How To Unshrink Wool

It’s actually very easy to unshrink a wool garment you shrank in the wash.

1. Place the wool item in a sink full of warm water.
2. Soak for 10 minutes.
3. Remove the item and squeeze out excess water.
4. Let dry on a towel.
5. Carefully stretch and pull the item back to its original shape. Voila!

Why are we talking about wool in the summer? Because we recently threw our smelly winter cap in the wash and it came out a kitty-cat chapeau. Bookmark this tip in your brain for the next time you forget to read your wool item’s care label. — BEN POPKEN

References: StyleBites, The Gazette

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  1. GirlGoneRiled says:

    Wonderful, simple directions…that I am now about to complicate.

    It’s not a mere nicety if one uses a plain white towel that has not been dried itself with fabric softener to roll the wool item for excess water removal and a second to lay on for drying and stretching. Also, if one has those larger safety pins to use to pin the item (not at the very edges, maybe back an inch or two) in shape so much the better. And then if the item were draped over the top rack of one of those wooden three-tier drying racks so that air can circulate all around it evenly, the stretching and drying process will go that much smoother.

    There are no guarantees, of course, but either the easy way or the hard way is better than no way at all. And I’ve used both by way of sparing the lives of a dry cleaner or two.

  2. HearsMusic says:

    What, no picture of a kitty-cat wearing said chapeau?!

    I have one of those awesome Maytag dryers with the cabinet on top just for drying sweaters/hats/delicates. Thanks for the tip though, I’d never heard of this before.

  3. eKiTeL says:

    It’s also good to wash your wool with a wool wash that contains lanolin, like Eucalan that also contains eucalyptus or Lavalan that has lavender or Kookaburra with tea tree oil. You don’t have to rinse it and the wool will be softer and smell nice and resist odors and moths.

    Woolite will actually remove lanolin and I don’t think dry cleaning is much better. I’ve recently washed two wool blankets in water and Eucalan and they seem much nicer now even though they say dry clean only.

    Smart Wool is really nice also, doesn’t shrink, no itch, with hi tech designs like synthetic fiber outdoor sports wear. Over millions of years wool has evolved to protect the animals that produce it, micro-engineered by nature for optimal moisture and heat management.

  4. bbbici says:

    How do you reshrink a garment that has pooched out?

  5. swalve says:

    Any tips on leather upholstery that has shrunk?

  6. feralparakeet says:

    @bbbici:
    It’s a similar process. When you have garments that tend to warp in the wash, hand wash them, wring them out really well, then lay them flat to dry on a piece of cardboard. Smooth it out into the right shape and use upholstery pins (or any other good sturdy pin) to keep it in place. Those of us who knit and crochet call this “blocking”, and you’d be amazed at how well it works.

    On another note, if you don’t want to unshrink the wool, you can take all of your old shrunken sweaters, cut large blocks out of them, and sew them up into a really neat quilt.

  7. brendaj says:

    Wool that has been shrunk has also usually been felted. You can’t unfelt wool. You can do as these instructions say and stretch out said felt to a larger size when it’s wet… but it’s not quite accurate to say you’re unshrinking. The resulting fabric will be totally different than the original. Denser yet also thinner, from being stretched, and it won’t be as elastic, if it retains any elasticity at all. Shrinking wool is kind of a done deal, I’m afraid. There really is no going back.

  8. velvetjones says:

    I have found that liquid fabric softener helps coax wool and cotton sweaters into shape. I use a little more than is directed on the bottle.

  9. roothorick says:

    I spot a typo in the title. Btw, is “unshrink” the correct form? It doesn’t look right to me…

  10. Chongo says:

    What is the Statute of Limitations on this? A few years ago I (being a poor student) saw a Wool scarf at MArshal Fields here in Chicago. It was on sale for 40 bucks and it usually goes for 100. I loved this thing but one night forgot it at my friends house. Being a nice guy, he washed it for me before he was going to drop it off. It literally is the size of a dinner napkin now. But I kept it! Can I still do this even years later?

  11. deety says:

    Blocking is how you should always care for your wool clothes after a wash, but this tip needs to be more specific.

    How successful blocking will be at reshaping a garment depends on how bad the damage is. Something that has shrunk a small amount can be salvaged. But it’s impossible to get a 100% wool item back to it’s original size if it’s been fulled (which means the fabric will be much smaller, denser, and have little or no stitch definition).

  12. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    Chongo, sorry, but no. It won’t be the same. Your friend meant well but your scarf is a nice piece of felt now.

    If you truly love the thing and want to keep it around as a scarf or even a throw, one of the best things to do with an odd shaped rectangular piece of knitting is to pick up stitches from one edge in a contrasting color, and knit a couple inches, then move to the side and a different color and pick up and knit a couple more inches, and keep rotating, changing color, and knitting a few more inches until your scarf has become colorful and graphic and new.

  13. raincoaster says:

    I’ve only had success with blocking when I pin the object into shape before letting it dry, and as I live in Vancouver it can take a week, easy. Use rust-proof pins.

    And you don’t need to worry about lanolin washes so much; just buy a bottle of lanolin at the drug store; it’s CHEAP! Toss a slug in the rinse water.