6 Amazingly Simple Ways to Shrink a Sweater (2023)

Wool and cotton sweaters keep us snug and comfortable in the cold months and add fashionable flairs to our wardrobes. But, time and inattention result in you discovering that your favorite sweater is too big and unwearable. Knowing how to shrink a sweater helps you avoid those situations and ensures that your cold-weather gear all fits perfectly.

When you have a reliable method for how to shrink a sweatshirt, you enjoy peace of mind. Our guide shows you the top ways to shrink a sweater and keep your clothes looking and fitting the same way they did when you brought them home.

We give you processes to shrink cotton sweaters so they feel brand new again, and you also get top methods to shape and stretch wool sweaters and other animal fibers. Our look at sweater stretching is just right for your needs and gives you an extra tool for your home care kit.

6 Amazingly Simple Ways to Shrink a Sweater (1)



Table Of Contents

  1. How to Shrink a Sweatshirt
  2. Shrinking Cotton Sweaters
    • Wash and Dry Your New Cotton
    • Boil Cotton Sweaters
    • Hit Wet Cotton with an Iron
  3. The Best Ways to Shrink a Sweater
  4. How to Shrink a Sweater – Wool Fabrics
    • Give Animal Fiber Sweaters a Short, Hot Wash
    • Reshape Wet Wool
    • Take in Extra Fabric

How to Shrink a Sweatshirt

Shrinking a sweater is rarely a one-size-fits-all proposition. The type of sweater fabric you wish to stretch or shape dictates your approach.

For example, one of the most popular sweater fabrics, cotton, requires specific treatment to get it back into fighting form. If you take care of cotton properly, it remains loose and comfortable.

Shrinking Cotton Sweaters

This section examines ways to shrink and stretch clothes made of cotton. Cotton is a natural fiber like wool and angora. Cotton responds differently to water and heat than those fabrics, though, and our tips reflect that.

The approaches for how to shrink cotton that we include in this portion of the article treat cotton as a unique fabric and help you get the most out of your old clothes so you can wear them with pride.

Wash and Dry Your New Cotton

When you buy new and possibly unwashed cotton, exposure to heat in the wash and dry cycle go a long way toward shrinking it down to your preferred size. Uncontrolled and repeated washings in hot or even warm water result in too much shrinkage, but careful application of your washer and dryer allows you to make your sweaters wearable.

Send your new cotton sweaters inside-out through the washing machine on a hot water cycle. Use bleach-free detergent to keep the colors bright. After you wash the sweaters, wring out excess water and run them through a hot cycle in your clothes dryer.

Take the clothes out periodically to check that they don’t shrink too much. When they reach the desired size, take them out of the dryer and let them air dry the rest of the way.

Boil Cotton Sweaters

This approach uses heat in much the same manner as when you shrink cotton in the washing machine, but it takes a tougher stance. Boiling water restores the spring to your cotton fibers and makes them pliant and stretchable once more. Our boiling-water treatment is also the easiest way to hand wash clothes that have stubborn stains and require additional care.


Boiling Water Cotton Shaping

  • A large pot
  • Safety gloves
  • Long-sleeved shirt
  • Long pants
  • A long pair of tongs


Fill a large metal pot with cold water, and place it on the stovetop. When the water begins to boil, add the sweater you wish to shrink and let it soak for a few minutes.

Carefully remove the sweater with the tongs while wearing safety gear, and place it in the dryer. Dry the sweater on high heat. Repeat until the item fits the way you want.

Hit Wet Cotton with an Iron

When combined with your boiling water option, the dryer is a powerful tool in your quest to find out how to shrink a sweater. You sometimes want more pinpoint control when you shape a sweater, though.

A steam iron is the ideal DIY selection for these sorts of issues and gives you heat in a convenient and portable package. Use an iron to take management of the drying process, and substitute a hair dryer if an iron is unavailable.


Shrinking Cotton with an Iron

  • Steam iron
  • 2 clean towels or pillowcases
  • Ironing board
  • A pot of boiling water
  • Tongs
  • Safety equipment


Put on gloves, long pants, and a long-sleeved shirt. Drop the sweater in boiling water for a few minutes, and then remove it using the tongs. Wring the piece of clothing carefully over the sink to remove excess water.

Turn the iron on high, and turn off the steam. Then, place it flat on an ironing board or flat surface between two clean towels or pillowcases to prevent it from coming into direct contact with the iron.

Iron the sweater until it’s dry. Repeat as needed until it’s shrunken to perfection.

The Best Ways to Shrink a Sweater

Our cotton care tips work well for most of your sweaters and even t-shirts, but woolly fabrics require different methods to keep them in top shape. Cashmere, angora, and other forms of wool shrink to fit if you know how to treat them, though. With some attention and caution, it’s simple to bring your wool sweaters back to their original shapes.

How to Shrink a Sweater – Wool Fabrics

Below, we investigate how to shrink a wool sweater and provide you with some winning treatments. Our wool shrinking suggestions run the gamut from carefully applying heat to getting creative with scissors, needle, and thread.

Our advice on the best ways to shrink wool gives you power over your old clothing and provides you with a few simple steps to help you maintain your sweaters at their original sizes.

Give Animal Fiber Sweaters a Short, Hot Wash

Sheep wool and similar animal fibers react to heat, although they do so at a different rate than cotton fabrics. Wool shrinks after just a little heat. Quick bursts in a hot water cycle in your washing machine, followed by a low-heat dry cycle in your dryer, lets you control the shrinking process.

With the proper precautions, your washing machine is your best friend and ally when shrinking clothing. Use it as a go-to when you encounter oversized sweaters. Place your sweater in a pillowcase to keep it from snagging on your washing machine’s interior.

Run the sweater through a ten-minute hot-water cycle. Place it in the dryer at low heat for about 25 minutes. Check on the piece of clothing every few minutes, and when it fits the way you like, remove it from the dryer to air dry it.

Reshape Wet Wool

One of the beauties of working with wool and wool blend fabrics is how easy it is to manipulate them when they’re wet. Wet wool stretches and shrinks, depending on how you treat it.

Use this characteristic to turn your shapeless blob of yarn into a form-fitting fashion statement. Some patience on your part is all it takes to restore woolen sweaters; and, if you make an error? Get the fabric wet and reshape it.


Shaping Wet Wool Sweaters

  • Several clean towels
  • Gloves
  • Bleach-free detergent
  • Cold water


Fill a sink with cold water and add several drops of detergent. Soak the wool sweater for about ten minutes. Rinse the sweater in cold water.

Do not wring the sweater out at this stage to avoid uneven shrinkage. Instead, lay the wet sweater flat on a towel and roll the towel up to remove excess water.

Put on the gloves, and gently work the wool to push the cloth together in areas that you want to shrink. After you finish working with the sweater, let it dry on a clean, dry towel.

If you accidentally get your favorite wool sweater too small, you can unshrink a wool sweater, too. However, if the fibers are woven tightly together and have become “felted,” there is likely little difference you can make. It may be time to donate it.

Take in Extra Fabric

Your best efforts with water and heat are sure to resolve almost all your issues with sweaters. However, a few sweaters are too far gone or unable to shrink the way you wish.

Rather than consign these comfy but overly large clothes to the donation bin, break out the needle and thread and bring your sweaters back from the dead.

A few minutes tailoring your sweatshirts keeps them the right size when other efforts fall short. This is the best way to shrink a polyester sweater to ensure that it fits permanently, since it may be challenging to shrink this type of material.


Taking in Sweaters

  • Scissors
  • Thimble
  • Chalk
  • Pins
  • Sewing machine, or needle and thread


Put on your sweater, and pull out the sides to find out how much extra fabric it contains. Take the sweater off, turn it inside out, and mark the new seam location.

Place pins wherever required to bring in the seams, from the armpit to the waistband. Sew the new seam where marked. Turn the item right-side-out, and try it on. Make additional alterations as required.

We hope you had an educational experience investigating our sweater shrinking recommendations. Sweaters made from natural fibers breathe while they keep us warm, and they look great.

But, heat and time cause sweaters to loosen and become large and uncomfortable. Our look at shrinking sweaters helps you manage your wardrobe and keep your cold-weather clothes in top shape.

6 Amazingly Simple Ways to Shrink a Sweater (2)

Thanks for looking into our sweatshirt care suggestions. Help others find out about how to shrink a sweater by sharing this handy sweater shrinking guide on social media platforms such as Facebook and Pinterest.

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