Clothes shrinkage is a common problem that makes your shirts, pants and other apparel seemingly unwearable. The high level of heat in your clothes dryer and agitation in the washing machine can shrink some apparel by a size or two.
When this happens, the clothing may be uncomfortable or even impossible to wear in some cases. However, you can overcome major laundry mishaps like this. Before you toss your shrunk clothes in the trash or donate them to a good cause, learn how to safely unshrink them.
Why Do Clothes Shrink in the Laundry?
Before learning how to unshrink your clothes, it is helpful to understand why clothes shrink in the first place. Many clothes are made out of natural materials, including linen, cotton, wool and cashmere. Natural fibers rapidly absorb moisture in wash. Between the moisture and the agitation mechanism of the washing machine, the fibers can tighten.
The heat from the washing machine secures these tighter fibers and causes notable shrinkage. Going forward, you can reduce the likelihood of clothes shrinkage by reading labels before washing the clothes. The labels usually have recommendations for both the water temperature in the washing machine and the heat setting for the dryer.
Is it Possible to Unshrink Clothes?
While knowing how to prevent shrinkage is helpful, you may wonder what you can do about clothes that have already shrunk in the laundry. The good news is that most types of clothing can be restored to their original size when the proper steps are taken. The only materials needed are a sink filled with warm water and liquid laundry detergent.
How to Unshrink Your Clothes
The process of unshrinking your clothes can be done in a few simple steps.
- Depending on the number of clothes that need to be unshrunk, you can use either a clean sink or bathtub for this project. Fill the basin with room temperature water.
- Add the standard amount of laundry detergent that you normally use to wash your clothes. However, if your laundry detergent is harsh, you should invest in gentle shampoo, baby shampoo or gentle detergent to unshrink your clothes.
- Toss your shrunken clothes into the water. Swirl them around so that they are completely saturated, and let them sit in the for roughly 30 to 60 minutes. Do not disrupt the water. The lack of agitation in the water allows the fibers to relax. This makes the process of unshrinking the clothes easier.
- After the time passes, do not rinse the clothing. Instead, hold the clothes up and allow the water to drip from them. You should not wring the clothes to remove the water.
- When the water has stopped streaming from the clothes, lay them each on individual bath towels. They should lie flat. Then, roll the clothes and towel together. After 15 minutes, unroll them. The towel will remove some of the excess moisture from the clothing.
- Lay the clothing flat on a dry towel. Work on one small area of the clothing at a time. Hold the clothing in one hand, and use the other hand to tug the clothing gently. Each time you pull the fabric, hold it in this stretched position for a few seconds. This will gradually loosen the fibers. There are special instructions for specific types of clothing. For example, to unshrink a shirt, hold the side seams with opposite hands to stretch the fabric evenly. If you are working with a long-sleeve shirt, hold the seam near the cuff and near the shoulder.
- Once the garment is stretched to the appropriate size, allow it to remain flat on the towel as it dries. Place a heavy object complete over the clothing to maintain the stretch.
- After drying it completely, it is ready to wear. If you used a heavy detergent to unshrink the apparel, however, the clothing may feel stiff. If this is the case, you can wash it before wearing it. Follow the washing and drying instructions on the label to ensure that it does not shrink again.
As an alternative to using laundry detergent or baby shampoo, you can use one part vinegar mixed with three parts water. With this solution, allow the clothing to sit in the water for 30 minutes before moving on to the next steps. In some cases, vinegar can damage clothing. Before using vinegar, test it on a small, hidden area of the fabric.
You may also use a steamer to relax the fibers rather than soaking the garment in the tub or sink. Ensure that the material is suitable for use with a steamer before trying this method. Steam the entire garment, and then start stretching it using the method previously described. You may need to add more steam as you go.
Need a visual guide on how to fix shrunken clothes? Watch this video for a step-by-step guide!
Is There a Product to Unshrink Clothes?
There are a few products you can use to help in the unshrinking process, but if you’re looking for a specifically formulated product we’ve got you covered.
Unshrinkit is simple to use and effective. Ensure that you follow the instructions for the best results. The solution should safely bring the garment’s fibers back to their original state and leave it with a fresh linen scent. You can find this product online or in some stores.
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