This Is How To Unshrink Clothes & Bring Your Favorite Sweater Back To Life

February 28, 2018 by Lisa Fogarty
shefinds | Homepage

Accidentally shrinking your clothes happens to the best of us. It’s an innocent (but really, really annoying) mistake we all make from time to time. Such an easy mistake to make, but one that has the power to reduce us to tears.

It usually goes a little something like this: you placed your favorite wool statement sweater or best-fitting slacks in the washer, with the temperature turned all the way up to boiling hot. Or, perhaps you did everything right in the washing machine but completely forgot to pull out that one pair of jeans that should never, ever see the inside of a dryer. However it happened, here you are, left to confront the awful side effect of a bad laundry experience: shrunken clothes so small they can only fit a doll.

Your first instinct (after crying and kicking the washing machine, of course) may be to immediately plan a shopping trip in the hopes that you’ll find your favorite sweater, jeans, or pants once again. Hold that thought–we have a better idea.

These tips for how to unshrink clothes have been tried and tested by folks who have been in your shoes not too long ago. If you’re experiencing a shrunken clothes catastrophy, taking these steps can save you both some money and your favorite top.

1) Soak & Wear Your Jeans

jeans soaking in water

To make your jeans fit comfortably again, you may have to endure a little discomfort in the present moment. Bare with us here. You AND your jeans are going to have to soak. Fill up your tub with warm water and squeeze into those shrunken jeans as best as you can. It’ll be super uncomfortable, we’re sorry in advance. Now, prepare to sit and soak in the tub of water for 15 to 20 minutes. Pro tip: bring a book and try to make it fun, instead of intensely awkward. When the time is up, squeeze as much water as you can from your jeans. Here comes the super fun part: walk and move around in your wet jeans for another 30 minutes. This final step gives them enough time to stretch out as much as possible. After this torture is over, you can safely hang your jeans to dry. Remember to stay away from the dryer, unless you want to be back at square one.

2) Soak Cotton And Wool Sweaters, Shirts, Pants, & Socks

sweater soaking in water

Wool sweaters are notorious for always shrinking. And, if you’re not carefully washing them at the right temperature, your machine can do a number on cotton, as well. To remedy this problem, fill up a sink with warm water and add one tablespoon of hair conditioner to it. If you’re focusing on unshrinking wool here, you can substitute the conditioner with one tablespoon of white vinegar. Soak your clothing in the water for 30 minutes–but don’t just drop it in and go. You can help the process along by putting in a little extra work and stretching out the fabric. Be sure to be gentle! Lightly pull and shape the clothing with your hand while it’s submerged in the water. After a half hour passes, squeeze the water out of the fabric and lay it flat to dry. No dryer–see the pattern here?

3) Use Towels To Shape Clothing & Socks

sweater drying

As a last ditch effort to reunite your clothing to its original shape, try this final step. After soaking clothes in a sink with conditioner or vinegar, try positioning rolled-up (dry) towels inside of your sweater, pants, or socks while they’re sitting out to dry flat. This additional stretch tactic will help loosen the fibers and encourage them to take the shape you want.

Although there are a few unfortunate times when we shrink our clothing beyond repair (RIP), these steps should help remedy at least a few of your future laundry mishaps. These simple tactics have brought clothing back from the dead time and time again. Give them a try before heading out to the mall.


Lisa Fogarty is a lifestyle writer and reporter based in New York who covers health, wellness, relationships, sex, beauty, and parenting.

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