I am normally very careful with laundry. I know what fabrics to wash and how to wash it. That does not stop a rogue shirt or dress from being washed incorrectly and shrinking.
Recently, I accidentally washed a few dry-clean only items in the washing machine. It did not go well.
Here are the step by step instructions (with photos) of what I did to undo the terrible mess and unshrink my clothes.
The Shrunk Garments
And this Dry Clean Only dress made of 58% Wool and 42% Cotton should never see the inside of a washing machine. A few other dry clean only garments were included in this massive mix-up!
Since this little accident, I no longer sort out my dry cleaning from the dirty laundry. My Dry Clean Only garments now have a special bag. As soon as I get undressed, it goes directly into the bag.
How to Unshrink Clothes
Step 1: Soak the Garments with Conditioner
I soaked all of the garments in warm water mixed with hair conditioner (herbal essence, but I doubt that matters). Light mixing and kneading to ensure that the conditioner was thoroughly spread on each garment, then let the items soak.
Step 2: Stretch and hang
After about 10 minutes, when the water completely cooled, I gently pulled the shirt to release the constricted fabric fibers. After pulling and tugging the shirt back to the correct length, I hung this up to dry. The weight of the wet shirt also helped to keep pulling it down as it dried.
The shirt is about 3 inches longer! I wore this shirt last week. It was rewashed (very gently in cold) and stayed long again. Totally fixed!
Then, I hung the dress and attempted to pull and tug the “shirt” back into the length of a dress.
The dress required a second treatment (warmer water and a 20 minute soak) then much more tugging. The weight of the dress helped to pull it down, but I continued to (gently) pull on the dress as it soaked the second time.
The lining is a poly-blend so it kept proper shape and length throughout the shrinking and anti-shrinking treatment. Before treatment, the unfortunate washing caused the lining to stick out several inches longer than the (much) shrunk dress.
Now the dress and the lining are about the same length. Not a total failure, but certainly not a great success. I am going to hem the lining up about an inch so that the dress is salvageable. Mostly fixed.