Ashley MacInnis: The Frenzied Fashionista


How to Unshrink the Wool Sweater You Accidentally Put in the Dryer

It may not need to go to your daughter's doll wardrobe

How to unshrink a sweater |

As a general rule, I refuse to buy clothing requiring anything more than being thrown in the washing machine and dryer, being hung in my closet and put on my body. Dry clean only? NOPE.  Needs to be ironed every time I wear it? HECK NO. But every now and again, I find myself in love with something that's not quite as easy to care for and I try really hard to be diligent and care for it properly. Once per quarter (or even less, sometimes), I take my few items for dry cleaning in and happily fork over my cash to keep my wool peacoat or suit in tip-top shape.

I begrudgingly wash my bras by hand and hang them on hangers in my closet, wishing desperately I could throw them in the wash. I try to remember to put my other delicates in a mesh bag but I'll be honest - I don't. And I never, ever, ever throw my sweaters in the laundry basket.

Except I did, one time. And my beautiful, Merino wool sweater came out of the dryer looking like something my son would have worn. A year ago. So, I did what any respectable adult would do and I used the sweater I spent more than I care to admit to spending on to wipe my tears while I sat on the couch questioning how I could have missed it in the laundry basket that afternoon. But then, I remembered watching my Mom unshrink something once using the basin in the basement, a little lukewarm water and a lot of patience so I sprung into a action.

So, what does one do when they shrink a wool sweater? Start by trying not to lose your cool. Take a few deep breaths, maybe pour a glass of wine (or vodka) and relax. Yes, it sucks. No, it's not the end of the world. Depending on how much shrinkage has occurred, you may be able to salvage it. Frankly, if I can do it - you can do it. 

What you need

  • Your shrunken item
  • A sink, basin or bathtub
  • Lukewarm water (enough to cover the item in the basin, sink or tub)
  • Conditioner or baby shampoo (fabric softener would probably work, too)
  • A thick, absorbent towel
  • Fifteen minutes of calm, collectedness

What you do

  1. Feel free to use your sweater to wipe any tears that are still on your face. 
  2. Fill your basin, sink or bathtub with enough lukewarm water to totally cover your shrunken item. As it's filling, add some conditioner or baby shampoo - this will help loosen the fibres in the sweater.
  3. Place your shrunken sweater in the water and gently massage it to help loosen the fibres. Keyword here: GENTLY.  You don't want to harm the item.
  4. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes, occasionally using your hands to gently stretch the sweater in length and width. Once it's back to the size it should be, remove from water.
  5. Don't wring it out but instead, press water out bit by bit using the side of your sink, basin or bathtub.
  6. Lay flat on a thick, absorbent towel. You may need to manipulate the sweater a bit to get it back into the shape it should be. 
  7. Pray to the clothing gods.
  8. Never make that mistake again.

I can't say whether or not this would work for other shrunken items or fabrics, like denim or dress pants, but I can say that my sweater was revived. I wish I had had the mental clarity to photograph it in its shrunken state but I think I actually went into survival mode because this sweater is a favourite - I almost never wear it because I don't want anything bad to happen to it (go figure, right?). 

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