How to Shrink a Shirt to Fit

While shirts can shrink to a reasonable size, hoping to shrink from an XL to an S might prove impossible. We often keep large shirts, hoping for a day they can shrink and finally become wearable.

You can conveniently shrink your shirt at home to the perfect size. These methods are easy and don’t necessarily need the help of a professional, as long as you follow instructions. 

You can also opt for sewing applications to reduce it to the preferred size.

Doing this is vital so that you don’t destroy your favorite shirt.

How do you shrink a T-shirt that’s too big?

shrink shirt

The first step to shrinking a shirt is to check the label on the fabric for details about the shirt, as some fabrics will shrink faster and easier than others.

Cotton shirts are the easiest to shrink, shrinking up to 20% of their size, while you may find it difficult to shrink other fabric types. 

Wool, linen, and silk can also shrink, but it will take more time than cotton. In comparison, synthetic fabrics like polyester and nylon won’t shrink as much as linen, wool, and silk if they do eventually.

So, it would help if you understood your fabric’s shrinking possibility before putting efforts into shrinking it.

The various methods employed to shrink a shirt include

Using Boiling Water

Boiling Water

This method offers the most extreme temperature change to shirts that helps them shrink dramatically. It will even shrink polyester to a smaller size and may reduce cotton to three sizes smaller.

There is no specific way to know how much the shirt will shrink when you place it in boiling water, and you can only determine it by its reduction in size by one to three sizes smaller.


  • Check the tag on the shirt to determine if it can shrink with heat. For example, cotton and wool will shrink with heat.
  • Also, checking the tag will instruct you on how to wash the shirt to avoid shrinkage. So, to shrink the shirt, do the opposite.
  • Fill a sink or a wide basin with boiling water. Depending on the material, the shrinking effect is maximized at higher temperatures.
  • Then, immerse the shirt in the boiled water.
  • If you want to wash the shirt while shrinking it, put one teaspoon of detergent in the sink or basin. Rinse in a separate bowl of water.
  • Leave for five minutes or until the water is cool. This will determine the level of shrinkage.
  • Keep in mind that the shirt may lose some of its colors if it is colored.
  • If you’re worried about your colored shirt losing some of its colors, soak it in cool or lukewarm water and hang it in a warm place to dry.
  • Gently squeeze out the water from the shirt. Dry the shirt on a drying rack. Don’t hang the shirt as it will expand the shoulder areas. Turn it to the other side after some time to allow the second side to dry.
  • Repeat the process until it shrinks to your preferred size.
  • You can go ahead and try another method for dramatic shrinkage.

The Spray Shrinking Method

spray shrink a shirt
  • Get some pure water and fill up a spray bottle. If you use an old spray bottle, give it a good scrub before you use it.
  • Spray on all sides of the shirt because dampening it will help shrink it. Do not wet the shirt thoroughly if you plan only to shrink specific areas of the shirt, like the arm area. 
  • Dry the shirt in the dryer on a Permanent press cycle, allowing it to dry for about two minutes.
  • Check every two minutes and leave for a few more minutes if needed.
  • Then, remove the shirt from the dryer once dry.
  • Tumble drying on a higher heat level, or the delicate heat setting for a delicate shirt, can cause further shrinkage, so if you need to shrink it further, do it again.
  • You can add dryer sheets to your dryer to give off a pleasant scent.
  • If the shirt doesn’t shrink enough, put it in the washing machine and set it to hot.
  • If you are afraid of color runoff when washing colored clothing, add a cup of vinegar to the wash load. You can improve its color retention by doing so.
  • You can select the Permanent press setting if you’d instead not use heat on your clothing.
  • Dry the shirt using the dryer and place it on high heat or Gentle dry for delicate shirts.

The Ironing Method

iron shirt

You can use this method if you don’t want to use the washing machine or instead use it in addition to the washing method for better results.


  • Dampen the shirt with a spray bottle.
  • Place a pressing cloth on the shirt, especially for polyester shirts (a cotton shirt may not need a pressing cloth).
  • Iron smoothly, reaching all areas of the shirt.
  • Adjust the iron settings depending on the type of shirt. For example, most irons have cotton and silk settings.

Professional help

Alternatively, you can take the shirt measurements to a tailor or seamstress and have them alter the shirt to fit you better.

  • Seek the services of a dry cleaner

Your dry cleaner might be able to shrink your shirt, especially if it has a label indicating dry clean only or can give you advice on how to shrink it without compromising the quality and color of your shirt.

  • Seek the services of a knitwear specialist

Requiring the services of knitwear specialists is possible if it is a knit shirt that you want to shrink. The knitwear specialist might have to re-knit the shirt to a better fitting size.

This method, however, might not be recommended for cheap knit shirts because it may be an expensive approach.

A Few Things to Know When Shrinking Clothes That Are Too Big

You can shrink clothes that are too big by washing them in hot water or drying them using a dryer. Sometimes, you may need to use an iron or handheld steamer to reach certain areas of the shirt and apply the right temperature. Heat, moisture, and friction are factors that help shrink clothes.

You will notice that different shirts contract in different ways. This is because they are made with different fabrics which react differently to heat. You will notice this difference, especially between natural and synthetic materials.

First, you ought to know the type of material you’re shrinking to understand how to carry out the shrinking methods properly.

You can check the manufacturer’s label inside the shirt to know the fabric’s contents.

Next, determine if your shirt has any special treatment that may affect its ability to shrink. Many cotton clothing brands use a treatment called preshrinking.

Also, some polyester fabrics have chemical coatings that help prevent staining and shrinking.

Shrinking a Shirt With Print

Shrinking a printed shirt may depend on what graphic was printed. It shouldn’t be bad if it is plastisol or other kinds of screen-printed medium used. But, if it is a DIY Sharpie job, the design might fade and may result in scrunching of the print.

With a few tweaks, the dryer method is the best method to shrink a shirt with print or graphics.

Turn the shirt inside out for printed shirts before you begin the process. This will help to prevent fading of the design.

Wash the shirt with cold water for cotton shirts, then use the dryer method. This will help shrink the cotton without affecting the design.

For polyester shirts, use an extreme temperature to shrink them properly. The boiling water method is usually the best approach for these kinds of fabrics. Unfortunately, this may damage the printed design. It would be best if you turned the shirt inside out, although it isn’t guaranteed.

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