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Shrunken blue sweater with Johnson's baby shampoo
Credit: John Lawton

Q: I machine wash delicate clothing on a cold, gentle cycle, but despite my careful efforts, some items still shrink.

Erin Ward

Modesto, California

A. Break out the baby shampoo. Add 1 tablespoon of it (or hair conditioner) to 1 quart of water, then immerse a machine- or hand-washable garment in the solution to relax the fibers. (Knitted items made of cotton, cashmere, or wool have looser weaves and are much easier to manipulate than those made from silk or a synthetic fiber, such as rayon or polyester.) While the shrunken garment is soaking, trace an outline of a similarly sized piece of clothing onto a piece of parchment paper. Lightly squeeze the excess water from the garment, then lay it on the paper. Gently stretch the item so that it fits the traced outline. If there is a little stiffness, use a steamer or the steam from an iron to make the garment more malleable. Finally, secure the edges with heavy objects until dry (glass paperweights or coffee mugs will do the trick). If a piece of clothing came back from the dry cleaner smaller than when you dropped it off, don’t despair. Just instruct the dry cleaner to stretch the garment gently during the next steaming process.―Jenny Kim

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