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How to Shrink a T-shirt: A Guide to Making Your Clothes Fit

Alyssa Mertes

Published: October 23rd, 2020

Are you one of those lucky people who caught a tee out of the cannon at a baseball game? Or maybe you volunteered for a 5K over the summer and got a shirt for your efforts. No matter what, we all love a good free t-shirt, but sometimes these things are way too big for us to wear.

The good news is it’s easy to shrink a 100% cotton t-shirt without breaking a sweat. All you need is a little water and time, and just like that, your t-shirt will go from being a circus tent to an actual wearable piece of clothing!

How to Shrink a Cotton T-shirt

If your t-shirt is too large to wear, there are two easy ways to shrink it down so it will fit you. You can either:

#1 Boil it in hot water.

#2 Wash it in the washing machine with hot water.

How to Shrink a T-shirt Without a Dryer

Boiling water

Do you not have access to a washer and dryer? No problem! You can shrink your cotton shirts in a pot of boiling water instead.

Here’s how to shrink a t-shirt without a dryer:

#1 Boil a large pot of water.

#2 Once it’s boiling, remove the pot from the heat. Then decide on the amount of shrinkage you need:

Boiling water
1/4 - 1/2 size

If you want your shirt to shrink ¼ to ½ size, wait 10 to 15 minutes before placing your shirt in the water.

1/2 - 1 size

If you want your shirt to shrink ½ to 1 size, wait 5 minutes before placing your shirt into the water.

1 - 2 size

If you want your shirt to shrink 1 to 2 sizes, put your shirt in the water immediately after you remove the boiling pot from the heat.

1 - 2 size

#3: Let your t-shirt soak in the water for at least 5 minutes. Remember, the longer it’s in the water, the more it will shrink.

#4: Drain the water and let the shirt cool off before touching it.

#5: Wring out the shirt and let it air dry.

#6: Repeat all the steps if necessary.

#7: Rock your new, smaller shirt and wear it with pride!

How to Shrink a T-shirt in the Washing Machine

Washing Machines

It’s laundry day! Use this time to not only get your clothes clean, but also to shrink your cotton t-shirts.

Here’s how to shrink a t-shirt in the washing machine:

#1 Wash your shirt in the washing machine with the hottest water possible.

#2 Once the cycle is complete, put your shirt in the dryer using a medium-heat setting.

#3 Repeat if necessary.

#4 Your shirt should be shrunk down and ready for you to wear!

Washing Machines

The methods listed above work best with plain, blank t-shirts that aren’t printed with a graphic or design.* You will follow a different process for custom tees, so read on if you’re interested!

*Disclaimer: Quality Logo Products® is not responsible for any damage caused by shrinking your t-shirts. If you’re at all unsure, it’s always best to speak to the manufacturer directly for more information.

Would you rather see all the shrinking steps in action? Check out this video!

How to Shrink Your T-Shirt With and Without a Dryer

Whether you're promoting your business or a special event, custom T-shirts make wonderful giveaway items.

Does Cotton Shrink Every Time You Wash It?

Hanging T-shirts

Cotton won’t shrink every time you wash it, as long as you make sure to use cold water. It’s also a good idea to air dry your cotton t-shirts, polos, and sweatshirts instead of putting them in the dryer.

Did you accidentally shrink your t-shirt? According to an article in The Huffington Post, you can unshrink it by filling a bowl with cold water and ¼ cup of hair conditioner and then soaking for 15 minutes. This isn’t a foolproof solution, but it may help you get the shirt back to its original size!

Hanging T-shirts

How Much Does Cotton Shrink When Washed?

If you wash your cotton shirts in hot water, they will shrink by up to 5% from their original size. This will only happen once, but it’s important to keep in mind so you don’t ruin your favorite clothing.

This is what happens when you wash your cotton shirts in hot water:

Infographic, Why do cotton shirts shrink - mobile view
Infographic, Why do cotton shirts shrink - desktop view

Cotton tees shrink because of the way they are built. Hot water does not mix well with this material, so be sure to wash it in cold water if you don’t want your clothes to shrink down in size.

Camera

Pro Tip: Cotton is the most shrinkable material. Wool, linen, and silk will also shrink, but it requires more effort. Nylon, polyester, and spandex, on the other hand, will probably not shrink at all.

Can You Shrink Clothes By Just Drying Them?

Washing machine

You can shrink wool and cotton clothes by just drying them, but if your goal is to cause them to shrink, it helps to have washed them first. If you really want to avoid washing, place your t-shirts in the dryer on the hottest setting possible instead.

Washing machine

How to Shrink a Shirt With a Logo

T-shirt with logo

You want the design on your custom t-shirt to last forever. With that in mind, boiling it or washing it with hot water may not be the best choice when it comes to shrinking it down.

Here’s how to shrink a shirt with a logo:

Step One: Turn the t-shirt inside out.

Step Two: Wash your shirt with cold water.

Step Three: Place your shirt in the dryer on HOT or HIGH.

Step Four: Dry your shirt for 60 minutes.

Step Five: Repeat if necessary.

T-shirt with logo

In the case of a graphic t-shirt, like a band shirt or a sports jersey, you’re going to need the dryer in order for it to shrink. Take the extra time to turn it inside out first so you don’t damage the print.

If you don’t want your custom tee to shrink, skip the dryer altogether. You can hang it up to air dry instead.

Do Gildan Shirts Shrink?

Man wearing Gilden t-shirt

Gildan is a popular apparel brand. They are best known for making super soft and thin cotton shirts, hoodies, and polos that are comfortable to wear all day long.

Keep in mind, Gildan apparel is known to shrink from frequent washing. Your shirt or hoodie may go down to about a half size smaller than before it was washed. That’s why it’s a good idea to order a size larger than you normally would if you’re buying Gildan products.

Man wearing Gilden t-shirt

How Do You Shrink Clothes That Are Too Big?

Do you have other apparel like pants or dresses that are a little too big? It’s possible to shrink those items as well without having to spend an obnoxious amount of money on tailoring.*

You can shrink the following pieces of clothing:

Jeans

Did you shed some pounds, but still want to wear your favorite jeans? Shrink them down with hot water and the dryer, or mix a solution of fabric softener and hot water and spray it all over your pants. You can also take a hot bath wearing your jeans, but this isn’t the most comfortable option.

Jeans

Dresses

A polyester or cotton dress can go directly into the washer with hot water. You then want to place your dress in the dryer on a high setting. This combination of heat should be powerful enough to shrink your dress down so it will fit properly.

Dresses

Wool Sweaters

You will need hot water and your dryer to shrink a wool sweater. If you want it to shrink only a little, spray it down with water and then put it in the dryer for about 15 minutes. If you want it to shrink a lot, do a full load of laundry!

Wool Sweaters

Baseball Caps

It might seem surprising, but you can shrink baseball caps by placing them in a pot of boiling water or washing them in hot water. A third option is to, no kidding, take a hot shower with the cap on your head. Your hair might be unwashed, but at least you’ll have a smaller hat!

Baseball Caps

Shoes

You’ve found the perfect pair of shoes, but just your luck, they’re a half size too big. The good news is you can shrink leather, suede, or canvas shoes by wiping them down with cool water and then using a blow dryer to dry the area.

Shoes

Socks

Just like t-shirts, you can shrink cotton socks by washing them with hot water and placing them in the dryer. Be careful not to overdo it, or you’ll be left feeling like you have giant feet.

Socks

Jackets

A jacket is a little tricky to shrink since it has to be machine washable in order to work. Check the care tag to make sure yours can go in the washer and then proceed to wash and dry on the hottest heat setting possible.

Jackets

*Disclaimer: Quality Logo Products® is not responsible for any damage caused by shrinking your clothes. If you’re at all unsure, contact the manufacturer of your clothing item directly.

The Bottom Line

You don’t have to give up on your stylish t-shirts, pants, hoodies, and other apparel items if they’re too big. You also don’t have to eat a bunch of cheeseburgers to fit into them. A little bit of hot water and some effort on your end will work wonders!

References

Feiam, A. How to Shrink a Shirt to the Perfect Size. Retrieved from, https://www.thetrendspotter.net/how-to-shrink-a-shirt/

Stocker, S. wikiHow. (2020, February 25). How to Shrink a Cotton T Shirt. Retrieved from, https://www.wikihow.com/Shrink-a-Cotton-T-Shirt

Godio, M. (2020, April 17). A Step-By-Step Guide on How to Shrink That Oversized Shirt You Love. Retrieved from, https://www.cosmopolitan.com/style-beauty/fashion/a32145462/how-to-shrink-a-shirt/

A2Z Clothing. (2017, May 22). Do Gildan Ultra Cotton T shirts Shrink? Retrieved from, https://www.a2zclothing.com/blog/do-gildan-ultra-cotton-t-shirts-shrink/

Ati, P. (2018, March 15). How to Shrink Clothes – Cotton, Polyester, Silk, and Denim. Retrieved from, https://www.stylecraze.com/articles/how-to-shrink-clothes/

Manetti, M. (2012, October 30). How to Fix a Shrunken Shirt with Hair Conditioner. Retrieved from, https://www.huffpost.com/entry/how-to-fix-a-shrunken-shirt_n_2040056

Aanya’s Blog. (2019, September 11). Will 100% Cotton Shrink? Retrieved from, https://www.aanyalinen.com/blogs/aanya-blog/will-100-cotton-shrink

Nelson, B. Finally! The Real Reason Your Clothes Are Shrinking in the Washer. Retrieved from, https://www.rd.com/home/cleaning-organizing/why-clothes-shrink/

Campbell, L. (2011, November 13). Shrinkage Prevention. Retrieved from, https://www.laundrycare.biz/blog/shrinkage-prevention/

wikiHow. (2019, March 29). How to Shrink a Fitted Baseball Hat. Retrieved from, https://www.wikihow.com/Shrink-a-Fitted-Baseball-Hat

wikiHow. (2020, March 10). How to Shrink Shoes. Retrieved from, https://www.wikihow.com/Shrink-Shoes

wikiHow. (2020, March 23). How to Shrink Socks. Retrieved from, https://www.wikihow.com/Shrink-Socks

wikiHow. (2019, June 4). How to Shrink Jeans. Retrieved from, https://www.wikihow.com/Shrink-Jeans

wikHow. (2019, November 13). How to Shrink a Dress. Retrieved from, https://www.wikihow.com/Shrink-a-Dress

Gordon, W. (2014, May 20). Shrink a Wool Sweater and Make It Fit Again. Retrieved from, https://lifehacker.com/shrink-a-wool-sweater-and-make-it-fit-again-1579046599

wikiHow. (2019, March 29). How to Shrink Jackets. Retrieved from, https://www.wikihow.com/Shrink-Jackets