Because sometimes you do want a new blouse or t-shirt to come out of the dryer a bit smaller.
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Whether you like to nab the latest fashions at your local thrift spot or you've fallen in love with an oversized top at the department store, sometimes the shirt you want to wear is just a little bigger than you'd like. The good news is that you don't have to pass up oversized tops once you learn how to shrink a shirt at home. All it takes to get the garment to look tailored to you is a bit of extra laundry.

pulling yellow shirt from dryer
Credit: brizmaker / Getty Imagres

If you're thinking you'd never purchase a top that doesn't fit in the first place, Madeline Aaronson, brand director for thredUP, says that making fashion choices outside of your comfort zone (and size) may open you up to new options you normally wouldn't consider. "Buying something oversized can be a fun way to experiment with your style, and depending on the fabric, you might be able to shrink it or [DIY to] your liking," she says. "There are lots of ways to style and shrink a larger top so it fits you perfectly." Aaronson says that your first step should always be to check the tag to see what materials were used. "100 percent cotton and wool are the easiest fabrics to shrink," she says. Whereas delicate fabrics like silk should not be touched because they can be damaged by the heat needed to effectively shrink your top. Additionally, synthetic fibers like nylon and polyester don't often shrink easily. So, if you're considering shrinking a shirt yourself, beware that not all fabrics will yield the same results.

How to Shrink Cotton and Linen Shirts

In order to shrink a shirt, you'll need to understand the chemical process first. "Shrinkage occurs when a combination of moisture and heat activates the cotton fibers and makes them susceptible to changes in shape as the garment is agitated in the washer or dryer," Daniel Fitzgerald, director of operations at CD One Price Cleaners, says. "Since it is a natural fiber, cotton readily absorbs water and is therefore fairly prone to shrinkage." To intentionally make a garment like a cotton or linen shirt smaller, he suggests washing it on a long cycle in very warm to hot water. "Then dry it on a high heat cycle, making sure to check it periodically to make sure it does not over-shrink." Once you've got it down to the size you want, he suggests removing the item from the dryer and allowing it to hang until it's dry enough to be worn.

How to Shrink Synthetics and Blended Fabrics

Shirts made from these types of materials are less likely to shrink because their synthetic fibers absorb less water and are often heat-set during the manufacturing process. This is done to help them resist accidental changes to their shape and size, according to Fitzgerald. "In addition, fabrics that include Lycra, Spandex, etcetera, specifically have an elastic/stretching element to counteract shrinkage," he says.

However, if you're going to attempt to shrink one of these tops, Tonya Harris, environmental toxin expert and author of The Slightly Greener Method: Detoxifying Your Home Is Easier, Faster, and Less Expensive Than You Think ($14.49, suggests first washing your top with cold water to avoid damaging the seams before drying it on high-heat with frequent checks (every five minutes) to make sure you're not over-shrinking or damaging it.

How Small You Can Go?

While Fitzgerald says laundry professionals typically take great pains to avoid shrinking and distorting garments, there are ways that it can be done intentionally. You can expect to see about two to three percent shrinkage (which will vary by brand, fabric type, and garment construction) when using the above methods, according to Fitzgerald. "Some types of garments will shrink more, but manufacturers tend to avoid producing shrink-prone items because customers usually don't like them, and garments that shrink a lot can result in returns and complaints." This means if the top you are looking to shrink is significantly larger than you'd like it to be, it might be best to get it professionally taken in.


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