How to Shrink Cotton Shirts in Boiling Water

by Melissa King ; Updated September 28, 2017

Cotton T-shirts shrink under high temperatures during both the washing and the drying cycles.

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You've found a stylish cotton shirt or received one as a gift, but the garment is a few sizes too big for you. Before you return the shirt, give it away or donate it to charity, try shrinking it. One hundred-percent cotton shirts shrink easily when laundered at a high temperature, and this can easily be done at home.

Fill a large pot about halfway with water. The pot should be large enough to contain the water and the shirt.

Set the pot on the stove and turn the burner on high. Wait for the water to boil.

Drop the shirt into the boiling water. Use a heat-proof utensil, such as a large wooden spoon, to submerge the shirt fully underwater.

Turn off the heat and wait five minutes, or longer if the shirt is very large.

Remove the shirt from the pot when the water has cooled. Wring out the excess water.

Put the shirt in the clothes dryer and dry it on high heat.


  • If boiling your shirt doesn't shrink it, try washing it in the washing machine on high heat. When the cycle completes, put the shirt in the dryer and dry it on the highest heat setting.

    Cotton shirts shrink the most the first time you launder them.

    If your shirt is pre-shrunk, boiling it will not make it shrink further.

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About the Author

Melissa King began writing in 2001. She spent three years writing for her local newspaper, "The Colt," writing editorials, news stories, product reviews and entertainment pieces. She is also the owner and operator of Howbert Freelance Writing. King holds an Associate of Arts in communications from Tarrant County College.