Most of us have experienced one or more of the classic mistakes while doing laundry. Turned a white shirt pink. Somehow lost the matching sock. Or perhaps the worst, shrunk your favorite sweater. We know, 99% of the time when you shrink an item in the washer or dryer, it feels like a bit of your happiness shrinks along with it. But in the rare times when you actually want to shrink a piece of your clothing, there is a right way to do it.
Dr. Karen Iveson, a researcher and developer at Dropps, explains how heat plays a major role in shrinking an article of clothing. “When the garment is subjected to heat, the stress that the fibers are under is lowered,” she says, which makes the fabric decrease in surface area. Iveson adds, “any type of heat will alleviate the stress forces that the fibers are under” and shrink the garment (via InStyle).
Okay, so we’ve learned that heat causes shrinkage: We’re ready to shrink. However, it’s important not to treat all fabrics as equals in the face of warmer temperatures. So before you toss that baggy denim button down, oversized wool sweater, and an ill fitting cotton T-shirt in the dryer, consider sticking to one type of fabric at a time when purposely shrinking items of clothing. Fabrics like rayon, cotton, wool, and silk will shrink in size much quicker than fabrics like nylon and polyester (via Whirlpool).
There are different shrinking methods for different fabrics
So what are the best ways to shrink shirts made of different fabrics? Priya Raj, founder of SAUCE, a personal shopping and styling brand that procures and restores new and vintage luxury garments, shared some tips with InStyle. For denim, polyester, and cotton, Raj recommends using the hottest setting on your washer and then immediately putting the garment in the dryer, also under the highest heat setting.
For cashmere and wool, it’s best to skip the washing machine altogether and use a spray bottle full of water. After spritzing the shirt, “Fold [the garment] on itself, so that the wet sides are together, and press down,” Raj instructs. “Repeat on the backside of the garment, then turn it inside out and do the same. Now put it in the dryer for 20 minutes on high heat then on low heat for 20 minutes. This will get it down by about a full dress size.”
It is also important to take your time. Go slow, and check the shirt you want to shrink often to make sure that it is reducing evenly and that you haven’t gone too far. And before you lose an afternoon buried in frustration, double-check that the shirt hasn’t been pre-shrunk already by its manufacturers (via Whirlpool). Best of luck and happy shrinking!
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