How to Fix Stretched Out Shirts

Shirts are made to be worn -- and when they're worn, they stretch out. Everything from carrying groceries to doing yoga can loosen up your shirt's fabric, especially when moisture and sweat come into the equation. Fortunately, the same shirts that are most susceptible to stretching -- namely cotton and cotton-blend varieties -- also return to form rather easily with a little free time and a lot of hot water.

T-shirts hanging on rack. (Image: Mawardibahar/iStock/Getty Images)

Things You'll Need

  • Large pot

  • Washing machine

  • Clothes dryer

  • White distilled vinegar (optional)

Stovetop Shrinkage

Step 1

Fill a large pot with water and bring the water to a boil.

Step 2

Remove the water from heat and allow it to rest about 5 minutes if you wish to shrink the shirt a half size or a full size or about 10 minutes if you want to shrink it by about a quarter of its size, then carefully submerge your stretched-out shirt. Dunk the shirt immediately, without letting the water cool, if you want to shrink the shirt one or two full sizes. This method works for 100-percent cotton garments and for some types of wool.

Step 3

Let the shirt soak for about 5 minutes or so -- the longer it soaks, the more it shrinks. Drain the water from the pot after the shirt has soaked.

Step 4

Allow the shirt to cool, then thoroughly hand-wring it and spread it out to air-dry. If the shirt still hasn't shrunk enough, repeat the process until you find the right fit.

The Machine Method

Step 1

Wash your 100-percent cotton shirt or wool garment for one cycle on your washing machine's hottest water-temperature setting. The combination of moisture, heat and agitation causes stretched fabric fibers to shrink back to their original state.

Step 2

Remove the shirt from the machine and place it in the dryer. Run a drying cycle on medium heat until the shirt is completely dry. Set the dryer to high heat, unless the shirt's label warns against it, for a more intense shrinking effect.

Step 3

Repeat the washing and drying process until the shirt is snug enough to suit your needs.Typically, the first washing produces the most shrinkage -- although you'll face diminishing returns, subsequent washings will still subtly shrink the shirt.


Add a cup of white vinegar to the washing machine to keep your shirt's color from fading and bleeding, especially if you have to wash the shirt multiple times to shrink it.

Typically, top-load washing machines are more effective at shrinking stretched clothes, as they produce more agitation than front-loaders. More agitation leads to more fiber reversion, or shrinkage.

Preshrunk fabrics are less susceptible to shrinking by boiling or laundering; some may shrink slightly and others not at all. Fabric with a loose weave is more likely to shrink than tightly woven textiles.


Always read and follow any instructions or warnings provided by your shirt's manufacturer.

Shrinking results vary based on the material and brand of the shirt.

References & Resources