How to ‘un-shrink’ your cotton clothes

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New cotton top shrunk in the wash?

Some of the most annoying laundry blunders include staining all your whites pink when you accidentally mix in those pink socks with your white wash – but one of the biggest bug bears is that brand new cotton t-shirt has suddenly shrunk in the wash!  Nightmare?!  Perhaps not all is lost…

Cotton is a natural, breathable fibre and so can shrink when it is heated as the tension that is applied to the fabric during construction is released by heat from the washing machine, tumble dryer and even sunlight (yep!) which causes the fabric to shrink to its natural size.

One simple tip you can try is actually ironing your cotton garments after they’ve dried – yes, we know, fewer and fewer people actual iron their items any more, however this can help stretch out the fibres of the fabric and allow the top to come back to life.

If your cotton top is ‘too far gone’ then a slightly lengthier process is to soak the top in water and gently stretch the top out on a flat surface to the desired size.  You can try and keep the top in place with weights like jars or cans – just be careful as too much pulling and stretching can distort the shape you’re trying to salvage. 

Once you’re happy with the size, leave the item to air dry.  Ideally, try to avoid tumble drying cotton items but if you do end up throwing them in the dryer try taking them out whilst they are still damp and let them air dry.  This will help maintain some of the tension in the fibres.

For embroidered garments you can follow the garment washing labels and instructions – if you notice some puckering of tightness around the embroidered design then use an iron on the underside of the embroidery to help stretch the fibres.

For vinyl printed items try washing inside out at 30 degrees and avoid tumble drying as the adhesive can sometimes be reactivated and cause the vinyl to start peeling off.

If you look after your garments and their decoration there is no reason the print should last any less than the garment itself.

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