How to Shrink Your Shirt: Complete Guide

Shrinking a shirt is a process to make your shirt shrink and become more fitted. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my lifetime, it’s that we live in an imperfect world.

The good news about this is that if something fits you perfectly right off the rack, chances are it will never look exactly like that on your body ever again (well, maybe except for wedding dresses).

For me, this happens most often with dress shirts. Even though I take all precautions when washing or drying them (following care instructions), they still end up slightly bigger after several washes than when new. My solution has been to put them through a shrinking process:


Wash your shirt using hot water and tumble dry until completely dry.

The reason for using hot water is because this will shrink your shirt more compared to cold water. The reason for tumble drying until it’s fully dry is so you can avoid shrinkage from excess water weight.

It may take a few hours, but this method should give you a nice clean pre-shrunk starting point!


Cut off the sleeves and any other parts that you don’t want to keep. This should be done before washing as it makes trimming easier afterward.

Once you’ve trimmed what you need to, place the remaining parts of the shirt in a laundry bag or pillowcase and throw it in with your next load of wash (the bag/case will prevent snags on other clothing/fabrics).

Pre-wash the remaining shirt: Wash it using hot water and tumble dry until completely dry.

The reason for using hot water is so you can shrink your shirt more compared to cold water. The reason for tumble drying until it’s fully dry is again, to avoid excess water weight that could cause additional shrinkage (this may take a few hours as well depending on your machine).

Note that the second washing shouldn’t be any longer than necessary; this will minimize excess wear and tear on your cloths.

Stretching/shrinking: Get out of shape:

Since we’ve washed and dried our shirts in hot water already, we don’t want to repeat this step because we risk breaking down fabric fibers too much. Instead, fill up your sink with hot water and place the shirt in it.

Squeeze the shirt against the bottom of the sink to create more tension on the fibers.

After a few minutes, quickly pull out your sleeves/body of your shirt so that they are stretched as much as possible without breaking them (this may require some trial and error on first try).

The more you can stretch things, the better! If you don’t have access to a sink, this method can be done by using an ironing board covered in towels. Iron on high heat until completely dry.

Once everything has been dried over an ironing board or sink, remove any wrinkles using an iron if needed. Best case scenario is that after all this work, the shirt looks exactly like it did before we washed it.

But chances are, there will still be some loose threads and creases because we’ve never actually ironed our shirt after washing (we only removed wrinkles because that’s all that was left). So, what next?


Iron your shirt as if you didn’t even wash or dry it yet. This is the last step to make sure all excess water weight and other small things like creases/wrinkles disappear for good. Again, this should be done over a towel covered ironing board to protect your fabric!

And voila: You now have pre-shrunk shirts ready for wear! Just remember not to leave them in hot environments too long (like a hot car) or else they will shrink back up a bit.

Happy shrinking!

Things To Keep In Mind:

Some brands may have different standards of what constitutes pre-shrunk materials , so use your best judgement. For example, if you’re using a shirt that isn’t supposed to be washed above 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit), then skip step 4 as well for safety’s sake .

As with many things in life, there are always going to be trade-offs. If you want a shirt that looks exactly brand new after washing.


There may be better ways to achieve the same result, but this worked for me. There are probably some things that I’ve overlooked, but overall it should give you a general idea of what steps to take in order to pre-shrunk your clothes without too much trouble! Good luck and have fun.

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