How To Shrink Clothes

How To Shrink Clothes

For the most part, people try to avoid their clothes from shrinking, but what if you want to shrink them? It’s not uncommon for people to make clothes smaller on purpose, and it’s easier than you think. Depending on the fabric and method, you can shrink a piece of clothing down one or two sizes!

Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about shrinking your clothes at home.

Why Shrink Your Clothes?

You may decide to shrink your clothes for a few reasons. Maybe you’ve recently lost weight and have some cotton dresses you want to keep, or you bought a women’s sweater that was a size too big. Whatever the reason, making your clothes a little smaller is a quick and simple process, but there are some things you should know before starting.

Here are some essential tips for downsizing your clothing.

The Fabric Determines the Method

Not all fabrics are the same, and each one requires different care. The same goes for how you shrink them. The type of material determines the method you use to change the size. Durable fabrics like denim and women’s cotton shirts can withstand higher temperatures and shrink easier. They’re also more resilient, so you don’t have to worry about as much damage.

However, you should be more careful if you want to shrink materials like wool or cashmere. It is possible to downsize these fabrics, but they’re more susceptible to damage. Shrinking fabric like this can also affect its quality, losing some of its softness and durability.

Another important note is that some fabrics won’t shrink. Synthetics like polyester, nylon, acrylic, and acetate are resistant to shrinkage. So instead of trying to resize something like yoga pants and workout shirts, it’s probably best to just get something new.

Be Careful Not To Damage the Clothing

When you shrink clothes, you risk damaging them. Even the most durable fabric can get holes, loose threads, and tears. Take things slowly and use the shrinking method for the specific fabric. You may also need to go through the process twice or three times before getting the desired results.

Be Sure You Want To Shrink Your Clothes

Shrinking clothing isn’t reversible, so you have to be 100 percent certain about your decision. For example, weigh the pros and cons if you’re considering shrinking your favorite cashmere cardigan because it’s gotten a little oversized. Cashmere items can be pricey since it’s a rare fiber known for its incredible softness. You wouldn’t want to diminish its quality or shrink it too much, and you can possibly enjoy it as an oversized look instead.

Of course, items like cashmere tops and women's sweaters can shrink. Just be sure to commit to the process once you start because it’s not something you can change.

Check if Clothes Are Pre-washed or Pre-Shrunk

Clothing makers often stretch and pull materials during production, leaving them slightly oversized. This is why some new clothes are a little baggy, even if you got the right size. However, they may also pre-wash or pre-shrink clothing before making them available for purchase.

Always check the clothing label or tag to see if an item has been pre-washed or pre-shrunk. If this is the case, your clothes will likely not shrink further.

How To Shrink Your Clothes

Since how you shrink clothing depends on the material, we’ve broken it down based on fabric so you can get the best results.

Cotton, Denim, and Durable Fabrics

Heat is the best way to shrink clothing, and durable fabrics can withstand very high temperatures. If you want to downsize a pair of women's jeans or cotton clothing, use the hottest setting on your washing machine. Once your items have run through the washing cycle, put them on your dryer’s high-heat setting too. The heat from the washer and dryer will relax the fabric and shorten the threads, leading to shrunken clothes.

Wool and Cashmere Clothing

Wool and cashmere aren’t as strong as cotton or denim, but you’ll still need heat to shrink them. The heat affects this materially similarly to durable fabrics. When exposed to heat and turbulence from the washing machine, the fibers interlock, becoming matted.

For cashmere sweaters or similar items, use warm water instead of the hottest setting, but hand washing is probably the best option. Using the delicate mode on your washing machine might be okay, but these materials get damaged easily and shrink quickly. If you have the time, wash the clothing in a bucket with warm water.

Be sure to take care while drying too. Place it in the dryer for delicates on low heat to complete the process, and don’t leave it too long. If you’re concerned about too much shrinkage or possible damage, dry it with a blow dryer instead.


Silk is another fabric that will shrink after interacting with heat, but how much it shrinks depends on the type of silk. Tightly woven silk won’t shrink as much as loosely woven fabric. Silk is a delicate fabric, and machine washing can damage it, even in the gentlest setting. To be safe, allow it to soak for a few hours in warm water—never hot—stirring regularly

If you dry it on the delicate cycle with low heat, you’ll reduce the risk of damage, but unless you’re short on time, this isn’t the best option. If the clothing has shrunk enough from washing, air dry it. This method will help maintain the integrity of the fabric. If you do decide to use the dryer, be sure to check on it every few minutes. Silk can shrink fast quickly, so take it out once it’s your ideal size.

Don’t let sizes stop you from wearing your favorite clothing. By shrinking certain items, you can extend their longevity and get your desired fit quickly and easily.


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