How do I Shrink an Oversized Cotton Sweater?

by Nicole Newman ; Updated September 28, 2017

You can shrink oversized sweaters to create a tighter, form-fitting look.

sweater image by dinostock from Fotolia.com

Shrinking clothing is something people generally try to avoid. For those who mistakenly purchase oversized clothing, lose weight or receive gifts and donations, shrinking the garment can be a favorable option. At times, tight and form-fitting looks are best achieved by using existing clothing rather than buying new garments. Shrinking clothing, such as cotton sweaters, can be achieved in a few, simple steps.

Fill a tub or sink with very hot water. Add soap if you would like, although it is optional.

Place the sweater into the sink and agitate it. Manipulate the sweater with gloved hands, a utensil or rolling pin. The combination of heat, water and movement causes the cotton material to shrink.

Remove the cotton sweater from the tub every so often to observe the shrinking. Use a ruler to measure the width and length of the sweater precisely. Record the observations with a pencil and paper.

Wash the sweater in a washing machine on the hot-water setting if you are not pleased with the above results. Note that the cycle does not require detergent. Squeeze the sweater carefully and avoid wringing the fabric, since the shape of a heated garment is highly malleable.

Place the sweater in the dryer on the highest heat setting. Allow the sweater to dry for approximately 45 minutes. Observe the change in size once the sweater is removed from the dryer.

Tips

  • The technique only works on 100 percent cotton garments. Note that some sweaters are "preshrunk" to help prevent a shirt from shrinking.

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About the Author

Nicole Newman is a Dartmouth College associate who works in Tiltfactor Laboratory, Dartmouth's premier game design center. Her research has included investigating the digital humanities through "Writing as a Dimensional Artifact" and "Evolution of the Ghetto: The Decline of America’s Inner Cities," a research initiative on urban design.