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How to Un-Shrink Shrunken Clothing

Updated on October 1, 2015
Looking like the Hulk isn't ideal in the real world
Looking like the Hulk isn't ideal in the real world

Accidental Shrunken Clothing

We have probably all had our fair share of shrunken clothing because we did not care to read the label before washing and drying. Those who does read the label does not eliminate the fact that accidents can happen, such as throwing a wool sweater into the dryer when moving clothes from washer to dryer, probably more so men than women with accidents though. But, washing is not the only time clothes will shrink, as long as clothes that should not be dried in heat comes in contact with moisture and left in the heat, for example the sun, then it will still shrink. We speak about large portions of the clothing being moist not just a spot. Problem with clothing that can shrink is that we need to always be careful otherwise it is lost, or that is what most will think.

Felting is irreversible, so make sure it is not.
Felting is irreversible, so make sure it is not.

Can shrunk clothes be repaired?

Some clothing which are washed improperly can be lost for good and those are usually the felt wool. Felt wool is usually created if you wash wool material clothing in hot cycles and then dried in a dyer afterwards. When the material is felt it is when the wool stitch turns into a mesh which is usually good if you want to create something out of an old sweater, this is because it will not fray when it is cut. If you look at the material of the clothing article you are looking to undo the shrinking you should be able to see the stitching, but if it is bounded or matted together then you can look into the art category to utilize the sweater for other purposes. If you ever come across that then you will know if it can be repaired or not. Repairing a shrunken shirt, pants, sweater, or whatever the clothing article it may be is not that difficult. Most of the chemicals needed are in most households, hair conditioner, baby shampoo, or vinegar. Any conditioner will help loosen the fiber in clothing, and loosening the fiber is what we need in order to undo the shrinking. Baby shampoo has the same ingredients to do the job and to some extreme vinegar will help when all others seem to disagree with the results.

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How to undo the shrinking of clothing

Begin by filling a bucket or sink with warm water, enough that it can cover the clothing you intend to work with. After that you will need to add a cap full of conditioner (baby shampoo, or vinegar but first choice would be conditioner) mix it well into the water. Soak the clothing of interest into the water and work it until it is entirely soaked, start stretching it slowly and gently the way you desire for it. Never try to stretch it beyond what it is intended for, but you will know when you reach that limit. Continue to do this for about 10 to 15 minutes, and then let the clothing soak for another 15 minutes. Afterwards, remove the clothing, but never wring the article of clothing otherwise the shape would be all twisted looking. Just squeeze the water out and use a couple of towers to dry by laying it flat on the towel and rolling it up and repeat until it is partially dry. I usually just squeeze the water and hang it over the bathtub so the remaining water left can run downwards. By hanging it, it helps to stretch a bit more, otherwise you can lay it flat and stretch it with some weights to hold it down. I have not had any problems re-sizing any clothing that had been shrunk at one point or another with this solution.

The process can be repeated to loosen the fabric a bit more for another stretch, the conditioner left in the sweater need to rinsed out and maybe a good cycle with a pair of jeans without the use of hot water or the dryer for best results otherwise that piece of clothing is going to be worn out not by wearing but by repeating the conditioner and stretch. It would be more ideal to have a sweater fit and worn out from use not correcting a mistake.

Wearing it is the best way to re-size
Wearing it is the best way to re-size

Hang or Lay Flat and Common Mistakes

I prefer to hang the clothing that I am trying to undo the shrinking, mainly because gravity will help one way or another. When I see people who lay it flat and use weights to hold the pulls the shirt ends up looking like drapes, you don't want every three inches longer the the others. I have help people reverse their shrunk clothing and hanging always seem to work better. Sometimes I would have a long clip with a weight attach to keep the stretch from reversing. Even when the sweater is hung to dry, some stretch should still be applied here and there to keep the fabric from having any chance to reverse.

One of the best way to reverse the shrink after soaking and stretching might be to wear it but that might not be such a hot idea. If you happen to have a manikin then put it to good use, otherwise it would be pretty strange having it around. These are some ideas, you can come up with something and might be even better. Remember these are all basic steps.

Some mistakes I have seen are people using hot water instead of warm, you are trying to dissolve the conditioner in warm water not shrink the clothing some more. Another one, this may or may not be a mistake but it is worth looking at. Stretching the clothing in the water seems to produce the best results, instead of toweling it down first then stretching it.

I hope this can help those looking to salvage expensive garments that was ruined in previous wash and prevent it from being expensive rags.


  1. Fill bucket or sink with warm water
  2. Add a cap full of hair conditioner
  3. Mix the conditioner into the warm well
  4. Soak the clothing of interest in the water
  5. Knead the clothes like you would dough
  6. Start stretching it slowly and steadily for 10 to 15 minutes
  7. Let it sit in the water for another 15 minutes
  8. Squeeze the water out and towel roll dry
  9. Hang it
  10. Check it every now and then to stretch it some more


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