meIt’s time to do the laundry. You go to take your favorite t-shirt, jeans, or sweater out of the dryer and discover that it is now three sizes too small. The horror. Fortunately, all hope is not lost. There is a way to bring life back to the garment. All it takes is a little warm water, fabric softener, and a bit of stretching action to unshrink those garments.
Below, learn why clothes shrink in the first place (hint: it’s not for the reason you think), instructions on how to unshrink different types of fabric, and tips on how to care for your clothes properly, so the nightmare of shrinking rags is over. it never happens again.
Why do clothes shrink?
One of the most common reasons clothes shrink is because you left them in the dryer too long, but the actual shrinking process probably isn’t happening for the reason you think. “Heat doesn’t affect shrinkage,” says Laura Goodman, senior scientist and fabric care expert at P&G. “It’s actually the tumbling action that brings the fibers and yarns closer together.”
Clothes that are more prone to shrinking include cotton and knits (think T-shirts and sweaters), but Goodman says they also have more stretch, making them easier to return to their previous size.
It’s also worth noting that clothes that are likely to shrink will do so in increments. Most of the shrinkage, Goodman says, occurs between the first and third times you wash it. However, it may take five to 10 cycles before you reach maximum contraction.
How to unshrink cotton
To restore your favorite cotton item of clothing to its former glory, Max Appel, cleaning expert and founder of OxiClean, Orange Glo, Kaboom and Powerizer Complete, says to first fill a sink or tub with warm water and a tablespoon of either of the fabrics. softener, delicate detergent or shampoo, making sure that the product dissolves completely.
Next, place your garment in the water and allow it to soak for up to 30 minutes, before stretching it slightly. “Cotton is a very forgiving fabric,” Appel says, but you still want to make sure you pull it gently and evenly, so it holds its shape. Then rinse with cold water.
“Warm water allows fabrics to soften so they can stretch,” says Appel. “Cold water adheres to the new structure, preventing damage and discoloration during the rinsing process.”
To remove water from the garment without further damaging the fabric, Appel suggests laying the garment on a towel and rolling them up so the towel absorbs the water. Lastly, unroll the towel and lay the garment flat to air dry.
How to unshrink denim
Don’t you fit into your favorite baby blues anymore? Appel recommends spraying the denim with warm water using a spray bottle. Then use a cloth to pat it down and pull the ends to stretch it out. Hang them upside down from the legs to air dry. “If they’re still tight or too small, put them on and spray them with water,” he says. “Squat down and bend your knees to stretch them to your liking.”
How to unshrink wool
The steps to unshrink a woolen garment are quite similar to those for cotton. Fill your sink with warm water and pour in 1/3 cup of fabric softener or hair conditioner and let it soak for 10 to 15 minutes.
“The garment may need to be reshaped to return to its original size,” says Appel. “Once you are comfortable with the size, drain the water and rinse the item under cold water. Press the garment out as much water as possible, but do not wring it out. Lay the garment flat between two microfiber cloths or towels to absorb excess water. Then let it air dry.”
How to unshrink cashmere
If your cashmere sweater is too tight, follow the same process as with non-shrink cotton. The difference, Appel says, is letting it soak longer—about 30 minutes to an hour—and stretching it slightly as he does so. Follow that with a cold water rinse. Then roll the garment in a towel to remove excess water and let it air dry.
How to unshrink synthetic fibers
With pieces of synthetic fibers, it is the same type of drill. However, Appel says, since synthetic fibers are a more sensitive material, only submerge the item for 15 minutes while periodically removing it from the water.
“The weight of the water will help stretch the material,” he says. You can also give the ends a little tug, but don’t wring them out. Instead, rinse with cold water and use the same towel drying method.
And finally, keep in mind that some pieces may require repeating the process more than once. But if you’re in a time rush and need to run, Appel suggests spraying the garment with water and pulling on the corners to stretch it out a bit.
How to prevent shrinkage and care for clothes properly
check the label
The labels on your clothes aren’t just there to sting you. They have all the details you need to learn what the garment is made of and how best to wash it to prevent damage and shrinkage. So check your labels, people.
Wash on gentle cycle with cold water
To clean your clothes and minimize shrinkage, Goodman recommends separating dark fabrics from light fabrics and delicate fabrics from more durable garments, then washing them separately on the gentlest cycle possible with cold water. Cold water is especially beneficial when washing dark clothes to prevent shrinkage, fading and dye bleeding. In addition, cold water also saves energy.
Use fabric conditioner
Clothing fibers, which are similar to hair fibers, can be damaged over time from rubbing against other clothes during washing and from the heat of the dryer. That’s why Goodman suggests adding a fabric conditioner to your rinse cycle to help soften fabric fibers and prevent friction, which can stretch and fade your clothes.
Here’s how to finally crack all those symbols on your clothing labels. Also, how to wash without a washing machine.