How To Shrink Linen? 3 Different Ways To Reduce Size

Linen garments are amazing for the summers, but they can tend to be a bit looser on the body. They can also become overtly stretched if not cared for properly. If this is the issue with your linen shirts, then read on, because this article is all about how you can shrink your linen clothes.

There are various methods and strategies that you need to keep in mind for different garments, and I will be covering all that information in detail. But if you don’t have the time, then here’s the short answer.

How to shrink linen?

The best way to reduce the size of a linen garment would be to get it tailored. However, if the linen is stretched out and tailoring is not an option, machine-washing it in hot water and then using the high heat setting on the dryer will usually do the trick.

There are a number of considerations you need to make though, and not every linen garment would shrink in the same way.

3 Best Ways To Shrink Linen

linen shirt

There are only three methods that I recommend to people when it comes to shrinking linen garments.

1. Tailor The Linen

Tailoring linen is the best way to reduce its size. While this is not exactly “shrinking”, it is much better as you would have complete control over how the measurements change.

I have already done a detailed article on tailoring linen and what it costs, so I will not be going into immense detail about this point.

Just know that tailoring linen shirts and dresses is a good idea. You can get these garments to fit you exactly, and you won’t need to spend a fortune in doing so.

2. Machine Washing and Drying

A great way to shrink linen clothing is to simply put it in the washing machine, and set both heat and agitation (if you have that setting) on high. This would ensure that your linen clothes come out on the other side 5-10% shrunken.

The reasoning behind this method is that heat is the best way to shrink most fabrics. And if you wash your linen shirt or dress in extremely warm water, and then proceed to tumble-dry it in high heat, the clothes will receive a lot of heat in a short amount of time. This will definitely lead to shrinkage.

There are two things that you need to keep in mind with this method though. Make sure that the water is extremely hot, but not boiling hot. That would be too much.

And be aware that you can’t really tell how much your linen garment is going to shrink in the wash or whether the shrinking would be even. In most cases, the garments would end up shrinking 5-10% evenly, but there are no guarantees.

Thus I recommend you keep checking up on your clothes every 5 minutes or so. Just check if everything is alright, and then continue with the process.

3. Soaking in Warm Water

Another method of shrinking linen that works best with delicate items such as scarves and skirts is soaking them in warm water.

The method is actually very simple. Take a bucket and fill it with extremely hot water (not boiling). Take your linen item and soak it in the water. After about 12 hours or so, dump the old water and repeat this process again.

In the end, you would see that the linen garment becomes much shorter than before. This method works best with linen skirts and linen trousers.

How To Unshrink Linen?

Unshrinking linen is definitely possible, however, it is impossible to determine if you would be able to get back to the original size of the shirt or dress or whatever it is that you are trying to unshrink.

Rather than buying expensive new clothes, just follow these simple steps to unshrink linen.

  1. Fill a tub with lukewarm water. Using hot water would cause linen to shrink even further, and we don’t want that.
  2. Put your garment in the tub for 15-20 minutes. Not more, not less.
  3. Take the linen item out and hang it on a clothesline, while it is still dripping. The weight of the water would work with gravity to stretch your linens by a small margin. Hang until the linen is damp.
  4. Take the linen shirt or dress, while it is still damp, and place it on an ironing board. Iron slowly, and try to work outwards from the center, as this will force the linen to stretch even further.
  5. Once it is completely dry, you would be able to see how much the linen has stretched.

How Much Shrinkage To Expect From Linen?

Linen tends to shrink 5-10% from its original size after being machine washed in warm water and being tumble-dried in high temperatures.

This percentage also holds true if you are going for the soaking method. At most, you can expect about 15% shrinkage by going through that route.

If you are getting your linen tailored as I recommend, you are in complete control of how much change takes place in the size of the garment. You can have it shrunk 5% or 50%, depending on your individual needs.

But keep in mind that whenever you go for shrinking linen (not tailoring), you are going to lose control over how the proportions of your garment change. It is entirely possible that your linen shirt ends up shrinking by 50%, and it is also entirely possible that it doesn’t shrink at all.

The numbers I have provided are an average for the methods described in the previous section. Please do not take them as gospel.

Frequently Asked Questions

How To Shrink Linen Shirts?

Linen shirts can be shrunk by machine washing them with hot water. Follow it up by putting the shirt in the dryer and setting the heat to “high”. This will significantly reduce the size of the shirt.

How To Shrink Linen Pants?

Linen pants can be shrunk by soaking them in hot water overnight. The water should not be boiling, but it also shouldn’t be lukewarm.

Final Remarks

Linen can be shrunk if you machine-wash it in hot water and tumble-dry it on the high heat setting. It can also be shrunk if soaked in hot water for extended periods of time. But by far, the best way to shrink linen, that is, to reduce a linen garment’s size, would be to get it tailored.

Or you can go the other route and rock the naturally baggy and oversized look that linen is known for. This will make you stand out in a crowd and will save you all the time, effort, and money that is going to be spent in either tailoring or shrinking the linen garment.

The choice is entirely yours.