Unshrinking Your Clothes: Is it Possible?

Doing the laundry seems to be a run-of-the-mill task. Put your clothes into the washing machine, add powder, detergent and fabric softener and take them out clean. Simple, right? But the wrong detergent, temperature, or even getting our clothes wet, can all result in adverse effects. Of all the damaging effects we dread when washing our clothes, it’s the possibility of them shrinking, we probably fear most. Portughes has decided to explore whether unshrinking clothes is a possibility.

What causes clothes to shrink?

Heat is the number one culprit of shrinking clothes. The heat from the tumble dryer (and possibly if you wash your clothes in hot water) can cause your clothing to change size, especially with natural fabrics like cotton. When manufacturers create cotton clothing, they tighten the threads during the weaving process. Heat reverses said process by loosening the threads and ‘relaxing’ the material. As a result, the garment ends up shrinking.

Looser woven fabrics are more likely to shrink, as they would have been stretched to the limit but have more room to contract when exposed to heat or water. This is why heavier, tighter weaves such as denim and twill are less likely to shrink.

The agitation your clothing gets in the washing machine is another perpetrator of shrinkage. Garments get banged around, twisted and pulled, which make your clothes lose their shape. Agitation causes shrinking with animal-based fabrics like wool and cashmere.


As the age old saying goes, Prevention is Better than Cure. And while this is true, we cannot always prevent accidents from happening. Properly washing and drying your clothes can prevent most, if not all, shrinkage. But whether your clothes shrink or not, really depends on the fabric and the laundry method used.

To prevent shrinking from heat or agitation, wash your clothes in cold water or hand wash them, and keep them out of the dryer. Air drying, either laid flat or hung, is best. Of course, the very best way to prevent your clothing from shrinking is to follow the instructions on the label to a tee.

You can also keep this in mind when buying clothes, such as purchasing items that are shrink-resistant, pre-shrunk, or with fabric blends that are less likely to shrink. Clothing that is ‘pre-shrunk’ means that manufacturers would have shrunk the fibres or fabric prior to crafting the garment, so they’d be less likely to shrink again.

Can you unshrink clothes?
Picture this: you’ve just finished doing your laundry and you’re pulling your clothes out of the dryer and gearing up to fold them when you hold one of them up in shock and horror. Maybe it’s a pair of trousers, or maybe it’s a new shirt. Whatever the case, you discover that during its time in the dryer, the garment is a couple of sizes smaller than it was when you put it in.

So, let’s get down to the facts. In essence, unshrinking clothes is more of a stretching them out to their original fit. Generally speaking, what the dryer has done is increase the tightness of the weave in the garment. What you’re going to be doing is reversing the process by stretching the fabric out until it’s (hopefully) gone back to its original shape and size.

If you want to ensure your clothes are well taken care of, but couldn’t be bothered to clean them yourself, because of your oh-so-busy schedule, leave it to our dedicates team at Portughes Dry Cleaning.

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