because the baby oil/conditioner will relax the fibres. 
  7. On a flat surface lay out a large clean towel. 
  8. Pull the item out of the water.
  9. Do not wring the item. 
  10. Lay the item out flat on the towel you’ve already placed onto a flat surface. 
  11. Slowly roll the item up inside of the towel – this will remove any extra water.
  12. Grab another towel and repeat this process – this will remove any final droplets of water.
  13. Lay out the item on a flat surface and pull it into its original shape – weigh the edges down. 
  14. Leave the item to dry like this. 

tips to prevent clothes from shrinking

Animal fibres (cashmere and wool)

Tip: When trying to unshrink clothes made from these materials, it’s important to remember that you need to reshape the item just as much as you need to unshrink it. 

What you need to do to unshrink these types of clothes:

  1. Fill a bucket with lukewarm water.
  2. Add two tablespoons of white vinegar to the water. 
  3. Pop the clothing into the water. 
  4. Allow it to rest like this for half an hour.
  5. Stretch the clothing now and again during this period. 
  6. Remove the clothing and squeeze out all the excess water – do not wring the material. 
  7. Grab several towels and stuff them all into the item – try and reshape the item so it looks as it should. 
  8. When the item has been left like this for a while and has dried sufficiently, you can remove the towels and hang the item up to air dry naturally.


Tips to Prevent Clothes from Shrinking in the Future

Here are some tips that you should stick to when doing the laundry: