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Properly washing and drying your clothes prevents most, if not all, shrinkage. How much your clothes shrink depends on the fabric and your laundry method. If you accidentally shrink a shirt, there are ways to unshrink it, at least about one size, if you want to wear it again.
Heat is the number one culprit of shrinking clothes. The heat from the dryer (and possibly if you wash your clothes in hot water) can cause your clothing to change size, especially with natural fabrics like cotton and wool.
If you need ways to shrink cotton shirts, heat is your best bet. Otherwise, follow our tips to keep your clothes the right size.
When manufacturers create cotton clothing, they tighten the threads during the weaving process. Heat loosens the threads and relaxes the material, so the garment shrinks in size.
Looser woven fabrics are more likely to shrink, as they’ve been stretched to the limit but have more room to contract when exposed to heat or water. Heavier, tighter weaves like denim and twill are less likely to shrink.
Another reason for shrinkage is the agitation your clothing gets in the washer. Garments get banged around and twisted and pulled, and that can get your clothes out of shape. Agitation causes shrinking with animal-based fabrics like wool and cashmere.
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Clothing made of wool has tiny scales, like roof shingles. When agitated, they hang on each other and draw the fabric up into a bundle, also pulling the fibers closer together and resulting in a shrunken sweater. However, you can unshrink a sweater if you accidentally make it too small or if you buy one that’s a little too tight.
To prevent shrinking from heat or agitation, wash your clothes in cold water or hand wash them and keep them out of the dryer. Air drying, either laid flat or hung, is best.
The best way to prevent your clothing from shrinking is to follow the instructions on the label carefully, keeping in mind what shrinks clothes. Also, keep this in mind when buying clothes.
Purchasing items that are shrink-resistant, preshrunk, or with fabric blends that are less likely to shrink. Clothing that is “preshrunk” means that manufacturers shrunk the fibers or fabric before crafting the garment, so they are less liable to shrink again.
Tips to Avoid Shrinking Clothes
Naturally, the absolute best way to unshrink your clothes is to avoid shrinking them in the first place! Save yourself a lot of time and hassle by following these tips as you care for your clothes.
- Use cold water in your washing machine. This tip can save you money, too!
- If you have the time and patience, hand wash delicate items like a dress shirt or skirt.
- If you can’t handwash, use the “delicates” setting on your washing machine for fragile items like a vintage t-shirt or lingerie.
- For synthetics, use the permanent press setting on your washer and dryer.
- Hang up cotton items to air dry whenever possible.
- If it says dry clean, take it to the dry cleaners! Wool and cashmere especially require special handling.
Stretch Small Shirt to Medium
This task will take a few extra moments of your time as it all has to be done by hand and one section at a time. The first step is to wash the shirt but don’t dry it. While it is still wet, hang it on a sturdy hanger and get ready to pull.
The second step is to start with the bottom of the shirt and choose one of the 3 sides to begin with. Pull that side down gently, then pull on the next side and finally pull on the last side. You can go front side back or back side front. It doesn’t matter. Just make sure to pull gently each time.
To stretch the width, pull on both sides at the same time. Start at the top and work your way down till you reach the bottom. You may have to repeat both processes several times to get the shirt where you want it.
For the sleeves, you want to use a chair. Stretch each sleeve, in the same manner, pulling gently and repeating if necessary. You can do all of these processes several times till you get the shirt where you want it to be.
After all of that, let the shirt dry. When it is dry, it should be one size larger.
Tip 6: You can stretch out rayon and other synthetic-fiber shirts and dresses etc. One method is to use steam and let the hot steam weaken the fibers so that they can be pulled back to their original size. The key is after wetting the rayon do not wring it out. Let the moisture remain.
How to Stretch Out a Hoodie
The easiest way to stretch out a shrunken hoodie is to use the conditioner soak described in this article.
Remember to squeeze water out of the hoodie after the soak. Don’t wring it out, as this could twist the hoodie into an odd shape!
Cotton can suffer more than many other fabrics in the washer and dryer, which means that your cotton hoodies may shrink by a couple of sizes in the laundry.
The good news is that you can apply the conditioner soak to pretty easily expand a hoodie up to 3 inches!
Simply follow the steps for the soaking process, and then lay the hoodie on a bath towel on top of a flat surface.
Spread it out, so it lies smoothly on the towel.
Then take hold of opposite sides of the area you want to stretch out. For example, if the chest area is too tight, hold the armpit area on the left and right sides of the hoodie, and pull firmly!
For best results, use weights to hold the hoodie flat while it dries completely.
Stretch Small Jeans
One of the first processes we wrote about here dealt with making your jeans bigger. But that process did not address lengthening the legs. It is a bit different process and it is as follows:
Start with a spot that is located below or at the knees. This is the easiest place to stretch the length. Spray the part you want to be stretched and get them fairly wet. You do not want drips so do not over soak that spot.
Stand on the dry part of your jeans and pull the wet part away from the floor. Use both hands and you will be pulling straight up basically. Do this roughly 10 times then measure the length.
If you have the length you want, then you are good to go. If not, do the process all over again until you are satisfied. After measuring don’t forget to try the jeans on to make sure they are at the right length.
Tip 8: Baby shampoo and hair conditioner are great lotions to use to unshrink your clothes but if those are too expensive you can try white vinegar and hair creme mixed; baking soda and vinegar mixture; or fabric softener.
How to Avoid Shrinking your Shirts
Method 1: Avoid Heat
Wash your shirts in cold water. As discussed in the introduction, heat will always shrink your cotton shirts.
In short, keep them away from any heat.
That means you should also avoid putting your clothes out in the sun to dry. The heat from the sun can also shrink your shirt.
Method 2: Use the Dry Cleaners
Dry clean shirts made from mohair, wool, and cashmere.
If you attempt to dry them yourself, be careful because the fabrics are sensitive. The professionals at the dry cleaners will know how to protect these types of clothing better.
Method 3: Read the Instructions
Always read and follow the instructions on the shirt tags.
If you stick to what these tags tell you, you can avoid shrinkage and damage to your favorite shirts.
Method 4: Air Dry
Air dry your shirt.
If you’re in a hurry, wear something else. Do not be tempted to put your favorite cotton shirt in the dryer.
Method 5: One Drying Cycle
Shirts made from polyester don’t shrink easily. You can use the dryer on them.
However, there is a limit. Don’t use the dryer over-and-over again. Just one cycle should do the trick.
If the shirt still feels wet, hang it beneath a shade in a room with good airflow. Let it air dry for a few minutes.
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