How To Shrink Clothes On Purpose In Clever Ways And Correctly 

By  Emily Konatella

LAST UPDATED - December 11, 2023

Most of the time, people try to prevent their clothing from shrinking in the wash, especially their new clothes. However, there are occasions when shrinking clothes may be beneficial. You may have lost weight or found a shirt you love that is larger in size. Shrinking your clothes can have plenty of benefits, such as saving you money, saving the environment, and saving time. Below, we will share with you how to shrink clothes on purpose in clever ways and correctly.

How To Shrink Clothes Based On Fabric Types:

Not all fabric reacts the same, so you want to be sure to check the label to find out which material you are dealing with before starting the shrinking process. For example, natural fibers like cotton, silk, and wool may shrink easier than synthetic fabrics like polyester and nylon. You want to avoid pre-shrunk materials, as pre-shrunk clothing will resist shrinkage, and Pre-shrunk clothes can only shrink anywhere from 1% to 5% further.

Multiple techniques can get you to the same goal of shrinking your clothing. The most common method of shrinking is washing the fabric in hot water and following up with a high heat drying cycle. Fabrics such as cotton and denim will take easily to this method; note that while the waistline in denim will shrink, its width may not.

To shrink your clothes to the perfect size is a process, and you should be sure to take your time. Check on your clothing periodically as you go. When you get to the point where you are satisfied, hang this article up and allow it to air dry away from sunlight to avoid further shrinkage.

Cotton Fabric

A cotton garment will shrink easily in a hot wash and high heat dry cycle. Because cotton is a natural fiber, it is the easiest type of fabric to shrink. You want to check the label and be sure that your garment is 100% cotton.

A cotton garment will shrink easily in a hot wash and high heat dry cycle. To shrink cotton, you want to start by submerging the garment in hot water, and you have so many options to get this done. You can soak the fabric in boiling water or use a steam iron. However you choose to go about it after your fabric has seeped in warm water, you will immediately transfer it to your dryer. You want to make sure that you put your cotton shirt in the dryer on the highest setting as soon as possible so that the threads and fibers do not loosen and cause improper shrinkage.

You can also shrink cotton using a steam iron. Place your cotton cloth between iron and some delicate fabrics, and glide across the fabric up and down.


Denim can be manipulated just as easily as cotton in a machine wash and dry setting. You can also presoak them in hot water first before placing them in the hot dryer.

Remember that not all denim shrinks in width because the fabric is cut side by side. This means that some denim will not shrink in broadness. However, you can shrink in length. You can also shrink denim with iron by simply wetting the area you would like to shrink, such as the waistband, knees, or buttocks part of the jean. You could also have your denim professionally tailored for a more fitting approach.

Read our how-to-shrink jeans post if you are looking to shrink denim jeans.

Polyester Fabric

Polyester material doesn't require much ironing, and it keeps its color for a very long time. The synthetic fiber is less prone to shrink, but machine washing and drying could shrink it in length. Like with cotton, you want to make sure that your polyester is 100%. Avoid keeping this material in hot water for too long as you could damage and completely waste it.

Wool Fabric

When it comes to shrinking cashmere and wool, it is a completely different process than most of these fabrics, and this process is called "felting." This happens when the hair of the fibers creates a barb that interlocks the fiber under manipulation.

Felting is permanent, and the garment doesn't just get smaller. The surface will get matted, and the fabric will lose its stretch. For this reason, it's best to avoid shrinking cashmere and mohair garments when possible.

If you do want to shrink wool or wool and cotton blend garments, we suggest that if you choose to shrink your wool sweater via a washer and dryer. Place the garment inside of a pillowcase to avoid matting this material. Recommend using a gentle cycle or a cycle that doesn't last long to prevent damage and over shrinkage.

Another way to do it is to spray warm water in areas you want to shrink and place it in the dryer on low-medium heat. You will need to check on the garment periodically to ensure it doesn't shrink too much and reaches your desired size even if it's not completely dry.


Silk is another delicate fabric, just like wool, and you want to be very careful when you decrease it by size. You'll tighten the fabric by pre-washing this fabric for five minutes or more and then placing it in the washer. Unlike the other fabrics, you will want to wash this garment in cold water on a delicate cycle and then let it air dry.


Linen has an open weave and is easier to shrink than cotton. You have to soak linen in not too hot water for a few hours. While soaking your linen garment, you will want to stir it often and dry it on low heat.

Popular Way To Shrinking Clothes

Here are some popular ways to shrinking clothes on purpose:

Regular Wash Cycle With High Heat Dryer Cycle

A regular machine washing with laundry detergent and then placing in the dryer on the hottest setting will shrink almost any of your clothing. This is the most common method you could use, and you will need to check on the garments throughout to prevent over shrink. Avoid placing clothing in direct sunlight to dry as it can cause your clothes to fade or deteriorate.


By soaking clothing in warm or boiling water for a few minutes or more, you may get the results you are looking for. Then place the clothing in between two towels and press to remove all the excess water.

You can then lie it out flat or on a drying rack and blast it with a hairdryer on the highest heat setting at areas you want to shrink.

Boiling Method

The boiling method is highly recommended for denim, and cotton is boiling the garment. If you choose this method, you'll want to bring some water to a boil and then remove the pot from the stove when you seep your garment.

Steam Iron

Steam ironing is an effective way of shrinking cotton and other fabric. If it's available, you'll be able to shrink clothing with more precision.

Thankfully there are so many methods to choose from for making clothing shrink; tailoring, using a wet sheet, or even drying on a high heat setting. We will leave it up to you which method is best for your garment. Remember, the trick in shrinking clothing is not to go too far!

Tips Before You Go: 

Different materials require different shrinking methods, and not everything will shrink correctly in warm water or on a high heat dryer. Before determining the best method, read the label and know the fabric type you are working with. And when it's time to shrink clothes, be sure to take your time!

About the author

Emily is a fashion consultant, designer and creative director with more than 15 years experience creating, designing and developing clothing & jewelry. From managing pageant shows to turning concepts into actual designs, she has experience with almost all fabric types and jewelry designs and is in touch with the latest fashion trends.


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