A Comprehensive Guide On How To Shrink Clothes Safely

By Laura Parker, Expert Blog Writer at Handy
July 13, 2023

Smiling girl bying clothes in showroom picture id974746544

If you’ve ever waited for a piece of clothing you love to go on sale before buying it, you’re well aware of the heartbreak of finally seeing the deal but not seeing your size. If it’s too small, there isn’t much you can do, but is it possible to shrink clothing if the size is too big?


Luckily, there are some tips and tricks you can use. Let’s figure out how to shrink your clothes when the situation needs it and answer a few questions you may have.


How To Shrink Clothes

The first thing you have to do before trying to shrink a piece of clothing is to look at the material. Things like leather and fur won’t shrink at all, but you may end up ruining the piece altogether. Fabrics like cotton or wool have the potential to shrink a lot, and synthetic blends like polyester have less potential to shrink.


If the garment has good potential, you’re ready to begin the shrinking process. Here’s how to shrink clothes safely and effectively every time.



100% cotton is simple to shrink:

1. Wash the garment in hot water
2. Put in the dryer on high heat
3. Check periodically throughout the drying cycle to make sure you don’t over-shrink the garment
4. When it’s the right size, change the dryer setting to low heat or air and dry the rest of the way gently.


Polyester and Synthetic Blends

Synthetic materials, including those blended with natural fibers, are made to hold their shape.

They require a slightly different approach:

1. Wash the garment with cold water (hot water may damage the seaming)
2. Place in the dryer on high heat.
3. Check periodically for the right size.
4. Change the dryer settings to low when the garment is your desired size.


How To Shrink A Sweater

You already know that shrinking a sweater is a common process, but this may be the first time you’ve tried it on purpose.

Here’s how to shrink a sweater without accidentally going overboard or ruining the fiber:

1. Check the material. Fabrics like cashmere or mohair will ruin during the shrinking process.
2. If your fabric is wool or a wool and cotton blend, wash it with hot water.
3. Place it in the dryer on medium heat. High heat can damage the fibers and change the look of the sweater.
4. When the sweater is the right size, change the dryer settings to something more gentle or place it out to air dry the rest of the way.


Frequently Asked Questions

Sometimes, even your best efforts don’t quite get the results you’re looking for. Let’s take a look at some questions you may have about the process.


Does Cold Water Shrink Clothes?

We know that you hesitate to damage the delicate fibers of your garment, but typically heat is what causes fabrics to shrink. Some materials may begin the process in cold water, such as synthetic fabrics, but it’s going to take heat from the dryer to complete the process.


If you’re worried about damaging the fabric during the shrinking process, it’s best to hold off altogether instead of trying cold water. The good news is that most garments will still look good on you if they’re a little big when you style them just right. THere’s still hope for that sale sweater!

My Garment Didn’t Shrink At All. What Do I Do Now?

Some garments are preshrunk. This feature is convenient when you aren’t trying to shrink your clothes because it protects you from accidentally ruining them, but it can be a pain if you’re trying to adjust the size. Also, older garments are more likely to have already gone through a shrinking process and are less likely to shrink the first time you try.


If you’ve followed one of the processes above and your garment is still the same size, here’s what to do:

1. Boil some water.
2. Carefully pour the water over the garment and let it soak. Be sure the water covers everything.
3. Use protection and transfer the garment to the wash, being careful not to burn yourself.
4. Run it through a wash cycle on hot water with a small bit of detergent.
5. Dry garment on high heat, checking the size as you go.


You may have to repeat this process a few times to get your desired size, but most materials will respond to this method even if it’s slow going.


Always check the garments throughout the cycle to make sure you don’t over shrink it. The good news is that your dream sweater may finally be in reach even if it’s just a bit too big! Happy shrinking!

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