A 5-Step Process For Saving Clothes That Shrunk In The Wash

mindbodygreen Editorial Assistant By Sarah Regan
mindbodygreen Editorial Assistant

Sarah Regan is a writer, registered yoga instructor, and Editorial Assistant at mindbodygreen. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from SUNY Oswego, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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We've all been there: You take your clothes out of the dryer only to find you shrunk something by mistake. It's a huge bummer—and one that's likely caused you to stop wearing some of your old favorites. But we're here to tell you, the next time that happens, there's hope! Here's how to unshrink your clothes, plus some tips to prevent shrinkage from happening going forward.

A step-by-step guide on how to unshrink clothing.

Sometimes, depending on the fabric and the severity of shrinkage, all you need to do to the piece of clothing is mist it until damp and stretch it out like pizza dough. If that's not cutting it, Melanie Green, with fabric care company Gleener, offers up this routine:

  1. Fill a sink/tub/bucket with enough warm water to cover the garment and add a big squirt of hair conditioner. 
  2. Put the affected garment in the water and gently rub it to make sure the conditioner gets into all the fibers of the fabric/knit.
  3. Let it marinate for at least 30 minutes.
  4. Remove the clothing from the water, gently squeezing it until it is no longer dripping.
  5. Stretch the clothing out on a corkboard. Pull it in all directions and pin in place. Every once in a while go back and try to stretch it a bit more and re-pin it in place until it is dry.
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Does fabric material matter?

When it comes to shrinking, "some fabrics are more salvageable than others," Green notes. The aforementioned method should do the trick for most fabrics, including synthetics and even denim if you've managed to shrink your jeans.

For natural fibers, you should be good with just a little water and stretching. (Yet another reason to prioritize clothes made from natural fabrics.) "Natural fibers such as cotton, wool, and even rayon can be coaxed back into shape with a little TLC," she adds. "My personal quick fix is to mist the garment all over with some water and then make my husband put it on and move around in it a bit. This works great for jeans, most knits, and woolly sweaters."

How to keep clothes from shrinking in the future.

Most of the time, clothing shrinks after it's been in the dryer too long or placed in a dryer that's too hot. Washing clothes at the wrong temperature can also cause shrinkage, so always look at care instructions before laundering. On top of that, Green notes "the most important thing to remember is that heat is the enemy, especially for natural fibers."

So, wash with cold water on the delicate cycle and use the "low heat" and "less dry" settings when you don't air dry, she says. "Wool dryer balls can also help decrease the drying time and increase air circulation."

And of course, washing your clothes less often will help them last longer. Things like jeans and bulky sweaters can definitely handle going a few wears before being cleaned. "Wearing a T-shirt or camisole under your sweater will help you get a few more wears between washes, and jeans last much longer and will retain that perfect fit if you wash them less often," Green says. You'll notice that most of these care tips also make laundry day a little lighter impact on the environment, an added bonus.

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The bottom line.

Shrinkage is preventable if you're careful, but let's be real; it's bound to happen at one point or another. When it does, remember the soak-and-roll method; you'll never have to part ways with a shrunken sweater again.

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