There are many reasons why you may want to shrink a dress. Maybe you’ve lost weight and your favorite dress no longer fits. Or maybe a dress you love became stretched out or you just want or need it to fit more snugly. Whatever your reason is for wanting to shrink a dress, there are several ways that you can do it successfully.
The most common ways to shrink a dress are to use a washing machine, a dryer, or a combination of both. But you can also hand wash the dress, use boiling water, or use a hair dryer. The best way depends on how much you need the dress to shrink and what the dress is made of.
In this article, I’ll explain how to shrink a dress using the above methods. I’ll also explain which methods work best for certain dress materials, including cotton, linen, polyester, wool, and silk. Of course, in trying to shrink a dress, you also want to prevent damage and over-shrinking, which I’ll explain how to do as well. Here’s everything you need to know about intentionally shrinking dresses.
Can You Shrink a Dress?
First, when trying to shrink a dress, it’s important to know whether you can shrink them. You certainly can shrink dresses, but how successful you are depends mostly on what the dress is made of.
You already know that some fabrics will shrink much more easily than others. Dresses made from natural fibers, such as cotton, linen, wool, and silk, will be the easiest to shrink. You’ll also get the most shrinkage out of these fabrics. However, you also have to be careful not to shrink them too much, which is easy to do with these fabrics.
Dresses made from synthetic fibers, mainly polyester, and less common dress materials such as acrylic and acetate, will be much harder to shrink. This is because the fabrics are more durable and designed not to shrink as easily, which is why they’re so commonly used for dresses and other garments. You need high heat to shrink synthetic fabrics, which can be risky since the fabrics can be easily damaged by heat due to the fibers burning and melting. Although you can shrink them, you just have to be much more careful in doing so.
Will Dresses Shrink in the Washing Machine?
The washing machine is one of the best and easiest ways to shrink dresses, especially if you just need them to shrink a little bit. This method works best for dresses made from natural fibers but can also be used to shrink dresses made from synthetic fibers in a safer way to prevent damage.
To get dresses to shrink in the washing machine, you’ll need to do the opposite of what you may have been told not to do when you wash clothes, which is to use warm or hot water settings. That being said, the amount of shrinkage you’ll get will vary, and some dresses may not shrink in the washing machine. Either way, it’s still a good idea to wash clothes when trying to shrink them because the wet fibers will be easier to shrink without causing damage to the dress (especially for synthetic fabrics).
How to Shrink a Dress in the Washing Machine
There are several ways to shrink a dress in the washing machine. How you shrink a dress depends on what material the dress is made of. Before we get started, note that this method is not recommended to shrink dresses made from delicate fabrics, such as silk or other fabrics that usually shouldn’t be washed in the washing machine in the first place. It’s very easy to accidentally shrink delicate fabrics too much or damage them in the washing machine.
Dresses made from cotton and linen will be the easiest to shrink in the washing machine. That’s because these fabrics will shrink even if you aren’t trying to shrink them. But you may also be able to shrink polyester some in the washing machine if you’re intentional about it. Cotton, linen, polyester dresses, cotton/polyester blends, and even dresses made from rayon can all be shrunk by following this method.
You’ll want to start by washing the clothes as you normally would. However, you’ll want to use hot water instead of using cool or cold water with these fabrics. Also, you’ll want to use the longest wash cycle setting your machine has so that your dress is exposed to hot water for a longer amount of time.
You can do this by adjusting the timer for the wash cycle if your machine has one or by turning the dial to whichever cycle is the longest. Avoid quick-wash and speed-wash cycles when trying to shrink dresses made from cotton, linen, and polyester.
After washing the dress, check to see how much the dress shrunk. Do this before putting the dress in the dryer because the dryer could cause the dress to shrink more. If the dress shrank enough in the washing machine, hang it up to air dry instead of putting it in the dryer to prevent further shrinking.
Wool is another natural fiber that you have to be careful with when washing it in the washing machine. It tends to shrink even more than cotton and linen, so you want to be careful when washing it in the washing machine so that you don’t over-shrink it. It’s recommended that many wool garments be hand-washed because of this, but you can use the washing machine if shrinking it is intentional.
Like cotton, linen, and polyester dresses, you’ll still want to use hot water instead of cool or cold water. But the difference is that you’ll want to set your machine to the shortest wash cycle that your washing machine has. It’s okay to use a speed wash cycle in this case unless you have another even shorter cycle. This is just to prevent the wool fabric from being exposed to hot water for too long and shrinking too much.
When washing wool garments, it’s also recommended to use a detergent made for wool garments. At the very least, use a delicate laundry detergent. Some detergents can be too hard to use on wool garments.
And you’ll want to check the amount of shrinkage before putting a wool dress in the dryer. The dress will shrink even more once you put it in the dryer. If the wool dress shrunk enough in the washing machine, also make sure to lay it flat to air dry. Hanging it up can cause the dress to stretch out again due to the heaviness of the wet fibers.
Can You Shrink a Dress Without Washing It?
Yes, you can shrink a dress without washing it. There are a few reasons why you may want to do so. Maybe you don’t have a washing machine and don’t want to take the dress to a laundromat. Or maybe the dress is made of a fabric that can’t be washed in the washing machine, or you’re just worried about over-shrinking the dress.
There are a few different ways to shrink a dress without washing it. The best way depends on what you have available and the fabric of the dress. However, you may not get as much shrinkage as you want, so you may have to repeat these methods several times.
Hand-washing clothes is a great way to try to shrink them if they can’t be washed. This method works best for dresses made from silk or other delicate fabrics. But just know that it isn’t so much the washing process that causes shrinkage in silk dresses; it’s the drying process.
To shrink a dress made from silk by hand-washing it, you’ll first want to fill a tub, sink, or wash basin with lukewarm water. Add a small amount of gentle or delicate detergent and mix it around so it is evenly distributed. Next, add the dress to the water and let it soak for around 5-10 minutes.
Then, drain the tub to remove the soapy water and refill it with clean, cool water. Add ¼ of white vinegar into the water, which will help to remove detergent residue from the fabric. Rinse the dress in the water until you have all the detergent.
Let the dress air dry in the sun, which may cause it to shrink some. However, if the dress dries and doesn’t shrink as much as you wanted, you can put it in the dryer to try to shrink it more. You’ll want to be extremely careful when doing this. Make sure to use medium heat and only dry the dress in 5-minute intervals. Every 5 minutes, remove the dress from the dryer and check the shrinkage. Remove from heat when the desired shrinkage is reached.
Another method for shrinking dresses without washing them is to use boiling water. This method works best for dresses that are made of synthetic fibers or dresses that have been pre-shrunk. That’s because these types of dresses are harder to shrink, and the higher water temperature allows for more shrinkage to occur. You don’t want to use this method on cotton, linen, wool, or other natural fibers.
Choose a pot that is large enough to fit the dress in it. Then, fill it with water to cover the dress completely. Turn the heat on to boil the water. Once the water is boiling, place the dress in the water and leave it for three minutes. Use tongs to carefully remove the dress from the boiling water, then place it in the dryer on high heat.
Since high heat in the dryer can damage synthetic fabrics, you may wish to check the dress periodically to see how much it has shrunk. If the dress has dried completely, and you still don’t have the desired amount of shrinkage, you can repeat this method until the dress has shrunk to your liking.
A hair dryer is great if you have smaller areas on a particular dress that you want to shrink, such as the waistband or the sleeves. But, this method will not be good for shrinking the dress as a whole, nor will it be good for shrinking the length of the dress.
To use this method, fill a spray bottle with water and dampen the area you want to shrink. Dampening the area allows the fibers in that area to relax and also helps to prevent damage to the fibers from heat exposure. Then, plug in a hair dryer and turn it on to the high heat setting. Dry the dampened area and check the amount of shrinkage when it is completely dry. You can repeat this method as necessary.
Will Dresses Shrink in the Dryer?
The dryer is another one of the most common ways to shrink clothes. It can also be used to shrink dresses if you need a dress to shrink quickly. However, you also have to be the most careful with this method because the dryer can cause the most damage to your dress.
It’s never a good idea to put a dry dress into the dryer for an extended period of time. For most fabrics, but especially synthetic fabrics, it’s best to make sure that the fabric is still wet before putting it in the dryer to prevent damage. Putting dresses in the dryer after you’ve attempted to shrink them by washing them can also shrink them more if they didn’t quite shrink enough in the wash.
If the dryer is the only method you’re using to shrink the dress, run the dress under some water first to wet the fibers. You don’t have to completely wash the dress, but the water will help the fibers relax and be more receptive to shrinking when exposed to heat.
How to Shrink a Dress in the Dryer
Regardless of the fabric type, the best way to shrink a dress in the dryer is to dry it on high heat.
However, synthetic fabrics can be damaged by high heat in the dryer since they are essentially made from specialized plastic. It’s a good idea to put them inside a mesh laundry bag first to prevent the dress fabric from getting burned or melted.
When trying to shrink a dress made of any type of fiber in the dryer, you also want to check it regularly to prevent over-shrinking and damage. For natural fabrics, the biggest concern is making sure that the dress doesn’t shrink too much. For synthetic fabrics, the biggest concern is making sure that the fibers don’t burn or melt.
To prevent both of these from happening:
- Set a timer for every 5 minutes or so.
- Check the dress when the timer goes off to see how much it has shrunk.
- Place it back in the dryer for the same time if more shrinkage is needed and check it again afterward.
- Repeat as necessary.
- Once you’ve got the desired amount of shrinkage, remove the dress from the dryer and let it finish air drying.
In many cases, the dryer offers you the most control over how much your dress shrinks. Of course, this depends on you checking it regularly, not putting it in the dryer, and forgetting about it. And always check dresses (and other clothes) made from wool and silk regularly when they are put in the dryer, even if you aren’t trying to shrink them. Better yet, it’s best to avoid putting wool and silk in the dryer completely unless you are trying to shrink them.
Although many of us make sure that our clothes and dresses don’t shrink, sometimes you may want to shrink them. Dresses can be shrunk in the washing machine and the dryer for the most amount of shrinkage. But you can also use boiling water or a hair dryer if you want less shrinkage.