So we know why our clothes shrink and how to avoid this tragedy, but what about when the damage has already been done? You spent more than you'd like to admit on those jeans—there has to be a way to reverse this, right? Well, technically you can't "un-shrink" clothes, but you can stretch them back out to their original form. So, here's whats supposed to work best for each type of material.
How to Un-Shrink: Cotton
Cotton is perhaps the easiest mistake to fix due to its easily manipulative qualities. All you need is baby shampoo or soft conditioner, lukewarm water, a towel, and a sink (or bowl). Place your article of clothing inside your sink/bowl, fill it with lukewarm water, and add two tablespoons of your shampoo or conditioner. Then, let it soak for 30 minutes. Afterward, some sources suggest rinsing out the shampoo/conditioner and others insist not to. Regardless of whether you choose to rinse or not, your ultimate goal is to get your clothing as dry as possible. An easy way to do this is by placing the clothing flat on a towel and rolling it up so that it is damp, not soaking wet. Then, carefully unroll your garment and lay it flat to dry. Be sure to pin the edges or use heavy objects to stretch out the material during the drying process. And voila! Your favorite cotton t-shirt is back to being wearable.
How to Un-Shrink: Cashmere (and other animal fibers)
The process of un-shrinking cashmere (and other animal fibers) is fairly similar to the process of un-shrinking cotton. First, fill your sink (or bowl) with lukewarm water. Then add 1-2 tablespoons (per one quart of water) of Borax or vinegar to the water. Add your article of clothing to the mixture and let it soak for 30 minutes, being sure to periodically stretch out the material while it's underwater. After it has been soaked, squeeze as much water as you can out of your garment. While we rolled our cotton garment in a towel, animal fiber-based clothing has to be stuffed with towels in order to return to its original shape. Again, stretch out the material as much as possible during this process. After, hang to dry.
If you haven't put that new cashmere sweater (by the way, did you know men's cashmere sweaters tend to be higher quality than women's?) in the dryer yet, David Zyla, Emmy Award-winning stylist and author of Color Your Style and How to Win at Shopping, says there is another way to "rejuvenate" it. "Dampen the top half of the sweater using cold water in a spray bottle and place it flat on a towel. Then stretch the shoulders out wide and place a book covered in plastic or a towel to hold each one out as wide as possible. Leave it like this overnight in a cool spot and let it dry thoroughly," says Zyla. "[Then] try the sweater on. As most knits stretch out over time, you may find the fit now better than ever before. If the body still feels a bit snug, repeat the process of dampening and stretching each side with two books on each side, being mindful that each side is stretched the same amount. By the next day your favorite sweater will be back in your wardrobe!"
How to Un-Shrink: Synthetic Fibers
Now onto synthetic fibers, like polyester and rayon. Again, the steps to un-shrinking these are similar to the process of un-shrinking cotton. Add 1 tablespoon of shampoo/conditioner (per one quart of water) in your sink/bowl with lukewarm water. Synthetic fibers only require 15-20 minutes of soaking. After, due to the sensitivity of the material, make sure you don't wring dry. While it is still wet, begin the (gentle) stretching process. Again, use pins or heavy objects to weigh down the garment while it is air drying. When fully dry, be sure to properly store your delicate clothing to preserve its quality.
How to Un-Shrink: Denim
Jeans are a whole different story. Denim doesn't usually shrink, but when it is blended with other materials, it's possible. (Speaking of denim, here are nine denim jean mistakes you might be making that ruin your outfit.) There are two remedies to this one. The first one requires you to sit in a lukewarm bathtub for 15 minutes while wearing your jeans, then walk around/sit/periodically squat for an hour afterward (while still wearing the jeans) to reform its shape. If something about that sounds...uncomfortable, then you can simply use the same method as un-shrinking cotton and hang to dry.