How to Shrink a Shirt? (Step-by-Step Guide)

While it’s wise to choose the right size for you whenever you find clothes that you like, there are times when other measures are not available. Well, you can just continue shopping, but this isn’t the case when it’s in demand or a thrift shop. In these situations, you can learn how to shrink a shirt.

All About Shrinking Factors: Fabrics, Temperature, and More


How to Shrink Fabric Shirt

One of the main things you would want to look at when buying clothes is their fabric. This is also one of the main things to check if you plan to shrink a particular shirt. Different fabrics react differently to temperature and environmental factors.

And so the manner of how your shirt would be shrunk and the quality of it depends on the careful cross-checking and choosing fabric. Among all the fabrics out there, cotton fabric is your target as it is sure to be shrinkable. Generally, the likelihood of a garment shrinking increases in proportion to the amount of cotton it contains. While not every clothing material contains cotton, more cotton content equates to more shrinkability points.

Time and Temperature

How to Shrink a Shirt Time and Temperature

Now the following factors you should take note of are time and temperature. These elements also determine how much of a shrink you will most likely get. First, how long its submerged in heat is essential. The fabric would not shrink much if you only put it in the washing machine or the dryer for a few minutes at a time.

There is a general rule of thumb that you can consider every time you try to shrink a shirt. The rule states that every after 10 minutes of being washed, the fabric will have shrunk around one percent in both directions.

You can then estimate and calculate how much your material has shrunken. Using the same calculation, if it spends ten minutes in the washing machine and subsequently ten minutes inside the dryer, you can anticipate a total shrinkage of two percent in both directions.

The following closely related factor is how hot the water you use for washing is. The rule for this is that the higher the temperature of the water, the greater the likelihood that the fabric will shrink. This is because the fibers and dyes are removed more from the cloth when you put it in contact with high-temperature water. The whole process results in the fabric having less elasticity.

How To Shrink A Shirt Through Boiling: A Step-By-Step Guide

While some may think knowing how to shrink a shirt is passing knowledge, it is a piece of handy information or skill to learn. This is especially true if you often need to shrink some of your shirt on hand by preference or necessity.

As the water temperature is one of the factors that makes shrinking possible, boiling a garment is one of the most basic approaches to shrinking a shirt. When you put an article of clothing into boiling water, it is impossible to get an accurate estimate of how much the garment will shrink.

This is because the fabric can be subjected to extreme heat, which makes the shrinking unpredictable. In fact, it is common for the garment to shrink anywhere from one to three sizes. However, the degree of shrinkage will vary depending on the fabric.

  1. Prepare a pot and containers for when you need to transfer the boiling water. You would need a bigger container for when you need to soak the shirt.
  2. Prepare the stove and a couple of liters of water. Pour water into the pot and boil it thoroughly.
  3. After getting a boil, transfer the boiling water to the larger container or to your plugged-up kitchen sink, whatever’s more convenient for you.
  4. Submerge your shirt immediately into the container of boiling water. You can use a spoon or a ladle to push the fabric into the water without burning your hands.
  5. Leave your shirt submerged in the water until the liquid cools. This will take quite a while, perhaps one to two hours, so you can leave it and do other things while waiting.
  6. When it’s all cooled, take the shirt out of the container and gently press some of the water out of it. Do not wring the cloth and avoid unnecessary stretching.
  7. There are two options after finishing the steps above. You can either proceed with placing the shirt into the washing machine or the dryer. Your decision would depend, of course, on how much size you want to reduce.

Shrinking Shirts: The Washing Machine Method

It is not always necessary to prepare a pot and liters of water and put it to a boil to shrink garments to your desired size. There are instances when simply using a washing machine is enough. It’s a more straightforward option and, in a way, has fewer steps to follow.

  1. Prepare the shirt or shirts you want to shrink and your washing machine.
  2. Locate the settings on your device, and make sure the water temperature is set to “hot.” This setting works as well as boiling water. Another upside is that you can complete the task while working on other activities or relaxing.
  3. Altering the wash cycle to its most extended available setting should also be done if you have the opportunity to do so. In most cases, you can set the batch to “heavy” or longer wash cycle. It can be different for various types of machines. If you want to get the most out of your shirt’s shrinking potential, you might consider soaking its fabric in hot water before you put them in the wash.
  4. You are welcome to make use of your typical and trusted detergent. However, you should not use any fabric softeners or other extra laundry products.
  5. It’s recommended that you monitor the status of the shirt a few times during the cycle to prevent the garments from being overly shrunken. However, it’s good to consider that opening your washing machine releases the head, which can slow down the shrinking process.
  6. Place the garments in your dryer. Air drying is not recommended as the fabric could stretch back out in sudden contact with cold air.

Shrinking Shirts: The More Natural Way

Shrinking Shirts

This method is the mildest of all shrinking techniques. Consequently, it is also just recommended for those that need just a tiny bit of shrinking for their shirts as this method cannot cater to a full-size reduction.

  1. Dampen the shirt using any available hot water. You can either use the washing machine, submerge it in a container filled with hot water or just spray hot water until the piece of clothing dampens. However, you have to differentiate the three; of course, spraying hot water will not have that much of a shrinkage effect on the shirt compared to submerging in hot water or a hot washing machine.
  2. Make sure you don’t contribute to your shirt fading by turning it inside out.
  3. The next step is to prepare and install a drying rack. Place it in an area that will be exposed to a significant amount of sunshine for some hours.
  4. Make sure that the shirt is completely smoothed out before placing it on the drying rack. Avoid hanging your shirt up because this may lead it to become stretched out.
  5. Leave the shirt until the dampness is gone.

Unshrinking Shirts: Is It Possible To Reverse Shrunken Shirts?

Unshrinking Shirts

Perhaps you have accidentally washed a shirt in the hot setting of your washing machine and noticed that it had indeed shrunk, or maybe you just want to reverse an already shrunken piece of clothing. Although without guarantee, there is a way to unshrink them possibly, and here is a step-by-step guide.

  1. Prepare a wash bin and cool water. The wash bin can be anything that can securely hold water and the amount and size of the shirt you are about to submerge. You can use bigger containers or the bathtub for larger shirt sizes.
  2. Pour cool water into the wash bin until it’s full.
  3. Add two to three tablespoons of baby shampoo or hair conditioner. Stir the water and mix the shampoo or conditioner well into the water.
  4. Submerge the shirt/s in the cool water mixture. Allow soaking for at least five minutes. You can soak it for a little longer if you want to get the fabric bigger for up to 30 minutes.
  5. Thoroughly rinse the shirt. It’s vital to ensure you eliminate all the slippery feel from the shampoo or conditioner.
  6. For the drying process of the piece or pieces of clothing, you can prepare a flat surface like a table. Flatten out the shirt and place heavy objects on the edges to give it an added stretch while letting it dry. 

While not every shrunken shirt is reversible, there’s no harm in trying. Besides, this method has been tested by many and has often worked. [7 Ways To Prevent Clothes From Shrinking ]


Knowing how to shrink a shirt can appear as passive knowledge for many, but it comes in handy at some point in a person’s life. It’s always good to research and find out about how you can maximize experiences and how you can improve things for your gain. These random things can be shrinking a shirt or unshrinking it.

Shrink Shirt

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