Apparently You Can 'Un-Shrink' Cotton Clothes—Here's How
Even the most adept laundry pros fall victim to the occasional clothes cleaning blunder—bleach stains and pink sheets included. (What is it with red socks?) But perhaps the number one laundry mistake we're all too familiar with involves shrinking our most cherished cotton clothing. No matter how much of a skilled laundress you claim to be, shrunken clothes are simply unavoidable, and its a laundry gaffe that's left us with too many misshapen t-shirts to count. Fortunately, all is not lost once you've inflicted unintentional heat-damage on even your most damaged cotton apparel.
According to fabric expert Suzanne Holmes of Cotton Incorporated, because cotton is a natural, breathable fiber, it may shrink when heated. If you find yourself with a teeny, tiny top in your hands post-laundry, fear not because a relatively easy fix exists that'll reverse shrunken t-shirts in no time. First, fully saturate the damaged shirt in water. Holmes then suggests gently stretching your wet shirt out on a flat surface or drying rack to the desired size. "Keep the shirt in place with household weights like heavy jars or cans," Holmes says. Take extra care with this step, since too many tugs may further distort the shape of the garment you're trying to salvage. Once you get the piece to its desired size, leave the garment out to air dry.
If your clothes still seem to get smaller and smaller with every wash, Holmes suggests taking cotton pieces out of the dryer while they're still damp before air drying them. Aside from keeping your clothing in tip-top shape, you're ultimately conserving energy by avoiding a dryer's harsh high heat setting.
As for the most important laundry lesson we could all stand to learn? Holmes advises on always, always reviewing an item of clothing's label before tossing it in the wash. "When buying clothes, you should opt for quality cotton pieces that fit, and you should check the label and follow care instructions closely to keep your cotton items newer, longer," she says.