This article was co-authored by Kamel Almani. Kamel Almani is a Laundry and Cleaning Specialist and the Co-Owner of WashyWash, a toxin-free and eco-friendly laundry and dry clean service based in Amman, Jordan. Kamel and his staff at WashyWash use Blue Angel certified and dermatologically-tested detergents. They also combine EcoClean and digital technology to provide an eco-friendly, convenient, and quality cleaning service. Kamel holds a BA in Design from the University of Applied Science, Amman.
There are 10 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.
This article has been viewed 1,769,284 times.
When you toss your favorite sweater or pair of jeans into the dryer, it could come out a size smaller than what it should be. It happens to everyone, and, technically, you can never “unshrink” clothes. Fortunately, you can relax the fibers to stretch them back into their original shape. For most fabric, this is easy to do with water and baby shampoo. Borax or vinegar can also help stretch out wool or cashmere. If you’re trying to save a pair of jeans, you may also succeed by immersing them in warm water. After washing and drying the clothing, put it on to enjoy that firm fit again.
Method 1Method 1 of 3:Soaking Knitted Fabrics in Baby Shampoo
- 1Fill a sink with lukewarm water. If your sink isn’t available, use a bucket or even a bathtub instead. Add at least 1⁄4 US gal (950 mL) of lukewarm water, enough to submerge the garment. Make sure the water is at room temperature or a little warmer than that so it effectively relaxes the fibers in the fabric.XResearch source
- Cold water won’t help you stretch out clothing. On the other hand, hot water shrinks and damages clothing, so avoid using it here.
- Note that knitted clothes, including cotton, wool, and cashmere garments, respond to this tactic better than other types of fabric. Fabrics with tight weaves, such as silk, rayon, or polyester, will be more difficult to reshape.
- 2Mix 1 US tbsp (15 mL) of baby shampoo or conditioner into the water. You can use any gentle hair conditioner, but baby shampoo is the softest on clothing. Add about 1 US tbsp (15 mL) of the shampoo for every 1⁄4 US gal (950 mL) of water you’re using. Mixing in a little extra is safe and even helpful if your garment shrunk a lot.XResearch source
- Soft shampoos and conditioners relax the fibers in the clothes without damaging them. It’s important to use something gentle. If you wouldn’t use the product on your hair, don’t risk it on a piece of clothing you like.
- 3Soak the clothing in the water for up to 30 minutes. If you’re using conditioner, the water won’t be soapy. No matter what you mixed into the water, immerse the shrunken garment in it. Make sure it’s completely covered before you leave it to soak. The water has to be somewhat warm at this point for the shampoo or conditioner to be effective, so empty and refill the sink if you need to.XResearch source
- If you want to, you can begin gently stretching the garment underwater as it soaks. However, the fabric will become easier to stretch out over time, so you don’t need to do it now.
- 4Squeeze the garment to wring out excess water. Roll your clothing up into a ball. Don’t rinse off the shampoo yet. Instead, put pressure on it to force out as much of the moisture as you can.XResearch source
- The soapy water needs to continue to relax the fibers until you finish stretching out the garment. Wait until you’re done reshaping it before washing off the shampoo.
- 5Roll the garment up inside a large towels. Lay a clean, dry towel out flat and place the garment on top of it. Make sure it fits on the towel. Then, gradually roll the towel up from one end. The pressure will squeeze out the rest of the excess moisture.XResearch source
- The clothing will be damp but not dripping wet when you’re done.
- You can leave the clothing inside the towel for up to 10 minutes. Don’t leave it too long or else the fabric’s fibers will cool down and become more difficult to stretch out!
- 6Stretch the clothing out by hand to reshape it. Unroll the towel, then move the garment to a second dry towel spread out over a flat surface. Use your hands to tug on the edges of the damp clothing. Be gentle to avoid damaging the fabric’s fibers. It may not be exactly the same as it was before it shrunk, but try to get the clothing as close as possible to its original shape.XResearch source
- For a more accurate way to gauge the size and shape your garment needs to be, create a cutout. Find a similarly-sized garment and use it to trace an outline on parchment paper. Then, place the garment over the outline while you’re stretching it.
- If you’re having a hard time stretching the clothing, use the steam setting on an iron. The steam softens stiff fabric.
- 7Pin the clothing in place with books and other heavy objects. Keep the garment on the towel. Work on parts of the garment one at a time so you’re able to pin them in place as you reshape them. If you don’t have heavy books, try using paperweights, coffee mugs, or anything else you have available. Eventually, your garment will be covered in these weights so the fabric can’t move at all.XResearch source
- If you do not have any heavy objects nearby, hold the garment in place with clothespins.
- You can leave the clothing this way until it dries. If your garment is in bad shape, consider checking back every 30 minutes and stretching it out again.
- 8Wash and dry the clothing again if it is needed. If you need the clothing to dry faster, hang it up to air dry. Drape it over a curtain rod, put it on a clothes hanger, or put it in another exposed area away from direct heat and sunlight. You don’t need to rinse out the shampoo, but you can hand wash your garment like you normally would if you notice that its texture feels strange.
- Be aware of what happens when you hang up clothing to dry. Gravity pulls it down a little bit, especially if it is still wet. This could help stretch it out.
- If your clothing isn’t stretched out enough, repeat the treatment. You may need to do it several times if your garment shrunk a lot.
Method 2Method 2 of 3:Using Borax or Vinegar on Wool and Cashmere
- 1Fill a sink with lukewarm water. Pour in at least 1⁄4 US gal (950 mL) of lukewarm water. Make sure you have enough water to submerge the clothing. The water also has to be close to room temperature in order to stretch out the fabric’s fibers without damaging them.XResearch source
- Borax and vinegar are recommended for animal-based fabrics like wool and cashmere. Plant-based fabrics like cotton may also respond to this treatment, but don’t try it on synthetics or tightly-knit natural materials.
- 2Mix in at least 1 US tbsp (15 mL) of Borax or vinegar. Use as much as 2 US tbsp (30 mL) of either one if your garment is badly shrunken. Alternatively, mix in 1 part white wine vinegar for every 2 parts water you use. Both products effectively relax fabric fibers, making them easier to manipulate and stretch back out.XResearch source
- Borax and vinegar are relatively strong cleaners, so always dilute them in water. If you apply them directly to clothing, you could end up damaging the fabric.
- White wine vinegar is preferable to distilled vinegar since it is clearer and gentler, but either one will work.
- 3Soak the shrunken clothing in the solution for up to 30 minutes. Submerge it in the Borax or vinegar mixture. Wait for it to soften so it is easier to stretch. You can begin stretching the fabric out while it is soaking, but keep the clothing underwater.XResearch source
- Consider stretching out the fabric by hand after allowing it to soak for 25 to 30 minutes. Then, let it soak for an extra 5 minutes.
- 4Squeeze as much water out of the garment as possible. Be gentle with your clothing to avoid damaging it. Roll it into a ball and squeeze it gently to push out the extra moisture. This will leave the garment damp but not sopping wet.XResearch source
- Don’t rinse the garment yet, since that would prevent the Borax or vinegar from doing its job. Wait until you have finished stretching out the fabric.
- 5Stuff the garment with towels to begin drying it. Roll up a few absorbent bath towels into bunches, then put them inside the shrunken clothing. Try to position the towels so they shape the garment to its original size. The towels prevent delicate garments from shrinking so you don’t have to risk damage from stretching them out by hand.XResearch source
- Use as many rolled-up towels as needed to get the garment back to its original shape. Make sure it’s flat and smooth, since any lumps caused by the towels could stay behind once the fabric dries.
- The towels also help absorb excess water, causing the garment to dry faster.
- 6Dry the clothing in open air for at least 15 minutes. Leave the towels inside your clothing for up to 30 minutes to help it dry out. Layer some additional towels underneath and over it to speed up the drying process. You can also shake the garment around if you are able to keep the rolled-up towels in place.XResearch source
- While you’re waiting for the garment to dry, check its shape. Fine-tune it by gently pulling on the edges of the fabric if needed.
- 7Hang up the garment to finish drying, then wash it if necessary. Place a hanger inside the garment, but don’t remove the towels. Move the garment to an exposed spot away from direct heat and sunlight. Try using a hanging bar or rod. Once the garment is done drying, you can hand wash it in cold water if it doesn’t feel as soft and smooth as it normally does.XResearch source
- If you’re worried about damaging the sweater, lay it on a towel to let it dry out. Wool and cashmere are delicate, so play it safe when treating a particularly valuable piece of clothing.
- If the clothing doesn’t change enough, repeat the cleaning process several times until you get the result you desire.
Method 3Method 3 of 3:Adjusting Jeans with Warm Water
- 1Fill the bathtub with lukewarm water. Fill it at least ⅓ of the way full, enough to cover your legs. Make sure the water is comfortable enough to sit in. Hot and cold water not only feel uncomfortable but can also damage the jeans.XResearch source
- If you don’t have a bathtub available for use, you can still stretch out your jeans. Fill up a sink or bucket with warm water instead.
- If you only need to stretch out a few areas, consider spraying those spots with warm water and then tugging them into shape.XResearch source
- 2Put on the jeans to begin stretching them out. After slipping on the jeans, zipper and button them if you are able to. If you’re not able to fit into the jeans at all, you will need to wash them by hand. Close the zipper and fasten any buttons before attempting to stretch the fabric.XResearch source
- Try to get the jeans into their original shape as much as possible. It’s easier if you’re able to squeeze into the jeans, but sometimes that isn’t possible. Don’t put them on if they are too tight.
- 3Soak the jeans in the water for about 15 minutes. The water softens the jeans and, since you’re wearing them, they stretch out automatically. It is a long time to sit still, but the treatment is more effective the longer you stay there. Try to keep the jeans submerged for at least 10 minutes or until the water gets cold.XResearch source
- The most important part is thoroughly soaking the jeans. Once they are soaked through, the fabric’s fibers become easier to manipulate.
- If you’re not prepared to get in the water, soak the jeans in the sink or with a spray bottle for 10 to 15 minutes. Try slipping them on afterward if you wish.
- 4Wear the jeans for up to an hour or stretch them out by hand. The easiest way to get shrunken jeans back to a form-fitting shape is by wearing them. Be careful when trying to climb out of the bathtub with the extra weight from the water. If that seems like too much of a hassle, take the jeans off and tug on the edges. Gently stretch out the fabric as much as you can.
- If you decide to wear the jeans, move around as much as possible. Walk around, jog, stretch, or even dance to help stretch out the fibers.
- Focus on the areas most in need of being stretched. For instance, if the waistband needs to be adjusted, bend and stretch at the waist.
- 5Remove the jeans and hang them up to dry. Place your wet jeans on a clothesline or a drying rack. Keep them out of direct heat and sunlight but try to find a spot with good air circulation. That will help the fabric dry out. While it dries, gravity will also pull the jeans down to stretch them out further.
- Don’t put the jeans back in the dryer! Heat causes your clothing to shrink. Direct sunlight can also fade a good pair of jeans.
- QuestionCan you stretch a shirt that has shrunk?Kamel AlmaniKamel Almani is a Laundry and Cleaning Specialist and the Co-Owner of WashyWash, a toxin-free and eco-friendly laundry and dry clean service based in Amman, Jordan. Kamel and his staff at WashyWash use Blue Angel certified and dermatologically-tested detergents. They also combine EcoClean and digital technology to provide an eco-friendly, convenient, and quality cleaning service. Kamel holds a BA in Design from the University of Applied Science, Amman.
Laundry & Cleaning SpecialistLaundry & Cleaning SpecialistExpert AnswerDepending on the fabric, some garments can be reshaped using steam from a steam iron.
- QuestionCould I use shampoo instead of conditioner?Community AnswerProbably not. The active ingredients to soften are in the conditioner, and shampoo is generally meant to clean.
- QuestionHow do you keep clothes from shrinking in the wash?Community AnswerUse cold water on your washer machine's settings, then air dry your clothes on a clothes' line
- QuestionHow do I unshrink a jean jacket?Community AnswerPut it in the sink and do the same process as it says do jeans. Stretch it out by wearing it and see if it buttons after taking out of a 10 min soak in warm sink.
- QuestionDo I have to use baby shampoo?Community AnswerNo. If you don't want to use or don't have it, you can use conditioner.
- QuestionDo I have to repeat this process every time I wash now?Community AnswerIt depends, If your dryer continually shrinks your jeans each wash, you might need to put it on a colder setting and wash your jeans together. Jeans generally are made so they don't have to be washed that frequently, so you'll be fine. When they are dirty, put them on a colder setting. You only need to do this when they shrink, so if you notice they're a tight fit, try this out.
- QuestionCan the dry cleaners stretch a lace cocktail dress with polyester lining?Community AnswerIf you steam press the lace, it usually will stretch as you iron it. I did this with my granddaughter's dress. Her mother dried it in the dryer. That may not work though depending on if it really shrank or simply that it needed to be pressed out again.
- QuestionDo I have to use "baby" shampoo, or can it be adult shampoo?Community AnswerIt can be regular "adult" conditioner, but not shampoo. If you do not have baby shampoo, then do not worry. It does the same thing.
- QuestionI know I washed my new dresses correctly, but the length shrunk by about an inch. They are 100% rayon. What should I do?Community AnswerGenerally rayon is something you'd want to dry clean. If you can't dry clean it, I'd wash it on cold, then hang dry it. When it's line drying, you can determine if it shrunk any. If it did, just gently stretch it until it's the correct length again.
- QuestionHow do I un-shrink a rayon dress?Community AnswerYou can't. Rayon has to be dry-cleaned.
- The heat from a harsh dryer is often the cause of shrunken clothing, so set your laundry settings carefully. Use a gentle, cold water wash when appropriate or clean your clothing by hand.
- Keep in mind that you can’t reverse damage from shrinking, so stretching doesn’t always work. You may need to repeat the treatment a few times to even get the shrunken clothing back to where you want it to be.
- Since prevention is better than trying to fix shrinkage, find ways to keep your clothes in shape. Wash and dry clothing properly to keep it safe.
- Unshrink clothing at your own risk. Soaking and tugging clothing can cause damage no matter how careful you’re being.
Things You'll Need
Soaking Knitted Fabrics in Baby Shampoo
- Sink, bucket, or bathtub
- Baby shampoo or conditioner
- Absorbent bath towels
- Books or other heavy weights
- Clothesline or drying rack (optional)
Using Borax or Vinegar on Wool and Cashmere
- Borax or vinegar
- Measuring spoon
- Absorbent bath towels
- Clothesline or drying rack (optional)
Adjusting Jeans with Warm Water
- Bathtub, sink, or bucket
- Spray bottle (optional)
- Clothesline or drying rack (optional)
About This Article
If you want to unshrink clothes made out of a knitted fabric, start by filling a sink with warm water and then mixing in 1-2 tablespoons of baby shampoo or gentle hair conditioner. Submerge your clothes in the sink and let them sit for about 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, wring out your clothes and place them between 2 towels. Roll up the towels to remove excess moisture and then gently start stretching out the fabric with your hands. Once it is stretched, place heavy objects to keep the fabric in place and let it air dry. To learn how to unshrink jeans, wool, or cashmere, scroll down!