How to shrink a wool sweater

This article was co-authored by Susan Stocker. Susan Stocker runs and owns Susan’s Green Cleaning, the #1 Green Cleaning Company in Seattle. She is well known in the region for outstanding customer service protocols — winning the 2017 Better Business Torch Award for Ethics & Integrity —and her energetic support of green cleaning practices.

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Over time, wool sweaters can become a little baggy. Luckily, shrinking them is a quick an easy process. If you want to shrink the entire sweater, place the sweater in a warm wash with some laundry detergent and then dry it in the dryer. If you want to shrink a portion of the sweater, such as the waist or cuffs, use the hand shrinking method. Both these methods will shrink the wool about 1 clothing size each time that you complete the shrinking process.

How to shrink a wool sweater

How to shrink a wool sweater

Susan Stocker
Cleaning Professional Expert Interview. 8 November 2019. This protects the delicate wool from becoming fluffy due to too much agitation. [2] X Research source

  • Avoid putting the sweater straight into a hot wash, as this can cause it to shrink significantly and may make it too small. It is best to shrink the sweater in increments.
  • This technique works best on sweaters that are 100% wool.

Wool and cotton sweaters keep us snug and comfortable in the cold months and add fashionable flairs to our wardrobes. But, time and inattention result in you discovering that your favorite sweater is too big and unwearable. Knowing how to shrink a sweater helps you avoid those situations and ensures that your cold-weather gear all fits perfectly.

When you have a reliable method for how to shrink a sweatshirt, you enjoy peace of mind. Our guide shows you the top ways to shrink a sweater and keep your clothes looking and fitting the same way they did when you brought them home.

We give you processes to shrink cotton sweaters so they feel brand new again, and you also get top methods to shape and stretch wool sweaters and other animal fibers. Our look at sweater stretching is just right for your needs and gives you an extra tool for your home care kit.

How to shrink a wool sweater(deagreez/

  1. How to Shrink a Sweatshirt
  2. Shrinking Cotton Sweaters
    • Wash and Dry Your New Cotton
    • Boil Cotton Sweaters
    • Hit Wet Cotton with an Iron
  3. The Best Ways to Shrink a Sweater
  4. How to Shrink a Sweater – Wool Fabrics
    • Give Animal Fiber Sweaters a Short, Hot Wash
    • Reshape Wet Wool
    • Take in Extra Fabric

How to Shrink a Sweatshirt

Shrinking a sweater is rarely a one-size-fits-all proposition. The type of sweater fabric you wish to stretch or shape dictates your approach.

For example, one of the most popular sweater fabrics, cotton, requires specific treatment to get it back into fighting form. If you take care of cotton properly, it remains loose and comfortable.

Shrinking Cotton Sweaters

This section examines ways to shrink and stretch clothes made of cotton. Cotton is a natural fiber like wool and angora. Cotton responds differently to water and heat than those fabrics, though, and our tips reflect that.

The approaches for how to shrink cotton that we include in this portion of the article treat cotton as a unique fabric and help you get the most out of your old clothes so you can wear them with pride.

Wash and Dry Your New Cotton

When you buy new and possibly unwashed cotton, exposure to heat in the wash and dry cycle go a long way toward shrinking it down to your preferred size. Uncontrolled and repeated washings in hot or even warm water result in too much shrinkage, but careful application of your washer and dryer allows you to make your sweaters wearable.

Send your new cotton sweaters inside-out through the washing machine on a hot water cycle. Use bleach-free detergent to keep the colors bright. After you wash the sweaters, wring out excess water and run them through a hot cycle in your clothes dryer.

Take the clothes out periodically to check that they don’t shrink too much. When they reach the desired size, take them out of the dryer and let them air dry the rest of the way.

Boil Cotton Sweaters

This approach uses heat in much the same manner as when you shrink cotton in the washing machine, but it takes a tougher stance. Boiling water restores the spring to your cotton fibers and makes them pliant and stretchable once more. Our boiling-water treatment is also the easiest way to hand wash clothes that have stubborn stains and require additional care.

Boiling Water Cotton Shaping

  • A large pot
  • Safety gloves
  • Long-sleeved shirt
  • Long pants
  • A long pair of tongs

Fill a large metal pot with cold water, and place it on the stovetop. When the water begins to boil, add the sweater you wish to shrink and let it soak for a few minutes.

Carefully remove the sweater with the tongs while wearing safety gear, and place it in the dryer. Dry the sweater on high heat. Repeat until the item fits the way you want.

Hit Wet Cotton with an Iron

When combined with your boiling water option, the dryer is a powerful tool in your quest to find out how to shrink a sweater. You sometimes want more pinpoint control when you shape a sweater, though.

A steam iron is the ideal DIY selection for these sorts of issues and gives you heat in a convenient and portable package. Use an iron to take management of the drying process, and substitute a hair dryer if an iron is unavailable.

Shrinking Cotton with an Iron

  • Steam iron
  • 2 clean towels or pillowcases
  • Ironing board
  • A pot of boiling water
  • Tongs
  • Safety equipment

Put on gloves, long pants, and a long-sleeved shirt. Drop the sweater in boiling water for a few minutes, and then remove it using the tongs. Wring the piece of clothing carefully over the sink to remove excess water.

Turn the iron on high, and turn off the steam. Then, place it flat on an ironing board or flat surface between two clean towels or pillowcases to prevent it from coming into direct contact with the iron.

Iron the sweater until it’s dry. Repeat as needed until it’s shrunken to perfection.

The Best Ways to Shrink a Sweater

Our cotton care tips work well for most of your sweaters and even t-shirts, but woolly fabrics require different methods to keep them in top shape. Cashmere, angora, and other forms of wool shrink to fit if you know how to treat them, though. With some attention and caution, it’s simple to bring your wool sweaters back to their original shapes.

How to Shrink a Sweater – Wool Fabrics

Below, we investigate how to shrink a wool sweater and provide you with some winning treatments. Our wool shrinking suggestions run the gamut from carefully applying heat to getting creative with scissors, needle, and thread.

Our advice on the best ways to shrink wool gives you power over your old clothing and provides you with a few simple steps to help you maintain your sweaters at their original sizes.

Give Animal Fiber Sweaters a Short, Hot Wash

Sheep wool and similar animal fibers react to heat, although they do so at a different rate than cotton fabrics. Wool shrinks after just a little heat. Quick bursts in a hot water cycle in your washing machine, followed by a low-heat dry cycle in your dryer, lets you control the shrinking process.

With the proper precautions, your washing machine is your best friend and ally when shrinking clothing. Use it as a go-to when you encounter oversized sweaters. Place your sweater in a pillowcase to keep it from snagging on your washing machine’s interior.

Run the sweater through a ten-minute hot-water cycle. Place it in the dryer at low heat for about 25 minutes. Check on the piece of clothing every few minutes, and when it fits the way you like, remove it from the dryer to air dry it.

Reshape Wet Wool

One of the beauties of working with wool and wool blend fabrics is how easy it is to manipulate them when they’re wet. Wet wool stretches and shrinks, depending on how you treat it.

Use this characteristic to turn your shapeless blob of yarn into a form-fitting fashion statement. Some patience on your part is all it takes to restore woolen sweaters; and, if you make an error? Get the fabric wet and reshape it.

How to shrink a wool sweater

How to shrink a wool sweater

The Spruce / Cristina Tudor

  • Working Time: 15 mins
  • Total Time: 1 – 2 days
  • Skill Level: Intermediate

Almost everyone has mistakenly thrown a wool sweater into the washer in hot water or an acrylic sweater into a hot dryer and found that it’s shrunk to nearly doll-size. Before you discard a shrunken sweater or give it to a toddler or pet to wear, try this unshrinking technique that could save your clothing investment.

This process will work better on garments made from protein or hair fibers like wool, cashmere, or mohair than on synthetic fibers like acrylic or polyester. Natural hair fibers have more give and a better ability to stretch than manmade fibers, which are often heat-set to retain their shape. It won’t hurt to try unshrinking a synthetic knitted fabric, but the results might not turn out as well.

How Often to Try Unshrinking a Sweater

The process outlined below can be repeated if you see progress but it’s not quite enough to get the sweater back to an appropriate size. However, for the best results, begin working on fixing a shrunken sweater as soon as possible after it’s taken out of the wash. If you can’t start right away, allow it to air-dry flat.

How to shrink a wool sweater

How to shrink a wool sweater How to shrink a wool sweater

As much as I admire vintage clothing, I rarely shop in thrift stores, only because I assume nothing will fit my small frame. Jerrod at Oxford Cloth Button Down, however, has an inspiring post showing how you can shrink a sweater two or three sizes down. I emailed him to get details:

  • First, you have to be OK with losing the sweater. This is obviously not an exact science, and he’s ruined more sweaters than he’s saved. However, with the prices in thrift stores, this is usually not such a big deal.
  • If you need a sweater to shrink a lot, then throw it in the washing machine under a hot, hot water cycle. When it’s done, take it out and shape it to the size you want. It should dry to the size you need.
  • If you only need the sweater to shrink a little, then spray it down with a water bottle and put it in the dryer. Check on it every three to five minutes.

The downside is that all sweaters will felt, although some more than others (in the pink Shetland above, it was pretty minimal). To minimize felting, try putting the sweater in a pillowcase or mesh laundry wash bag. This should help prevent the sweater from beating against the side of your washing machine’s drum.

You might also get away with just hot soaking your sweater, like denim enthusiasts sometimes do with unsanforized jeans. In this way, fill your bathtub or a bucket full of hot water, and submerge you sweater. Leave it in for thirty minutes or so, and keep putting in more hot water throughout the process to keep the temperature up. This should shrink the sweater without needing to agitate it (which is what causes the felting). If you only need certain parts to shrink, you can also try submerging only those areas. I’ve successfully done this with jeans.

Relatedly, you can stretch and tailor a sweater, if need be.

How many times have you found that you want to wear your favourite jumper, or maybe just a really classy top but you can’t because it’s been stretched out? Not sure how to shrink a jumper? Follow our quick guide on how to shrink your jumper back to its original state.

How to Shrink a Sweater

So you’ve had your sweater for a while, you dig it out of your wardrobe, but alas! It’s misshapen and stretched. One of the best ways to get your jumper back into shape is to shrink it. The material will shorten, meaning it’ll go back to its original shape and size. However, for different materials there are different methods, following these simple steps are important because the last thing you want is a jumper that’s shrunk into a child’s size piece.

Does Wool Shrink?

Wool is one of the most common fabrics for jumpers and sweaters, you will find that most are a wool blend and contain other fabrics too. Wool is very receptive to being washed and will shrink if you put it in the wash with a high heat. Make sure you check your care label, because you may want to shrink your wool jumper but too much heat or it’ll never fit you again.

How to Shrink a Wool Sweater

A common method for shrinking wool tops is to wash them in hot water, the way that you choose to do so can vary but it should always still be effective. Here we’ll detail a hot temperature wash for your clothes, this method involves the use of a washing machine. This is a very simple method that’ll fix your jumper and how to shrink a to sweater one size :

  • Set your washing machine to the highest temperature, heat adds pressure to fabrics and makes the fibres in them tighten up together which in turn makes clothes shrink.
  • For this to have to best result, you must make sure that you wash your jumper on a short cycle because wool can be very delicate. Heat makes fabrics shrink as mentioned before but this is especially true of wool.
  • You’ll have to dry your top next, however air drying it is not a suitable option. Air drying your top means that you’ll be exposing it to a lower temperature and it won’t be in the right conditions to shrink properly, if at all.
  • Rather than air drying your jumper, the best option is to put it in the dryer and set it to a low heat. Hot air has the same effect on clothes as hot water so doing this will see your clothes shrink effectively.
  • Due to the responsiveness of wool, it’s very easy to come across a situation where you find that your top has shrunk more than you intended it to. To counter this, you should frequently check the state of your clothing to make sure that it’s shrunk to level that you want.

Hot Wash for Cotton or Polyester

Just like with wool tops, the most common method for this involves using a washing machine, however with these materials, there are some slight variations because they’re not as responsive. You need to set your washing machine to the highest temperature available to make sure that the materials will mesh and compact together during the cycle. In the case of cotton and polyester, heat will manage to do the best job of shrinking them when combined with moisture and movement. This means that the clothing is effectively reshaped during the course of the wash and only the shorter fabric will be able to keep it’s place whilst the longer fabric is displaced, thus causing the clothes to shrink.

Air drying is also not an option when it comes to these materials because you don’t want to stop the shrinking process too early. Just as you would with wool, throw your cotton and polyester jumpers into the dryer and make sure to set the dryer to the highest heat. Having clothes of this material exposed to heat will help them dry and shrink faster, as well as making sure that the process is at it’s most effective.

The polyester may not be as responsive to the heat as cotton and is definitely not as responsive as wool so it’s a good idea to repeat the wash and dry cycle with it a few times until you feel that it’s shrunk to a size that you’re happy with. Polyester is synthetic, and thanks to that, it has the ability to go through multiple washes without sustaining damage unlike tops from its wool and cotton counterparts.

How to Shrink a Stretched Jumper by Hand

If you feel like you can’t trust a washing machine to shrink your clothes then that’s understandable because there can be some side effects, most notably fraying. In this case, it’s better to shrink clothes using your hands as you can be more accurate and control the situation. When it comes to reshaping sweaters by hand, you’ll most likely know which parts of the sweater you want to shrink. So soak your sweater in some warm water and remove it once it’s wet, then press on it to release all of the excess water. During this you shouldn’t wring out the top otherwise, you’ll risk ruining it.

After the jumper has dried out enough, you can begin shaping the parts that have stretched out. Depending on how much the jumper has stretched out will determine how long this process will take but overall it shouldn’t be something that takes too long. Once you have the shape and size, you just need to leave it to dry.

A serious mistake that’s usually made when shrinking tops by hand is hanging them out to dry, this is something that you have to avoid at all costs. This makes the jumper uncomfortable to wear and look at because the surface becomes uneven, being filled with many bumps. You should find a towel to pin the jumper to, set it down and let it dry in a place where it’s unlikely to be touched.

Shrinking Parts of the Sweater by Hand

This is similar to the method mentioned above, first you need to prepare a bowl, tub or any basin of water and make sure that the water has been boiled. You only need to focus on the areas that you want to reshape and put those specific parts of the jumper into the water. As a precaution, wear protective gloves to make sure that you don’t get scorched by the water.

From this point, just grab the part of the sweater that you want to shape gently and slowly work it down to the size that you want. If the part of the top that you want to reshape is small then you may want to pull it closer to you so that it is easier to see, and if the part that you’re reshaping is large then it’s best to put it down on a flat surface before starting.

The last step is to use a hair dryer to dry out the sweater and watch it form into the intended shape, depending on how long it takes for the top to dry should determine the heat level used to dry it out.

Know Your Care Labels

How to Shrink a Jumper

  • Does wool shrink? Always remember that it does, no matter the quality.
  • Decide how much it is you want to shrink your sweater or jumper. Is your end goal realistic?
  • Find out which material your jumper is. This is fundamental to knowing which method to apply.
  • Remember to always check your care label, some materials are poly-mixes and may need to be taken to a dry cleaner.
  • If all else fails, then it might be time to replace your jumper!

On That Note

Anytime that you buy a jumper, it’s a given that it’s not going to be in great condition forever. However, we’d like to think that we’d never be in a situation where your jumper is no longer wearable. Sometimes it happens but it doesn’t always have to get the better of us. By following this simple guide, you can restore your jumper back to the glorious moment that you bought it, we’ll even show you how to shrink a sweater one size. These are some of the most effective ways to shrink clothes – there’s always a method depending on what equipment and material you use. If you have any pesky jumpers that are stretched out of shape, that should no longer be an issue.

How to shrink a wool sweater

If you take your wool sweater out of your washing machine only to learn it has seriously shrunken, don’t fret—there are ways to save the cozy staple, and the sooner you do so, the better. Best of all? Only a few materials are needed to bring the sweater back to life (er, we mean back to its original shape). Ahead, see an easy-to-follow guide on exactly how to unshrink a wool sweater. Remember: To avoid this same mishap from happening in the future, skip the washing machine and rinse it by hand instead.

1. Soak the Sweater in a Solution

The first step in the unshrinking process is to soak the wool sweater in a solution that consists of cool water and about two tablespoons of baby shampoo for at least 30 minutes (but no more than two hours). Liquid fabric softer can also be used in place of the shampoo.

Then, swish the sweater around to ensure that every inch of it is soaked in the solution. This is an important step, as the soaking of the sweater softens and relaxes the wool fibers, which then allow for reshaping and resizing.

2. Remove the Sweater From the Solution

Once you’ve removed the soak sweater, very gently squeeze to remove the excess water. Be careful not to wring or twist the sweater. Remember, the wool fibers are relaxed, so you want to avoid doing anything else that can alter the shape or fit.

3.В Roll Up the Sweater in a Towel

After you’ve squeezed out what you can of the water solution, lay the sweater on a dry towel, and roll it up. This will absorb the rest of the water that you were not able to remove. The sweater should be damp, but not soaking wet.

4. Place the Sweater on a Fresh Towel, and Then Begin the Stretching Process

After you’ve soaked the sweater in the solution to soften the wool fibers and ensured the excess moisture has been removed, it’s time to start the resizing process. Gently begin stretching it back to its original size (this may need to be repeated several times).

5. Let the Sweater Dry

The final step in the unshrinking process is to let the sweater air-dry (note: never put it in the dryer). If needed, reshape and stretch out the sweater as needed during the drying stages.

Published on January 23, 2021 Last updated October 4, 2021 ♛ By Melissa J. Will

Is it possible to un-shrink a sweater? If your favorite wool sweater (or other garment) shrank after a hot water wash or dryer cycle—or both, you may be able to fix it. Use these tips from fiber-expert Kristi Porter to see what can be done to restore it.

This post will show you how to assess the damage, and (hopefully) get that sweater back to normal. Otherwise, you can turn your felted sweater into a pet bed.

How to shrink a wool sweater

Unshrinking Sweaters

How to shrink a wool sweater

Is There a Way to Unshrink a Sweater?

I consulted with my friend Kristi Porter, author of four knitting books and a long time contributor to, including a column called Frankenknits about repurposing knits. Kristi definitely knows her fibers, so I knew she’d be able to help.

This tips work for various wool fibers including cashmere, merino, and angora.

We’re talking sweaters here but the same tips apply to any wool garment including hats, scarves, mitts, jumpers, and so on.

Here’s what you need to determine first.

Is It Shrunken or Shrunken and Felted?

The first step is to determine the extent of the damage.

Did the sweater just shrink down a bit or are the fibers actually felted?

  • If the wool has just shrunken down a bit, there’s hope.
  • If the fibers are felted (i.e. shrunken, and tightly schmooshed together), you’re out of luck for unshrinking. Though there’s plenty of other projects you can make with the felted material (see below).

How to shrink a wool sweater

Felted Test

There is no specific test to determine the degree of feltedness other than your own observations.

Examine the garment:

  • Can you still see individual fibers? Or is it all fuzzy with no real distinction between fibers?
  • When you gently pull a small 2″ square section in opposite directions, is there any give?

Tightly felted knits have no stretch left which means the fibers can break when pulled. At this point you have an unwearable sweater, so you can either experiment with unshrinking or proceed to fully felt those fibers and use the fabric to make something else. Or give it to someone with a tiny body and long arms. Or your cat.

Multi-Fiber Items

What if the sweater has several different fibers in it?

It’s impossible to give advice on all the possible variations (various natural and synthetic fibers in varying percentages). You’ll have to decide if you want to experiment with unshrinking or intentional felting.

How To Unshrink a Wool Sweater

Remember, this will only work if the sweater is made from wool and has not felted.

What Products Can Help Unshrink Wool?

The two recommended products are Soak or Eucalan.

  1. Fill a clean basin or sink with warm water.
  2. Add wool wash (like Soak or Eucalan) according to product instructions.
  3. Gently add garment and press it into the water. Do not stir or agitate at all.
  4. After 20 minutes, drain the water with the garment still in the basin. Do not rinse.
  5. Gently press the water out of the knit, but do not squeeze or wring. When you pick it up, do so gently from the bottom.
  6. Remove excess water by rolling in a towel or spinning in the salad spinner (So effective! Your knits will dry twice as fast!).
  7. Lay the garment out and gently stretch, paying attention to any seams because that’s where you’re going to hit your limit on how much you can stretch.
  8. Don’t overstretch the sleeve width, for instance, if the armhole insists on staying small.
  9. Keep flat until dry.

Drying Tip

  • Don’t put your knits outside to dry in direct sunlight! Drying knits outside on a picnic table is great for air circulation and really speeds up the process, however, some dyes used on yarns are enormously photosensitive and can fade or darken over a couple of hours! Cover your knits with a sheet or tablecloth to avoid damage.

Can I Use Other Products?

  • You may see things like baby shampoo, fabric softener, and hair conditioner recommended for washing or unshrinking wool. These are not recommended. Stick with a product made specifically for wool fibers that does not require rinsing.

Wool Garment Care Tips

If you want to avoid this problem in the future, these tips will help.

  • Avoid frequent washing of wool garments. A workaround with sweaters or tops is to always wear an undergarment like a t-shirt to absorb any sweat or body odor.
  • If the label says to dry clean only, do so.
  • If washing at home, only use a gentle product like Soak or Euclan.
  • For washing machine, use delicate cycle.
  • When handwashing, handle the fibers as little as possible.
  • To dry, roll item in a towel and apply gentle pressure. Never use a dryer or hot, direct sun.
  • Store away from moths. Wrap in tissue paper to absorb odors.
  • If you suspect moths or moth larvae in the garment, place in large freezer bag and chill below freezing for several days to kill the larvae.

What Causes Felting?

Almost any animal hair will felt. If you examine a strand of your hair you’ll notice that your fingers will glide smoothly down the strand but squeak or catch going “the wrong way”.

This is because hairs are covered with little tiny scales.

For a fabric to felt, the little scales on the hairs need to be opened up, then, as the hairs rub against each other, the little scales stick together and get the hairs all tangled and stuck like velcro, pulling the hairs closer and closer together.

Felting happens best with moisture, temperature shifts, and agitation. A high pH level (which soaps can cause) is another factor.

You can see how a trip through the washer with a hot wash, cold rinse, lots of agitation, and detergent is sure to shrink your sweater!

Repurpose Ideas for a Felted Garment

Once something is really felted, you can treat it like fabric and cut and sew wherever you like.

You could make:

  • Pillows
  • Baby soakers
  • Zippered pouches
  • Soft toys
  • Purse
  • Phone cover
  • Blanket
  • Scarves
  • Hats
  • Mittens

So, what did we do with our felted sweater?

The conundrum of shrinking clothes – Now why would I shrink clothes? Why would you?

Well, for a lot of reasons.

Maybe you were gifted this beautiful sweatshirt, but it is just a little too big. Maybe you bought a beautiful hoodie yourself and though you thought it perfect at the showroom, now you feel it needs to be smaller, fitting you better

Or you stretched the clothing yourself – you carelessly wrung to remove water and line dried or worse machine dried.

Or on a happy note, you lost weight after you bought your pants.

Or the scenario which happens to me (wish it was the earlier one) – ordering online. I always order bigger sizes because I hate returning things and all the formalities which go with it just because it is smaller – the feeling sucks. So other than swallow the bitter pill of donating the clothing I don’t see another way – other than trying to shrink it to fit me – which is easier than altering it.

How to shrink a wool sweater

Which clothes shrink?

As a sewist (seamstress, tailor, sewer, whatever) I am familiar with shrinking fabric – a lot!. After I buy fabric, they almost always are preshrunk, before they reach the cutting table.

It is because most of the fabric fibers are stretched during the manufacturing process ( something to do with the economics. Read more about it here in the post on How to Not Shrink Clothes) when these fibers come into contact with the water and then undergoes the agitation of the wash, they spring back to their original size (smaller ) as soon as they are dry.

Fabric that is not preshrunk before cutting and sewing it, will shrink afterward when the final garment is washed.

So a shirt you bought which fit perfectly fine, hugging you at all the correct places may end up making you look horrible after the first wash – pinching you at all the wrong places.

Fabrics that shrink and those that don’t.

Some fabrics are more prone to shrinking than some. Say you have this wool jacket – it will definitely shrink after a wash. Unless it is made of preshrunk woolen fiber. My favorite cotton flannel in plaid – I know it will shrink some.

Cotton shrinks, as do most natural fabrics like linen, Cashmere, Mohair, boucle, organza, georgette, dupioni silk, thai silk.Most of my dresses from the stores are made of rayon, knit- they also shrink, mostly.

Synthetic fabrics, like polyester, nylon do not shrink – so you may only end up frustrating yourself trying. Do not try to shrink clothes labelled “Dry clean Only”, leather, fur, suede, beaded fabric, canvas, upholsetery fabric, PVC, Ripstock nylon. Check out this related detailed post – Does Polyester shrink?

Anti-shrinkage treatment is getting common for natural fabrics that are sure to shrink -so if your fabric care label says the fabric of the garment is Anti-shrinkage treated or Sanforised (another treatment for preventing shrinkage), leave it – gift the shirt to someone else.

A list of fabrics showing their susceptibility to shrinkage.

How to shrink a wool sweater

Best ways to Shrink Clothes

  • Fabrics that shrink and those that don’t.
  • 1. Regular machine washing
  • 2. Warm water soaking
  • 3. Steam iron
  • 4. Wet sheet
  • 5. Tailors steam press
  • 6. Fabric Manipulation

The methods you can use to shrink clothes

1. Regular machine washing

If the clothing is machine washable try this first. The agitation in the machine and then the drying will make many clothes shrink. Cotton, denim, linen, hemp, Jersey material ( t-shirt knits), microfiber are fabrics that shrink this way. Use warm water if the fabric allows it and a mild detergent.

2. Warm water soaking

This is the most commonly used method of shrinking clothes /fabric. This can ensure even shrinking.

Soak the clothing in warm water for some time before rinsing. You can keep for more than 6 hours ( even overnight). Now wash with detergent and rinse thoroughly. Dry thoroughly. Do not wring to remove water – just line dry after pressing against the basin walls to remove excess water. Depending on the fabric you may have to try this method more than once

This is the best way to shrink pants made of drill, khakhi, denim, corduroy etc. You can use this method with cotton and silk clothing

You cannot use this method on vividly colored clothes as the colours may fade – you may have to reduce the time of soaking. Satin and crepe should also not be soaked this way

3. Steam iron

This is the method of shrinking Using the steam function in your home steam iron. You need a steam iron with good supply tank and give good pressure of steam.

If you have woolen clothes this is the best way of shrinking. Silk fibers in dupioni and thai silk can also shrink this way, so does loose woven fabrics and organza, Cashmere, Tweed, boucle, camel, mohair. Velvet and velveteen fabrics shrink this way with the wrong side up. Do not try this on silk, if you have a faulty steam. It will develop water spots.

Just fill the steam iron with water and set it to high temperature. Do not overfill. Use the press function. The steam and the heat of the iron will create a condition conducive to shrinking. This can be used for clothing which may distort with washing.

Do not iron as this may distort the fabric

Do not use this method on rayon or silk fabric. You may develop water spots which is even worse

How to steam and shrink clothes

Hover the iron half an inch or so above the fabric and slowly move over the entire length. After steaming do not hang to dry – just lay it flat somewhere.

4. Wet sheet

This is the method of shrinking by pressing fabric/clothing with a dampened fabric piece kept on it. The dampened fabric piece is kept on top of the clothing and hot iron is used repeatedly, till the clothing shrinks. If you have a very heavy dry iron this works very well

With stiff tightly woven cotton fabric, which you do not want to wash, you can sponge with a dampened cloth and then press with hot iron

5. Tailors steam press

This is a variation of the above method of steam ironing – the equipment is a lot more professional.The professional tailoring shops have steam & vacuum tables with corresponding dry irons with built-in water & drainage as well as air compressor.

If you want to replicate this you will need a heavy duty steam iron that is a lot heavier and can go up in temperature a lot higher than the home use iron.

6. Fabric Manipulation

This method is used by professional dressmakers to shrink selective parts of clothing – this is usually used in bespoke tailoring. Like fitting a sleeve to fit the contours of the arms, or manipulating a dart. Hot dry iron is used to shrink parts of pattern pieces to behave the way the tailor/seamstress wants.

Another manipulation is one you can do yourself, without any equipment. If your woolen sweater has stretched itself out of shape, you can try this – after it is wet, lay it down flat, rearrange it into the smaller size you want and let it dry there itself – the fibers may dry in the same position and your clothing would be shrunk.

Check out the post on wool clothing care . All fabrics need special care to ensure that the regular wear and tear from use and cleaning do not damage or shrink them. Check out related posts for tips – Linen wash and care; Silk wash and care; Acetate wash and care

  1. How to Avoid Stretching out Acrylic Sweaters
  2. How to Stop Laundry From Shrinking
  3. How to Shrink Cotton
  4. What Is a Synthetic Polyester Fabric?
  5. How to Wash Dupioni Silk

How to shrink a wool sweater

Gitpix/Moment Open/Getty Images

When washed in hot water, garments made of wool and cotton tend to shrink. But acrylic doesn’t respond to washing and drying temperatures the same way that natural fibers do. Instead of shrinking, the synthetic material actually stretches when facing high temperatures. Rather than trying to shrink an acrylic sweater, you may be better off exchanging it at the store for a smaller size or tailoring it to fit properly.

Introduction to Synthetic Fibers

Prior to the early part of the 20th century, sweaters were made out of natural fibers such as wool or cotton. With the gradual introduction of synthetic fibers, such as acrylic, polyester and rayon, manufacturers began incorporating those materials into their garments. Some were 100 percent synthetic (such as acrylic), while others blended the fibers in different proportions (such as 60 percent acrylic and 40 percent wool) to create a specific feel.

Acrylic yarns were invented, in part, to avoid shrinking, as garments made out of natural fibers require special handling when laundering. Acrylic is also machine-washable and hypoallergenic, characteristics that differentiate the fabric from its natural-fiber counterparts. Also, the larvae of clothes moths are unable to digest the man-made fiber, so no holes.

The Effects of Heat on Acrylic Fibers

On the minus side, acrylic knitwear is susceptible to stretching, notes garment analyst Dan Eisen in Treasure Coast News: “Acrylic yarn and fabrics are stabilized in manufacture by a heat-setting process, and when improperly stabilized, acrylic knitwear will stretch from the heat and tension in normal wear and in routine cleaning procedures.”

How to shrink a wool sweater

Guidelines on How to Wash Acrylic Garments

To keep your acrylic garment from losing its form and becoming baggy, follow the care instructions on the label of the piece you’re washing. Real Simple’s Fabric Care 101 guide recommends washing man-made fibers such as acrylic, polyester, nylon and spandex in warm water and drying on a low setting or letting wet garments air dry. The guide also recommends using a fabric softener to help curb static.

While you may want to wash clothing made with natural materials every two to three uses, synthetic materials are more durable and can withstand four to five wears.

Alternatives to Shrinking Your Acrylic Sweaters

If you have an acrylic garment that you want made smaller, your best bet is to have it tailored; a professional tailor can customize the fit to your body. Alternatively, you might exchange the garment at the store where you purchased it. If all else fails, consider gifting the sweater or donating it to a good cause.

Wondering how to shrink wool or how to fix a shrunken wool sweater? Whether you’re shrinking or unshrinking wool, follow our simple guide.

Updated 16 May 2022 By Cleanipedia Team

How to shrink a wool sweater

How to shrink a wool sweater

Wool’s a great material. It’s cosy, it’s comforting, it’ll keep you warm in the autumn and winter. It’s also prone to shrinking, which is great if you want to know how to shrink wool, but not so great when you’re frantically Googling ‘how to unshrink merino wool sweater’. Here’s our guide to both how to shrink and how to unshrink a wool jumper or any other woollies that are giving you trouble.

If you want to know how to shrink or how to unshrink wool:

To shrink, agitate the wool in a warm environment, either by hand or in a tumble dryer.

To unshrink, relax the fibres with fabric conditioner so you can stretch the wool out by hand.

When you’re shrinking wool, always stop a bit earlier than you think you need to. You might be able to salvage things if you follow our advice, but it’s always best to avoid going too far in the first place!


How to shrink a wool sweater

How to shrink wool sweater by hand

Be careful when you’re shrinking wool. It’s easy to make it a little too small or felt it by accident. You might prefer to do your shrinking by hand, so you can keep an eye on the process.

Use a wool-friendly detergent.

Put a few drops of a wool-friendly detergent into a basin of warm water.

Use a basin.

Put the item you’re hoping to shrink in the basin.

Gently swish the item round.

Every two minutes, gently swish the item around in the water for a few seconds, then check to see how it’s looking.

Use a towel.

When you think it’s shrunk enough, take the item out and press the excess water out of it with a towel.

Leave it flat.

Lay the item on a fresh towel, keeping its shape, and leave it flat to dry. Keep it away from radiators and direct sunlight, or it might shrink more than you wanted!

How to shrink a wool jumper in the tumble dryer

A lot of wool items have the ‘do not tumble dry’ symbol on their care label. There’s a reason for that: being spun around in the heat makes wool shrink, and the care label assumes that’s not your goal. If you want to know how to shrink wool, of course, it’s good news.В

To machine-shrink wool:

Dampen the item.

Make sure it’s equally damp all over if you want it to shrink evenly.

Use a tumble dryer.

Put it in the tumble dryer and set the heat to medium.

Keep your eyes on it.

Every four or five minutes, take a look to see how it’s doing.

Act quickly.

Take it out as soon as it looks like it’s shrunk enough.

How to un-shrink a wool sweater

What if your shrinking efforts go awry, or a regular wash has unwanted results? Can you unshrink a wool jumper?

Unshrinking clothes is never guaranteed to go perfectly, but it’s worth a shot. If the item has already shrunk, there’s no harm in seeing if you can salvage it. Here’s a method for how to fix a shrunken wool sweater or any other item made of wool.

Use fabric conditioner.

Mix some fabric conditioner, such as Comfort Intense Fresh Sky into warm water. Use a container that’ll fit your jumper (or whatever other woollen items you’re hoping to unshrink). About two tablespoons are enough for a regular sink.

Soak it!

Soak the item in the solution for 15 minutes.

Use a towel.

Gently press excess water out of the wool with a towel.

Stretch it.

Lay the item flat on a dry towel. Stretch it carefully into the shape and size you want.

Leave the item as it dries.

Leave the item as it dries. Every hour or so, check on it and stretch it out again if it’s drawing back into itself.

Which brand of dishwasher tablets do you usually purchase?

This can even be used as a method for how to unshrink merino wool. Now that you know how to shrink and how to unshrink wool, you might be wondering how to deal with other materials. Never fear! We have more general guides on how to shrink clothes and how to unshrink clothes, for all your sartorial sizing adjustments!

If you’ve thrown a sweater into the wash thinking it will survive the machine’s tossing and turning without too much shrinkage, and then been surprised by the pint-sized sweater that you pull out after the final rinse cycle, then you know how to make your own felted wool.

I’ve learned from my washing mistakes, and now I look at my aging sweaters and determine whether they can be rehabilitated into a new life through the magic of shrinkage.

Wool that’s been agitated in hot water changes its characteristic stretchiness, as the fibers tighten and become matted together. The resulting dense felted fabric is no longer a sweater that can unravel.

Rather, It’s felted wool that can be cut and sewn together without fear of fraying. It’s got a new life as a stronger, more durable and warmer fabric that’s now ready to be turned into mittens, scarves, hats, skirts, slippers, ponchos, capes, shawls, and quilted bedcovers.

How to shrink a wool sweater

After you intentionally shrink your first sweater, you’ll begin to see the possibilities of working with this fabric, and you might end up collecting sweaters for future projects just like you’d do with fabric for quilting, building an inventory of different colors, weights, and stitch patterns.

When searching for sweaters to felt, keep in mind that you want the wool content to be at least 80%. Every sweater with at least 80% wool is brimming with possibilities. Men’s Size XXL sweaters will give you larger pieces of felt post-washing. Baby and kids sweaters might come in patterns you wouldn’t find in adult sweaters. And sweaters with extra long ribbing might come in handy for making mittens.

Tips for felting:

  • Wash like colors together
  • Set machine to the highest hot setting
  • Add a small amount of laundry liquid
  • Check on the sweater every 5 minutes or so
  • Remove the sweater from the machine when the shrinkage is just right – if it’s balled up and won’t lie flat, it’s been shrunk too much
  • Lie the sweater flat for air drying
  • If you want more shrinkage, put the damp sweater in the dryer, and check on it frequently

You can also felt sweaters by hand:

  • Fill up a basin with hot water and a little liquid soap
  • Add the sweater to the water
  • Scrub and agitate the sweater until it shrinks
  • Make sure you rinse all the detergent out
  • If necessary, toss it in the dryer for more shrinkage – be sure to check on the shrinkage every few minutes so it doesn’t over-shrink

How to shrink a wool sweater

Once the sweater is dry, disassemble it:

  • Cut off buttons
  • Turn the sweater inside-out so the seams are exposed
  • With a good pair of scissors, cut close to a side seam all the way up to the sleeve
  • Cutting close to the shoulder seam, cut the sleeve off
  • Cut along the shoulder seams
  • Cut the other sleeve off
  • Don’t cut the second side seam
  • Leave the main body of the sweater as one piece – you might want a big section for a project
  • On each sleeve, cut down the sleeve seam, giving you a flat piece of felted wool
  • As you’re cutting the sweater apart, keep an eye out for moth holes and stains
  • Put a piece of paper tape over any holes and stains you find, so you can make sure to cut around the blemishes.

More tips:

If you need to store your felt, make sure you put your pieces in a dry, covered container, away from moths and other bugs.

To keep bugs away, you can add a couple of drops of Rosemary, Cedarwood, or Thyme essential oil to cotton balls and add them to your felt storage container. You can also add a lavender sachet.

If you’d like a more detailed explanation of turning sweaters into felted material with before-and-after photos, Make Magazine offers some advice and a felting how-to article.

Sweaters that are partial wool can also be upcycled, but won’t be fray-proof like felted wool. To deconstruct the sweater, cut into pieces by following the seams.

In the making of any project with non-felted sweaters, you’ll need to stop any potential fraying by machine stitching zig-zags on all the raw, cut edges.

Next, watch a thrifty knitter source sweaters to be deconstructed for their yarn at DIY Mindset.

Below are three books about working with sweaters and felted wool. Click on a link to see them or purchase them on Amazon. [As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases (at no extra cost to you).]

How to shrink a wool sweater

Sometimes it happens to us all, in a careless moment we throw our brand new wool sweaters in the washing machine or dryer, shrinking them down about eight sizes and rendering it un-wearable to all but our children’s action man or Barbie Doll.

Luckily I have a contact with some inside knowledge on this matter so I asked my friend Mark Shenton owner of if there was a way to un-shrink a wool sweater, he started laughing even before I could finish my question.

Well people today’s your lucky day, I have used the information this Shenton character gave me and mastered the black art of wool un-shrinking and am here to share it with you.

When wool gets wet and warm, the fibres in the wool lock themselves together and don’t want to let go, resulting in shrinkage (you can get wool warm or wet, but not both), which kind of makes washing wool garments a dangerous business.

To un-shrink the wool, soak the garment in warm water with a mild soap for about 10 minutes. This unlocks the fibers in the wool. Then lay the garment out on some towels in a cool place. Stretch the garment out to its original dimensions. The stretching pulls the unlocked wool fibres away from each other. Allow it to dry. The absence of heat from the drying process allows the wool fibers to set in place without locking together and shrinking the garment again.

That it, long story short: you will have a brand new, fully functional sweater again.

Tips for Shrinking Your Clothes the Right Amount

So, you want to shrink your turtleneck, but not so much it becomes a wardrobe addition for your miniature Schnauzer. First step: Consider the fabric.

You can even shrink an article of clothing down a few sizes in just one wash-dry cycle, depending on the material. If you want to shrink items just a small amount, check their size at various points during the wash and dry cycles. Also, consider starting the dry cycle on medium rather than high heat to mitigate over-shrinkage. When the clothing is just right, remove it. If the newly-shrunken item is still wet, then continue to dry it with the air-dry setting on the dryer [source: Khalid].

For best results, follow these recommendations for various fabrics:

Cotton: Wash on the highest heat available, then transfer immediately to the dryer. Dry on any heat, because the tumble of the dryer will cause the piece to lose moisture, thus the garment fibers will contract [source: Cavanaugh].

Wool or wool blends: Wash on high heat, ideally on a short cycle. Then, put in the dryer on low heat. Repeat as needed to achieve the desired size [source: The Idle Man]. You can also spot-shrink sweater cuffs that have stretched out of shape. Simply boil water, dampen the cuffs with the hot water, re-shape them as desired, and then blow dry with a hair dryer on a high setting [source: Real Simple].

Polyester: Some garments will shrink, some won’t. It’s a synthetic fabric that holds up well against the elements, which is why it’s a desired material. For those that are shrinkable, it may take a few laundry cycles for the drama to really unfold. Polyester holds up to heat well, so feel free to go for the hottest settings on your washer and dryer. Wash and dry the polyester items over and over until you’ve achieved the perfect size. If it’s still too big try applying an iron set to low to medium temperature to the garment when it’s damp. Be careful not to stretch the fabric, just heat it with the iron. Continue ironing until it is no longer damp, then check for size again [source: HomeQuicks].

Depending on the fabric, you can take your clothes down a size, or two, or even three!

Merino wool is widely regarded to be a quality fabric. It looks and feels premium, and also fits like a glove. But what about its longevity? Does merino wool shrink?

Some merino wool sweaters do shrink if thrown in the dryer or the washing machine. However, pre-shrunk merino wool sweaters can be washed in cold water without any noticeable shrinkage. Merino wool shrinks in the dryer, so such sweaters should always be laid flat to dry.

Now, to get to these results and to find out the exact amount of shrinkage, I decided to do a bunch of experiments. I took three sweaters that have served me well over the course of time, and I ran a bunch of tests on them.

Here’s how it all turned out.

Does Merino Wool Shrink In The Wash?

How to shrink a wool sweater

Yes, some merino wool sweaters and garments do shrink after washing. Washing thicker sweaters is more dangerous, while thin to medium pre-shrunk sweaters can be washed if the label says so.

To put this conventional wisdom to test, I decided to do some research.

I took three different merino wool sweaters I own which are made by popular brands such as Uniqlo, Icebreaker, and Howies. These three sweaters have been in my arsenal for over 2-4 years now.

Since I had torn the care label on these garments as soon as I bought them, I didn’t really know how the sweaters were going to look like after the wash. I washed them in cold water with minimal detergent.

I took their measurements before washing as well as after washing.

Comparing these two numbers gave me the “Change in Size” metric. This metric helped me ascertain if my merino wool garments had shrunk or stretched or remained the same in size.

Here are the results of this little experiment, tabulated for your convenience.

Sweater Change in Size
Uniqlo Merino Wool Sweater No change in size
Icebreaker Merino Wool Sweater No change in size
Howies Merino Wool Sweater Slightly shrunk

Results of washing merino wool

Now, to get further proof, I contacted all these three companies and asked them about how to take care of their merino wool clothing. Uniqlo and Icebreaker said that their sweaters can be washed with a mild detergent, while the support at Howies asked me to dry clean.

The results of the experiment are very clear.

Merino wool can shrink after being machine-washed, but sometimes no change in size is going to take place. The best thing to do would be to follow the instructions on the care label. If you don’t have access to a care label, it’s better not to wash merino wool and go for dry cleaning instead.

It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Does Merino Wool Shrink In The Dryer?

To answer this question, I put my three merino wool sweaters into the dryer after washing.

I took their current measurements and then compared them with the measurements I recorded after drying them, and tabulated the results.

Like in the previous experiment, this helped me determine if there had been any change in the size of the sweater and gave me the “Change in Size” metric.

This metric helped me decide if my sweaters had shrunk or not.

Sweater Change in Size
Uniqlo Merino Wool Sweater 2 inches tighter
Icebreaker Merino Wool Sweater No change
Howies Merino Wool Sweater 4-5 inches tighter

Change in merino wool sweater size after tumble-drying.

As you can clearly see in the table, two of my merino wool sweaters shrunk by a significant amount after being put in the dryer. The Icebreaker merino wool sweater did not have any change in its size, but even they advise against tumble drying.

Through this experiment, I’ve come to a pretty thorough and well-researched conclusion.

Merino wool should never be put in the dryer. This will lead to shrinkage. Even hang-drying is not a great idea here, as that may also lead to a change in size. The best way to dry merino wool sweaters is to simply lay them flat and let evaporation do its work.

Does Washable Merino Wool Shrink?

There are many merino wool sweaters that are marked as “Washable”. You can machine wash these garments on the cold setting in order to avoid shrinking the clothes.

Sometimes, to avoid giving the customer the hassle of dry cleaning merino wool every time, companies subject their products to something called “pre-shrinking” or “pre-washing”. It is a chemical process that ensures that the merino wool does not shrink at all.

Some (though not all) pre-shrunk wool sweaters can also be tumble-dried. This information is generally provided on the care label.

Another way to avoid merino wool from shrinking, which manufacturers often do, is blending it with other fabrics. This process takes the best of both worlds.

For example, merino wool is often presented in a blend with polyester. This gives the wool blend sweater the anti-shrinking properties of polyester along with the warmth of high-quality merino wool.

Frequently Asked Questions

Shetland wool will shrink in a very minor way if it is washed in cold water. You should never put Shetland wool in the dryer, as that would lead to major shrinkage and reduction in size.

Smartwool sweaters generally do not shrink, but it depends on the garment. For best results, always take a look at the care label that is generally attached to the inner side of the sweater.

Icebreaker sweaters do not shrink in the wash. However, drying them might lead to massive shrinkage if they are made from pure merino wool. Merino wool blends from Icebreaker are generally okay to wash.

Final Remarks

Merino wool is a fabric that has a lot of pros and cons. It’s warm, but it is also expensive. It’s durable, but it is also prone to shrinking.

Yet I always recommend people to have some quality merino wool items in their closet. Focus on the word “quality” here. Buying quality pieces leads to a sustainable future where you look amazing and receive tons of compliments.

Another way to keep your fashion needs met (while being in the sustainability framework) is dyeing your clothes so that they look brand new (rather than buying something brand new).

If you want to know how you can dye your merino wool garments, check out this guide.

My name is Alex Higson and I am the founder of Magic Of Clothes. I have worked in the fashion industry for many years, and clothes and style are a huge part of my life.

Magic of Clothes (MOC) is a participant in the Amazon affiliate program, which means that we may earn from every qualifying purchase made through our links, at no additional cost to you.

We may earn a commission from links on our website, but this doesn’t influence the opinions of our editors.

Everybody wants a perfect fit, especially when it comes to clothing. For many, the idea of purposely shrinking your clothes in the wash might seem a little too far fetched. But, there may be items that we want to take down in size and you will want to figure out how to shrink your clothes.

For many common types of garments, this process is fairly easy! However, it can be difficult or even impossible for others, so it’s important to educate yourself on methods that can be used for specific fabrics. Keep reading for our guide on shrinking the most common types of clothing.

How to Shrink Clothes

Whether you have lost weight, want a trendy look, or just simply bought a piece that doesn’t fit exactly as intended, sometimes the quickest solution one may have is to throw it in the dryer.

However, not all garments are made equally and some react differently to shrinking methods than others.

It is always frustrating when your clothing does not look like it used to, but with a little help you can fit your tops and bottoms just a little bit better to your figure once again.

NOTE: Before applying any method to tighten up your clothes, it is always important to make sure that you know the makings of your garment. Many fabrics act differently and will react to the shrinking methods with differing levels of change.

Oftentimes natural fabrics or blends like cotton, wool, mohair or rayon will shrink easier than synthetic options.

Check out the labels on your clothing to make sure the item hasn’t come “pre-shrunk” or has any specific washing instructions.

Once you have found the basic makeup of your garment, you can more easily decide which method of shrinking would work best for your needs.

How to Shrink Cotton Garments

Shrinking 100% cotton clothes is generally a very simple process.

  1. Wash in Hot Water
  1. Put in the dryer on a highest heat setting.
  1. While the dryer is running, make sure to check on it periodically to see the progress.
  1. Once your garment has reached a size that you are comfortable with, change the setting to a normal heat and let the garment run the rest of the way through.

How to Shrink Synthetic Fabrics

While it may seem counterintuitive, cold water is actually the best route to take for shrinking more synthetic fabrics.

  1. Wash the Fabric in Cold Water
  1. Put in the dryer on a highest heat setting.
  1. Make sure to check throughout the process to see how much the garment has shrunk.
  1. Once the clothing has reached a size you feel comfortable with change the setting to a normal low heat.

How to Shrink Heavier Garments

While it may seem that you would shrink sweaters in the same way you would other wool or cotton products, it can actually be damaging to these fabrics to run them through very high heats.

Fabrics like cashmere will be damaged by any shrinking process and should not be attempted.

However, some sweater fabrics (such as cotton or wool) can be safely shrunk down. Here’s how you can do so:

  1. Begin by washing them with hot water and then running them through the dryer on a medium heat.
  1. Once the garment has reached a size you feel comfortable with, change the dryer to a lower and more gentle setting.

How to Shrink Pre-Shrunk Garments

Sometimes a garment can come “pre-shrunk” which means that it was put through a process by the manufacturer in order to decrease further shrinkage once you have brought the garment home.

Due to this process, pre-shrunk pieces can be slightly more difficult when trying to shrink down. However, there are some ways to overcome these issues.

  1. Boil water and then soak the garment, making sure that it is fully submerged.
  1. Once the garment has finished soaking, shift it from the boiling water to the washing machine, making sure to use safety precautions to keep away burns.
  1. Wash the garment in the washing machine with a very minimal amount of detergent and then make sure to transfer the garment over to the dryer as soon as it is done washing.
  1. Dry the garment on high heat to ensure the best outcome. Make sure while the garment is drying to check up continuously to see how the process is going.
  1. Sometimes you may have to repeat the process a few times due to the steps taken on the pre-shrunk garment to make sure it avoids shrinking. However, you should be able to shrink the garment to a size you are happy with after a few cycles.

Bottom Line

Clothing mishaps happen and sometimes it can feel frustrating to not know the correct methods to take to change the fit of a garment. However, it is always important to do the research on your clothes to make sure that you are taking the correct approach to shrinking it.

Many fabrics act differently and can change sizes within different temperatures ranges and time frames.

While shrinking clothing is not always a common goal, sometimes it is necessary and when you find a piece of clothing that doesn’t fit quite right – knowing how to shrink your clothing can save your garment.

If you’re concerned about potentially ruining your clothing when attempting to shrink it, consider upcycling your garment instead. For example, you can easily upcycle an oversized shirt or sweater into a trendy crop top. Or, if your jeans are too large, there are simple sewing tricks that can shrink the waist.

How to handwash your wool sweater

When washing your knitwear & wool sweaters, it’s important to handwash them, never machine wash as it can cause shrinkage. Lukewarm water is most suitable for wool as very hot or cold water may cause them to shrink.

Only use a small amount of detergent, too much can be difficult to rinse from your knitwear & wool sweaters, which may leave them coarse. Try to wash one at a time to avoid any colour mixing.

Top Tip: You should never wring or scrub your wool knitwear as this can cause pilling and stretching.

Drying your knitwear

The most important guideline to follow when it comes to drying your knitwear & wool sweaters is to never put it in a tumble dryer, as this will cause it to shrink. Dry it flat across a clothes rail or on a towel. It’s important not to hang your knitwear & wool sweaters to dry as this will cause stretching.

Top Tip: If your knitwear needs to be reshaped, do this while it is still damp.

Storing your knitwear

The best way to store your knitwear & wool sweaters is to fold them. When storing sweaters it is best not to hang them as it will cause the shoulders of a sweater to stretch and the weight will stretch the body length. If you are storing your knitwear for the summer, we recommend putting them in breathable bags to avoid any mildew.

Top Tip: If you are storing your knitwear away for the summer, put a sachet of lavender in with them, this will keep any little bugs away!

Learn how to shrink a shirt, pants or other pieces for a fashionable look

Most people do whatever they can to avoid shrinking their clothes. Still, there are some times when the technique can come in handy. Whether you’re hoping to achieve a more fashionable look, shrink fabric for a craft project or experiment with some old garments, learning how to shrink your clothes is a fairly simple process.

1) Find out the fabric type

When it comes to shrinking, not all fabric is created equal. If you want to shrink some new clothes, check the label to find out what it’s made of before you buy it. Some fabrics, like rayon, cotton or linen, shrink more readily than synthetics like nylon or polyester.

Generally speaking, natural fibers like cotton, wool or silk shrink more readily than their man-made counterparts. It’s not just the material your clothes are made of, but also how they were manufactured.

Before you start shrinking, make sure that the label doesn’t say “pre-shrunk” or something similar. Avoiding such fabrics saves time, money and frustration.

How to shrink a wool sweater

2) Choose the right technique to shrink

If you would like to know how to shrink a shirt, you may be surprised to find that there are multiple techniques for achieving the same task. That’s because different fabrics shrink under different conditions – sometimes with disastrous results.

For example, while a cotton t-shirt may shrink moderately in the washing machine, a wool sweater may become too small to wear or turn into a solid piece of felted fabric! Before you shrink your clothes, make sure that you’re using the proper technique to ensure the results you want.

3) Turn up the heat

Is there a universal rule for how to shrink your clothes? In a way, yes. Though every type of fabric behaves differently, heat will shrink most, if not all, fabric types. For example, both cotton shirts and denim jeans will shrink more in a warm or hot wash, followed by a high heat drying cycle.

Steam heat will effectively shrink wool clothes, and some fabrics will even shrink when soaked for long periods in warm water. Agitation can also help, but keep in mind that this may not be suitable for all fabrics.

Before you try a shrinking technique, double check to ensure that it won’t cause your material to fade, felt or become damaged.

4) Go Slow

While you may be eager to shrink your clothes, it’s important to remember that shrinking is rarely an instantaneous process – and you may not want it to be!

Clothing and fabrics can easily shrink too much if you’re not careful, so be sure to take your time and monitor your piece to make sure it’s shrinking slowly and evenly. If you’re using your washer and dryer to shrink clothes, be sure to check on your garment periodically. This is especially true when using a high heat dryer cycle. As a general rule, you should remove your garment every five minutes or so to make sure that everything is on track.

Once you shrink your clothes to the size you want, remove them from the heat and hang them up to air dry. If the item is dripping wet, lay it on a towel, roll it up, then gently press – but don’t wring or squeeze – the piece to eliminate excess moisture. After that, hang the item up in a cool place away from sunlight to prevent further shrinkage from occurring.

by Jeremy Cato / in Style

Acrylic is a fabric that is prone to stretching. Improper ironing, washing and even time can turn a perfect fit into a jumbled, overhanging nightmare. If you have received a sweater that you like but it is just a little bit too big or if you have one that used to fit but doesn’t anymore, don’t fret. There is still hope for that treasured garment. Shrinking an acrylic sweater is not only possible, but fairly easy to do with your home washer and dryer.

  • Acrylic is a fabric that is prone to stretching.
  • Shrinking an acrylic sweater is not only possible, but fairly easy to do with your home washer and dryer.

Place the sweater in the washer alone or with at most one or two other articles of clothing that you wish to shrink.

Set the water temperature to “Warm” and the washing cycle to “Heavy” or “Super Wash” and wash the sweater.

Place the sweater in the dryer.

Set the dryer to a timed-dry of 60 minutes and tumble dry.

Try on the sweater to see if the fit has improved any. Some noticeable shrinking should have occurred.

Repeat this washing and drying cycle until the garment fits to your liking.

It is not the heat, but the repeated washing and drying that actually shrink the garment. Be sure to stop exactly when you think the garment is perfect for you as the shrinking process cannot be reversed. It is not necessary to actually wash the sweater with detergent if all you wish to do is shrink it, however, if you want to add detergent, go ahead. It can’t do any harm.


If the garment is labelled “pre-shrunk,” then don’t expect this process to have much of an effect.

Last Update: May 30, 2022

This is a question our experts keep getting from time to time. Now, we have got the complete detailed explanation and answer for everyone, who is interested!

How do you Unshrink clothes quickly?

  1. Use lukewarm water and gentle shampoo or soap. .
  2. Soak for up to 30 minutes. .
  3. Gently remove water from the clothing. .
  4. Lay the clothing on a flat towel. .
  5. Lay the clothing on another dry flat towel. .
  6. Let the clothing air dry.

Can shrunken wool be restored?

Even if the piece has shrunken drastically, there are a few ways to stretch the wool to restore it to its original size. Begin by soaking the wool in a bath of warm water and baby shampoo or hair conditioner, then take the wool out and gently stretch it manually to get it to its original dimensions.

How to Unshrink a Sweater | Apartment Therapy

31 related questions found

Can wool be stretched after shrinking?

This shrinkage, called felting, occurs when wool is exposed to hot water and agitation. If you accidentally toss a wool garment into the washing machine, it’s possible to stretch it out again with a process called blocking.

Can you reverse shrinking of clothes?

It happens to everyone, and, technically, you can never “unshrink” clothes. Fortunately, you can relax the fibers to stretch them back into their original shape. For most fabric, this is easy to do with water and baby shampoo. . After washing and drying the clothing, put it on to enjoy that firm fit again.

Does ironing Unshrink clothes?

After all, as Ottusch pointed out, a hot iron does not shrink clothes; in fact, the heat and pressure of the iron cause the garment to stretch out. Rather, she said, shrinkage is caused by the tumbling action as the garments hit the sides of the dryer. Shrinkage is also caused by the washing process itself.

Does fabric softener Unshrink clothes?

Step 1: Fill the bucket with lukewarm water and add two tablespoons of fabric softener, baby shampoo, or hair conditioner. This will soften the fibers of your sweater, preparing them for stretching. . You can also use a salad spinner either before or after this step to dry the sweater even further.

Can you Unshrink 100 Cotton?

You cannot unshrink a piece of fabric completely. However, there are certain techniques that can be used to relax the fibers, getting them an inch closer to their original shape.

Does wool shrink in cold water?

Wool shrinks under these combined conditions: heat, water, and agitation. Therefore, soak your wool sweater for a half day in a basin of cold water with a bit of very gentle soap, like Ivory. Gently squeeze the sweater with your hands, without twisting it. After you squeeze it, let it soak again for an hour or so.

Does wool shrink when wet?

Wool clothing shrinks when it’s wet – so shouldn’t sheep, which are covered in the same material, shrivel up after torrential downpour? Yes – and just like your sweaters, the simple household trick of soaking sheep in conditioner and stretching them back out works like a charm.

How do you Unshrink clothes with conditioner?

  1. Start by filling a sink with warm water and adding a tablespoon (14.8 milliliters) of conditioner. .
  2. Place the shirt in the sink and work the conditioner into the shirt.
  3. Leave it to sit in the sink for at least 30 minutes.

Can dry cleaners Unshrink wool?

Tips for Unshrinking a Shrunken Sweater

Next time you hand-wash your salvaged wool sweater, you’ll wash out the shampoo, conditioner, or softener used to unshrink the garment. Or, bring the sweater to a dry cleaner, and explain what you did and that there may be some soapy residue in the fibers.

Can you Unshrink merino wool?

You can unshrink your merino wool clothing. If you’ve mistakenly shrunk a garment made from merino wool in the dryer, it may be possible to restore it to its original size and shape. By using a process similar to one that the professionals use — called knit blocking — you can unshrink a wool sweater at home.

Why are my clothes shrinking?

There are several reasons why your clothes might shrink in the wash. These include fiber content, excess moisture, and heat and agitation. . Wool fibers are covered in scales, and when these scales come into contact with heat and moisture, they mesh together, causing fabrics to shrink. This is known as felting shrinkage.

Can you reverse cotton shrinkage?

Cotton clothes may shrink over time or when washed in hot or cold water. . Reversing the shrinkage by gently blocking and stretching the fabric will make your cotton clothes look like new again. However, make it a habit to read fabric care labels before washing clothes to avoid accidents in the first place.

Can vinegar stretch clothes?

Knit fibers like cotton, cashmere, and wool are the easiest materials to stretch out by soaking or spraying them, pulling the fabric, and air-drying them. Ingredients like baby shampoo, conditioner, baking soda, and vinegar can help to loosen the fabric fibers, making garments easier to stretch.

Does ironing help Unshrink clothes?

Does Ironing Unshrink Clothes? Ironing won’t unshrink clothes, but the steam from an iron can help. After you’ve soaked the clothes and laid them flat to dry, they might appear a little stiff. This can make it hard to stretch the fabric out to its original size.

Will clothes shrink in dryer if not wet?

Over time, most (if not all) of our clothes will shrink naturally. . If you lay your wet garment flat to dry after washing, no additional shrinkage will occur and the fibers in your clothing will de-swell and reform to their original size. However, if you machine dry the clothing, it can indeed shrink for good.

Do clothes really shrink in the dryer?

In a way, yes. Though every type of fabric behaves differently, heat will shrink most, if not all, fabric types. For example, both cotton shirts and denim jeans will shrink more in a warm or hot wash, followed by a high heat drying cycle.

How do you prevent clothes from shrinking?

  1. Read the Care Label. Following directions may seem boring and unnecessary… .
  2. Use Cold Water When Washing. .
  3. Choose the “Air Fluff” or “Tumble” Setting. .
  4. Don’t Overdry Your Clothes. .
  5. Use the Lowest Heat Setting. .
  6. Consider Air Drying. .
  7. Upgrade Your Current Washer/Dryer Set.

Can you stretch a shirt that has shrunk?

Gently tug on the shirt to widen it, keeping your hands level with each other to stretch the shirt evenly. If the sleeves are too short, pull each sleeve cuff down and slightly to the side to stretch the sleeve in a natural direction. Leave the stretched shirt on the towel to air dry and retain its new, larger shape.

What does Unshrink mean?

To restore (something shrunken) to its original size.

How to shrink a wool sweater

Skill Level:

Crafting Time:



How to shrink a wool sweater

Why on earth would you want to purposely shrink your wool sweaters? Great question! After your sweater shrinks and becomes felt, you can cut it as you would fabric, and the sweater will not unravel. Because of this, your newly made felt can be cut into shapes for other projects, such as a pair of custom handmade mittens.

Wait a second—how does wool become felt? On a microscopic level, the fibers of wool are barbed and scaly. When wool has the right conditions—moisture, heat, and agitation—the barbs on the wool fibers entangle, causing the wool to shrink. The end result is a thicker, denser fabric—felt! Since the fibers are so close together, 100% wool felt is great for creating warm and cozy wearables, as felt blocks wind quite well.

Technically speaking, it is most accurate to say that you fulled your sweater, even though it is common to say you felted your sweater. Felting means that you create felt from raw wool fibers such as wool roving. Fulling means that you create felt out of something knitted or woven, such as a sweater. For simplicity’s sake, we’ll call it “felting” in this tutorial.

Supplies & Tools:

*Thrift stores are great places to find inexpensive wool sweaters.


  1. Put your sweater inside the pillowcase and close the pillowcase with the rubber band. If you are felting more than one sweater, put each sweater in its own pillowcase.
    Note: The pillowcases will catch/contain the fibers shed by the sweaters. This will prevent damage to your machine since the fibers could clog it. This is also important if you are washing different colored sweaters, as you don’t want fibers from a black sweater to end up on a white sweater!
  2. Place the pillowcases in the washing machine. Add jeans to the load. The jeans will increase agitation and will speed up the felting process.
    Note: You can use towels instead of (or in addition to) jeans, but beware of lint! Sweaters will pick up lint from the towels, so always wash sweaters in a pillowcase.
  3. Select the smallest load setting for the amount of sweaters/jeans in the machine. Use hot water to wash the load.
    Note: Too much water will cause the sweater(s) to float, which will hinder the felting process. Less water means more agitation, so make sure you select an appropriate load size.
  4. Add a very small amount of detergent—less than half of what you would normally use for that load size. While detergent is not necessary for the felting process, a little soap will help things along.
    Note: Too much soap will prevent the felting process, so only use a little bit.
  5. After the cycle is finished, remove sweaters from pillowcases. You can lay them flat to dry or place them in the dryer.
    Note: Crafting in a jiffy? Dry your sweaters in the dryer on high heat, but know that this will continue the felting process. Therefore it is likely that you will get wrinkles in your garment. Sometimes you can remove wrinkles by spritzing the sweater with water and then pressing with an iron. To prevent getting wrinkles or creases, remove sweater from washer before the spin cycle, roll it between towels to remove excess water, and let it air dry.
  6. Inspect your sweaters. If you can’t see the individual strands of yarn anymore, then it is felted. If your sweater shrank, but you can still see the strands of yarn, then it is partially felted. A partially felted sweater is fine for making mittens, but may not be suitable for other craft projects.
  7. If you want to felt the sweater further, run it through the washing machine again. Allow to dry.
    Note: If you have a top-loading machine, you can check on the sweater before the spin cycle. If it still needs to be felted more, restart the wash cycle.
  8. Use your new piece of felt to make whatever you like!

Click here to learn how to make a pair of mittens from your felted sweater.

How to shrink a wool sweater

Hungry for more felting goodness? Check out this Needle Felting 101 article.

How to shrink a wool sweater

“Washing at home is actually better for wool knits compared to dry cleaning, which uses harsh chemicals that can damage the fabric over time,” says Gwen Whiting, co-founder of The Laundress. “You can and should wash knits like wool, cashmere, and blends from home to preserve the natural fibers of your garment.”

“Washing at home is actually better for wool knits compared to dry cleaning, which uses harsh chemicals that can damage the fabric over time.” —Gwen Whiting, co-founder of The Laundress

I’m not suggesting that the care instructions on your favorite garment are lying to you, per se, but there’s certainly a difference between dry-clean only and “dry-clean only.” That’s because it’s a little-known dirty secret of dirty laundry that you can probably at least hand-wash your delicate garments that boast that ill-fated tag.

Still, wool is certainly a finicky fabric. According to the National Cleaning Association, putting wool in the dryer reverts it to its natural form. If you zoom in on the textile’s fibers, you’ll see that they make a scale-y sort of pattern, and when introduced to heat, water, and violently whirring machines, sometimes those scales interlock, and lead to (DUN, DUN, DUN) shrinkage, which is unfortunately pretty permanent. So to keep your favorite cozy sweaters fitting you (rather than shrinking and fitting nothing but your favorite childhood doll), learn how to wash wool the right way below, according to Whiting and her co-founder Lindsey Boyd.

How to wash wool by hand in 3 steps

Ugh I know, but this if your wool garment is particularly important to you, Whiting and Boyd assure me that hand-washing is always going to be the best bet for preserving the integrity of your garment. To give your wools some stellar TLC, try this quick step-by-step:

1. Pretreat stains with a stain solution

If you boldly wore your cream turtleneck to a red-wine night out and then spilled, tackle the stain straight away. Pretreat stains with something like The Laundress Stain Solution ($17) if it’s a tannin stain like coffee, sauce, or red wine. If it’s an oil-based stain like sweat, makeup, or literal oil, Laundress Wash & Stain Bar ($6) is a good option as well. Whichever you choose, gently work the formula into the fabric with your fingers.

2. Prepare your wool bath

Fill a sink, tub, or basin with tepid water and add the garment plus a squirt of a wool-safe detergent. There are few great options available, like classic Woolite ($18), Kookaburra Wash ($21) and The Laundress Wool & Cashmere Shampoo ($19). “The formula is pH-balanced and specially made for wool garments, so it’ll preserve your sweater’s natural suppleness,” Boyd says. “Gently swirl it around for about 30 seconds and let soak for up to 30 minutes.”

3. Drain and rinse with cool, clean water

“Avoid that gut reaction to wring it,” says Whiting. “Wringing manipulates the fibers, and when the yarns are wet, they’re weaker. You might end up disfiguring your sweater. Instead, gently remove the water by pressing the item against the side of your sink or tub.”

How to wash wool by machine in 3 steps

Good news: Boyd and Whiting reassure that the washing machine isn’t off limits for washing wool garments. Once again, though, you just need to be careful.

1. Place the knit in a mesh washing bag

This is to save it from snagging and becoming your most-loved cozy clump of yarn.

2. Choose the appropriate setting

“Select the delicate cycle on the machine, and make sure the water temperature is cold and the spin is on low,” says Boyd. “You can shrink or felt an item by overly agitating it if your machine is on a setting that’s too high or hot.”

3. Take your knit out of the wash as soon as it’s done

“Once the cycle is complete, remove the sweater right away to reduce wrinkling,” Boyd says.

How to dry wool

“The dryer will shrink your knits, so always air-dry,” says Boyd. “Once you’ve gotten the excess water out, lay the item flat on a clean towel or drying rack and re-create its natural shape. Then allow it to dry.” To speed up the drying process, first roll the sweater up in the towel like a sleeping bag. Then, unroll it and replace the wet towel with a fresh, dry one. Place it on drying rack, and reshape it again.

Oh, and big, big emphasis on shaping and stategically laying out your wool items. It may not seem like a big deal to hang them on a clothesline or toss them on whatever surface is in front of you, but this is the make-or-break moment of whether or not your piece will lose its shape.

“Don’t hang up your sweater up to dry; you’re going to end up with a sleeve sagging in a place it shouldn’t be,” Whiting says. “And be careful not to set them near a heat source like a radiator or even by a window with lots of sunlight, because it can cause shrinkage.”

Some other easy laundry hacks to get you through the season? Here’s how to wash a down coat without taking it to the cleaners, and here’s how to take care of your gloves—because yes, they can get super-germy.

How to shrink a wool sweater

Introduction: How to Upcycle (AKA Felt/full) a Wool Sweater

How to shrink a wool sweater

How to shrink a wool sweater

How to shrink a wool sweater

I’m sure if you’ve owned at least one wool sweater, you (or someone else) have mistakenly thrown it into the washer, and when it was done your once adult sized sweater was shrunken down to kid size. THAT, my friend is the art of felting, or more correctly “fulling” (all though I see the word felting used more often, or the two words used interchangeably). The fibers of wool have puffed up (or fulled) and the individual fibers ends stick out and become entwined with the fiber next to it, so once the fabric (a sweater in this case) is dried and shrunken it’s hard to even see the individual stitches of the knitting or crocheting, and IMPOSSIBLE to unravel, making it just like a piece of fabric ready to cut and sew. I’ve given several of these sweaters to Goodwill over the years, and now I’m shopping at thrift stores to find wool sweaters to purposely shrink/felt/full, to use for MANY upcycled projects. I use the whole sweater. I use the sleeves for wine or bottle bags, the cuffs for beer koozies, or for mug/cup sleeves, and the body of the sweater for pillows, or purses/bags

Here’s how to do it yourself

Step 1: Step 1

Look through your closet, or shop your local thrift store for a sweater that is at least 50% wool. I have never paid more than $3.89 for a sweater. even less in the summer!

Step 2: Step 2

gather your supplies:

1 (or more) wool sweater(s) I like finding men’s XL sweaters since they give more “fabric” once completed
old towels (IF you are only doing 1 sweater)
old tennis shoes or flip flops (that you can wash and dry)
laundry detergent

Washer and dryer

PLEASE note: IF your sweater is “hairy” like mohair you might want to put it into a pillow case or laundry bag. I have heard stories of the heavy lint from sweaters clogging washing machines is not in a bag, but I have not had any trouble, and I’ve washed 30-40 sweaters

Step 3: Step 3

put your sweaters (and old towels IF you’re only doing 1 sweater) into your washer, along with a pair of old tennis shoes, or flip flops to aid with agitation. Add 1/2 the amount of laundry detergent you would usually use. Set the machine to HOT, and for the longest cycle possible. DO NOT use any fabric softener.

I find the agitation is better with a top loading washer, than a front loader, so with my front loader, I run the wash cycle twice or three times.

Step 4: Step 4

Check to see if the sweater has shrunk. Move it to the dryer along with the towels, and tennis shoes. Dry on HOT

Now you’re ready to craft!

Check out the size difference of my “finished” sweater. It is marked a 52 (I’m assuming that means the chest size) it now measures 39 inches at the chest.

Having heard many horror stories of shrunken and distorted washed woollens after they have been mistakenly put in the machine on the wrong setting, trying to work out the best way to wash them can be daunting.

From knowing whether it can even go in your washing machine, to which detergent is best to use, there are many things to consider before you wash your woollies. Remember to always check the label on the item for the best advice on exactly how to wash and dry it.

Should You Use Your Machine or Hand Wash?

The best way to work this out is to first check the label of the items you want to wash. If it cannot go in your washing machine, then this is generally stated on the label saying, “hand wash only” or something similar.

Some washing machines do in fact have a “wool” setting for washing, but you should still be wary about what you put in. Generally, mittens or gloves and light sweaters will survive the machine, but bigger and heavier sweaters or suits should be hand washed or taken to a drycleaner to be professionally cleaned.

Washing machines on a wool setting does not alter the temperature from hot to cold, which is what would usually cause the wool items to shrink. If you do decide to use the washing machine on a wool setting, be sure that the machine never reaches a temperature above 30°C and that you do not over-fill the machine. For the best results, only put in as many items so that the machine is filled to a half-load of normal washing.

What Detergent Should You Use?

Instead of your regular detergent, you should opt for one especially for washing wool such as these reviewed here. Woollen fibres are actually acidic and can therefore be damaged by the use of alkaline detergents on the material.

Products especially for use on wool have a neutral pH of 7, so that the fibres aren’t damaged. In addition to this, some detergents that contain enzymes to lift dirt from materials can also cause damage to the fabric, causing it to shrink or even matt in some cases.

Hand Washing Your Woollen Items

Washing your woollies in the sink is a fairly straightforward way to remove the dirt from them if they are too large for a machine or your machine doesn’t have the correct settings.

Use a special wool detergent for handwashing and fill the sink or bowl with warm water that you are comfortable putting your hand into before placing the woollen item into the water.

You only need to move the item around in the water, do not scrub at any marks and then leave it to soak for a few minutes. When you are satisfied, you can rinse out any of the remaining grime and soap before drying.

How to shrink a wool sweater

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Posted on Last updated: December 29, 2020

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Accidentally shrink your favorite wool sweater? Well, this tip gives you instructions on how to unshrink that sweater in using your own kitchen sink

Unshrink a Wool Sweater in 6 Steps

  1. You can stretch your sweater by soaking the garment in a tub and/or sink with a mixture of gentle hair conditioner (think Baby Shampoo) and lukewarm water for approximately 15 minutes.
  2. Drain the water out of the tubg/sink. DO NOT wring the sweater, but press the sweater against the side of the basin to drain the excess water.
  3. Remove the garment and lay it flat on a really thick towel that is very absorbent.
  4. Use another towel to blot the excess water away.
  5. Gently pull the sweater into the desired shape.
  6. Let the sweater air dry flat as hanging the sweater will put it out of shape

Here’s a Great Video with Tips on How to Unshrink a Sweater

Interesting fact: A similar procedure, called blocking, is used by high-end knit designers like St. John Knits to “stretch” garments to a larger size.

Tuesday 2nd of February 2016

Any idea’s for a favorite part wool cardigan that has sleeves that just continue to stretch? I washed in gentle/warm, and dried in the dryer. Soft, warm, and LOOONG sleeves! They are seriously 10 inches too long, I roll them up twice to wear around the house now.

Monday 23rd of April 2012

Many thanks for info, my favourite Lyle & Scott lambswool pullover went in the tumble drier and ex large went to a small. Followed the above instructions and is back to correct size.

Friday 17th of November 2006

Hi, You can unshrink your jeans by washing them again in cold water with gentle detergent, and letting them hang to dry. After they are dry, wear them a few times before washing them again. They’ll stretch out as you move around. I never dry my tight jeans in the dryer, they always shrink too much.

Wednesday 30th of November 2005

I have the same question – is there any way you can unshrink jeans? my boyfriend put my 3 favourite pairs of jeans in the dryer on hot and I can hardly get into them now! I think it may have been because they had elastic in them . any tips?

Tuesday 22nd of November 2005

Great idea, but does it work on jeans? I shrunk my favorite slouch jeans by leaving them in the dryer to long. Any ideas? Thanks

How to shrink a wool sweater

Catherine Brock, Budget Fashionista. Featured on Fox2 St. Louis, ABC7 Chicago, CBS2 Los Angeles, WGN Chicago, and WCPO Cincinnati. See all press coverage.

Does anyone have any experience in altering sweaters/knitwear that does not include shrinking?

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Thanks for this informative post! Glad I read this before trying to shrink some denim today : )

Interesting! I have to try this on some of my sweaters…

Being crafty is so handy! Keep in mind, when shrinking wool items, that stockinette stitch (the little v’s) will shrink more in length than in width. When you shrink a sweater, you’re felting it and that’s really hard to undo. However, soaking it in hair conditioner and then gently stretching can let you make it bigger- but not much.

Also, if you know knitters and all the sweater needs is shortening, and the gauge isn’t too fine, they may be able to unravel and re-finish the bottom.

Finally, here’s a guide to home-altering a sweater. I’ve used a similar method and it’s pretty easy. Knits stretch so they are forgiving!

Good luck shrinking PAG and Jackie!

Zoe – thanks for the tips. I need to learn more about fabric behavior and garment construction. All the little details are fascinating! Thanks for the link to sweater alteration!

They really are! Learning how to sew and how to knit has really helped me appreciated both good fabric and good fitting- and to know which is more important and when.

Thanks for the shout-out! I hope my experience helps another tiny lady out there! 🙂

Thanks Erin! You’re awesome! =)

I even shrank a wool winter coat once. I don’t have a tailor who knows how to bring up the waist–just shortening the hem would not make the coat fit correctly. It worked okay but it was stressful to wash a coat in hot water and dry it on hot–breaks all rules/common sense. Texture changed only a little–coat was softer.

my friend casey has a blog and she posted a tutorial on how to refashion a sweater to make it more vintage. this could be useful for petites since this style is more fitted.

I even shrank a wool winter coat once. I don’t have a tailor who knows how to bring up the waist–just shortening the hem would not make the coat fit correctly. It worked okay but it was stressful to wash a coat in hot water and dry it on hot–breaks all rules/common sense. Texture changed only a little–coat was softer.

Interesting! I have to try this on some of my sweaters…

How to shrink a wool sweater

Confession time: We love sweater weather. Hey, there aren’t many items in our closet that manage to be cozy, stylish and snug all at the same time. Which is why it’s such a bummer when your favorite woolly jumper shrinks down to child size because someone (OK, fine it was us) accidentally put it in the dryer. Oops. But don’t toss that chunky knit just yet. Here’s how to unshrink a sweater in five easy steps.

1. Prepare the Sink:

Fill the sink with lukewarm water and add about 1 tablespoon of hair conditioner or baby shampoo (add more if your garment is seriously shrunken).

2. Soak:

Add your too-small garment and let it soak in the water for about 30 minutes.

3. Get Rid of Excess Water:

Drain the water from the sink and gently squeeze the excess water out of the sweater (but don’t rinse or twist it). Tip: Lightly press the sweater against the sink to force out the water.

4. Roll:

Put a thick cotton towel down on a flat surface (like the floor or a counter) and lay the sweater over it. Roll the towel, with the sweater in it, into a jelly-roll shape to absorb the water.

5. Stretch Gently:

While the sweater is damp, gently (easy does it) stretch it back into its original shape. Allow it to air-dry, and that’s it: sweater unshrunk. (If your sweater’s in really bad shape, keep it on a flat surface and gently stretch it out every 30 minutes while it dries.)

Why this works:

The conditioner softens and relaxes the clothing’s fibers, making them flexible enough to re-shape. Easy-peasy. (But um, hand wash your knits in cool water next time, OK?)

During winters, a woollen sweater is a must-have piece of clothing in your wardrobe. In the article, we answer all your questions about washing woollen sweaters.

Updated 5 August 2021

How to shrink a wool sweater

How to shrink a wool sweater

How to wash wool? Which is the best washing liquid for wool? Should you dry-clean woollen sweaters? Read on for we have the answers to these questions.В

A perfect woollen sweater can effortlessly carry you from day to night, protecting you from dipping temperatures, and, yet keeping your look edgy.В

But even though they attract a lot of dirt and dust, we suggest you don’t wash your woollen sweaters frequently, as this can damage the fabric. It’s best to brush your woollen sweater and place it on a flat surface to air-dry it. But if there are stubborn stains on your woollen sweater, here’s how you can hand-wash it without shrinking it.В

Step 1: Make a Cleaning Solution

Take ВЅ a bucket of lukewarm or cold water and add 3 tsp. of mild detergent to it. Mix well.В


How to shrink a wool sweater

Step 2: Soak

Drop your woollen sweater in this solution and add 2 tsp. of vinegar to it. Allow it to soak for 15 minutes. Vinegar will remove the stains and also keep the colours of your woollen sweater intact. It will also make your woollen sweater feel soft and fresh.В

Step 3: Rinse

Gently rinse your woollen sweater. This will remove all the dirt and dust. Wring out the excess water.В

Step 4: Towel-Dry

Wool absorbs water. If you dry it on a hanger, the extra moisture will weigh it down and cause the garment to lose shape. To remove the water, place a clean towel on a flat surface and place your sweater on top of it. Gently wrap it and wait for 5 minutes, and then unwrap it. Now put the sweater on a clean, flat surface and allow air-drying. You could also put it on another clean towel and leave it to air-dry.

Key Step:

If you prefer to wash your woollen sweater in the washing machine, use the ‘wool setting’ if it has one, or wash it on a cold setting and a gentle cycle.

We’ve all been there; you’re dutifully doing laundry, feeling pretty good about yourself for remembering to switch the load from the washer to the dryer. Then you discover a wool sweater that accidentally got thrown in – and now is a shrunken disaster. Wool is unnervingly easy to shrink, even if you do everything right, but luckily there are a few ways to un-shrink wool too! Don’t throw out that sweater just yet – try a few of these methods first.

Conditioner Bath

Washing wool sweaters by hand is the best way to clean the material in order to avoid shrinking it, but it also helps in case of an accident! For the conditioner bath, you’ll need a sink or tub with lukewarm water, ¼ cup hair conditioner, and ¼ cup mild detergent (optional).

Add the conditioner to the water and mix it in with your hands before submerging the sweater. If it needs to be washed, go ahead and add the detergent as well, otherwise, just the conditioner is fine. Let the sweater soak for 30 minutes.

When the time is up, take the sweater out and gently squeeze the excess water out. Don’t wring the material out, as this will cause a misshapen sweater. Lay it out on a flat surface and gently mold the sweater into the correct shape before letting it air dry. Rinse again in lukewarm water if there’s any conditioner or detergent left, then repeat the drying process.

Vinegar Bath & Towel Dry

Vinegar is the duct tape of household cleaning projects. Is there anything a bit of vinegar won’t fix? Probably, but that’s for a different article. Right now, all you need to know is that one part vinegar and two parts water will help loosen the wool fibers in your sweater, effectively un-shrinking it.

Make sure to fill up the sink or bowl with enough of the vinegar/water mix to fully submerge the sweater. Let it soak for 25 minutes, then lay it on a towel, over a flat surface. Begin rolling the towel at one end to soak up the excess water. This method will help the sweater dry faster without warping the shape.

Stretch by Hand

Another method of loosening and stretching out wool is to literally stretch it out. You’ll have to be extra careful and delicate when handling the sweater, seeing as it can easily get misshapen of you pull too hard or too fast.

Lay the sweater out on a soft, flat surface, like a rug or blanket. Gently pull on the edges of the sweater, making sure to keep the lines and shape nice and even. Focus on the hem, neckline, and sleeves. Work over each section a few times if necessary.

If you don’t have time to sit around and stretch a sweater, you can also pin it to a corkboard. Lay it out much like the method above and gently stretch the edges, placing pins all around to help the sweater keep its shape. This should be a last resort, as the pins can potentially leave holes in tightly-woven sweaters.

Tips For Wool Maintainence

Wool clothing items should be washed by hand whenever possible. If you must use a washing machine, make sure to wash the item on the gentlest setting – some washers even have a wool setting. Use mild detergents to protect the material.

Never put wool in the dryer. Instead, lay the garment on a flat surface and let it air dry. Be careful not to leave the drying sweater in the sun, as wool is photosensitive.

Life of Colleen: How to unshrink a shrunken wool sweater

How to unshrink a shrunken wool sweater
posted by Colleen Shirazi on Saturday, August 23, 2008 at 6:33 PM (Pacific)

This is something I’ve been meaning to try for a long time. I had a wool sweater, and some bozo washed it in the machine and dried it in the dryer. It wasn’t quite “doll clothes,” but was too small to wear, so I put it aside until I had time to play with it.

The thing with wool is–heat causes genuine shrinkage, I think, but agitation causes what only appears to be shrinkage. Similar in concept to dreadlocks, where you have fine natural fiber, with a tendency to knit together and “lock.” If the thing is doll clothes, then I say go ahead and toss it, but if it’s “only just too small,” it’s worth a shot trying to stretch it out again.

The idea is to take your sweater and soak it in a mixture of cold water and hair conditioner. For this I got out my trusty L’Oreal Feria Deep Conditioner (you can buy it separately at a beauty supply shop like Sallys). It’s what I use on my hair after I color it, so it’s heavy duty.

The conditioner won’t dissolve in the water, but it’ll break up into little chunks. Once the sweater has soaked completely, you can rub the little chunks into the wool, gently (you hardly wish to cause more “locking”), and then stretch the sweater out. Depending on how small the sweater got in the first place, you can be fairly aggressive about stretching it.

So far it seems to be working. You won’t get the sweater to its original dimensions, but soaking and conditioning the wool to relax it, then pulling it out piece by piece

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After investing a great deal of time into knitting a sweater, you want to give it a beautiful finish. This often involves blocking the sweater to the proper dimensions. When you block a sweater, you are setting the stitches and evening out the fabric in addition to preserving the correct sizing. Generally, sweaters can be wet blocked (good for cotton and linen), spray blocked (good for wool and alpaca) or steam blocked (good for wool and alpaca) depending on their fiber content.

And to make sure that your first sweater blocking session is a success, we have a handy video tutorial that walks you through all of the steps! The video also shows you what to do for the three different blocking methods (wet, spray and steam). That way you can match a blocking technique that is best suited for the fiber type of your sweater.

If your garment is going to be pieced together, you should block the pieces before sewing them up. This will help you to line up seams and to even out the garment to make the joining easier. After subsequent wearing of the sweater, wash the garment as the yarn label indicates. To recreate dimensions that may have been lost during laundering, reshape the washed garment and dry flat.

You should always consult the washing instructions for your yarn before blocking or washing your sweater. It is also a good idea to test your blocking method on your gauge swatch to see the results before you begin on your final project. Blocking works well on animal fibers and cotton, but is often unnecessary with synthetic yarns.

To wet block your sweater you will need several colorfast towels and a surface that you can sink pins into. Soak the sweater in some cool water until it is thoroughly saturated. Use some no-rinse wool wash if the garment needs to be cleaned. (This helps conserve water and reduce hassle!) Lay the garment flat on a towel and roll the towel up. Step on the towel to gently press out excess water. Do this twice if the first towel does not remove all of the excess water. You want the sweater to be damp, but not dripping wet. When you have pressed out as much water as is appropriate, spread your project on a dry towel (or on a blocking board). Smooth out the fabric and gently coax your project into the desired size and shape. If you need extra help stretching your sweater, use some pins to secure the perimeter of the garment. Remember, don’t stretch out any ribbing while you are blocking as it will lose its elasticity.

To spray block your sweater, you will shape the garment or pieces first and then wet them. Stretch your items out and pin them to the correct dimensions on a blocking board or other colorfast, absorbent surface. (You can use several towels layered over one another to create an appropriate blocking surface.) Once the sweater is secured in the shape that you want, use a spray bottle to evenly dampen the surface and allow to dry completely before you remove the pins. If you don’t have a spray bottle, you may also lay damp cloths or towels on the sweater to achieve the same results.

To steam block a garment, you will prepare it just as you would for spray blocking above. After the item is pinned into place, pass an iron (on the steam setting) or a steamer over the fabric, holding it about an inch above the knitting itself. You don’t want to touch the steamer or iron directly to the fabric because it could flatten the stitches or create an undesirable sheen. If you are worried about touching the knitting with the steamer, you can place a thin towel or sheet between the heat and the sweater.

Over the weekend, I finished up a sweater that has been lingering on my needles for ages! Although I cast off all of my stitches (and felt like celebrating!), I knew I still had a bit of work ahead of me. I have a few seams to finish up and ends to weave in, and then it is going to need a good blocking session. But I know that the results will make all of the hard work worth it!

Seeing as I’ll be blocking my sweater soon, I’d love to hear your tips and tricks for blocking! What are your secrets for blocking your sweaters into shape?