How to Shrink An Oversized Shirt to the Perfect Size

Are you thinking about how to shrink a shirt of yours without causing damage to it? You are in luck because I know how to.

We have all been there before. We have all found ourselves with tees that are a few sizes too big but are the only size left in that perfect shade or graphic print we have been looking for. Perhaps they’re hand-me-downs or even gifts from someone terrible at guessing our sizes or stolen from our boyfriend or husband’s wardrobe.

Either way, there’s a particular size limit for tees before you start looking like you are drowning in fabric rather than rocking that cute oversized-shirt look.

However, try not to fret, as you can do something about it. Say we have a shirt that is a couple of sizes too big for us and we want to resize, we could, of course, take it in. But at times, we’re lazy or inept at using a needle and thread, so we look for other, more straightforward ways, like shrinking the shirt.

Before we dive into how to shrink a shirt, there are a few things you should know. Yes, you can purposely shrink your clothes, and I will tell you how in a bit. First, you need to know what kinds of fabric can and can’t shrink and why they even shrink in the first place.

Fabrics that do shrink and why

Fabrics like cotton, rayon and linen are made up of natural fibers, which aren’t straight. They are wavy and are of varying lengths. For this reason, when they are weaved into fabrics, they are forced to stretch and straighten to connect.

Stretching and straightening the fibers creates the tension that holds them together. This changes their molecular state. When these fabrics are exposed to moisture and heat, part of the tension is released, and the fibers curl and contract to cause the entire fabric to shrink.

Fabrics made of 100% cotton can shrink up to 20% of their original size under the right conditions. However, you should note materials that have “pre-shrunk” or similar terms in their labels as they do not shrink much or at all. The pre-shrinking of fabrics is a preventive measure done by clothing manufacturers to avoid receiving bad ratings and dealing with dissatisfied customers.

Though pre-shrunk fabrics sometimes can’t shrink further, pre-shrunk 100% cotton can shrink up to 3% (a tiny amount) when put in a hot wash cycle.

Related article: Top 10 Olivia Rodrigo Outfits You Have to Try Out At Least Once in 2022.

Fabrics that do not shrink and why

Synthetic fibers like nylon and polyester, on the other hand, do not give much room for shrinkage if they shrink at all.

Synthetic fibers are straight; hence there is no change in their molecular state when weaved into fabrics. Synthetic fibers are also heat-set by the manufacturers, which help counter the effects of heat and moisture.

Some synthetic fibers like lycra have stretching properties that counter shrinking. Purely synthetic fibers like 100% polyester do not shrink at all.

However, many clothes are made up of more than one type of fabric. Dresses like this are referred to as fabric blends (a combination of natural and synthetic fibers) and will shrink due to the presence of natural fibers. Other factors, like the style and finishing of the garment, can also affect the level of shrinkage of the clothes.

Now that you know the types of fabrics that can shrink or not. Let us dive into how to shrink a shirt.

Techniques used to shrink a shirt

There are three different ways you can shrink a shirt, watch out for the third method as it is not a popularly known method.

1. How to shrink a shirt using the boiling method

This technique is pretty simple. All you need is a pot large enough to contain enough water to submerge your shirt without spilling, tongs or a wooden spoon, and a stove.


  • Pour enough water into the pot and bring it to a boil.
  • Once the water boils, turn off the stove.
  • Drop the shirt you want to shrink into the pot. Use the wooden spoon or tongs to make sure it is completely submerged. Make sure to turn your shirt inside out; so the color does not fade.
  • Leave the shirt in hot water for 5 minutes. You can leave it in for more if you want a more significant change in size. The longer you leave the shirt, the more it will shrink, but of course, everything has a limit.
  • Use the tongs or wooden spoon to bring out the shirt and place it in another bowl.
  • Wait till it is cool to touch and use a towel to soak up the excess water. Avoid wringing the shirt as squeezing it can damage the material.
  • Hang it up to air dry. Avoid drying under direct sunlight, as this can cause the material to fade.

Also, try not to use this method for printed tees; you don’t want the prints to wash off, do you? And that’s how to shrink a shirt using the boiling technique. You can repeat this method several times till you get your desired results.

2. How to shrink a shirt using the washer and dryer method

Here is a method many must have come across accidentally. Read on to know how to shrink a shirt purposely this time.


  • Turn the shirt you want to shrink inside out.
  • Throw the shirt into the washer. Proceed to wash on a long cycle in very warm or hot water.
  • Dry it on a high heat cycle, the hottest your dryer settings has.
  • Make sure to check on the shirt from time to time, preferably before the cycle is over, so it does not over shrink.
  • Airdry the shirt if it has achieved the size you want before it is dry enough as further drying in the machine will make it shrink more.

Do clothes shrink in the washer or dryer?

The answer to that is both. Both the washer and dryer are culprits in making your clothes shrink. The washer and dryer shrink your clothes through a process known as consolidation.

Consolidation is the effect of the combination of heat, moisture, and friction between the clothes and machine as they tumble around. These three factors reduce the tension between the fibers; the heat then shortens the fiber, leading to an overall size reduction of the garment.

Note that you can shrink printed tees using this method, but with a slight change.

3. The washer and dryer method for printed tees


  • Make sure to turn your printed tees inside out; before throwing them into the washer.
  • Wash with cold water. This is important because hot water is likely to fade off the ink.
  • Dry it on a high heat cycle. Make sure to check on it frequently; so it does not over shrink.
  • Air dry it if it did not finish drying by the time you pulled it out of the dryer as continuous drying might shrink it more than you’d want. Avoid spreading it under direct sunlight. And that’s how to shrink a shirt using the washer and dryer method.

Of all the previously mentioned techniques, this is the tamest on your clothes as there is not much interaction with heat which can damage your clothes.

However, these techniques give you no control over the part of the shirt you want to shrink. Perhaps you only want to shrink the arms or the bust area; you will have to use a different technique. Continue reading to know what method to use.

4. How to shrink a shirt using the steam iron method

Though this method requires more effort, it gives you room to be more specific on what parts of your shirt you want to shrink.

Here is how to do it:


  • Set your iron to its hottest steam setting. Make sure to fill up your iron with water beforehand.
  • Carefully place the iron over the surface of your shirt and steam well, taking measures not to let the iron make contact with the shirt. An easier way to do this step is to use a handheld steamer.
  • Place a damp cloth on the particular area you want to shrink, like the sleeves or burst.
  • Turn off the steam setting on your iron and change it to dry and hot. Now iron firmly over the damp cloth. Do this repeatedly till you have gotten your desired result.
  • Hang your shirt out to air dry.

This method is not for shirts alone; you can try it for other clothes like the waist of your jeans, but pay attention to the type of fabric that makes up your garment so that there are no wasted efforts.

Are you surprised to find out you can shrink specific parts of your clothes? Let me know in the comments section.


As you can see, shrinking a shirt is doable and does not cost an arm and a leg. It just requires knowledge, a bit of your time, and effort to get the best results. Have you tried any of these methods before? How did it go? Let me know in the comments section.

You may also like to read, 20 Black-owned beauty brands you should try during Black History Month and after.