So, you’re in love with a shirt that’s too big for you. Maybe it’s the coziest thing in the world, but doesn’t hang quite right on your body. Or maybe it’s in a perfect color or depicts your favorite band or was gifted to you by a favorite aunt who doesn’t really know your t-shirt size. Regardless, you’re hesitant to throw it out, but unable to rock it with confidence. And I get it — perhaps if you just stow it away one more time, it’ll magically fit the next time you take it out of the drawer. But my friends, it won’t. Unless, of course, you shrink it.
If you’ve never thought about shrinking a shirt before, I highly recommend that you start thinking about it now. It’s actually super simple to do and can transform a loose tee into one that fits like a glove. All you need to get started is a large pot, some boiling water, and this handy guide.
Ready to get shrinking? Then keep on reading below!
Before you do anything, you need to read the label. This is important for two reasons: 1.) You’ll want to figure out what material your shirt is made of and 2). You’ll want to see if there are any special wash instructions you need to follow. We’re going to be treating this shirt to some pretty extreme conditions, so if the instructions explicitly state temperature parameters or specific drying settings, you may want to tread lightly.
And when it comes to materials, figuring out the fabric composition will let you know how well the shirt is going to shrink. Cotton and wool are the most shrinkable of the common shirt/sweater materials as they’re all-natural and pliable to heat. Nylon, polyester, or other synthetic materials have been specifically designed to withstand extreme temperatures, so aren’t going to shrink as well or at all.
Therefore, if you’re looking to shrink a poly blend crop top, you may want to stop here. But, if you’ve got a 100% cotton polo on deck you, my friend, are all set.
Okay, don’t literally burn it up, but if you’ve discovered that your shirt is a prime candidate for shrinking, it’s time to throw it in the washer and dryer on high, high, high settings. Do a rinse cycle on high and then follow up with a dry cycle on, you guessed it, high!
Once it’s done, you should notice that it’s shrunk quite a bit. You may have used this technique on blue jeans before, but it works just as well for shirts. And if you find that the shirt hasn’t quite shrunk to your desired size, you can always send it through the cycle again.
But, if this method doesn’t work for you (either because you don’t have a washer/dryer or simply want something that doesn’t waste so much water), worry not! I’ve got another solution up my sleeve.
If you don’t want to wash your shirt or find that the above method isn’t really working, you can try the stovetop approach. Simply fill a large pot with water, bring it to a rolling boil, turn off the heat, remove it from the burner, and then throw your shirt into the water.
Some experts recommend taking it out after five minutes while others say you can let it sit for upwards of 20 minutes at a time. I like to strike right in the middle, so usually take out my shirt within the 5-10 minute window.
It’s important to note that the hotter the water, the more dramatic the shrinkage; so, if you only want to shrink your shirt a little bit, make sure to let the water cool off before submerging it. However, if you need to shrink your top by more than an inch or two, dunk it in as soon as possible.
When you think your shirt’s had a long enough bath, drain the water and remove the tee very carefully (preferably with tongs). For mild shrinkage, you can let the shirt air dry. For more shrinkage, throw it in the dryer on high.
The key, really, is experimentation. What works for one shirt may not work for another. So, be open to the process and realize that there will certainly be some tinkering involved.
And for the love of god, please don’t burn yourself!
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