How to Unshrink Clothes with Hair Conditioner (Yes, Really!)

You already have the secret ingredient in your shower.

Washing laundry in hot water or drying your favorite garments on high heat can quickly shrink your clothes to an undesirable size. If you've ever tossed a T-shirt into the dryer only for it to come out two sizes smaller, you know this dilemma all too well. But before you toss that too-snug shirt in the donation pile, you might be able to undo the damage with a simple laundry hack. All you need is a bucket of warm water and some conditioner (yes, the kind for your hair).

Close up of hands washing clothing in a sink
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In viral videos shared under the TikTok heading #laundryhacks, users demonstrate the easy fix, noting it's saved them "hundreds of dollars" on replacing too-tight clothes. To help unshrink clothes, first, add 1 Tbsp. of conditioner to a small bucket or container filled with warm water, mixing the product in as much as possible. Fully immerse the shirt in the mixture and let it soak for 30 minutes. Finally, rinse out the conditioner and gently stretch the shirt to your desired size. Let it hang dry before wearing.

Sounds simple enough, but does it really work? Drew Westervelt, CEO of laundry detergent company HEX Performance, explains that conditioner can help relax fabric that has contracted or shrunk due to high heat. "By adding a conditioner, you're softening and lubricating the fibers to loosen them back up so you can stretch them," he says.

However, Westervelt cautions that the conditioner could leave behind a residue, causing the garment to attract more dirt, bacteria, and odors. After trying this laundry hack, be sure to thoroughly wash the garment to rinse away any remaining conditioner, carefully following the manufacturer's instructions for washing and drying so it doesn't shrink up again.

This laundry hack works best on cotton, wool, and other knit fabrics that are easily stretchable. For synthetic fabrics such as polyester, be careful not to tug too hard and over-stretch the garment. It's also important to note that this trick might not be suitable for tightly woven or delicate fabrics such as silk. If you're worried about damaging the fabric, test the technique on a small area first before trying it on the entire garment.

The best way to prevent clothes from shrinking is to wash and dry them correctly. But laundry mistakes happen, and the next time your favorite shirt emerges from the dryer a little too tight, grab some conditioner, get a bucket, and start stretching!

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