3 Ways to Un-Shrink Wool

Don’t throw out that sweater just yet – try a few of these methods first!

We’ve all been there; you’re dutifully doing laundry, feeling pretty good about yourself for remembering to switch the load from the washer to the dryer. Then you discover a wool sweater that accidentally got thrown in – and now is a shrunken disaster. Wool is unnervingly easy to shrink, even if you do everything right, but luckily there are a few ways to un-shrink wool too! Don’t throw out that sweater just yet – try a few of these methods first.

Conditioner Bath

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Washing wool sweaters by hand is the best way to clean the material in order to avoid shrinking it, but it also helps in case of an accident! For the conditioner bath, you’ll need a sink or tub with lukewarm water, ¼ cup hair conditioner, and ¼ cup mild detergent (optional).

Add the conditioner to the water and mix it in with your hands before submerging the sweater. If it needs to be washed, go ahead and add the detergent as well, otherwise, just the conditioner is fine. Let the sweater soak for 30 minutes.

When the time is up, take the sweater out and gently squeeze the excess water out. Don’t wring the material out, as this will cause a misshapen sweater. Lay it out on a flat surface and gently mold the sweater into the correct shape before letting it air dry. Rinse again in lukewarm water if there’s any conditioner or detergent left, then repeat the drying process.

Vinegar Bath & Towel Dry

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Vinegar is the duct tape of household cleaning projects. Is there anything a bit of vinegar won’t fix? Probably, but that’s for a different article. Right now, all you need to know is that one part vinegar and two parts water will help loosen the wool fibers in your sweater, effectively un-shrinking it.

Make sure to fill up the sink or bowl with enough of the vinegar/water mix to fully submerge the sweater. Let it soak for 25 minutes, then lay it on a towel, over a flat surface. Begin rolling the towel at one end to soak up the excess water. This method will help the sweater dry faster without warping the shape.

Stretch by Hand

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Another method of loosening and stretching out wool is to literally stretch it out. You’ll have to be extra careful and delicate when handling the sweater, seeing as it can easily get misshapen of you pull too hard or too fast.

Lay the sweater out on a soft, flat surface, like a rug or blanket. Gently pull on the edges of the sweater, making sure to keep the lines and shape nice and even. Focus on the hem, neckline, and sleeves. Work over each section a few times if necessary.

If you don’t have time to sit around and stretch a sweater, you can also pin it to a corkboard. Lay it out much like the method above and gently stretch the edges, placing pins all around to help the sweater keep its shape. This should be a last resort, as the pins can potentially leave holes in tightly-woven sweaters.

Tips For Wool Maintainence

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Wool clothing items should be washed by hand whenever possible. If you must use a washing machine, make sure to wash the item on the gentlest setting – some washers even have a wool setting. Use mild detergents to protect the material.

Never put wool in the dryer. Instead, lay the garment on a flat surface and let it air dry. Be careful not to leave the drying sweater in the sun, as wool is photosensitive.