How To Unshrink Clothes In 3 Easy Steps

While I’ve written over 100 posts about solutions to common laundry problems, I’m not surprised my guide to how to unshrink clothes is one of the most popular! I’m sure most of us have wondered how to fix a shrunken shirt at some point, whether we failed to heed the laundry care symbols on the tag or were a bit careless when washing new clothes.

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

Luckily, finding solutions to clothing catastrophes is right in my wheelhouse! In this post, I’ll share a simple, 3-step method for unshrinking clothes that involves soaking the affected item and gently stretching it out to loosen the clothing and restore it to its original size.

You can see this process in action in the video at the end of this post!

Jillee’s Take:

Unwittingly shrinking your clothing can be so frustrating. I have accidentally shrunk both brand new clothes and old favorites, and it has brought me close to tears many times! After once again shrinking a new pair of leggings that I adored, I vowed to find a way to fix them, and I was able to do it using the method featured in this post!

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

To unshrink most types of clothing, you can start by soaking the item in a solution of lukewarm water and a small amount of baby shampoo. After gently kneading the item to relax the fibers and rolling it up in a bath towel to remove excess water, you’ll use your hands to gently stretch the item to restore it to its original size before allowing it to air dry.

Read on for more details, including step-by-step instructions and photos!

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

You’ll need:

  • Bucket or sink
  • Baby shampoo or gentle hair conditioner
  • 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 couple of teaspoons of baby shampoo. (It’s important to use lukewarm water, as very hot and very cold water can worsen shrinking.)

Place the clothing item you want to unshrink into the sudsy water and let it soak for a while. As it soaks, gently knead the item to help relax the fibers.

Remove the item from the water and gently squeeze out 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 flat on top of it. Roll up the towel with the clothing item 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 And 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 to return it to its original size. Work in sections, and use heavy objects to hold it in place if necessary.

Finally, leave the clothing item on the towel and allow it to air dry completely (or speed up the process by placing it near a fan on low speed).

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

No Need To Rinse!

You may have noticed the method above doesn’t include rinsing the item after soaking it, and you’re right! In my experience, the small amount of shampoo in the water makes rinsing unnecessary and helps keep the fibers pliable as you stretch them.

More Tips For Fixing Shrunken Clothes

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

No Baby Shampoo? Try These Substitutes

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, here are some alternatives to try: 

  • Hair Conditioner: Soak the item in lukewarm water and 1 tablespoon of conditioner for about 30 minutes, rinse it out, then proceed to steps 2 and 3.
  • Fabric Softener: Use 1 tablespoon of liquid fabric softener for soaking instead of shampoo or conditioner, then rinse the item before proceeding.
  • Borax: Add 1 tablespoon of borax per quart of warm water, then stir until the powder dissolves. Soak for 30 minutes, then proceed to steps 2 and 3.
  • Vinegar: Use a sponge to dab white vinegar on both sides of the item until it’s damp, then seal it in a plastic bag and set it in a warm location for 30 minutes. Wash the item in warm water, then gently stretch the fabric back to its original size.
These before and after photos show how effective this method is for unshrinking clothes.

Unshrink Shirts With An Iron

Wondering how to unshrink shirts? One option is to use your steam iron! Place the shirt on an ironing board and gently stretch it as you pass over it with the iron. The steam and heat will relax the fibers and make them more pliable, and the fabric will retain its new shape as it rapidly cools.

Woven cotton and linen items can also be stretched or loosened with a steam iron. (Pressing natural fibers can make your clothing feel roomier because it relaxes close weaves.)

Stretch A Snug T-Shirt With Your Hands

To make a snug t-shirt bigger, gather up the sides of the shirt from the hem to the sleeve seam, grasp one side in each hand, and gently pull the sides away from each other. You can add quite a bit of room to a t-shirt this way, and it should stay stretched until the next time you wash it.

Be Gentle When You Stretch Clothes That Shrunk

Certain fabrics and clothing are too delicate to withstand much tugging or stretching. Fibers can snap, seams can split, and items can end up hopelessly misshapen. It’s best to prevent shrinking whenever possible, but when you do need to fix shrunken clothing, be sure to do it gently!

BONUS: Tips For Unshrinking Specific Fabrics

Some materials are easier to unshrink than others. These tips can help you fine-tune the process!

  • Cotton & Cotton Blends: While cotton and cotton blends are notoriously prone to shrinking, cotton is also one of the easiest fabrics to unshrink! Follow the method outlined above to reverse clothes shrinkage fast.
  • Cashmere, Wool, And Other Animal Fibers: Natural fibers like wool may be more difficult to stretch back out, especially if the fabric is tightly knit. Try gently pulling and stretching the shrunken garment while it’s submerged in the sudsy water during Step 1.
  • Synthetics (Polyester, Rayon, etc.): Be very gentle when stretching synthetic fabrics to avoid going overboard.
  • Denim: If your jeans shrunk in the wash, you’ll need a slightly different approach. Put the jeans on and sit in a lukewarm bath for about 15 minutes, then pat yourself and the jeans with a dry towel to absorb as much water as possible. Continue wearing the damp jeans for another hour or so. (Odd as it sounds, it works!)
  • Viscose: Viscose, a semi-synthetic type of rayon made from the pulp of trees or bamboo, is often used as a substitute for silk. Viscose is easy to stretch when wet, so be sure to handle it carefully.
Prevent clothes from shrinking in the first place by carefully following the laundry instructions on the tag.

How To Prevent Clothes From Shrinking

Discovering your clothes shrunk in the dryer or washer doesn’t have to be inevitable. The two best ways to avoid clothing shrinkage are following the care instructions on the labels of your clothes, and stopping your dryer before your clothes are fully dry (your dryer may have a “less dry” or “iron dry” setting that will do it automatically).

Shrinking can also be caused by improper water temperatures. To avoid this, run a faucet farther from the main water line than your washing machine until it reaches the right temperature, then start the wash cycle.

Common Causes Of Shrinkage (And How To Avoid Them)

Improper washingWarm water, hot water, and even too much agitation can cause shrinkage.Follow care label instructions on clothing.
Improper dryingDrying too hot or too long can cause shrinkage.Use low or no heat, or allow items to air dry.
Natural fibersNatural fibers like cotton, cashmere, silk, linen, and wool are more prone to shrinking.Follow care label instructions or wash gently in cool water. Roll items up in a towel to remove excess water, then lay flat to dry.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do I Unshrink Cotton?

You can fix shrunken cotton clothing using the 3-step method detailed in this post, or by stretching it out while pressing it with a steam iron.

How Do I Unshrink Polyester?

Polyester rarely shrinks except with high heat, but it can be unshrunk using the methods and tips outlined above.

How Do I Unshrink Linen?

To unshrink linen, relax the fibers by hanging it in a steamy bathroom or ironing it with a steam iron. Once the linen is relaxed, you can gently stretch it back into shape.

Can I Stretch Clothes That Haven’t Shrunk?

Wondering how to make your clothes bigger? For items that are a bit too snug, try using the 3-step process for unshrinking clothes — it might be the fix you’ve been searching for!

Can I Unshrink Clothes In My Washing Machine?

If you accidentally shrink your clothes by washing them in very cold water, washing them again in warm water can help you stretch them back out again.

Can I Unshrink Clothes With Steam?

The heat and moisture from a steam iron or steamy bathroom will relax many fibers. Combined with gentle stretching and pulling, it can be an easy way to unshrink clothes.

Can I Unshrink Clothes With Vinegar?

To unshrink clothes with vinegar, use a sponge to dab it onto both sides of the item until damp, then seal it in a plastic bag for 30 minutes. Wash the item in warm water, then gently stretch the fabric back to its original size.

How Can I Account For Shrinkage While Shopping For Clothes?

If you find yourself frequently battling clothing shrinkage, consider shopping for items one size up in the future. Buying t-shirts, sweaters, dresses, sweatpants, hoodies, or socks in a larger size can be a simple way to eliminate worries about possible shrinkage.


While shrunken clothing is far from inevitable, accidents do happen! Fortunately, you can restore your clothes to their original size and shape using household products like baby shampoo, hair conditioner, and fabric softener. I hope these tips are as useful to you as they have been to me!

Have you ever successfully un-shrunk a clothing item?

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

How To Unshrink Clothes (Step By Step)

Jill Nystul
Hoping to fix a shrunken shirt or other treasured clothing item? It's easier than you think! Follow these simple steps to unshrink clothes in a flash.
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Active Time 20 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes


  • 1 Bucket or foot bath or sink
  • 2 Bath towels


  • Baby shampoo


  • Fill a bucket or sink with lukewarm water, add 2 teaspoons of baby shampoo, and soak the clothing item in the sudsy water for 30 minutes, occasionally kneading the fabric to relax the fibers.
  • Remove the clothing item from the water and gently squeeze it so it's wet but not dripping. Lay out one of your bath towels on a flat surface, lay the clothing item on top, then roll up the towel and press down to remove excess water.
  • Move the damp item to a dry towel, then gently stretch and reshape the garment. Leave it on the towel to dry completely.


YouTube video


You can use a gentle hair conditioner or liquid fabric softener instead of baby shampoo, but you may want to rinse the item after soaking.

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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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