How to Make Clothes Shrink: An Ultimate Guide

Welcome to our comprehensive guide on how to shrink clothes. Whether you’ve accidentally purchased a garment in the wrong size or you’ve recently lost weight and want to resize your wardrobe, understanding the proper techniques for shrinking clothes is essential. In this guide, we will walk you through step-by-step methods to ensure successful shrinking without damaging your favorite garments. By following these instructions, you’ll be able to achieve a customized fit and breathe new life into your clothes. So let’s dive in and explore the fascinating world of clothes shrinking!

Preparing Clothes for Shrinking

Before diving into the shrinking process, it’s crucial to properly prepare your clothes. Taking the time to follow these essential steps will help ensure the best results and minimize any potential damage to your garments.

1. Read and Understand Garment Labels

Carefully examine the labels on your clothes to identify any specific care instructions. Pay close attention to recommended washing methods, temperature settings, and fabric limitations. Different fabrics require different handling, and adhering to the guidelines will prevent unwanted mishaps during the shrinking process.

2. Sort Clothes by Fabric Type

To avoid color bleeding or fabric damage, separate your clothes based on their fabric types before shrinking them. Group similar materials together, such as cotton, denim, synthetic blends, or delicate fabrics like silk or wool. This will prevent garments from affecting one another during the shrinking process.

3. Check for Colorfastness

Perform a colorfastness test on any new or unfamiliar garments before proceeding with shrinking. Dampen a small, inconspicuous area of the fabric, such as an inside seam, and blot it with a white cloth. If the color transfers onto the cloth, it indicates poor colorfastness, and you should avoid shrinking the garment to prevent color fading or bleeding.

4. Remove Accessories and Embellishments

Before shrinking, remove any detachable accessories, such as belts, buttons, or decorative trims. These elements may not respond well to the shrinking process or could cause damage to the garment itself. Set them aside in a safe place to reattach after the clothes have been resized.

Understanding Fabric Shrinking

To effectively shrink clothes, it’s essential to grasp the fundamentals of fabric shrinking. Different fabrics react differently to heat, moisture, and mechanical manipulation. Understanding these characteristics will help you choose the appropriate shrinking method for your specific garments.

Fabrics and Their Shrinking Characteristics

  1. Cotton: Cotton is a commonly used fabric that has moderate shrinkage. It tends to shrink both in length and width when exposed to heat or moisture. Keep in mind that different weaves and finishes can impact the degree of shrinkage.
  2. Wool: Wool is a natural fiber known for its ability to shrink significantly when subjected to heat and moisture. However, the shrinkage process can be more challenging to control, so extra care is required when shrinking wool garments.
  3. Synthetic Blends: Fabrics like polyester, nylon, or spandex blends have low to moderate shrinkage. They are generally more resistant to shrinking compared to natural fibers, but it’s still important to follow the proper techniques to avoid damage.
  4. Delicate Fabrics: Delicate fabrics such as silk, satin, or lace require special care when shrinking. These fabrics are prone to damage, and it’s recommended to use gentle shrinking methods like steaming instead of exposing them to heat or vigorous agitation.

Understanding the shrinking characteristics of different fabrics is vital for successful clothes shrinking. It allows you to choose the most suitable shrinking method and ensure the longevity of your garments.

Washing Techniques for Shrinking Clothes

When it comes to shrinking clothes, washing is one of the commonly used methods. By following these washing techniques, you can achieve controlled shrinkage while maintaining the quality of your garments.

1. Check the Garment Label

Before proceeding with any washing method, review the care label of your clothing item. Look for specific instructions regarding water temperature, cycle type, and any restrictions on washing. Adhering to these guidelines will help prevent unintended damage during the shrinking process.

2. Handwashing Method

Handwashing allows for more precise control over the shrinking process, making it suitable for delicate fabrics and small items. Follow these steps for handwashing:

  1. Fill a basin or sink with lukewarm water. b. Add a mild detergent suitable for the fabric type. c. Submerge the garment and gently agitate it for a few minutes. d. Rinse thoroughly with cool water to remove all detergent residue. e. Squeeze out excess water without wringing or twisting the garment. f. Proceed to the blocking and stretching techniques, which we’ll cover later in the article.

3. Machine Washing Method

Machine washing is convenient for larger items or multiple garments. However, it’s crucial to select the appropriate settings to control the shrinkage. Follow these steps for machine washing:

  1. Sort the garments based on fabric type, as mentioned earlier. b. Place the clothing item(s) in the washing machine. c. Select the gentle or delicate cycle and use cold water. d. Add a mild detergent suitable for the fabrics being washed. e. Start the washing cycle. f. After washing, remove the garment(s) promptly to prevent excessive wrinkling. g. Proceed to the blocking and stretching techniques.

Heat Techniques for Shrinking Clothes

Using heat is another effective method for shrinking clothes. However, it’s important to exercise caution and follow the appropriate techniques to avoid damaging the fabric. Here are the steps for using heat to shrink your garments:

1. Ironing Method

Ironing can be used to target specific areas for shrinking, such as collars, sleeves, or pant hems. It’s suitable for fabrics that can withstand heat and direct contact with the iron.

  1. Set your iron to the appropriate temperature for the fabric. Refer to the garment’s care label for guidance. b. Dampen the area you want to shrink using a spray bottle filled with water. c. Place a pressing cloth or thin fabric over the dampened area to protect it from direct heat. d. Gently press the iron onto the fabric, applying light pressure and moving it in a circular motion. e. Repeat the process as needed until you achieve the desired shrinkage. f. Allow the garment to cool and dry before wearing or further manipulation.

2. Dryer Method

Using a dryer is a convenient way to shrink clothes, especially for larger items like shirts or jeans. However, keep in mind that this method can result in overall shrinkage rather than targeting specific areas.

  1. Place the garment in the dryer. b. Set the dryer to the highest heat setting suitable for the fabric. c. Start the drying cycle and monitor the garment closely. d. Check the garment’s size and fit periodically to prevent excessive shrinkage. e. Once the desired shrinkage is achieved, remove the garment promptly from the dryer. f. Allow the garment to cool down and rest before wearing or further manipulation.

Remember, different fabrics have different heat tolerance levels, so always refer to the care label and conduct a patch test on a small, inconspicuous area before proceeding with heat techniques.

Steam Techniques for Shrinking Clothes

Steam techniques provide a gentler approach to shrinking clothes, making them suitable for delicate fabrics or garments that require more controlled treatment. Follow these steps to utilize steam for shrinking your clothes:

1. Steamer Method

Using a garment steamer allows you to apply steam directly to the fabric, relaxing the fibers and promoting shrinkage.

  1. Fill the steamer with water and ensure it reaches the appropriate steam temperature according to the fabric type. b. Hang the garment on a hanger or place it on a clean, heat-resistant surface. c. Hold the steamer nozzle a few inches away from the fabric and apply steam evenly, focusing on the areas you want to shrink. d. Gently tug or manipulate the fabric while steaming to encourage shrinkage. e. Continue steaming until you achieve the desired results. f. Allow the garment to air dry or use a cool setting on the steamer to speed up the drying process.

2. Steam Room Method

The steam room method works best for larger garments or multiple items that need uniform shrinkage. This technique utilizes the steam generated in a confined space, such as a bathroom or steam-filled area.

  1. Hang the clothes inside the steam-filled room, ensuring they are evenly spaced and not crumpled. b. Close the room door and let the clothes absorb the steam for approximately 10-15 minutes. c. Periodically check the garments to assess the amount of shrinkage. d. Once the desired shrinkage is achieved, remove the clothes from the steam room and allow them to air dry.

Remember to exercise caution while working with steam to avoid burns. Ensure proper ventilation in the room to prevent excessive humidity.

Blocking and Stretching Techniques

Blocking and stretching techniques are essential for reshaping garments after the shrinking process. These methods allow you to restore the desired size and proportions while maintaining the fabric’s integrity. Follow these steps to effectively block and stretch your clothes:

1. Blocking Mats and Pins

Blocking mats and pins are useful for reshaping garments made of knit or crochet fabric, as well as certain woven fabrics.

  1. Lay the garment flat on a clean blocking mat or an absorbent towel. b. Gently stretch and shape the garment to its original size, smoothing out any wrinkles or distortions. c. Secure the garment in place using stainless steel blocking pins or T-pins. Place the pins along the edges and strategic points to hold the fabric in position. d. Allow the garment to dry completely while maintaining its shape. This may take several hours or overnight. e. Once dry, remove the pins and check the garment’s fit. It should have regained its intended size and shape.

2. Steam Blocking

Steam blocking is particularly effective for reshaping garments made of natural fibers like wool or cashmere.

  1. Lay the garment flat on a clean surface or blocking mat. b. Fill a steam iron or handheld garment steamer with water and set it to the appropriate steam temperature. c. Hold the iron or steamer a few inches above the fabric and apply steam evenly, focusing on the areas that require reshaping. d. Gently stretch and manipulate the fabric to the desired size and proportions while steaming. e. Allow the garment to cool and dry completely before removing it from the blocking mat.

Blocking and stretching techniques help restore the original shape and size of your garments, ensuring a proper fit after the shrinking process.


Congratulations! You’ve now learned the ins and outs of shrinking clothes effectively. By following the proper techniques outlined in this guide, you can resize your garments and achieve a customized fit without compromising their quality.

Throughout this article, we covered various methods for shrinking clothes, including washing, heat, and steam techniques. Remember to always check the garment labels for specific care instructions and conduct patch tests before proceeding. Each fabric type has its own characteristics, and understanding them will help you choose the most suitable method.

Additionally, we explored the importance of preparing clothes before shrinking, sorting them by fabric type, and checking for colorfastness. These steps ensure the best possible results and protect your garments from potential damage.

Furthermore, we discussed the significance of blocking and stretching techniques in reshaping clothes after shrinking. Whether using blocking mats and pins or utilizing steam, these methods allow you to restore the desired size and proportions of your garments.

Now that you have the knowledge and skills, it’s time to put them into practice. Say goodbye to ill-fitting clothes and embrace a wardrobe that perfectly complements your style and body shape.

Remember, always handle your clothes with care, follow proper instructions, and experiment with caution. Enjoy the process of resizing your clothes and creating a wardrobe that fits you flawlessly.

If you have any further questions or need assistance in the future, don’t hesitate to seek our guidance. Happy clothes shrinking!


Q: Can I shrink any type of fabric?
A: While many fabrics can be shrunk using the appropriate techniques, it’s important to check the garment labels for specific instructions. Some fabrics may be more prone to damage or may not respond well to shrinking methods.

Q: Will my clothes shrink uniformly?
A: The degree of uniform shrinkage depends on various factors such as fabric type, shrinking method, and garment construction. It’s important to note that some fabrics may shrink more in certain areas than others, resulting in uneven shrinkage.

Q: Can I reverse the shrinking process if I’m not satisfied with the results?
A: Reversing the shrinking process can be challenging, as it largely depends on the fabric and the extent of the shrinkage. It’s best to approach clothes shrinking with caution and test methods on a small area before proceeding.

Q: Is there a risk of damaging my clothes while shrinking them?
A: Yes, there is a risk of damaging clothes if the proper techniques are not followed. It’s important to read the garment labels, conduct patch tests, and use the appropriate methods based on the fabric type to minimize the risk of damage.

Q: Can I shrink clothes multiple times?
A: Shrinking clothes multiple times can lead to over-shrinking and potential damage to the fabric. It’s best to assess the level of shrinkage after each attempt and proceed with caution to avoid excessive shrinking.

Q: Can I shrink clothes that are labeled “dry clean only”?
A: It’s generally not recommended to shrink clothes labeled as “dry clean only” unless you are confident in your shrinking skills and the fabric can tolerate the selected shrinking method. Dry clean only garments may require professional care to avoid damage.

Q: How long does it take to shrink clothes?
A: The time required to shrink clothes can vary depending on factors such as fabric type, method used, and desired level of shrinkage. It can range from a few minutes to several hours, including drying time.

Q: Are there any alternative methods to shrink clothes without using heat or water?
A: Yes, there are alternative methods such as using commercial fabric-shrinking sprays or utilizing garment steamers. These methods offer a less invasive approach to shrinking clothes but may have varying effectiveness based on the fabric type.

How to Make Clothes Shrink: An Ultimate Guide