How to Unshrink a Wool Sweater

How to Unshrink a Wool Sweater


I recently washed and dried another wool sweater. This time, the finished article was too small to fit my grandchildren. Is their hope?

Can I unshrink a wool sweater?

I Googled the question and found that yes there is hope, but there are some several techniques to obtain the desired results and unshrink a wool sweater. I just want the one that works.

I decided to test some of the theories using other wool sweaters I had managed to shrink.

One, I could still fit into, but it was uncomfortably formfitting.

Another I had bagged for the Goodwill for elementary children. Here are the procedures I followed and the results I obtained.

Procedure One – Hair Conditioner

  1.  Fill up a sink or bucket with tepid water.
  2.  Add 1/3 cup of hair conditioner and mix it thoroughly.
  3.  Immerse the garment in the water and let it soak for ten minutes.
  4.  Remove the sweater, but do not rinse.
  5. Press out (do not wring) the excess water from the garment or blanket.
  6.  Place the sweater on a thick flat towel in an area that is cool without any direct sunlight.
  7.  Stretch small parts of the sweater by placing your hands close together and lightly pulling. Gradually move from one area to the next until the entire surface has been stretched.
  8.  Stretch the sweater again with your hands approximately 12 inches apart.
  9.  Once stretched to the desired proportion, allow the sweater to dry.
  10.  Change the towel periodically as it will become water saturated.
  11.  Once dry, rewash the sweater appropriately using cool water and Woolite to remove the conditioner.

Procedure Two – Vinegar

  1.  Fill a large cooking pot with two parts water and one part vinegar.
  2. Gently boil the sweater in the solution for 30 minutes.
  3.  Rinse with cool water and press out excess water.
  4.  Pull the dampened garment into the desired size and shape.
  5.  Dry the garment flat on an absorbent towel.

Procedure Three – Shampoo

  1. Fill a bathtub or sink with warm water.
  2.  Add shampoo and thoroughly mix with the water.
  3.  Soak the sweater for up to 30 minutes.
  4.  Remove the sweater and wring dry with a towel until the garment is damp.
  5.  Where the sweater or garment for 20 minutes while gently pulling it back into shape.

These are three procedures that are relatively simple that may help unshrink a wool sweater that has been mistakenly machine washed and dried.

All three processes worked to increase the size of my garments but for the two sweaters that were child size, I was not successful in getting them back to a comfortable fit for me.

The arms were too short, the necks, too narrow.

  • I used one of my tiny sweaters for the conditioner treatment. The sweater came out nicely and would fit a larger child now.
  • I used my favorite cashmere sweater that I could still wear for the vinegar treatment. I am happy to report that this sweater now fits better, is less snug, and amazingly soft and “cashmere” again.
  • Wearing a wool sweater that is damp and several sizes too small isn’t enjoyable, and I didn’t wind up with a well-fitting wool sweater. I ended up with a wet sweater that was larger than when I stretched it on, but poorly shaped and unevenly stretched.

The best practice is, of course, reading labels and taking care not to wash and dry the un-washable.

Still, I have my favorite cashmere sweater back in the closet.

Try these unshrinking methods out for your favorite shrunken wool garments or blankets before you toss them out the door.