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Honey I unshrunk your shirt: Hacks for stretching your clothes back to size

Everybody’s been there; you collect your laundry from the dryer only to find that your favorite shirt is now doll-sized. Not all hope is lost, so don’t start online shopping for a replacement just yet. There are ways you can unshrink your favorite pieces!

When clothes get smaller in the dryer, the heat has caused the fabric’s weave to tighten. To unshrink your clothes, you are doing the opposite, stretching out the fabric until it is back to its original shape and size. The method you should try depends on the material of the garment. Here’s how you can unshrink clothes made of the most common materials.

Woman doing laundry
Image used with permission by copyright holder


Cotton is one of the biggest culprits of dryer shrinkage. But thankfully, it’s also the easiest material to work back into shape. Begin by filling your sink or a bucket with lukewarm/room temperature water. Then, add two tablespoons of baby shampoo or hair conditioner and mix it around. Place your garment in the water and let it soak for half an hour. Soaking loosens the cotton fibers. Drain the sink and gently squeeze the garment to remove any excess water. Don’t rinse the piece or wring it dry.

Lay out a towel and place the clothing flat on it. Roll up the towel with the garment inside and squeeze gently to get rid of any leftover water. The piece should still be damp but no longer wet. Unroll the towel and lay your garment flat on a different dry towel. As you position the piece, firmly stretch it back into its original shape and size. To keep it in place while it dries, you can use a heavy object, like a book, or safety pins to hold the garment in place. Let it air dry. Your clothing should be ready to wear, but if it feels stiff or soapy, feel free to throw it back in the wash. Just make sure to follow the instructions this time!

Denim clothes hanging on a clothesline
Image used with permission by copyright holder


Denim typically doesn’t shrink. However, some blends can get small when washed the wrong way. To unshrink your jeans, you can use the same method you would use with cotton. Or you can try this unique technique. If you can still get the jeans on, start by filling your bathtub with warm water. Put on the denim and fasten the button, if possible. Sit in the bathtub for about 15 minutes or until the pants are completely soaked.

Squeeze the excess water out of the garment. Put the damp pants back on and wear them around your home for about an hour, walking, lunging, and stretching them out. Then, hang the garment up to dry. If you can’t put the denim on or you don’t want to sit in the bathtub, soak the piece in a sink filled with warm water. Squeeze out the water and put the clothing on while it’s damp. From there, you can follow the remainder of the steps.

Blue basket full of laundry
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Synthetic fabric

Pieces made with synthetic fibers like polyester, rayon, and spandex can also shrink in the wash. To get these pieces back to their original fit, you can use the same technique that you would use for cotton. Synthetic materials, especially rayon and polyester, are very delicate and can react badly to heat from the dryer. This is the reason why tags often warn against using it. Additionally, you may find the material to be a little too stiff to stretch out, even after letting it soak in warm water and baby shampoo. In this case, you can use a steamer or the steam from your iron to soften the fibers further. And remember to keep your clothing out of the dryer after future washes.

Wool, cashmere, and other animal fibers

When clothes made animal fibers shrink, you can unshrink them using the cotton method with a few significant adjustments. Fill your sink or a bucket with warm water. Instead of adding baby shampoo, though, pour in vinegar or Borax. Add one to two tablespoons per quart of water. Soak the clothing in the water and work the vinegar or Borax into the fabric. Try to stretch the garment while it’s soaking. After about half an hour, remove the garment from the water and squeeze out as much water as you can. But, instead of laying the piece out to dry on a towel, use towels to stuff inside the garment until it’s roughly the shape it’s meant to be. Try to make the form as smooth as you can. With the towels inside, stretch the clothing as much as possible, then hang it up to dry. You can also lay it out on a towel and pull it by hand (similar to the method for cotton), though it may not stretch as much.

Unshrinking your clothes is simple with the methods above, no matter what material they are made of. With a little bit of effort and patience, your garments will be as good as new and ready to wear again in no time. But, the simplest way to deal with shrunken clothing is to follow the care instructions in the first place. Read the tags of your garments and do as they instruct. That way, you won’t need to unshrink your clothes — or go through the trouble of sitting in a full bathtub with your jeans on — at all.

BlissMark provides information regarding health, wellness, and beauty. The information within this article is not intended to be medical advice. Before starting any diet or exercise routine, consult your physician. If you don’t have a primary care physician, the United States Health & Human Services department has a free online tool that can help you locate a clinic in your area. We are not medical professionals, have not verified or vetted any programs, and in no way intend our content to be anything more than informative and inspiring.

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Shannon Cooper
Freelance writer
Shannon Cooper has written about everything from pet care and travel to finance and plumbing in her seven years as a writer…
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