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How to Unshrink Clothes 

We’ve all managed to at least once shrink an item of clothing. As Murphy’s law would have it, this is usually our favourite item. 

And while it is of course always best to prevent your clothes from shrinking in the wash, there is still something you can do to unshrink it. Here’s what you can try: 

How to Unshrink Clothes 

To unshrink your clothes, you will need to soak it for half an hour in warm water and some baby shampoo or hair conditioner. Then carefully remove the water and lay it out flat to dry. 

Here’s a complete breakdown of all the steps: 

  1. Fill your tub or sink with lukewarm water. You can also use a bucket or bowl if you prefer, just make sure it’s clean. For every litre of water, add a tablespoon of either a gentle hair conditioner or baby shampoo. Stir it in until bubbles start to appear. The ingredients in these products that are meant to soften and relax hair will do the same to your clothing. You can also try with a laundry detergent made for delicate clothing. 
  2. Leave your item to soak for 30 minutes. 
  3. Remove the garment from the water, and let the excess water drip out. Don’t wring or rinse the product out. You want it to keep working. You can very gently squeeze some of the water out, if the item is too heavy. 
  4. Lay your item out on a flat dry towel. Ideally, you want to use a bath towel that will be able to absorb a lot of the water. Roll up the towel with the item still inside, and gently squeeze the water out into the towel. You can then leave it for 10-15 minutes to sit in this roll. When you take the item out, it should be damp, not wet.
  5. Lay your item on a fresh, dry towel on a flat surface. Start at one section of the item, and gently but firmly tug at the opposite sides of the material and hold the stretch for a couple of seconds. Be careful and patient, and don’t tug too hard, as you don’t want the item to get larger than it needs to be. 
  6. You can place a book or a paperweight on each section after you are done stretching it out, to ensure it holds on to the stretch. You can skip this step however, if you don’t notice your item is starting to shrink again. 
  7. Leave your item to air dry. 

Your clothing should be soft when completely dry, and not feel soapy or stiff. If you feel there is still too much product in it, wash it before wear. This time though, make sure to check the laundry symbols and don’t whack it in the tumble dryer. 

Can You Unshrink Clothes? 

Yes, you will be able to unshrink most clothes. Wool, cotton and linen, as well as denim and polyester can all be manipulated to return to their original size. 

However, some items will naturally become smaller and smaller over time. The more you wash and dry them, the more they will shrink, unless you reach for the unshrinking hack described above practically after each wash.  

How to Unshrink Cotton, Silk or Linen Clothing

Natural fibres, like cotton, silk or linen are all prone to shrinking. These materials are manipulated a lot during the manufacturing process, which is what makes them so easily shrinkable. However, this also means that you can just as easily stretch them back to their original size. 

All you have to do is apply the steps we have outlined above: soak your item in water with a little bit of conditioner or gentle shampoo, roll it in a towel to soak up most of the water, and use books or paperweights to manipulate it back into shape. Let it dry flat. 

How to Unshrink Wool or Cashmere Clothing 

The fabrics we obtain from sheep and goats are also quite prone to shrinking. Wool jumpers even tend to get imperceptibly smaller with each wash, so you want to be extra careful when washing and drying these items.

To unshrink a wool or cashmere garment, you will need to focus on reshaping it, and not just resizing it. 

Soak your item in warm water: but this time, add two tablespoons of vinegar, instead of the conditioner. Gently stretch the item while it is still in the bowl or sink, and just as gently squeeze the water out, as much as you can. Then instead of rolling the garment in a towel, stuff it with several of them. This will help you both stretch it back into its pre-shrunk size, and soak up the water. 

Once you are happy with the stretch, let it air dry, lying it flat on a towel. 

Don’t forget that you can always take your more precious wool and cashmere items to be professionally cleaned, and save yourself the headache. 

How to Unshrink Denim 

True denim does not shrink: however, most denim items are today blended with polyester or elastane, to give you that stretchy quality. This combination of fibres is thus prone to shrinking in the wash. You have probably already noticed that your jeans feel a bit tighter after you’ve washed them. Or, that they get uncomfortably loose after a couple of wears. 

In order to stretch denim out, you can grab a spray bottle and fill it with warm water. Spray the garment until it’s damp, section by section, and gently stretch it out. This will loosen the fabric, and make sure you can wear it again. While it may be a bit uncomfortable at first, it should feel alright in a couple of hours. 

How to Unshrink Polyester 

Polyester is a completely synthetic fibre, and requires a bit more care. It will most likely shrink after the first wash, so you should factor that in when making your purchase. 

When it comes to unshrinking polyester, you can repeat the same warm water-baby shampoo process, just add a bit less shampoo, and let the item soak for no longer than 20 minutes. Don’t wring it dry, and gently start stretching it out while it is still completely wet. 

Once you are happy with the size, pin the edges down with a book or other heavy object, and let it air dry. 

Wrapping It Up 

Unshrinking your clothes is a bit of a chore, but it can be done, with the aid of a bit of baby shampoo or conditioner. Make sure you are gentle with your items, and don’t stretch them too violently, or tug at them too harshly. 


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