How to rescue your shrunken clothes in a pinch

The secret to unshrinking your clothes is an unassuming shower staple.

There is possibly no worse feeling than shrinking your favourite pair of jeans or jumper in the wash. The good news is that this happens to the best of us, and there are ways to rescue your beloved clothes from their shrunken doom. Here’s how to unshrink your clothes.

Why do clothes shrink in the wash?

Clothes shrinking in the wash can happen for a myriad of reasons. The biggest offender is usually heat. Whether it’s the hot water in the washing machine or the hot air in the clothes dryer, or a combination of both, heat can cause certain fibres to contract and shrink.

Another reason behind clothes shrinking is agitation. Agitation is the way that washing machines work to remove dirt, stains and odours. This action, combined with a hot water cycle, can cause clothes fibres to rub together and shrink. The tumbling motion in clothes dryers can also agitate fibres too. 

Certain fabrics are more prone to shrinkage than others. Typically, naturally fibres like wool, cotton and silk will tend to shrink more than synthetic fibres like nylon and polyester.


How to unshrink clothes


To unshrink a pair of jeans you’ll need:

  • A tub of lukewarm water
  • Detergent
  • Hair conditioner

In a tub of lukewarm water, add a capful of a gentle detergent and a generous amount of hair conditioner. Pop your jeans into the water mixture and leave them for about 30 minutes to relax the cotton fibres.

After 30 minutes, using your hands, gently stretch the jeans in the hips, waist and thigh areas, or put them on while damp and squat in them to stretch them out.


To unshrink a jumper you’ll need:

  • A tub of lukewarm water
  • Hair conditioner or baby shampoo
  • Towels

Add a mild conditioner or baby shampoo to a tub of lukewarm water. Be sure the water isn’t hot as this can cause the fibres to shrink further. Let the jumper soak for around 30 minutes and then squeeze out any excess water very gently.

Then, start to stretch the jumper in all different directions. After you’ve done this, put the jumper on a towel to air dry. Be sure you don’t hang it up to air dry as this could make the jumper lose its shape.



Cotton is one of the easier fibres to unshrink, whether it’s a shirt, skirt or another type of garment, you’ll need

  • A tub of lukewarm water
  • Detergent, fabric softener or hair conditioner: 
  • Towels

Once again, create a concoction of lukewarm water, detergent and fabric softener or hair conditioner. Add your cotton garment to the water and leave it for 30 minutes.

Then, squeeze out the excess water and gently stretch the garment and lay out to air dry.

How to avoid shrinking clothes in future

You know those pesky little tags on clothes that can scratch and irritate our skin? They’re actually extremely important for telling us how exactly our garments should be cared for.

The tag on your clothes will tell you what temperature waters to wash them in, whether or not they should be dried in a clothes dryer and other specific instructions.

Here are some other tips to avoid shrinking your clothes:

  • Use a cold water cycle rather than a hot water cycle
  • Avoid overloading the washing machine to avoid agitation
  • Use a more gentle cycle for your clothes wash
  • Air dry delicate items rather than putting them in the clothes dryer
  • Use a lower heat setting for your clothes dryer
  • Use mesh laundry bags to avoid agitation

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