How to Shrink Clothes in the Washing Machine

Shrinking clothes involves a technique in which you will apply hot water and heat, or simply use the washing machine to preserve the shape of your clothes. By shrinking clothes, you can achieve a more fashionable look and re-purpose old garments for crafts or other DIY projects.

This technique can be applied to a variety of garments including shirts, pants, and other fabrics.

How to Shrink Clothes in the Washing Machine

In this article, you’ll find out how to shrink clothes in the washing machine. You’ll learn how to shrink jeans, shirts, pants, silk clothes, wool, and other items of clothing with your washer.

Can You Shrink Clothes on Purpose?

Yes, it is possible to shrink clothes on purpose, this is especially true for clothes that are too big for you. Hot water should be used for shrinking clothes since it will penetrate the fabric better.

The temperature should not be too high as it will ruin your clothing and can cause discomfort when you wear it. You can shrink your clothes for free in a washing machine if you know the recommended settings for washing items made from natural fibers.

Does Hot Water Shrink Clothes

Clothes shrink when they are washed in water at high temperatures, usually either hot or warm.

The reason this happens is that heat can break down and weaken fibers, causing them to shrink after one wash. What’s important is the temperature of the water, not how hot you get it.

The way the clothes are made determines how much the garment will shrink. For example, those made from natural fiber like cotton, wool, silk, and linen will shrink more easily than man-made clothes like polyester and acrylic.

What Temperature Shrinks Clothes in the Washer

When you want to shrink clothes, it is important to know the right temperatures. Most fabrics can shrink at any temperature.

If you want to shrink clothes using a washer, the hotter the water, the better. Natural fabrics like cotton or wool will shrink at 60 degrees but need closer to 80 degrees to really shrink.

Washing man-made, synthetic fabrics such as nylon, polyester, and others will mostly shrink at 90 degrees, with some shrinking more at higher temperatures of up to 100 degrees.

How to Shrink Clothes in the Washing Machine

Shrinking a shirt, sweater, or pair of jeans is easy to do in the washing machine. The process is exactly the same as washing clothes, but with a higher heat setting. With a few simple steps, you can have a smaller garment to fit your frame.

How to Shrink Clothes in the Washing Machine
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Shrinking natural fibers cotton and linen

Shrinking natural fibers is easier than ever when using a washing machine. All you have to do is set the washer to hot. The hotter the temperature, the more your fabric will shrink.

  1. To Shrink clothes in the washing machine, start by setting the washer to the hottest water setting and putting the clothes in it.
  2. Then, select the longest wash cycle, which will give the clothes more time to shrink.
  3. When you’re finished washing the clothes, put them in the dryer and dry them on high heat for 30-45 minutes, or until they are completely dry.

Shrinking delicate clothes such as wool and silk

Delicate fabrics such as wool and silk should be treated carefully. These materials do not respond well to washing machines or heat. In some cases, these items can even shrink in warm water. To shrink a sweater made of wool or silk, try the following:

Put the garment in the washing machine – You should not wash wool or silk in hot water because this could damage the fibers.

Use a short cycle – A good rule of thumb is to use the shortest, gentlest cycle available on your washing machine. Check the care label for more details about how to wash your specific garment.

Then dry the garment on a low or medium heat cycle. Put it in the dryer on low or medium heat for 20 to 30 minutes. Check the garment periodically during the drying cycle to make sure it is shrinking very well.

Shrinking synthetic clothes such as polyester and nylon

Man-made fibers, such as nylon and polyester are hard to shrink, they tend to resist shrinking, so it takes a lot of effort to shrink them. If you’re lucky, you’ll see a small percentage of shrinkage. Cotton and wool are natural fibers that are much easier to shrink.

If you choose to try to shrink polyester or nylon in the washing machine, follow the steps below:

  1. Set your washing machine to the hottest water setting possible for your washer. This will help in breaking down the fibers in the clothing which will allow for maximum shrinking.
  2. Use the highest spin speed setting on your washing machine. The faster your washer spins, the hotter your water will get during the wash cycle. Hotter water equals more shrinking.
  3. Choose the longest wash cycle when washing synthetic fiber.
  4. Then put the clothes in the dryer on high heat and tumble them until they are completely dry. 
  5. If your garment has not shrunk enough, repeat this process again with another wash cycle and dry cycle.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Shrink Clothes That Are Too Big?

Does warm or hot water shrink clothes?

For delicate fabrics, use warm water. It is usually safe to wash delicates in warm water. Using warm water is the best temperature setting to shrink delicate clothes.  For hard-to-shrink fabrics, use hot water. These types of fabric are more resistant to heat.

How to Shrink Clothes After Weight Loss

If you’ve lost a lot of weight and your clothes fit poorly, you can shrink them to fit your new figure. Shrinking clothes is a simple process, but it’s not always effective and it may not be worth the effort. If you love an outfit, you may be better off spending the time and money to have it altered by a tailor.

The best way to shrink clothing is to wash the item in hot water and dry it on high heat. This can be done with almost any garment, including jeans, sweatshirts, T-shirts, and cotton dresses.

Does Cold Water Shrink Cotton

No, Fabrics made from cotton tend to shrink when washed with hot water, not cold water. Cotton shrinks because the fibers within the cloth contract as they are heated. However, it is possible to wash cotton in cold water without shrinking it if you use a few best practices.

Final Words

Gone are the days when we would crumple up excess fabric from our clothing and hide it in a corner. Today, we have an easier way to reduce the size of clothes. If you want your shirt to be smaller without having to hand wash it or risk it shrinking in the dryer, use a washing machine to shrink clothes.


What Material Shrinks in the Dryer or Wash & Does Not Shrink 

Does Linen Shrink in the Dryer – How Much Does Linen Shrink

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