How to Shrink a Shirt, T-shirt, Sweatshirt, Pants or Shoes


How to shrink your clothes

Your best friend has gifted you a T-shirt featuring your favorite color on your birthday. However, you discover that it is too big for you. 

Well, don’t get disappointed. Every problem has a solution and this problem also has an ample number of solutions. 

In this article, you will learn how to shrink a shirt. Apart from shirts, we will also go through the steps for easy ways to shrink a shirt, t-shirt pants, jeans, shoes, and socks. Moreover, will also see how we can shrink clothes made of different materials.

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Table of Contents
  3. Why do you need to shrink clothes?
  4. How to shrink different clothes
  5. Shrinking clothes of different materials
  6. Precautions to be taken while shrinking your clothes
  7. Frequently Asked Questions about how to shrink a shirt

Why do you need to shrink clothes?

Many of you out there may be thinking as to why should someone shrink their clothes in the first place. The simplest way to avoid the hassle of shrinking your clothes could be to purchase one that is an exact fit for you. However, there could be a few situations wherein you might have to shrink your clothes. 

One could be, of course, as we have stated earlier, a gift gone wrong in terms of size. You love it, but it does not fit you properly. None of us like to wear ill-fitted clothes, do we? 

Another reason could be you have shed all that extra fat and have dropped down a couple of sizes. However, some of the best clothes in your wardrobe have become so loose, that you cannot wear them. Of course, you cannot give them away since they are amongst your favorites. Then, the best thing you can do is to reduce the size of your apparel.

Some fabrics shrink naturally and some don’t. So you may have to follow some steps to make them shrink at home.

How to shrink a shirt?

1. How to shrink a shirt and a cotton T-shirt

Shrinking a cotton shirt and a cotton T-shirt is easier than you thought. The processes followed for shrinking a cotton shirt can be applied to a cotton T-shirt as well. Given below are some simple techniques that you can apply to shrink them so that they look just perfect on you.

The Boiling Water technique

This is a very simple technique that can be used for shrinking cotton apparel. Cotton material shrinks when subjected to water and heat.

It often happens that the cloth needed for producing a shirt is stretched so that the size looks big while minimizing cloth usage. Putting this in hot water enables the material to shrink. Follow the below-mentioned steps carefully to achieve the desired results.

how to shrink your cotton shirt or t-shirt using hot water
Shrink your cotton shirt or t-shirt using hot water

Step 1: Take a big water vessel (big enough for your shirt to fit in) and set it to boil. 

Step 2: Bring the water to a boil. Once it starts boiling, switch off the heat.

Step 3: Dip your shirt in this vessel. This step will depend on how far you want to shrink your shirt, dip it accordingly in the hot water. The higher the temperature, the more will be the shrinkage.

If you want your shirt down by a couple of sizes, dip it immediately into the vessel once you switch off the stove. 

If you want your shirt down by only half a size or a single size, wait for the water temperature to go down a bit before immersing your shirt in it. You can wait for about 5 minutes and then dip your shirt in the water.

If you aim to shrink your shirt just by a quarter or half a size, then wait for roughly 15 minutes before dipping it in water. By this time, the water temperature would have gone down considerably.

Now, the next question that arises in your mind would be, how long should the shirt remain in water? Again, this depends on how much you want to reduce the size of the shirt. The rate of shrinkage is directly proportional to the temperature of the water or the time it is present in hot water. The longer the shirt is exposed to warm or hot water, the more it shrinks. You can immerse the shirt in hot water for roughly about 20 minutes.

Step 4: Take the shirt out of the water. When you are removing the shirt from hot water, be careful such that you don’t burn your hands. Do it slowly and carefully.

Step 5: Squeeze out all the excess water from the shirt and let it dry. If you want your shirt to shrink considerably, then put it into a dryer. Else, you can leave it out under the sunlight.

Step 6: Once the shirt completely dries out, you can try it out. Your shirt will fit you well this time. If you still feel it is a little large for you, you can repeat this procedure all over again.

The Washer and Dryer technique (also known as the Tumbling technique):

If you are assuming that the heat generated within the dryer while drying the shirt causes it to shrink, then you could be wrong. It is the tumbling technique that does the trick here. 

The design of your washing machine also plays a major role here. If your machine is a front-load one, then the clothes inside it move in such a way that they do not shrink much. In a front load type machine, there is less turbulence between clothes. On the other hand, clothes that are washed in top-load type machines tend to shrink more as the turbulence is also high. 

Read on to know how you can shrink your shirt using the washer and dryer method.

how to shrink your shirt in washer or dryer
Shrink your shirt in the washer or dryer

How to shrink a shirt in the washer?

Step 1: Fill your washing machine with hot water.

Step 2: Set the appropriate wash cycle. The wash cycle should be a lengthy one.

Step 3: Wash your shirt in hot water.

How to shrink a shirt in the dryer?

Once the shirt is washed, switch it over to a dryer. Do not use too much heat here. The tumbling action is responsible for reducing the shirt size. The high heat of the dryer tends to affect the quality of the fabric, hence be careful.

Once your shirt dries out completely, try it out. It would be a much better fit than before.

How to shrink a shirt fast?

If you want your shirt to shrink fast, ensure the water you use for washing is quite hot. At the same time, dry it under the highest temperature dryer settings. Your work will be done pretty well.

The above methods will work on shrinking a cotton T-shirt as well. Do try them out and see the difference in sizes before and after.

How to shrink different clothes

You might have various clothes whose sizes require a reduction. Most cotton, polyester mixed fabrics, and woolen garments shrink when they are subjected to washing and drying under intense temperatures. Let us see how we can reduce the size of different kinds of clothes.

1.  How to shrink a T-shirt with prints on it

Most T-shirts have some prints on them. While shrinking a T-shirt, there is a high chance of its print getting damaged owing to the extensive heat applied. This could give it a wrinkled look and spoil the whole T-shirt. So, what can be done? Well, you need to keep a few things in mind.

Step 1: Reverse the T-shirt before you put it for washing. This means the print does not directly come in contact with the water.

Use normal water for washing such T-shirts. It is best to avoid using hot water.

Step 2: After the washing is complete, dry it in a dryer under a high temperature. 

Step 3: Your T-shirt is good to wear now. Its print also remains intact. 

2.  How to shrink a sweatshirt

We have seen the process of shrinking a cotton shirt and a cotton T-shirt. Let us now see how we can reduce the size of a sweatshirt. If you are planning to shrink a cotton sweatshirt, more or less, the methods of shrinking it are quite similar as described above. However, certain sweatshirts might be a little delicate and proper care must be taken to ensure that the apparel is not ruined.

If you are planning on shrinking a rayon or nylon fabric sweatshirt, hot water treatment may not be enough to shrink it. This will work if your sweatshirt is either made of cotton or cotton mixed with polyester.

The hot water method

Washing your sweatshirt in hot water can shrink your sweatshirt to your desired size. If you are lucky, you might not have to do anything post this activity for reducing your apparel size. Just follow these simple steps.

Step 1: Take a clean bucket or use a clean sink to place your sweatshirt.

Step 2: Pour hot water over it or leave it under a tap running hot water.

Step 3: After about 5-10 minutes, remove the sweatshirt from under the water.

Step 4: Leave it out to dry and try it on. See if you are satisfied with the garment size.

Watch out if your sweatshirt is made of wool. Wool shrinks considerably under hot water. So you need to be careful or your garment could become too tight.

The boiling water method

If you feel that you can further reduce your sweatshirt size, then try to increase the water temperature this time. You can use boiling water.

how to shrink your sweatshirt using boiling water
Shrink your sweatshirt using boiling water

Step 1: Take a big pan of water and set it to boil.

Step 2: Once the water starts boiling, switch off the heat and immerse your sweatshirt. You may even choose to pour this boiled water on your garment.

Depending on how much you want to shrink your garment, let it remain accordingly in hot water. The more you want to shrink, the more time it should be in hot water.

Avoid using extremely high temperatures for polyester fabric since the maximum permissible temperature for such materials is 178 F.

Step 3: Dry your sweatshirt and see the difference.

The Washer/Dryer technique

how to shrink your sweatshirt in the washer or dryer
Shrink your sweatshirt in the washer or dryer

This method is a continuation of the technique explained above.

Step 1: Instead of drying your shirt as explained in step 5 above, you can directly put it in the machine.

Step 2: Choose the hot water setting.

You can even add some of your other garments that need to be shrunk along with the sweatshirt.

Step 3: Set an appropriate wash cycle time depending on how much you wish to shrink the garments. The more you wish to shrink your apparel, the longer should be the duration of the wash cycle. 

Step 4: Add the required quantity of detergent and start the wash cycle.

Step 5: Once the washing is complete, set it out to dry. You can either air dry it or choose to dry it in a dryer under a high temperature.

Be careful with this step since too much heat can either damage the clothing material or shrink it way too much. You can skip the dryer step if you feel your sweatshirt has shrunk up to the desired size and choose to air dry it instead.

Step 6: You will look smart and dashing in your sweatshirt now!

The ironing technique

Ironing also helps in shrinking your sweatshirt. This is a simple technique, however, you need to take care while ironing since the fabric could be delicate in certain cases. Let us see how we can shrink a sweatshirt by ironing it.

how to shrink your sweatshirt by ironing
Shrink your sweatshirt by ironing

Step 1: Sprinkle a decent quantity of warm water on your sweatshirt. Your garment should be wet.

Step 2: Squeeze out the extra water if required. Take care to ensure that water does not drip from the garment, this could damage your iron.

Step 3: Move your iron over it.

Step 4: Set the heat on your iron box according to the garment fabric. If it is a cotton sweatshirt, the heat can be a little high, however, set it as suggested on the ironing appliance.

If you are ironing a polyester or polyester mixed apparel, ensure you have a cotton garment spread out on top of your sweatshirt. A towel or a cotton T-shirt can serve this purpose. 

Avoid ironing on a single spot for a long time, this can damage it. Also, apply the required amount of pressure. Do not press your iron too hard against the cloth. 

Just like very high heat can burn your garment, using a very low heat might not serve your purpose of shrinking it. Hence, use the required amount of heat.

Step 5: Continue ironing till your sweatshirt almost dries up. When you iron any wet apparel, steam is produced. This is responsible for shrinking your garment.

Step 6: Once most of your sweatshirt is dry, you can stop ironing and try it on. If there is any more wetness, use a dryer or hang it under the sunlight.

The ironing technique can reduce your sweatshirt by a single size.

3. How to shrink a pant

You have lost a few inches on your waist. Do you feel your pants are not fitting you correctly and you have to keep pulling them up? All of us may not like to wear those belts as they could be uncomfortable at times. Then the best thing to do is to shrink your pants down by a size or two so that you are comfortable wearing them. 

The techniques applied for shrinking pants are very much similar to the ones we saw for shrinking your shirts and sweatshirts. These techniques will work if your pants are made of cotton, wool, denim, or cotton jeans. They will also work on fabrics partly containing polyester and nylon. However, you will not be able to apply these methods on 100% nylon or spandex clothing.

Let us see a few methods by which you can shrink your pants.

The Boiling Water Technique

This is similar to the technique explained above for shrinking a shirt and a sweatshirt. Take a big vessel such that your pants accommodate comfortably within it. Else, the best thing to do here is to use a basin.

Step 1: Ensure your basin is clean before immersing your pant in it. 

Note – You can choose to dip more than one pant, however, take care to see that none of them leaks out any color. Hot water can cause garments to shed their colors. When using more than a pair of pants, it is better if they are more or less of a similar color. Using one dark-colored pant along with a light-colored one could hamper the latter.

If using a basin or a tub, ensure its drain is locked with a plug, else all the hot water will go down the drain.

Step 2: Fill out hot water in the tub or the sink. If using a container to immerse your pants, ensure that you have sufficient boiled water. This will cover your pants completely.

Step 3: Immerse the pants in hot water for a while till the water temperature comes down. This could take about half an hour. Even if it takes about 45 minutes, there will not be any issue.

Step 4: Remove your pants from the sink and transfer them into a dryer under the highest possible temperature setting. You can choose to run two dryer cycles if required.

Step 5: Once your pants dry out completely, try them on. It should fit you properly now.

The Washer/Dryer method

Cotton and denim apparels tend to shrink considerably when subjected to extensive heat and the tension arising within a washing machine. You can shrink your pants with the help of your washing machine. The wash cycles for denim pants will more or less be lengthy even otherwise, considering the fabric quality. The hot water used within the machine aids in the shrinking process. 

Step 1: Fill in hot water in your washer tub.

Step 2: Put your pants into the machine. You can opt to add multiple sets of pants as mentioned above.

Step 3: Add about 1 – 2 spoons of ammonia if you are wary about your garments leaking out their colors. This is optional and you can choose to avoid this step.

You can choose to add in a little soap powder. Again you can skip this step if not required.

Step 4: Once the washing is done, dry it out in a dryer under the highest heat setting. However, avoid applying intense heat on pants containing synthetic fibers.

The tension stimulated during washing and drying aggravates the shrinking process.

Step 5: Try out your pants when they dry 100%. You will no longer require those belts now.

Getting into a bathtub wearing your pants

This method seems absurd, however, it does work on trimming down your pants size. You can walk into a hot bathtub with your pants on and stay put in there for about 20 minutes. You will enjoy this technique, especially during harsh winters. Just follow the below-mentioned steps.

Step 1: Fill your bathtub with hot water. However, ensure that you can tolerate the water temperature, else, you could harm yourself. You can test the water temperature by dipping your finger into it.

Step 2: Get into the bathtub with your pants on. Stay in there for a while. This could take to about 20 minutes to half an hour.

If you are uncomfortable in the water, you can step out for a while and get in again.

Step 3: The pants are quite likely to fit you well if you decide to dry them out by wearing them on. However, this could be too tedious, hence use a dryer. 

Step 4: Once dried, check how they look on you and repeat the process if needed.

4. How to shrink your shoes

What if you fail to find a shoe of your actual foot size? Having a bigger-sized or a smaller-sized shoe can make you uncomfortable. Well, it is better to go for a bigger-sized shoe and shrink it, rather than settling down for a smaller-sized one. Yes, you read that right. It is possible to shrink shoes. Read on to know more.

how to shrink your shoes
Shrink your shoes

The easiest way to shrink your shoes could be by cushioning them. That way, they are likely to fit you better. Shoe sizes can also be reduced by wetting the area that needs a reduction and then using a blow dryer to dry them out. Let us have a look at each technique individually. The methods for shoe reduction depend on the material. Let us have a look at each of these.

Shrinking canvas, leather, and suede shoes

These types of shoes shrink in size when subjected to heat. You need to moisten those areas on the shoe that need shrinking. Follow these steps carefully to achieve desired results.

Shrinking canvas, leather, and suede shoes
Shrink canvas, leather, and suede shoes

Step 1: Put on your shoes and check which areas need a reduction.

Step 2: Moisten these particular areas with water. Take care to see that the shoe is not damp beyond limits.

Ensure that you don’t wet the insides of the shoe. This could give out a foul odor later, especially from leather shoes.

Leather shoes tend to be oversized around the toe cap area. Hence focus on wetting only that portion. In case they are loose around the heels, you can cushion them up.

Step 3: Now, with the help of a blow dryer, blow the wet areas dry. The dryer should be at least 15 cm away from the shoe. Use moderate heat to dry the shoe. 

Touch and feel the shoe. If it is still a little wet, continue the blow drying process or leave it under the sunlight.

Take care to not use too much heat while drying. Canvas fabric tends to lose its original color when subjected to excessive heat. Your shoe could lose its overall look.

Likewise, leather shoes tend to develop cracks when dried extensively. In such situations, it is best to dry shoes naturally.

Step 4: Apply leather conditioners to prevent cracks from showing up.

Drying could take a day or two in certain cases, but the outcome is always better.

For certain leather shoes, it is better to use internal padding so that they fit you better. Always check these facts from the shoe manufacturer before performing any action on them.

Step 5: Once the shoes dry out completely, try them on. You should be able to walk comfortably with them.

Ways to fit perfectly in formal shoes, boots, and sneakers

The blow dryer method cannot be used effectively on formal shoes, boots, and sneakers. Hence, you can adjust the size of these shoes using the following methods.

Ways to fit perfectly in formal shoes, boots, and sneakers
Ways to fit perfectly in formal shoes, boots, and sneakers

  1. Use a thick pair of socks: Sometimes, a thick pair of socks is what you need to solve this issue. You can make use of crew socks or hiking socks, which fill up the extra space between your shoes and feet. Or if you do not have any thick varieties of socks, you can put on 2 sets of thinner socks on each of your feet. However, before you resort to this method, keep a few things in mind:
  • Thick socks won’t look good on heels. This method is for those shoes which cover most of your feet.
  • See if you are comfortable wearing shoes with these types of socks. This may be difficult in hot weather conditions as thick socks along with shoes can irritate your skin. In such cases, you can check out other methods which are comforting.
  1. Using heel cushions: You can also try using heel cushions. They not only provide a soothing feeling for your heels but also improve the fitting of your shoe. These cushions measure about 0.42cm in thickness, hence, they are hardly visible between your heels and shoes when you put them on. Heel cushions are easily available in most shoe stores.
  1. Using foot and toe cushions: Foot and toe cushions also help in giving you that perfect fit for your shoes. Foot cushions improve your grip between your soles and shoes. 

On the other hand, toe cushions are ideal for those shoes which are pointed towards the front, thereby filling out a little extra space between your toes and shoes. This will prevent your toes from slipping while you walk. You can find foot and toe cushions in most supermarkets.

Shrinking clothes of different materials

In the earlier section, we learned the steps to shrink various kinds of clothes, be it a shirt, T-shirt, sweatshirt, or pants. 

We have also seen how to make your shoes fit you perfectly. So, let us summarize how what techniques can be employed to shrink clothes of various materials.

  • Cotton, woolen, and denim materials shrink when subjected to intense heat. They have to be soaked or washed in boiling water, followed by a high-temperature drying treatment. In certain cases, you can even choose to dry in under the sunlight instead of using a dryer. You can even iron your clothes if you are unhappy with the fit. Repeat the procedures if required.
  • Denim is of thick quality. Hence extensive heat needs to be applied to them for best results. The remaining methods remain the same.
  • Wool shrinks rapidly under heat. Hence, take care when applying heat to sweaters, woolen socks, etc. It shouldn’t happen that you are unable to wear them later on, since they have become too tight for you!
  • For fabrics involving polyester and spandex, you can subject them to a similar heat treatment as you do for cotton garments. However, keep in mind that the rate at which artificial fibers shrink is quite less compared to natural fibers. You can expect a 5% to 25% reduction in size for polyester spandex mixed fabrics.
  • If you are planning on shrinking a nylon garment, you could have a little bit of tough luck here. Nylon does shrink with heat, but not as easily as natural fibers. If nylon is blended with cotton, you can expect some shrinkage. However, pure nylon fabrics need high heat to shrink. The best you can do is to get them altered by a tailor.
  • For shrinking corduroy garments, you can use any of the below-mentioned techniques. 
    • Corduroy is quite delicate, hence sometimes, simply soaking it in hot water and drying it out should do the work for you. You can even skip using the dryer here.
    • Ironing a damp corduroy also helps. Just wash your corduroy garment in a washing machine. Use a gentle cycle preferably. You can set it out to dry. When most of the water has evaporated and it is a little wet to the touch, iron it until completely dry.
    • If your corduroy is too large for you and a lot of size reduction is required, wash it with hot water and dry it under a high heat setting. It should be fine now.
  • Velvet fabrics can also shrink when put into hot water or subjected to drying under high heat. However, not all velvet fabrics are suitable for washing and drying. 

    Some velvet garments strictly require only dry-cleaning. While some can be washed, it is generally not advisable to put velvet garments into the dryer. Hence, the best thing you can do here is to get your velvet clothes altered by a tailor.

Precautions to be taken while shrinking your clothes

We now know how shrinking a shirt, t-shirt, pants, and sweaters work. We also know that different fabrics tend to behave differently when heat is applied to them. 

Most fabrics require heat to shrink. You mustn’t end up spoiling that lovely gift of yours or ruining your favorite T-shirt in the process of shrinking it. 

Hence keep a few important things in mind before trying to shrink your garment.

  • Check the label of your garments before you attempt to shrink them. Some of them are pre-shrunk and some garments cannot sustain too much heat.

    Some fabrics start wearing off when washed multiple times in the washer and dryer. Hence the best thing to do would be to physically alter the size of these clothes.
  • Apply the correct amount of heat and pressure when ironing. If the heat is high, your garment will get burnt. Also, do not directly iron on the T-shirt print as it could get damaged. Always put a cotton cloth over it before ironing. Follow similar precautions for other delicate fabrics.
  • Do not be too harsh on your apparel. After all, it’s a gift from a loved one or it could be your favorite piece. So take care!

Caring for your garment

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you shrink shirts down a size?

Yes. You can shrink your shirts up to size or even two sizes down. Heat is an essential factor when it comes to the shrinking of shirts.

How do you shrink a shirt without ruining it?

You need to take precautions and ensure that you do not apply too much heat as it tends to spoil the fabric. Make sure you follow all instructions on the garment label before proceeding.

Can you shrink a shirt in the dryer?

Yes. Putting a shirt in the dryer with high heat settings can cause it to shrink.

Does polyester shrink?

Polyester when blended with other fabrics like cotton tends to shrink faster. However, shrinking any apparel made of 100% polyester could be a little difficult and time-consuming. You might have to repeat heat treatments time and again.

Does rayon shrink?

Rayon is a mix of natural and artificial fibers. Hence it tends to shrink when it is put in hot water, washer or dryer. Rayon garments can get damaged when put in a washer and dryer, hence it is advisable to refrain from shrinking rayon fabrics using washer/dryer techniques.

How do I shrink XL to L?

You can shrink from XL to L by immersing the garment in hot water for about 15-20 minutes and then drying it. You can also wash it in the washer under a high heat setting and dry it in the dryer at a high temperature.

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