How to Shrink a T-Shirt: Step-By-Step

Very few things in the world of clothing are more frustrating than throwing on a great shirt only to discover that it's too big. Maybe you've recently lost some weight. Or perhaps you grabbed up the wrong size. Whatever the reason, don't assume this otherwise perfect tee is automatically bound for the next garage sale or donation bin. Although we can't call this plan foolproof (more on that in a minute), it's often possible to shrink your shirt down to a much more fitting size. All it takes is a washing machine, time and some hot water.

Does Shrinking a T-Shirt Work?

As mentioned earlier, we can't promise results. If you've lost 100 pounds and hope your favorite, XL band tee can turn into a size small—you're probably out-of-luck. Instead, accept that it's now your favorite, roomy nightshirt. Also, many tees now come pre-shrunk so that they're relatively true to size at the time of purchase. Though accurate sizing is typically a perk, it's not if you're hoping for the shirt to shrink a size or two. However, even if the shirt has been labeled as pre-shrunk, it won't hurt to try shrinking it if you're desperate for a smaller size. Lastly, the fabric used to create the t-shirt matters. If the shirt is 100% cotton and hasn't been pre-shrunk, there's a good chance our shrinking method will work. If desired, 100% cotton tees have the potential to shrink down by 20%! However, most cotton blends likely hamper how much smaller your shirt can get, though it's still worth trying. Also, many synthetic materials—most notably polyesters—won't shrink, or will shrink very little. If this is what your shirt is made from, then you might be stuck with that size.

One Last Word Before We Begin

Keep in mind that washing or manipulating any item of clothing has the potential to cause damage, but this is especially true when heat is involved. Heed caution before shrinking these delicate items. For thin, fragile or vintage items, a baggy look might be better than a destroyed tee. Bright colors and graphic tees may also be at risk of fading. To minimize the chance of damage, always turn shirts inside out. Also, don't heat clothing for any longer than necessary.

How to Shrink a T-Shirt

Alright. Enough with the details. Let's dive into two greatest methods for shrinking your t-shirt so you can get it down to the perfect size.

Boil Your Shirt in Hot Water

This method is just about as simple as it sounds.
  1. Heat up a pot of water until it boils
  2. Once boiling, drop your t-shirt into the hot water
  3. If you're only looking for slight shrinkage, take it out after about five minutes. For more than that, try it for ten to fifteen minutes. If you'd like your tee to shrink as much as possible, let it boil for up to twenty minutes.
  4. Carefully take out your shirt with tongs and let it cool
  5. Wring out the excess water
  6. Hold it up and take a look
Are you happy with the new smaller size? Wonderful! Otherwise, try sticking back into the boiling water for more time. If you've boiled that shirt for what seems like an eternity, you might, unfortunately, be out of luck. As we've mentioned, not every tee has the potential to shrink. However, there is still one more technique to try before giving up on that trusty tee for good.

Use Your Washer and Dryer

This well-known shrinking method typically causes more frustrations by unintentionally downsizing your clothing. But, why not use this occasional detriment to your advantage for when you do want to shrink your shirt?
  1. Place your shirt into the washing machine on its highest, hottest setting with as few other pieces of clothing as possible.
  2. Once the wash cycle has been completed, place the shirt into the dryer—again with as few clothes as possible. Then, crank the heat up.
  3. Take it out and see if it's shrunk to your preferred size. If it didn't, there's a high likelihood that the shirt isn't shrinkable. If you don't mind risking fading or damage, you can put it through again.
One upside of this technique is the tumble factor. It's not the heat alone that can cause a shirt to shrink—the impact of the tee hitting against the sides of the washer and dryer can also help your clothing go down a size or two. On the flip side, that also creates the major downside of the washer/dryer method. These impacts also increase the possibility of damage to your clothing. The longer time in heat also boosts the chances of fading. That's why we recommend this method for a shirt made of sturdier materials or for shirts without significant monetary or personal value. Ready to order incredible, custom tees and other apparel for an unbeatable price? Trust the experts at for all of your shirt needs, including for teams, organizations, work events, parties, and more. Call us at 800-435-6110 or get a free online quote here anytime.
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