How to Shrink Cotton Without a Washer

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T-shirts are often made of cotton.
T-shirts are often made of cotton.

Cotton is used to make an array of clothing items, including T-shirts, blouses and pants. Like other fibers, this material can shrink when exposed to heat. While many people try to avoid shrinking cotton, you might want to shrink a garment to make it more form-fitting or pre-shrink a yard of fabric before turning it into a clothing item. It's easy to purposely shrink cotton, even if you don't have a washing machine available.

Things You'll Need

  • Container
  • Wooden spoon
  • Dryer

Step 1

Fill a sink, bathtub or another container with hot water. The hotter the water, the more the cotton fabric will shrink. If you don't have a hot water source from the faucet, boil water on the stove and pour it into the container.

Step 2

Place the cotton item into the hot water. Ensure the entire garment is submerged in the water.

Step 3

Agitate the water and the cotton material around the container. Use a wooden spoon if the water is too hot to touch. Swirl the cotton in circles and push it up and down. This will ensure all the fibers are exposed to the hot water which will help them tighten and shrink. Continue agitating the water for five or 10 minutes. Let the garment sit in the container until the water begins to cool.

Step 4

Put the cotton in a dryer. Place one or two other fabric items in with the cotton item to balance the load.

Step 5

Set the machine to its hottest setting, such as "high heat," and turn it on. Let the cotton material continue cycling through the machine even after it is completely dry. Once the moisture is removed, the heat of the dryer will further shrink the cotton fibers. However, do not let the dry material be heated in the dryer for more than 15 minutes as it could damage the cotton.

Step 6

Remove the cotton item from the dryer and fold it neatly. Be careful not to stretch the material, which could undo some of the shrinking.

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