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How To Shrink A Shirt In The Dryer (In 3 Steps)

December 22, 2022
How To Shrink A Shirt In The Dryer (In 3 Steps)

Getting well-fitted clothes can sometimes be difficult; there never seems to be a standard, generic size. Because of this, it can be good to know how to shrink your clothes. So, can you shrink a shirt in the dryer?

It’s possible to shrink a shirt in the dryer. Researching the garment you wish to shrink is essential because cotton, wool, polyester, and blends have different requirements. 

Though that’s the gist, there’s much more to it.

Let’s dig deeper.

Disclaimer: Any attempt at shrinking a shirt has the potential to over-shrink it or even damage it. Check every item individually to ensure they’re safe for drying in the first place. Avoid overdrying, overstuffing, and any other practice that could cause a dangerous malfunction of the dryer.

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How To Shrink A Shirt In The Dryer (3 Steps)

Understanding how to shrink a shirt in the dryer can be challenging. Here is a no-nonsense, step-by-step guide on how to do it.

1. Research The Garment

It’s no secret that shirts come in many different fabrics. Whether it’s 100% of a particular fabric or a blend, each material has its own shrinking conditions.

Trying to shrink a shirt in the dryer without knowing its materials will likely be a disaster, resulting in too much shrinking or even a damaged garment.

Therefore, it’s essential to do sufficient research before attempting to shrink your shirts.

The best way to find out the fabric of your shirt is to check the label. Alternatively, if your shirt doesn’t have a label, the website of the shirt’s brand usually has details about its materials.

However, attempting to shrink your shirt isn’t recommended if you can’t find out what it’s made of.

If attempting to shrink a 100% cotton garment, you should look at the label to see if it’s ‘pre-shrunk.’ 

In this case, you shouldn’t try to shrink it, as pre-shrunk garments are usually shrunk as much as they naturally can be, and you risk damaging your clothing.

It can also be helpful to know the size of the shirt and what size you wish to shrink it to (if wanting it down an entire size).

2. Prepare

It’s important to ensure that you make sufficient preparations when attempting to dryer-shrink a shirt. There are different preparations to be made for each material.

Making sure you follow these steps is essential, as preparation is a substantial factor when shrinking a shirt in the dryer.

100% Cotton

Surprisingly, shirts that are 100% cotton don’t need much preparation. Putting 100% cotton shirts straight in the dryer is the best way to shrink them.

100 percent organic cotton label
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A common misconception is that heat causes cotton to shrink. In actual fact, what makes cotton shrink is the mechanical action of the washer and dryer.

Therefore, putting your 100% cotton shirt directly into the dryer is usually the best option. 


Cotton-blend shirts require a little more attention and preparation than their 100% cotton counterpart.

The best thing you can do before attempting to shrink your cotton-blend shirt in the dryer is to put it in the washing machine.

When machine-washing your cotton-blend shirt, you should ensure high heat and a laundry detergent. You should avoid strong laundry detergents: go for a gentle one.

Wool Fabrics

When it comes to wool shirts, you’ll need a different approach to that of cotton and cotton blend shirts.

Your shirt should be damp but not soaked. The best way to achieve this is to spritz it with clean, lukewarm water. Using a spray bottle is highly recommended for this.

It’s important that the water is lukewarm – not hot. This is because wool can be more sensitive than cotton, and even a little hot water can encourage it to shrink.

Silk Fabrics

Silk is the most delicate of the mentioned fabrics and therefore requires a lot more preparation.

silk fabric
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Occasionally, dyed silks will ‘bleed’ when wet – particularly on the first or second wash.

You should check for this before putting it into the washer or dryer to prevent it from staining any other clothes.

Next, you’ll need to put your silk shirt in a mesh bag. This is to make sure it doesn’t get damaged or shrink too much.

You should then wash the bagged garment in the washing machine, along with a laundry detergent. Choosing one that’s specifically for silk is essential.

Use warm water, a gentle wash, and short cycles to guarantee your silk shirt doesn’t get damaged.

Synthetic Fabrics

Polyester and other synthetic fabrics are incredibly stubborn when it comes to trying to shrink them.

Therefore, you must follow some seemingly extreme but necessary procedures to shrink them.

However, it’s important to ensure that they are of good quality beforehand. Polyester garments that aren’t good quality can look worn and old when exposed to heat.

Before putting them in the dryer, you need to put them in the washing machine at a high heat setting on the machine’s long cycle.

Doing so will make the synthetic fibers more pliable and, therefore, more likely to shrink in the dryer.

While high heat is recommended, you should ensure the water’s temperature doesn’t exceed 178°F (81°C).

3. Put Your Shirt In The Dryer

Now that you’ve sufficiently prepared your garments, it’s time to put them in the dryer. This will cause them to shrink; however, it’s important to be aware that your clothing could shrink too much or get damaged.

100% Cotton

As mentioned, putting 100% cotton garments straight into the dryer is the best way to shrink them.

You should put the dryer on a gentle cycle at medium heat and take it out halfway through to check how much it has shrunk.

If you haven’t reached the desired size after one short cycle, you can repeat the process.


Cotton-blend shirts are a little different from 100% cotton shirts in that they must be prepared properly and put in the dryer at different settings.

When shrinking a cotton-blend shirt in the dryer, you should leave it in there for the duration of a normal cycle.

The safest way to shrink cotton-blend shirts is to put the dryer on medium heat.

Wool Fabrics

Because wool is quite a sensitive fabric, putting your wool shirt on a low-heat, gentle cycle for a short duration is important.

You should also check on your shirt every few minutes to ensure it hasn’t shrunk too much.

By doing this, you’ll achieve the perfect fit.

Silk Fabrics

Silk shirts are even more vulnerable to damage than wool shirts. This means that you should be extra careful when putting them in the dryer. 

It should remain in the garment bag, as mentioned earlier. Additionally, it ought to be kept at a very low heat and a short-duration, gentle cycle. 

Taking out your silk shirt every 2-3 minutes is recommended – this will ensure you get the desired size. 

Synthetic Fabrics

Synthetic fabrics are difficult to shrink and should therefore be put in the dryer at a high heat setting and on the dryer’s long cycle.

This will give you the best chance of shrinking synthetic clothing in the dryer.

If you haven’t achieved the desired shrinkage in the first cycle, simply repeat the previous steps.

Frequently Asked Questions

Having read this, you’ll undoubtedly have some additional questions regarding the topic. Here are some frequently asked questions to round things up.

Will A Dry Shirt Shrink In The Dryer?

A dry shirt will shrink in the dryer; however, you should always double-check its label to ensure you know exactly how to shrink it. If unsure, either avoid shrinking it or try on a very low heat setting with a short cycle.

Most clothes are shrinkable; it’s just got to be done correctly. 

There are many materials out there, each with different optimum shrinking environments. Therefore, it’s important to do sufficient research before attempting to shrink it.

Will A Cotton Shirt Shrink In The Dryer?

You can shrink a cotton shirt in the dryer. However, it’s essential to find out whether your shirt is 100% cotton or a cotton blend. Doing so will determine the best shrinking method.

100% cotton can be sensitive to shrinking, whereas cotton-blend shirts are much more resilient. 

Because of this, finding out which category your shirt falls into is crucial.


To summarize, there are three main steps to shrinking your shirt: research, preparation, and drying. Research is arguably the most important factor. 

Always remember that there’s the ever-existing possibility of damaging your clothing when attempting to shrink it.