After your shirt comes out of the dryer in a kid’s size, you might think to toss it as your newest cleaning rag. Fortunately, there’s a good chance you can save your shrunken clothes—the process takes about an hour, and all you need is some household hair products and a towel. Here’s how to revive your accidental crop top from its shrinkage.
How is it possible to unshrink your clothes?
Of course, shrunken clothing doesn’t happen by magic: When your clothes get wet, they fill with water and expand the threads, and once they’re in the dryer, the fabric thread begins to curl and dry tighter than they were before going in the wash. It’s the expanding and contracting that results in a regular-sized shirt turning into a crop top. The best way to reverse the process is to loosen the fabric and stretch out the curled-up threads.
You can loosen up your cotton clothing, but there are ways to unshrink clothes of all fabrics and blends. The process I took recently involved soaking a shirt in conditioner, then lightly ringing and stretching it back to form.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- A bucket
- Conditioner or baby shampoo
- Warm water
- A big towel
How to stretch your shrunken clothes back into shape
First, fill the bucket up with lukewarm water, then grab your hair conditioner (preferably a washout, as leave-in conditioner could leave behind too much residue). You can also use baby shampoo if you want to be extra delicate.
TikToker Armen Adamjan recommends on his creative_explained channel to use one cup of conditioner, but I found that to be way too much and ended up using about two-thirds of a cup…which still felt excessive. In the end, I’d recommend just half a cup with a full bucket of water so your clothes don’t end up slimy. Add the conditioner, then use a whisk or something similar to mix the conditioner into the water until it’s a cloudy white. Put the clothing into the solution, gently massaging and squeezing your water through the cloth, then let your item soak for 30 minutes.
After soaking, take it out of the bucket—but don’t fully rinse (although I rinsed off some of the excess conditioner, which was fine). Gently squeeze out the water as you pull your item from the bucket, but you don’t want to ring it out, as the twisting would likely end you with some pretty badly misshapen clothing. Instead, squeeze as much water out as you delicately can, then lay the article of clothing out on your dry towel. Roll the item up in the towel, pressing as much as possible to remove the excess water.
Afterward, the fabric should feel damp, but not soaking. That’s when you can softly stretch the fabric to mimic its original shape and size, and lay it flat on another towel to dry. To keep the material from coiling back up, feel free to place heavier items like books or paperweights on the clothing to keep it taught. It’ll dry uncoiled (or at least significantly less coiled), and with a little luck you’ll be able to wear your favorite shirt once again.