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How to Keep Clothes from Shrinking & How to Unshrink Clothes

We have all been there – one moment of not paying attention when throwing your laundry into the wash, and you instantly pay the price in the form of a dearly loved piece of clothing suddenly becoming way too short for your kid. If you have younger children, you might be able to avoid giving shrunken items away, but it’s frustrating every single time it happens. The good news is that if you know how to stop clothes from shrinking, this can be easily avoided.  

Material guide: know when and how to prevent shrinking

Some fabrics are more prone to shrinking than others – as you already know, cotton belongs to this category, as do other natural fabrics like wool, mohair and linen. While it’s sometimes great to throw your jeans in the wash and find they’ve shrunk back to a skin-tight, just-like-new fit afterwards, you’ll want to be careful if your jeans are already on the small side. Check the label of your garment to discover the kind of fabric you are working with.  

How to prevent clothes from shrinking during a wash cycle

If you are wondering how to avoid tiny shirts, and how to keep jeans from shrinking, the answer is very simple: it’s mostly about the right temperature. Always make sure to read the instructions on the label for a suggested temperature, and if you are not entirely sure whether the fabric will shrink or not, play it safe and wash the garment on a cooler setting than you usually would.

It is also not just hot water that leads to shrinking – agitation does as well, especially with materials such as wool. So if you have a special cycle for wool or for delicate material, make use of it – you won’t regret it. You can find a useful guide to the wash care symbols on garment labels here.  

Dry your laundry carefully to prevent clothes from shrinking

Your best bet is to lay your delicate clothes flat and let them air dry on their own – the heat from the dryer can easily shrink sensitive fabrics and make them a size or even two sizes smaller. Not every garment is made for the dryer, as inconvenient as this can be at times. Invest in a good drying rack, and you will save both time and nerves as you avoid the frustrations of a dry but surprisingly tiny load of laundry.  

Buying pre-shrunk clothes

At this point, you may be wondering: “Why not simply buy new clothes that are pre-shrunk, to minimise the risk?” Pre-shrunk items have already been washed to avoid any significant shrinkage after the purchase – the fabric is therefore not stretched, as is often the case with cheaper clothes. Pre-shrunk items might be a bit more expensive, and there is no guarantee that they won’t shrink at all, but it is an option if you prefer to avoid any disappointments.

Alternatively, you can buy certain fabrics one or two sizes smaller – corduroy is a candidate for that, as is flannel for example.  

Unshrinking clothes

Accidents happen, but if a favourite item has shrunk in the wash, there are a few things you can try to get it back to its normal size. One of the easiest methods is to soak your garment in cold water for an hour, let it air dry, and then stretch it out again, starting from the middle. Fingers crossed, the item will fit again; the tight feeling often goes away after a day of wearing it in!

Now you know how to avoid shrinking clothes, your laundry should turn out just fine, and your kids favourite t-shirts will be safe – at least from shrinking!  

Tips from Our Matic Moms about How to Keep Clothes from Shrinking

Our panel of moms had some great advice about how to keep clothes from shrinking. Here is some of their advice to you:

  • “If possible, use always cold water for your clothes. After the wash, let it air dry and then stretch it out again.”
  • “The best way to unshrink clothes is to wash them at right temperature.”
  • "Before washing woollen sweaters, it is advisable to lay them flat on blotting paper and draw their outline and after wash, dry them flat again fitting them inside the outline you had drawn before laundering to make sure that your sweater does not loose shape.
  • “Also, never wring your delicate items and woollens to avoid shrinking or getting them out of shape.”
  • “Unfortunately in India, no notice is given about the possible shrinkage of clothes on the labels. It’s mostly based on trial and error.”

Have you ever shrunk a favourite jumper or shirt? Do you have any tips on unshrinking clothes? Share your experiences with us in the comment box below!