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How To Unshrink Clothes: A Step-By-Step Guide

Use a bucket of warm water and some baby shampoo to unshrink clothes.

Even with over 100 posts about solutions to common laundry problems under my belt, I’m not surprised that how to unshrink clothes continues to be among the most popular! I’m sure most of us have found ourselves wondering how to to fix a shirt that shrunk in the dryer at some point because we forgot to heed the laundry care symbols on the tag.

Luckily, you’re in the right place for that, because discovering and sharing solutions to clothing catastrophes like shrinkage is kind of my thing! In this post, you’ll learn a simple, 3-step method you can use for unshrinking clothes. I’ve also got additional tips to share about how to unshrink specific fabrics and how to prevent clothes from shrinking in the first place. So let’s get started!

To see it in action, check out the video I’ve included for you at the end of the post!

How To Unshrink Clothes Back To Their Original Size: A Step-By-Step Guide

To unshrink most clothing, soak the item in a solution of lukewarm water and a capful of baby shampoo. Gently knead the item with your hands to relax the fibers. Gently pat or roll dry with a towel, and then use your hands to gently tug and stretch the item out to its original size. Allow the item to air dry, and you’re done!

Get the step-by-step instructions below!

Baby shampoo and warm water relax the fibers, making it easier for you to unshrink clothes.

You’ll need:

  • Bucket or sink
  • Baby shampoo
  • 2 large, clean bath towels
Put a capful of baby shampoo into a bucket of warm water to begin to unshrink clothing.

Step 1 – Soak The Garment

Fill a sink, tub, or bucket with lukewarm water, then add a capful (or a couple teaspoons) of baby shampoo. Place the item you want to unshrink into the sudsy water and let it soak for a minute or two. While it’s soaking, gently knead the item with your hands to help relax the fibers.

Remove the item from the warm water and gently squeeze it to remove some of the excess water (but don’t wring or rinse it!)

After the shrunken clothing has soaked for half an hour, gently squeeze to remove excess water, then place on a clean towel and roll up the towel.

Step 2 – Use A Towel To Absorb Excess Water

Lay a large, clean bath towel out on a flat surface, then lay the clothing item out flat on top of it. Roll up the towel from one end so the clothing item is wrapped inside, then gently press on the towel to absorb the excess water. Unroll the damp towel and set it aside.

Place the wet, shrunk item on a clean dry towel and begin to gently stretch and lengthen it to its original size.

Step 3 – Gently Stretch & Reshape The Garment

Grab your second bath towel and lay the damp piece of clothing on it, then use your hands to gently stretch the item out to its original size. Finally, leave the clothing item on the towel and allow it to air dry completely (or speed up the process by setting up a fan on low nearby).

After unshrinking clothes, it's not necessary to rinse them unless you have used conditioner instead of baby shampoo.

Wait… No Rinsing?

The directions above don’t mention rinsing the shampoo out of the garment, and that’s because in my experience, there’s not enough shampoo in the water to make rinsing necessary. In fact, the slight amount of shampoo residue actually help keep the fibers pliable during the stretching process, so I say skip the rinse and don’t worry about it!

You can use conditioner instead of baby shampoo to unshrink clothes, but you'll need to rinse and wash them afterwards.

No Shampoo? Try Using Conditioner Instead!

I prefer using baby shampoo here because it works well and I don’t have to rinse it out. If you don’t have baby shampoo on hand, you can unshrink your clothing with a bit of hair conditioner instead. Soak the item in lukewarm water and 1 tablespoon of conditioner for about 30 minutes, then proceed to steps 2 and 3.

Note: Conditioner can leave behind a residue that attracts dirt, so you may want to do rinse the item with clean water after soaking!

Prevent clothes from shrinking in the first place by carefully following the laundry instructions on the tag.

How To Prevent Clothes From Shrinking In The First Place

When it comes to annoying laundry problems, shrinking is right near the top of my list. Luckily, it’s also totally avoidable! To avoid shrinkage, follow the instructions on the care labels of your clothes and linens, and take your laundry out of the dryer while it’s still a bit damp. 

Most modern dryers offer some sort of “less dry” option, which makes it really easy. When washing clothes, use the least amount of agitation you can get away with. Be particularly careful when washing new clothes before you wear them — you don’t want your beautiful new sweater coming out of the wash child-sized!

These before and after photos show how effective this method is for unshrinking clothes.

BONUS: Helpful Tips For Unshrinking Specific Materials

Some materials are easier to unshrink than others. The table below has additional tips that can help you fine-tune the process!

Cotton & Cotton BlendsBecause of the way cotton fibers are stretched during the manufacturing process, cotton garments can shrink multiple times if you’re not careful. But on the bright side, cotton is one of the easiest fabrics to unshrink! Follow the steps above and your cotton clothes will be back to their original shape in no time.
Cashmere, Wool & Other Animal FibersNatural fibers like wool may be more difficult to stretch back out, especially if the fabric has a tight knit, but this method can still work. Try gently pulling and stretching out the shrunken garment while it’s still submerged in the sudsy water.
Synthetics (Polyester, Rayon, etc.)This method can works really well on synthetic fabrics. Just make sure to be very gentle when stretching them so you don’t accidentally go too far.
DenimTo unshrink denim jeans, you’ll need a slightly different approach. First, put the jeans on and sit in a lukewarm bath for about 15 minutes. Pat yourself down with a dry towel so the jeans aren’t dripping wet, then move around in them for an hour or so. (I know it sounds odd, but it works!)

Have you ever successfully un-shrunk a clothing item?

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Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.
I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee

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  • Ooooo….

    I bought a beautiful merino wool sweater and carefully showed my husband the label (he does the laundry). Lah di dah, another red shirt….. yeah, it came out of the DRYER about two sizes smaller than it went in.

    I’m going to give this a try. Got nothing to lose at this point.

  • Has anyone tried this on a fitted sheets? I have a 1000 count fitted sheet (super comfy) that has shrunk and is difficult to slip on the mattress. If not, any suggestions? Thanks.

    • Lynn, this should work on your fitted sheet. You would probably need a “helper” to help you stretch the sheet and something large to lay it on. Good luck! :-)

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