8 Easy Ways to Shrink Polyester (2023)

Polyester is a synthetic polymer and an excellent choice for clothing. Unlike silk, cotton, and wool, it is a man-made fiber that is durable and generally resists shrinking. That doesn’t mean it’s not possible, however, so we’ll show you how to shrink polyester to get the perfect fit.

There are many applications for polyester, including clothing, bedding, upholstery, footwear, and textiles. This quick-drying fabric is easy to wash, lightweight, and easy to dye. Due to its versatility, polyester has many advantages when it comes to everyday use.

With that said, polyester fabric has its downfalls as well, one of them being its inability to shrink. This comes as a disappointment if you purchase a shirt or pair of pants that is just a bit too big with the hope that the material shrinks once you wash it. While it takes a little effort, it is possible to shrink your polyester material.

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Table Of Contents

  1. Ways to Shrink Polyester
    • How to Shrink Polyester
    • Shrinking a Polyester Blend Garment
    • Minimal Polyester Shrinking
    • Moderate Polyester Shrinkage
    • Maximum Polyester Shrinkage with a Clothes Iron
    • How to Shrink a Polyester Shirt with Boiling Water
    • Shrinking Polyester to Prevent Fading
    • How to Care for Polyester after Shrinking

The key to shrink polyester clothing is high heat. While heat shrinks polyester fibers, it also damages certain materials when not applied properly.

Here are a few easy techniques to shrink this synthetic fabric safely and effectively. There’s not even any need to use your favorite hand washing detergent or laundry soap. Shrink too-big garments with water and heat alone.

How to Shrink Polyester

There are a few ways to shrink polyester, and understanding how it works is the first step in shrinking your polyester clothing. The method you choose depends on how much you need the garment to shrink.

How and Why Does Polyester Shrink?

Many types of fabric shrink when subjected to high temperatures, and some with minimal heat. Synthetic fibers, such as polyester, do not shrink under normal circumstances. Therefore, take extra steps to cause the material to shrink.

High heat is the key to shrinking polyester clothing. It is possible to shrink 100% polyester fabrics, but only so much. It requires a minimum temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit to shrink clothes.

On the other hand, polyester blends are a lot easier to shrink. Check the cleaning label of your clothing to see if it is blended with another type of fiber. Typically, polyester blends are 50% polyester and 50% cotton. It’s important to know this before proceeding with a shrinking technique.

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Shrinking a Polyester Blend Garment

If your garment care label says polyester blend on it, then chances are it is nearly equal amounts of polyester and cotton fibers. This material is easier to shrink than 100% polyester and requires less heat to get the clothing to the right size.


Shrinking Polyester Blends


Before shrinking, take care of removing old oil stains from polyester clothes or other kinds of stains. This way, you can focus on making the garment smaller instead of worrying about cleaning the item.

To shrink a shirt made from a poly blend, turn the clothing inside out to prevent it from fading or bleeding. Place the material in the washing machine and set the cycle to hot wash and hot rinse settings.

If you are shrinking clothing that is dirty, add your favorite laundry detergent in the recommended amount; otherwise, wash the material with plain water.

Remove the polyester blend clothing from the washing machine and hang it on a clothesline to dry. The heat of the water is sufficient to provide shrinkage.

If you prefer more shrinkage, place the garment in a dryer on the high heat setting. Check the material periodically during the drying process to make sure it does not shrink too much.

Minimal Polyester Shrinking

If your polyester clothing needs minimal shrinkage, a simple wash and dry in the washing machine and clothes dryer do the trick. Using laundry detergent is unnecessary if the garment isn’t dirty. This technique is a good starting point if your polyester is blended with cotton.


Minor Polyester Shrinking

  • Washing machine
  • Clothes dryer


Place the article of clothing into the washing machine and set it to the warm water wash cycle. Run the cycle to the end and then place the garment in the dryer. Run the clothes dryer on the medium heat dry cycle.

A medium setting for both the washer and dryer is the safest way to get minimal shrinkage. Once complete, check the piece of clothing for proper shrinkage. If it is still not the right size, move on to the next step in the shrinking process.

Moderate Polyester Shrinkage

For polyester not blended with cotton, use higher heat temperatures for optimal shrinkage. This process is also useful for polyester blends that require extra shrinkage.


Moderate Polyester Shrinking

  • Washing machine
  • Clothes dryer


When washing fabrics on high heat, turn the clothing inside out to prevent bleeding or fading of the material. Place the article of clothing into the washing machine and set the water setting to high heat for both the wash and rinse stages, using the most extended wash cycle. Only add laundry detergent if the clothing is dirty.

When the washing time finishes, place the fabric in the dryer on the hottest setting. Check the clothing for shrinkage. If it is still not the right size, try shrinking it with an iron on the hottest temperature.

Maximum Polyester Shrinkage with a Clothes Iron

High heat is the only way to shrink polyester, such as a shirt, pants, or polyester jacket, especially if it is 100% polyester. Because it is a synthetic fiber, it resists shrinkage. Try using ironing with high temperatures to get the most shrinkage possible from your clothing.


Ironing Polyester

  • Washing machine
  • Clothes iron
  • Ironing board
  • Pressing cloth


Turn the clothing inside out and put it in the washing machine. Set the wash and rinse cycles to the hottest water setting and use the longest wash cycle. Unless the clothing is dirty, it is unnecessary to add laundry detergent.

Once the washing cycle is done, remove the clothing and lay it on an ironing board. Make sure that you leave the clothing inside out. Place pressing cloth over the entire surface of the polyester, making sure that no areas are exposed, or you risk damaging the fabric with the iron.

Set the clothes iron on low to medium heat. Turning the temperature too high causes the polyester to get stiff. Iron the material, without using steam, until it is dry. Inspect the clothing to ensure it is the proper fit.

How to Shrink a Polyester Shirt with Boiling Water

Giving polyester a hot wash is the most effective way to encourage shrinking. In this process, the high heat of the boiling water breaks down the polyester fibers, causing them to shrink. Here is how to shrink a polyester shirt by boiling it in hot water.


Boiling Polyester

  • Stockpot
  • Water
  • Tongs
  • Colander


Fill a large stockpot with clean water, bring it to a rapid boil, and then remove from the heat. Use a pair of tongs to place the polyester shirt into the water carefully to avoid burning your hands. Leave the material in the water for about seven minutes before pouring the water and cloth into a colander.

Allow the cloth to cool to room temperature before wringing it to remove excess water. Lay the shirt out to air dry or place it in a clothes dryer on high heat for further shrinkage. Repeat the process if the material does not shrink enough the first time.

Shrinking Polyester to Prevent Fading

Color bleeding happens when fabrics get wet, and dye releases from the fibers. Fading occurs when the material loses its vibrancy and depth.

While polyester is generally more resistant to bleeding and fading than natural fibers such as cotton, it does occur when subjected to high heat. Here is how to shrink polyester garments without fading.


No-Fade Polyester Shrinkage

  • Washing machine
  • Clothes dryer
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar


Turn the clothing inside out, place it into the washing machine, and add the white vinegar. Wash the garment on the longest and hottest setting for both the wash and rinse cycles. Remove the clothing from the washer, place it in the dryer, and dry it on the hottest setting with an extended drying cycle.

If you are looking for easy ways to shrink leather rather than polyester, you can also use vinegar and water. However, don’t put your leather goods in the washer or dryer as this will irreparably damage the material.

How to Care for Polyester after Shrinking

Once your polyester garment is the perfect size, there are specific measures to take while washing and drying to ensure that your clothing remains vibrant, soft, and comfortable.


DIY Polyester Care

  • Washing machine
  • Clothes dryer


For future washing of polyester, use the permanent press setting on your washing machine. This cycle cools the fabric before spinning to prevent wrinkles. Always turn your garments inside out before washing to prevent fading.

Wash the polyester using a warm setting on the washing machine. Cold water does not get material as clean, and hot water causes further shrinkage. Polyester is highly susceptible to static electricity.

Using a liquid fabric softener during the washing cycle or a dryer sheet in the dryer eliminates static cling. Dry the polyester on low heat to prevent further shrinkage. If you prefer, hang the clothing on a clothesline to air dry.

Shrinking polyester clothes, such as your favorite t-shirt, is possible using the right shrinking process. While extreme heat damages this durable material, following the right steps and proper heat setting on your clothes washer, dryer, and iron cause the material to shrink without damage.

Now that you know the right tools to use, turn that polyester garment into the comfy fit you desire.

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We’re happy that we could show you how to shrink polyester to the perfect size, so why not share our polyester shrinking tips with your friends and family on Facebook and Pinterest?


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Last Updated: 08/17/2023

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