How to Unshrink a Sweater

Close up image of hand holding a sweater sleeve.

When the weather outside turns frightful, staying inside becomes more delightful. However, even the cozy interior of your home can get a little chilly on wintery days. Instead of turning up the thermostat and adding to your heating bill, many of us reach for our favorite wool sweater to keep us warm. Of course, you need to wash wool garments occasionally to remove sweat, skin oils, and stains. Fortunately, wool fibers are self-regulating, so you don’t need to launder your sweaters as often as other clothes.

However, if you forgot to follow all the right tips on cleaning and caring for wool, your favorite sweater may have shrunk. This can happen if you wash the garment in warm or hot water or run it through the dryer.

Discovering that your beautiful wool sweater now looks like it would fit a four-year-old can bring some people to tears. But don’t despair or donate your shrunken sweater just yet—you may be able to make it fit again by learning how to stretch a sweater.

How to Unshrink a Wool Sweater in 8 Steps

Can you unshrink a sweater made from wool? Yes! All you need is some hair conditioner or fabric softener, cool water, a towel, a large corkboard, and some sewing pins. Take your time, follow the directions exactly, and before you know it, you’ll know how to stretch a sweater successfully!

  1. Fill the kitchen or bathroom sink with cool water and two tablespoons of fabric softener or hair conditioner.
  2. Submerge the sweater and let it soak for 10 to 20 minutes.
  3. Drain the soapy water from the sink, but don't rinse the sweater.
  4. Gently press the sweater against the sides of the basin to squeeze water out.
  5. Roll the sweater up tightly in a towel to remove as much excess water as possible.
  6. Gently stretch the sweater back to its original shape and size while it’s still damp.
  7. Lay the sweater on a large corkboard and pin it in place to keep it stretched to the proper size.
  8. Let the sweater air dry away from direct sources of heat or sunlight.

You can also use this eight-step method to unshrink other clothes made with wool, such as socks, caps, and gloves. But for smaller wool items, only use a few drops of conditioner and follow the directions above.

How to Unshrink a Cashmere Sweater

Cashmere wool comes from cashmere and other breeds of goat and is warmer than sheep’s wool. Cashmere is also lighter and smoother to the touch than even Merino wool. There's a lot to love about cashmere sweaters, but that extra warmth and wearability come at a cost.

Because cashmere wool is such a fine weave, it can be susceptible to damage from heat, moisture, and excess agitation. Knowing how to unshrink cashmere the right way can keep your sweater looking great season after season. To get your cashmere sweater to fit perfectly again, follow these simple steps:

  1. Fill your sink with cold water and a teaspoon of mild detergent.
  2. Handwash the sweater and let it soak for up to two hours.
  3. Drain the sink and gently squeeze as much moisture as you can by pressing the fabric with your hands.
  4. Lay the sweater on a flat surface like a clean counter and begin slowly stretching the wool.
  5. Stretch the fabric uniformly, horizontally, and vertically to prevent misshaping the sweater.
  6. Lay the sweater on a flat, dry surface away from heat and light, and let it air dry for at least a day.

When you're learning how to unshrink a sweater made from cashmere, you have to be much more gentle than when you're working with sheep's wool. And above all, always wash cashmere sweaters by hand and be extra careful not to overstretch them.

Keep Your Sweaters from Shrinking

Now that your sweater has regained its proper size and shape, let’s keep it that way! Hand wash wool clothes or run them through the washing machine on the gentle, wool, or hand wash cycle. Then, use a mild detergent designed to clean wool. Only wash wool sweaters in cold or tepid water, and never put them in the dryer.

While larger wool garments can be a challenge to hand wash, skipping the washer is your best bet for keeping your wool clothing in the best shape. To avoid colors bleeding onto other clothing, wash a single item at a time.

Storing Sweaters Safely

Now that you know how to unshrink a sweater and keep it clean, it’s essential to store them properly. There's an art to storing winter gear for the summer, and wool is no exception. To avoid dust, mold, moths, and other nasties while your wool sweater is in storage for the warmer months, consider these options:

Vacuum Pack Wool Sweaters: Vacuum packing means sealing your sweater in an air-tight bag. While this method isn't practical for everyone, it does have some distinct advantages. Because all the air is removed from the storage bag, your vacuum-packed sweater is nearly impervious to anything that could damage wool. Plus, vacuum packing creates small, tidy packages that help you make the most of your storage space. And because vacuum-packed storage bags are transparent, it's easy to identify each sweater without opening the bag.

Use Cloth Storage Bags for Sweaters: Wool or cotton storage bags are ideal for storing cashmere and other delicate wool sweaters. The weave of cotton and wool storage bags allows the clothing to breathe while protecting it from dirt and dust.

Store Sweaters in Storage Bins: Storage bins offer some of the protection of vacuum-packed bags but aren't the best option for keeping out moisture. If you use storage bins, choose ones with a tight-fitting lid for the most protection, and add a few bags of silica to help control moisture. However, one drawback to this sweater storage option is storage bins often require additional space you may not have.

Place Cedar Blocks in Your Storage Space: Mothballs work well against moths and silverfish, but the scent is unpleasant and notoriously hard to get out of sweaters. Instead, pack your wool sweaters with a few cedar blocks. Cedar deters the same pests as mothballs, and it smells way better. As a bonus, cedar is also a natural moisture absorber.

Contact Molly Maid for Professional House Cleaning Services 

Now that you know how to unshrink a sweater, you may feel empowered to take on other projects in the laundry room and throughout the house. However, this can easily take up all your free time and leave you feeling exhausted.

To reclaim some spare time, look into house cleaning services from Molly Maid. Our team of professionally trained housekeepers can tackle the most tedious and challenging cleaning tasks, so you have more time to spend doing the things you love. Our services are flexible, allowing you to choose between a single whole house cleaning, occasional cleaning, or weekly services for household chores.

To arrange professional house cleaning services near you, please contact your local Molly Maid or call us or request a free estimate today.