5 Ways to Unshrink a Shirt

Many of us are so familiar with that awful feeling of pulling out our favorite clothing items from the dryer only to find them in a much smaller size than when they went into the machine.

There’s no worse feeling than knowing you’ve ruined your favorite shirt or shirt. Your first suspect might be your dryer, but that’s often not the only cause. While the dryer if not regulated well might cause shrinkage, there are quite a few other causes for the shrinkage.

How to unshrink shirts that shrunk in the dryer

Shrunken shirts don’t happen by magic, anytime these fabrics get wet, they are filled with water making them expand the threads.

Anytime your shirt gets into the drying machine, the fabric thread starts to curl up and later gets smaller than they were before going in the wash.

It’s the expanding and contracting that result in a regular-sized shirt turning into a crop top kind of fabric. But knowing the right techniques to use at the appropriate time will certainly get your shirt back to its initial size

There are effective ways to unshrink clothes of all shirt fabrics and blends.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A bucket
  • Conditioner or baby shampoo
  • Coldwater (distilled water is best)
  • A big towel

1. Soak the Shirt in a Solution

Start by soaking the shirt in a solution consisting of cool water and about 2 tablespoons of baby shampoo for at least 1 hour (but no more than 3 hours).

Adding your liquid fabric softer would also go a long way (in case there is no shampoo)

Then, swish the shirt around to ensure every part of it is soaked in the solution. This is an essential step, as the soaking of the shirt softens the fabric fibers, which then allow for reshaping and resizing, so as to get the perfect feat.

2. Remove The Shirt From The Solution

After bringing out the item from the soaked water, squeeze it gently to remove the excess water. Do not wring or twist the shirt.

Remember, the fabric fibers are relaxed, so you don’t want to do anything else that can alter the fit and overall shape.

You can also pour 1/4 cup of hair conditioner into the sink and stir the water evenly with your hands to break up the big globs in the conditioner.

Any normal conditioner will do just fine; don’t waste expensive salon conditioners on your shrunken shirts. Adding the conditioner will soften the clothing fibers and allows you to stretch the shirt (by hand) back into its initial shape without causing permanent damage.

3. Dip The Shirt Into The Mixed Water

Try to dip it into the water, and push it down evenly with your hands, this will get every part of the shirt fully submerged.

Wadding it up won’t allow the conditioner to penetrate well into all its fibers, so push it down as deep as possible into the water. Let the fabric soak in the conditioner-infused water for about thirty minutes.

4. Draining

The next step is to drain the conditioner water and fill the tub with clean, cool water (distilled water preferably). Squeeze the shirt lightly to force out the water, and soak it again for another ten to fifteen minutes.

Repeat this process until there are no traces of conditioner remaining.

5. Squish

Squish out as much water as possible from your shirt, and spread the fabric on a stack of neat towels. Place one hand on the shirt neckline, and gently stretch out the bottom hem with your other hand.

Start the work from left to right, also pulling the hem down by 2 or 3 inches, this is to resize the length of the shirt.

Now grab one spot of your shirt in each hand, and pull the fabric edges in opposite directions. tug on the shirt gently, this will widen it to your deserved size.

If the shirt sleeves are too short, pull each sleeve cuff down and gently to the side, this will stretch the sleeve to your preferred length. Leave the unshrank shirt on the towel to dry up and retain its new, larger shape.

How To Unshrink Shirts Using Your Tumble Dryer And Washing Machine

Now, this technique is not so straightforward, so make sure you read and understand everything that’s explained here before practicalizing it.

Learning the tricks to unshrink your jeans in the laundry machine means you’ll know the, least messy way to ensure your shirt is back to the right size. At one point in your laundry activities, you may have mistakenly shrunk your shirt fabric in the washing machine

The technique to getting back your shirt to its normal size with the use of your washing machine is to add some shampoo wash, also reduce the heat settings on both your laundry machine and your drying machine till it starts to unshrink.

Ensure you don’t leave your machine for any reason (it might start shrinking again if you’re not paying attention), repeat this process till your shirt gets to the perfect size.

Kindly note that all these drying and washing actions can result in a faded shirt. A simple way to avoid this from happening is to always turn them inside out before putting your shirts in the laundry machine. Try to also reduce the static cling and creasing by adding up vinegar along with your shirts into the dryer.

Why Did My Shrink after Drying?

Generally, we have three technical but different ways shirts can shrink: felting, relaxation, and consolidation. It may take a bit of regular practice to learn which type of shrinkage is affecting that favorite shirt of yours.

The Felting Shrinkage

The first and common type of shrinkage, felting, occurs with shirts produced from animal hair fibers, like mohair and pure wool.

These clothing materials have some microscopic scales that have been embedded in their surface at the point of production, when exposed to excessive heat and moisture; it gets compressed and meshed together.

This compression is the reason your shirts get shrunken up, this can happen easily if the shirt is not handled properly.

Relaxation Shrinkage

Relaxation shrinkage occurs when an absorbent material (like cotton, silk, linen, or wool), or a fabric that has been modified (like a synthetic performance fiber) to be absorbent is exposed to liquids or extreme moisture.

When you expose these absorbent fibers to water, they will soak a large amount of liquid content and swell; this makes the garment shrink in size.

Generally, relaxation shrinkage impacts few of the fabrics out there, in fact, less than 1% of the overall fabric size.

Consolidation Shrinkage

Another very common shrinkage issue is consolidation shrinkage, this happens when heat, moisture, and mechanical action (like agitation during washing and drying) are combined.

The combo of these factors reduces the fiber strength of your shirt. Thereby making it lose any pulling or tension put in place during the production of the clothing item.

This shrinkage naturally occurs during an item’s first wash cycle and this can drastically shrink the size of your shirt.

How To Prevent Your Shirts From Shrinking

It’s not all your shirt fabrics that will shrink after washing or drying. You can avoid it by reading the product label on every fabric you place in the laundry machine, also try to follow the washing and drying recommendations to prevent your clothes from shrinking.

  • Giving your clothes to a professional dry cleaner is another option for avoiding your clothes shrinking.
  • Coldwater wash doesn’t alter the bonds, texture, or tension in the yarn. The shirt fibers shrink when the yarn stretches, this is due to heat and will subsequently retract. So, running a cold cycle or manually washing it with your hands in cold water will prevent shrinking.
  • You should also avoid over-drying clothes in the dryer. The longer they stay in your dryer and get exposed to heat, the more likely they will get shrink.
  • Keep all your washed fabrics out of the dryer, hang them outside to air dry instead.
    If your washing and drying machine are pretty old, there is a high chance that the setting doesn’t function properly anymore, making the heat temperature control higher than you need.
  • It would be best to upgrade your washing/drying machine in such cases.

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