Stretched Out? Here's How to Shrink a T-Shirt

The secret is heat — and a lot of it.

man washing clothes in washing machine
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We've all accidentally shrunk a T-shirt. It's a frustrating accident. You were simply washing a bunch of things, and your favorite T-shirt emerged two sizes smaller. Bummer. But, what if you want to shrink the T-shirt? Why would anyone want to shrink a T-shirt, you're wondering? Well, the same reason why someone would want to stretch a T-shirt: because it isn't the right size.

There are two simple ways to do it, but both rely on the same element: heat. No matter whether they're cotton, wool, linen or silk — cotton shrinks the most, silk the least — a combination of heat and water will always do the trick. Most shirts will only shrink 20 percent max, though — so a size or two. Don't expect to turn an XL into a Medium or a Large into an XS.

Boil It

Boiling your shirt is essentially washing it on high heat — minus the soaping and drying steps.

  1. First, find a tall pot.
  2. Next, fill that pot with water.
  3. Place it on your stove, and turn up the heat.
  4. Let the water come to a boil. Don't salt it like you would water for pasta.
  5. Drop the shirt in once it's come to a boil.
  6. Turn off the heat.
  7. Let the water cool down, allowing the shirt to soak for anywhere between 5-20 minutes. The longer it soaks, the more it'll shrink, but it'll never shrink more than 20 percent.
  8. Ring it out, and let it air dry.

    Crank Up Your Washing Machine (and Dryer)

    Have you figured out the formula? It's heat. Here's how to replicate the same effect with your washing machine.

    1. Only mix your shirt in with like colors. If it's a graphic tee, turn it inside out. If it's vintage, don't do this — it's too fragile.
    2. Drop your shirt(s) into your washing machine. Select a high heat cycle.
    3. Once the cycle is complete, transfer it to your dryer.
    4. Dry the shirt(s) on the highest possible setting, but not without checking your lint chamber first.
    5. Once the cycle is complete, immediately remove the shirt to prevent wrinkles — and gauge your success.
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