How to Stretch Out a Shirt: 5 Effective Ways to Stretch a Shrunken Shirt

One of the most annoying things in life is seeing your favorite shirt shrink after coming out of the drier. It's worse when you had planned to wear that shirt for an event.

Luckily all hope is not lost. This problem can be fixed by stretching the shirt. But how to stretch out a shirt fast is a process.

You will need to unshrink a shirt without disturbing its fabric. If you stretch a cotton shirt and mess up with the fabric, your clothing will change shape, and you can damage it permanently.

However, before talking about how to stretch out a shirt correctly and effectively, we need to understand why clothes shrink in the first place.

Why your Shirt Shrinks

Your shirt shrinks because the structure of the garment changes due to heat from the dryer. The high temperatures produced by the dryer cause the threads in your shirt to expand; thus loosening the weave in the fabric.

Clothes also shrink when they are washed in hot water. The result is much worse when the shirt is of a loosely woven stretchy material. Shirts made of cotton and wool absorb a lot of water within a short period.

As a result, they’re more likely to shrink faster than shirts made from other fabrics. On the other hand, nylon and polyester are more heat resistant and absorb less water.

Tumble drying your clothes will also shrink them. Moving forward, you should avoid using the dryer on shirts made out of cotton and wool.

The good news is that most shirts have a warning sign on the collar – if it’s not meant for the machine, you’ll see the sign.

shirt tag

How to Fix Shrunken Shirt

Method 1: Use Conditioner or Baby Shampoo

Step 1

Wet your shirt thoroughly.

You can sop it in a bowl of water or sink. Use cool water and ensure that every part of the shirt that needs stretching is soaked.

Again, remember that you should not use hot or warm water because it affects the garment structure.

Step 2

Pour one-fourth cup of any hair conditioner in the water. If you do not have this product around, you can use baby shampoo.

Use a comb or stick to mix it up. Make sure the conditioner fully dissolves into the water. The conditioner will soften the fibers in your shirt and make them stretch.

Step 3

Use both your hands to push down the shirt to the bottom of the mixture in the bowl. Leave it there for about 20 minutes.

Step 4

Drain the water from the bowl into the sink and fill it again with cool water.

Squeeze out the conditioned water from the shirt gently and then soak it in the bowl for a few more minutes.

After this, remove the water from the shirt by squeezing it lightly. Repeat this step two or three times to get all the conditioner out of the shirt.

Step 5

After squeezing the water out of the shirt, spread it on a plain surface.

Step 6

Use both your hands to mildly stretch the shirt from its neckline, making your way down to the sides.

Repeat this process on the sleeves. Do this until the shirt is back to its normal size.

Step 7

Lay the shirt flat and let it dry.

This method works best for cotton shirts.

Method 2: Stretch Your Shirt with Hands

Step 1

Wash your shirt using the washing machine or your hands. Rinse it and squeeze out the extra water, but do not wring the fabric.

Instead, just press on the shirt. That way, you don’t interfere with the shape of the garment.

Step 2

Place your shirt on a flat surface. Spread the shirt completely and ensure that there are no folds or wrinkles on it.

Step 3

Pull onto each corner of your shirt. Stretch the shirt, starting with each sleeve, slightly pulling by an inch or two. Stretch along the collar of the shirt and the top line of it.

Finally, pull both sides.

Step 4

Leave the shirt outside under a shade to dry.

Method 3: Stretch with Heat

Step 1

Wet your shirt by dipping it in cool water. Make sure that all corners are wet. You don’t have to soak it.

Step 2

Squeeze out any excess water and spread it on a flat surface for ironing. Make sure that your iron’s temperature is on medium-low.

Slowly go over your shirt while exerting slight pressure. With the shirt in one hand and the iron in the other, start pulling and pressing out the shirt with the iron.

Ensure that you go over the shirt in all directions.

Step 3

Leave it outside to dry on a flat surface.

Method 4: Use a Cloth Hanger

Step 1

This method is great for stretching polyester shirts, which can be a bit difficult.

Soak your shrunken polyester shirt in conditioned water.

Remove the shirt from the water and squeeze to remove excess water.

Step 2

Tug on the shirt to remove the creases and folds.

Step 3

Hang it on a hanger to air dry.

Method 5: Stretch with Some Weight

Step 1

To unshrink a shirt, spread it on a flat surface when dry and apply some free weights to manipulate its size. On the edges of the shirt, you can place something heavy like books, bags of rice, or just free weights.

The items have to be heavy to keep the shirt stretched out. If you want to stretch out the arms, you can use wide bottles full of water – just place them in the sleeves.

Step 2

Leave the shirt in that state for about 30 minutes to an hour. The weights will stretch out the fiber and make the change more permanent.

If you have used either of the methods mentioned above (1 to 4), you can also use this one because it complements them.

For example, stretching with heat may not return the shirt to its original full size. In that case, use the weights to stretch it even further.

How to Avoid Shrinking your Shirts

Method 1: Avoid Heat

Wash your shirts in cold water. As discussed in the introduction, heat will always shrink your cotton shirts.

In short, keep them away from any heat.

That means you should also avoid putting your clothes out in the sun to dry. The heat from the sun can also shrink your shirt.

Method 2: Use the Dry Cleaners

Dry clean shirts made from mohair, wool, and cashmere.

If you attempt to dry them yourself, be careful because the fabrics are sensitive. The professionals at the dry cleaners will know how to protect these types of clothing better.

Method 3: Read the Instructions

Always read and follow the instructions on the shirt tags.

If you stick to what these tags tell you, you can avoid shrinkage and damage to your favorite shirts.

Method 4: Air Dry

Air dry your shirt.

If you’re in a hurry, wear something else. Do not be tempted to put your favorite cotton shirt in the dryer.

Method 5: One Drying Cycle

Shirts made from polyester don’t shrink easily. You can use the dryer on them.

However, there is a limit. Don’t use the dryer over-and-over again. Just one cycle should do the trick.

If the shirt still feels wet, hang it beneath a shade in a room with good airflow. Let it air dry for a few minutes.

To Wrap Up

Use the above methods to fix the shrunken shirts. They are very effective.

Remember that the fabric also plays a big role in preventing shrinkage. Shirts made from cotton and wool are the most sensitive. Never use hot water with them.

Bonus tip: the most effective way of how to stretch out a shirt is to use weights - they can make the shirt stretch back to the original size without applying too much force.

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