How To Shrink Clothes

If you think all the way back to your first few times doing laundry, you’ll probably remember an article or two of clothing that you shrunk but didn’t mean to.

However, maybe now that you’re older and hopefully a bit wiser, you actually want to shrink a pair of pants or one of your shirts!

Perhaps you bought it on sale or you’ve lost a little bit of weight and you just want your clothes to fit a little bit better. We have good news for you!

No need to run straight to the tailor!

There are ways for you to try and shrink your clothes at home first!

So how do you do it?

Getting Started

Before you jump right in and try to shrink your clothes, there are a few things that we think you should know.

  • You’ll want to be aware of what your garment is made out of. Different materials are, of course, going to shrink a little bit differently and will require a slightly different process. So make sure you read carefully!
  • Some materials (such as leather or fur) won’t shrink whatsoever and will actually just get damaged if you try to wash them. If you bought a leather jacket that’s too big, then you’re just going to have to live with it.
  • Before you get started, check and see if the garment is already pre-shrunk. This will make a difference in the process. We have a specific process from pre-shrunk garments below.
  • Lastly, just know that heat is the key factor in getting your clothes to shrink. Why is this so? When clothing is being made, it’s constantly being stretched, pulled, and put under stress throughout the process.

However, when the garment is then exposed to high temperatures, the stress relaxes significantly and this is what allows the threads and fabric to actually shorten.

Perfect! Now that we have a little bit of background on the basics of shrinking clothes, let’s get into how you actually shrink the clothes.

We’ve organized it into the type of fabric. The processes are generally the same, but do vary slightly so make sure you check and see what your garment is made of!


  1. The first thing that you’ll want to do is wash the garment in the hottest water setting.
  2. Next, immediately place the garment in the dryer. Dry it on the highest heat that your dryer will allow. This is going to be the most important part of the shrinking process.
  3. Cotton shrinks relatively quickly so make sure you check on the clothing’s size at multiple points throughout the drying process. If it’s not pre-shrunk, it could shrink much more than you wanted it to. Once it’s reached your desired size, go ahead and change the heat to low heat or just let it air dry. Voila! Your cotton garment will now be shrunk.


  1. Wool is going to be a bit harder to shrink than cotton. It will require a little more finesse. Wash the garment in hot water, but wash it on the shortest cycle available. Wool garments shrink very quickly and for wool, the movement is more important than the high exposure to heat.
  2. Once it’s washed, dry the wool garment on low heat until it’s finished. Wool is much more sensitive so you don’t need the super high heat.
  3. It’s super important that you make sure you’re checking on this constantly. Check that it’s shrinking evenly all around the garment. Sometimes it will shrink in certain places more than others. If this looks to be the case, gently stretch it out with your hands and try to even it out.
  4. If you accidentally shrink it too much, immediately submerge it in water for about 30 minutes. After that, wrap it in a towel to dry. This should help to stop some of the damage.


  1. This is a synthetic garment so it will be a bit more difficult to shrink. To get started, wash the garment on the highest heat cycle available.
  2. Now you can dry the garment in the dryer on high heat. You shouldn’t need to constantly be checking on it since it’s fairly difficult to shrink.
  3. You can repeat this cycle as much as necessary. It’s an extremely durable synthetic fabric that won’t shrink as quickly as cotton so it may require you to repeat this process one or two more times.


  1. This probably goes without saying, but silk is the most delicate of all garments. Because of this, you’ll want to use a mesh bag to protect the silk for the washing cycle. Since it is so delicate, you don’t want it to get caught on anything or get bumped around too much.
  2. Simply wash the garment on the delicate cycle setting on your washer. This should ultimately just be a low-heat cycle which will be ideal for shrinking silk.
  3. It’s essential that you check on the garment periodically. You may even want to take it out after only half of the cycle.
  4. Once it’s done, wrap the garment in a towel for a few minutes to help get the excess moisture out.
  5. Ideally, you want to air dry the garment next. Keep it out of direct sunlight and hang it on a hanger. You can probably safely repeat the process one more time if needed, but you won’t want to go too crazy.

Pre-Shrunk or Older Garments

  1. You’re going to need extremely hot water for this. So, the first step is to boil a good amount of water. You’ll need enough to completely submerge your garment.
  2. Now soak the entire garment in the boiling water. Again, you need to make sure that water covers the entire garment.
  3. After two to five minutes, transfer your article of clothing to the washing machine. Be careful! You’ll want to use insulated gloves or some sort of long-ish stick for this part so you don’t burn yourself.
  4. Now wash the garment in hot water using only the tiniest amount of detergent.
  5. The second the garment is finished washing, transfer it to the dryer. You don’t want to give the garment a chance to cool down whatsoever. Now you can dry it on the highest heat level possible.
  6. This should have shrunk the garment a good amount, but now you can check the size of the garment. If you’re not happy with the results, you can try repeating steps one through five and it should shrink at least a little bit more.

General Tips

No matter what material, here are a couple of useful tips that will help with the process.

  • Make sure when transferring the garment from the washer to the dryer, you don’t let it sit and do it as quickly as possible. Remember, heat is what makes the garment shrink so you don’t want to give the garment a chance to cool down whatsoever.
  • Except for delicate materials (like wool and silk), you want to choose the longest cycle available for both the washing and drying steps of the shrinking. Again, this will give the garments maximum exposure to both the heat and the movement required to successfully shrink your clothing.


Shrinking your clothes can be a worthwhile venture that doesn’t require any tools except the appliances that are already found in your house.

Shrinking common fabrics such as polyester, cotton, pre-shrunk garments, or older garments are relatively risk-free.

If you’re going to take a risk and try to shrink more delicate garments, make sure you’re careful and follow the instructions exactly.

We also have guides on how to get paint out of your clothes and marks from permanent markers out from your clothes.

Why waste money going to a tailor when you can get the same desired effect at home for free?

As long as you’re careful, we say go for it! We have faith you can do it.

We hope this helped and thanks for reading! You should be well on your way to bringing those clothes from the back of your closet, back to the front and ready to be worn again!

Justin Howe

Electrician and DIY specialist Justin deleted his own successful tech blog to write expert product reviews and buying guides together with his friend Robert.

Justin Howe

Electrician and DIY specialist Justin deleted his own successful tech blog to write expert product reviews and buying guides together with his friend Robert.