Learn how to shrink a shirt, pants or other pieces for a fashionable look

Most people do whatever they can to avoid shrinking their clothes. Still, there are some times when the technique can come in handy. Whether you’re hoping to achieve a more fashionable look, shrink fabric for a craft project or experiment with some old garments, learning how to shrink your clothes is a fairly simple process.

1) Find out the fabric type

When it comes to shrinking, not all fabric is created equal. If you want to shrink some new clothes, check the label to find out what it’s made of before you buy it. Some fabrics, like rayon, cotton or linen, shrink more readily than synthetics like nylon or polyester.

Generally speaking, natural fibers like cotton, wool or silk shrink more readily than their man-made counterparts. It’s not just the material your clothes are made of, but also how they were manufactured.

Before you start shrinking, make sure that the label doesn’t say “pre-shrunk” or something similar. Avoiding such fabrics saves time, money and frustration.

Models shown: WTW7500GC & WED7500GC

A person getting clothes out of a dryer.

2) Choose the right technique to shrink

If you would like to know how to shrink a shirt, you may be surprised to find that there are multiple techniques for achieving the same task. That’s because different fabrics shrink under different conditions – sometimes with disastrous results.

For example, while a cotton t-shirt may shrink moderately in the washing machine, a wool sweater may become too small to wear or turn into a solid piece of felted fabric! Before you shrink your clothes, make sure that you’re using the proper technique to ensure the results you want.

3) Turn up the heat

Is there a universal rule for how to shrink your clothes? In a way, yes. Though every type of fabric behaves differently, heat will shrink most, if not all, fabric types. For example, both cotton shirts and denim jeans will shrink more in a warm or hot wash, followed by a high heat drying cycle.

Steam heat will effectively shrink wool clothes, and some fabrics will even shrink when soaked for long periods in warm water. Agitation can also help, but keep in mind that this may not be suitable for all fabrics.

Before you try a shrinking technique, double check to ensure that it won’t cause your material to fade, felt or become damaged.

4) Go Slow

While you may be eager to shrink your clothes, it’s important to remember that shrinking is rarely an instantaneous process – and you may not want it to be!

Clothing and fabrics can easily shrink too much if you’re not careful, so be sure to take your time and monitor your piece to make sure it’s shrinking slowly and evenly. If you’re using your washer and dryer to shrink clothes, be sure to check on your garment periodically. This is especially true when using a high heat dryer cycle. As a general rule, you should remove your garment every five minutes or so to make sure that everything is on track.

Once you shrink your clothes to the size you want, remove them from the heat and hang them up to air dry. If the item is dripping wet, lay it on a towel, roll it up, then gently press – but don’t wring or squeeze – the piece to eliminate excess moisture. After that, hang the item up in a cool place away from sunlight to prevent further shrinkage from occurring.

Models shown: WTW7500GC & WED7500GC

Clothes tumbling in a dryer drum during a dry cycle.

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