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Is the amazing new top you just bought too big on you and the store is all out of your size? Or maybe your go-to pair of jeans don’t fit anymore now that you’ve lost weight. Whatever it is, don’t worry—it’s actually possible to (intentionally) shrink baggy clothes in the wash so they fit perfectly. The key is to check the type of fabric first since the shrinking process varies depending on what your clothes are made out of. Keep reading to learn how to shrink cotton, denim, polyester, wool, and other types of fabric in your washing machine.

Things You Should Know

  • Wash cotton, denim, polyester, and other durable clothes in hot water, then dry them on high heat to shrink them.
  • Machine wash wool and cashmere clothes with warm water, then dry them on a medium heat setting.
  • Wash silk clothes in warm (not hot) water, then dry them on low heat.
Method 1
Method 1 of 3:

Cotton, Denim, Polyester, & Other Durable Fabrics

  1. 1
    Use the hot water setting on your washing machine. Heat is the best way to shrink nearly any kind of fabric. When clothing is made, the fabric is stressed and pulled taut, making it longer and wider. Heat relaxes the fabric, causing the threads to unstretch and shorten, resulting in smaller, shrunken clothes.[1]
    • Clothes made with natural fibers (like cotton and denim) will shrink more easily than clothes made with synthetic fibers like polyester. You can definitely shrink synthetic clothing in the wash, but it might not shrink as much.[2]
    • This shrinking method works for most types of fabric, but don’t try it with delicate fabrics, like wool, silk, and cashmere. Hot water and high heat can damage delicate fabrics.
    • Clothes that are labeled “pre-washed” or “pre-shrunk” may not shrink in the wash. They’ve likely already been shrunk to their smallest size by the manufacturer.
  2. 2
    Dry the clothing on a high heat setting. Just like hot water causes fabric to shrink, so does hot air in the dryer. Use the highest heat setting to shrink your clothes in the dryer.[3]
    • Don’t have access to a dryer? Use a blow dryer on a high heat setting to dry your clothes and get a similar effect.[4]
  3. 3
    Repeat if your clothing hasn’t shrunk enough. If the piece you’re trying to shrink is really oversized or made with synthetic fibers, it might not shrink down to the size you want on the first attempt. Try re-washing and drying it with hot water and high heat to shrink it some more.[5]
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Method 2
Method 2 of 3:

Wool & Cashmere

  1. 1
    Machine wash the clothing with warm water. Wool fibers are made up of animal hairs that consist of hundreds of tiny scales. When these fibers are exposed to heat and agitation in a washing machine, the scales interlock and mat together, shrinking the fabric.[6]
    • Machine washing wool or cashmere in warm water can damage it. If you’re really attached to this piece of clothing, a safer alternative is to hand wash it in a bucket with warm water.[7]
  2. 2
    Dry the clothing on a medium heat cycle. Wool and cashmere shrink quickly, so avoid using the high heat setting on your dryer. Medium heat is perfect. Otherwise you could end up with a doll-sized shirt or wool pants that don’t button anymore.[8]
    • If you need to shrink your clothes without a dryer or are worried about shrinking your wool/cashmere clothing too much, use a blow dryer instead! Dry the clothing with the blow dryer until it’s the size you’re aiming for.[9]
  3. 3
    Check on the clothing every few minutes. This will help you catch the clothing if it’s starting to shrink too much. Once the item looks to be the right size, take it out of the dryer.[10]
    • If you pull your wool or cashmere clothing out of the dryer and it’s too small, don’t panic. Mix 2 tablespoons (30 mL) of fabric conditioner with warm water in a container and soak the clothing in it for 15 minutes. Then, press out the excess water with a towel, stretch it to the size and shape you want, and let it dry on a flat surface.
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Method 3
Method 3 of 3:


  1. 1
    Machine wash the silk with warm water. Like with most fabrics, heat will cause silk to shrink. How much it shrinks depends on the type of silk you’re working with. Loosely woven silks will shrink more than tightly woven silks, so the amount of shrinkage you get may vary.[11]
    • Machine washing silk with warm water can damage it, so proceed with caution. For a safer approach, soak your silk clothing in warm (not hot) water for a few hours, stirring it regularly.
  2. 2
    Dry the silk on low heat. Low heat will shrink your silk, and there’s less chance of damage than if you were to use the high heat setting on your dryer.[12] However, tumble drying silk always comes with the risk of damage. If your silk has already shrunk enough from washing it in warm water, consider hanging it up to air dry instead of tumble drying it.[13]
  3. 3
    Check on the silk in the dryer regularly. You don’t want your silk to shrink more than you anticipated, so pull it out of the dryer every few minutes to see how it’s looking. Once it’s reached your desired size, stop drying it so it doesn’t shrink more.
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Community Q&A

Add New Question
  • Question
    How much will the first method shrink my garments?
    Community Answer
    Community Answer
    The hotter the water, the more it will shrink. The change shouldn't be enormous though.
  • Question
    How do you shrink nylon pants?
    Community Answer
    Community Answer
    Nylon clothing typically does not shrink, but will stretch out over time if it has any spandex rubber woven in. Nylon itself may melt in hot dryer. Best bet is to have the pants altered by a seamstress.
  • Question
    If a hoodie has a print on it, would the print also shrink?
    Community Answer
    Community Answer
    Everything will shrink. The size of the print may become scrunched, though, so be careful.
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  • Heat is the best way to shrink clothes, but it can also damage delicate fabrics. Before you try to shrink delicate clothing, know that it could get damaged and may not turn out the way you anticipated.

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About This Article

Susan Stocker
Co-authored by:
Green Cleaning Expert
This article was co-authored by Susan Stocker and by wikiHow staff writer, Kyle Hall. 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. This article has been viewed 1,217,903 times.
7 votes - 94%
Co-authors: 23
Updated: October 25, 2022
Views: 1,217,903
Article SummaryX

To shrink clothes in the wash, wash them on the longest cycle available with hot water. Then, dry the clothes on a high-heat cycle until they're completely dry. If the clothes didn't shrink enough, repeat the process. If you're trying to shrink wool or silk clothes, use a short, delicate cycle so you don't damage them. For tips on air drying clothes that you want to shrink, scroll down!

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Thanks to all authors for creating a page that has been read 1,217,903 times.

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