How to unshrink a shirt

I don’t have much patience for laundry. The sorting, deciding what to tumble dry or line dry. Worse yet, lay flat to dry. Hot or cold and which wash cycle. Ughh. Just give me the ‘ole warm wash and tumble dry, please. However, this last load left me wondering how to go about unshrinking rayon.

In my 10+ years as a parent, I’ve found that kids clothes were typically the easiest to care for. Mostly unfussy cotton blends that wash and dry without much fuss. But lately I’ve found kid’s clothes makers are throwing out some curve balls. And its name is rayon. Rayon? In kids clothes? Isn’t that the same cloth that in some cases you shouldn’t even get wet?


I’ve found out about the existence of rayon in kid’s clothes the hard way. While folding a load of my oldest daughter’s clothes, I came upon her favorite new shirt, which now looked like it would fit her perfectly, about 3 sizes ago!

Panicked, I of course went straight to “what did I do wrong?” and searched frantically for the care instructions tag. And there it was. Rayon.rayon1

My first thought was….who would make a child’s shirt out of rayon? Who decided that moms and dads needed to add a bit more fuss to their lives by making us pay this much attention to laundry? Do I sound dramatic? Let me say it again. I hate fussing over laundry.unshrink rayon 2

Okay, I see. I got this wrong on just about every front. Warm washed instead of cold, tumble dried when I should have laid out flat, used the regular cycle instead of gentle.  I didn’t even turn it inside out. Yep. I got it ALL wrong!

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I’m now thinking that this shirt is going to my youngest daughter a few years early. But wait! I then remembered a method I had tried a few years earlier with a shrunken cashmere sweater.


The formula for unshrinking fibers was a little hair conditioner and water soak. Stretch out the garment in all directions and lay flat to dry. Should I even bother with rayon? I figured I don’t have anything to lose. Fast forward to now, I’m glad I tried it. Because to my surprise, it actually worked!

I used about 1 tsp per quart of warm water, so you can double or triple depending on the size of the garment.unshrink rayon 3

Soak for about 5-10 minutes.

Wring it out and lay (or drape over the back of a dining room chair) and stretch it out every which way.

While the shirt dries, give it a few more stretches here and there. Then, allow it to air dry completely.unshrink rayon 6


First, I did not stretch out the lace hem. The original shape was “hi – low”, meaning the back length of the shirt is longer, so that is why you see more lace from the back bottom.

Also, the amount of stretch does depend on the tightness of the weave of your rayon garment, and if the tag reads “dry clean only”, there’s a chance this won’t work.

This shirt already had a little stretch and give to it, so this method worked beautifully.

You may have already heard of this formula for stretching out shrunken clothes, but I’m so happy that it actually worked on a fabric that I thought would be a lost cause!

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I hope this post is encouraging to any of you who share my distaste for high maintenance laundry tasks, and never give up easily when things do and will go wrong. And best of all, a dramatic tween crisis was successfully averted!

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