How To Shrink Shirts

Do you want to learn how to shrink shirts? Don't feel alone, you won't be the first person to want to try this on his clothes. Possibly you need to shrink just one shirt that you bought a size too large and lost the receipt. Whatever your reason might be for needing to shrink shirts, it’s not that difficult to shrink them down to a smaller size. This is especially true if the shirt is 100% cotton. Take care to not shrink cotton shirts too much all at one time. Once it’s done, you can’t reverse the shrinkage.

Excessive heat is used to shrink shirts. It’s not always the ideal way to get a shirt to fit better, but it is cheaper than going to a professional tailor for an alteration. The exception to this method is a shirt that’s been pre shrunk at the factory. This type of fabric has usually reached the limit of shrinkage before the shirt was even sewn. 

To shrink shirts, you will need: 

  • washer and dryer
  • hot water
  • laundry detergent
  • white vinegar
  • fabric softener sheets
  1. Try to minimize color loss in the shirts. Shrinking shirts in hot water can cause the colors to bleed. The darker and brighter the shirt fabric, the more color will fade from the fabric in hot water. Brightly colored shirts would normally be washed in cold water to retain as much of the dye in the fabric as possible. There are laundry detergents designed to minimize color fading in fabrics, but these are typically not going to work as well in hot water. Another method to help minimize the loss of dye is using white vinegar in the wash. Add a cup of regular white vinegar to the hot water wash to help minimize the color loss when shrinking the shirts. The vinegar helps adhere the dye to the fabric and the strong odor will fade on its own.
  2. Wash the shirts on the hot water cycle on the washing machine. Since some loss of color is unavoidable, don’t try to shrink a red shirt and white shirt at the same time, unless you want a red shirt and a pink shirt. Use your common sense and wash similar colors together.
  3. The next step is to dry the shirts on the highest heat setting in the dryer. Toss in a fabric softener sheet in the dryer with the shirts to minimize static, soften and add a fresh scent.  Removing the moisture content from the fabric in combination with the fabric being tossed against the hot dryer drum helps to further shrink the shirts. It’s a good idea to iron the shirts and then try them on before repeating the steps.

The use of excessive heat can be especially hard on some types of fabric. It’s not a method recommended for expensive designer shirts, but pullover cotton or cotton blend tee-shirts are ideal candidates. Synthetic fabrics such as rayon and polyester blends may not hold up as well with extreme heat.

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