Have you ever taken your favourite t-shirt, jumper or jeans out of the wash to find its suddenly small enough to fit a chihuahua? We’ve all been there, and it couldn’t be more frustrating! As disheartening as it may be to be faced with the sudden realisation that you may not be able to wear your staple items, there’s no need to panic. There are a number of different ways that you can resize and reshape clothing to get it back to its original condition. Here we run through not only how to fix shrunken clothes, but also how to avoid the problem altogether!

A Guide On How To Fix Shrunken Clothes

From washing on a temperature that is a little too high to popping items in the tumble dryer without reading the care label, it’s super easy to shrink clothing. With so many materials now used to design items, it can be a little tricky to know how to wash and dry clothes without causing damage. If you’ve recently fallen victim to a washing or drying mishap, then we have you covered!

Why Do Clothes Shrink?

The key to prevention is knowledge. So, first and foremost, we must tackle the question, why do clothes shrink? There are actually three different types of clothing shrinkage; each come alongside their own causes, and it all depends on the material of the item in question. The different types are as follows:

Felting:

If you have noticed that an item made with animal fibres has shrunk in the wash, then it is called felting. Animal fibres, such as cashmere and wool, feature scales along the surface of the material. When washed in a combination of water and heat, the scales begin to compress and therefore, mesh together as one. It means that as the fibres are compressed, the item of clothing shrinks. If you have ever experienced a shrunken sweater, then this is why!

Relaxation:

Unlike felting where the fibres compress, relaxation shrinkage is caused when the fibres within the material relax (hence the name). Relaxation only occurs in absorbent materials, which includes both natural and synthetic fibres. While natural fibres such as cotton, silk and linen are absorbant by default, their synthetic alternatives are modified to match.

Consolidation:

Consolidation is caused by a combination of excessive moisture, heat and constant movement caused by a washing machine or tumble dryer. The mechanical action during washing and drying begins to agitate the material, meaning that the tension formed during manufacturing will be released. As the fibres will no longer be fused securely together, the item of clothing will be deformed.

Folding clean washing

How To Unshrink Different Materials

Although clothing shrinkage is incredibly frustrating and ideally, we’d all like to avoid the hassle at all costs, there are a number of ways to successfully unshrink your favourite clothing. It is vital to consider the material of items before attempting to resolve the issue to avoid doing more harm than good. To give you an insight into where to begin, we have compiled a comprehensive guide on how to tackle shrunken clothing, regardless of the material!

Natural Fibres (Cotton, Silk, Linen)

Natural fibres are any materials that have been organically produced and derived from plants, animals or a mineral source. The most common natural fibres include popular materials such as cotton (from the cotton plant), silk (from the cocoon of a Bombyx Mori, also known as a silkworm) and linen (from the cellulose fibers grown inside flax plants). Natural fibres feature manipulative qualities, which makes them super easy to accidentally shrink, even when being extra careful. However, it does mean that they’re relatively straightforward to stretch back to their original size and shape.

To unshrink clothing made with natural fibres, begin by filling a large bowl with lukewarm water and add a few tablespoons of baby shampoo. Place your item in the bowl, allow to soak for half an hour and then rinse. Next, lay the item flat on a towel and roll until damp. Unroll the clothing, lay flat and pin down the edges using heavy objects to ensure that the material is stretched out. Leave to dry in this position.

Hand washing clothes

Animal Fibres (Cashmere, Wool)

Consisting mainly of proteins, animal fibres are, as expected, obtained from animals such as sheep (to make wool) and goats (to make cashmere). It is important to highlight that, while materials such as leather are from an animal, they are not animal fibre. Leather, for instance, is obtained from animal hides (animal skin used for human use), whereas wool is a textile fibre taken from the coat of a sheep.

If you have shrunk an item made from animal fibres, then it is vital that you not only resize the clothing but also reshape. Similarly to unshrinking natural fibres, to tackle animal fibres, you will need to fill a bowl with lukewarm water. However, this time, add two tablespoons of vinegar. Again, place the clothing in the bowl and allow to soak for 30 minutes. Now and again, it is highly recommended to stretch out the item while soaked in water before removing. Try to squeeze out as much water as possible then stuff the item with towels. By filling the clothing with towels, it can begin to stretch back into its original shape while drying. Once damp, hang the piece up to dry.

Knitwear hanging up

Denim

If you were to purchase an item that was made with only denim, it is unlikely that you will experience any shrinkage. However, nowadays, most “denim” clothing is blended with other materials such as polyester or elastane, which makes them more susceptible to shrinking in the wash. This is why most jeans feel a little snug when you first put them on after washing, but loosen up the longer that you wear them.

When researching on the internet ways to unshrink denim, many sites will advise putting the item on and then sitting in the bath in lukewarm water. While this is effective, it isn’t the most convenient and let’s be honest, would be incredibly uncomfortable. So, we have an alternative to trial when faced with shrunken denim. First, lay your jeans flat on either the floor or a large surface. Ensure that the legs have been separated as this will make it easier to work on sections. Fill a spray bottle with lukewarm water and begin spraying the jeans with water in sections. Once damp, use your hands to stretch out the section of the jeans to loosen the fabric. After each section has been sprayed and stretched, hang the item to air dry.

Jeans hanging to dry

Synthetic Fibres (Polyester, Rayon)

The last material to tackle is synthetic fibres. Synthetic fibres are the most ‘manmade’ of all fabrics, created from polymers which are made using chemical synthesis. Polymers, by definition, are chemical substances including a repeating chain of molecules. Items made using synthetic fibres often start as either coal or petroleum, which is them mixed with acids and alcohol. Each step of the synthetic fibre making process is completed artificially meaning that this material is not organic. More information and a helpful video explaining synthetic fibres can be found on Study.com.

Unlike their alternatives, synthetic fibres are a little more sensitive, which means you do need to take extra care when attempting to unshrink the fabric. You will need to fill a bowl with lukewarm water and add just one tablespoon of baby shampoo. Place your item in the bowl and soak for no longer than 20 minutes. Once removed, it is imperative not to wring your item to dry. Instead, begin to gently stretch the clothing straight away while still wet. Once you have stretched to your desired size and shape, lay the item flat, pin down the edges and leave until dry.

Stretching clothing

The Secret To Shrinking Prevention

Although it is always handy to know how to unshrink clothing, it’s even more valuable to understand how to avoid the problem altogether. This way, you can ensure that all of your favourite items remain in pristine condition, regardless of how many washes they undergo. As providers of an array of laundry services in Milton Keynes, we’ve picked up a whole host of secrets on how to prevent shrinking. Here we let you in on our top four tips:

Always Follow The Labels

While this may seem somewhat obvious, it is most definitely the most effective way to keep your items in their original condition. The purpose of the care label is to inform you on how to look after clothing, including washing, drying and ironing information. Clothing retailers understand that every material comes alongside specific requirements, which means that it is their duty to provide instructions to the buyer. Always be sure to take a look at the care label before attempting to wash any new items. If you’re unsure on how to decipher the care label, take a look at our previous article titled ‘what do cleaning symbols mean?

Reading care label

Wash With Cold Water

One of the most common causes of shrunken clothes is excessive heat, which means that to reduce the likelihood, we suggest opting for a cooler temperature. Although it cannot be guaranteed that washing in cold water will stop shrinking, it will help towards keeping your items in their original state. To ensure that you can still achieve a thorough clean while using colder water, add a little extra detergent.

Visit A Dry Cleaners

No one knows better on how to care for clothing than the professionals. With this in mind, if you have a particularly delicate item that you do not want to risk ruining, most definitely visit your local dry cleaners.

As highly reputable dry cleaners in Milton Keynes, One Stop delivers unrivalled customer service and care for your favourite items. All fabrics can be treated by our experts, who use only solvent-free and eco-friendly products to maximise results. We even provide a free pick-up and drop-off service!

Take Care When Drying

Ideally, to prevent your clothing from shrinking, you should always opt for air-drying items. Hanging clothing to dry either outside or on a drying rack will allow them to dry in their natural shape, without being put through the mechanical action of a tumble dryer.

However, with the ever-changing British weather conditions, we understand that it’s not always convenient to air-dry clothing. If you do prefer to use a tumble dryer, then always switch to a lower heat. In using a cooler temperature, you can avoid causing heat damage to the fibres, which is a common culprit for shrinking.

Taking clothes out of the tumble dryer

Make Shrunken Clothing A Problem Of The Past

Through reading the instruction label, using a cooler temperature and taking just that little extra care, you can keep your favourite items in perfect condition. If you do fall victim to an unexpected shrinkage, then you will now be well-informed on how to resolve the issue before your next wash. Be sure to follow the steps mentioned above, allowing plenty of time for items to dry in their stretched position before attempting to wear any shrunken clothing.