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How to Shrink Graphic Tees

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Is your graphic t-shirt too big or oversized? If you’re looking for ways to shrink a graphic tee so it fits you better, then these clothing shrinking methods will surely work for you.

Compared to any other cotton or cotton polyester blend t-shirts, graphic tees are challenging to shrink due to cracking or fading prints that typically result from the process. This does not mean that it is impossible to shrink graphic tees permanently.

How do you shrink graphic tees? Depending on the t-shirt fabric content, you can shrink graphic tees without harming the print. 

Always turn the shirt inside out to prevent direct high heat exposure to the print ink. Use boiling water in a pot or hight heat setting on a washing machine to shrink a graphic shirt.

If you find a graphic tee that is too large for you, but turns out to be a graphic design you really like, then here are instructions for how to shrink graphic tees at home without sewing. 

Whether the t-shirt is too big around the body or sleeves, double check to make sure there are no stains before proceeding to the shrinking method. Without pretreating stains, the blemish or marking will set-in permanently and become impossible to get rid of. 

Worry no more, you can shrink a printed tee to attain that fitting size you desire. All you need is a washing machine, hot water and a bit of time to shrink a graphic tee the right way. 

Answered below are frequently asked questions about shrinking graphic tees. So read further to find out tips for the best way to shrink graphic tees without damaging prints. 

Does Graphic Tees Shrink?

Yes, most t-shirts are preshrunk including graphic tees. Manufacturers prefer producing them in relatively actual size during dying, cutting, and sewing process. 

When the fabric is not preshrunk, then sizing tees with accuracy is relatively tricky because it might shrink a size or two after washing. 

Check the label prior to purchasing the t-shirt to verify if it indicates pre-shrunk. If it hasn’t, you can go ahead and shrink it yourself quite easily.

Shrinking depends on the type of fabric used in making the tees. If the shirt is made up of 100% cotton, and is not preshrunk, then it can shrink up to 20%. 

However, most polyester shirts rarely shrink or are able to achieve very minimal shrinkage for temporary timeframe. If the shirt is made from polyester, you might have to remain with the size of your tee as it is.

How Do You Shrink Graphic T-Shirt Without Washing It?

Shrinking graphic t-shirts does not always require washing them by hand or machine wash. In order to shrink graphic t-shirt without washing, it’s easiest to use a dryer. 

Here are instructions for the dryer machine shrinking method:

  • Turn the graphic tee inside out.
  • Wet the shirt in the areas you want to shrink, i.e. neckline, bottom opening, sleeves or the entire shirt.
  • Throw the shirt in the dryer and adjust to highest temperature setting and run the dryer for 15 to 20 minutes or until the shirt is fully dried.
  • Allow the shirt to cool, then check the fit. If necessary, repeat the process until you get the desired size.
  • Avoid leaving the t-shirt in the dryer for too long to prevent from melting the printed graphic on the shirt.

An alternative option is using an iron. Ironing the graphic t-shirt with a steam iron can contribute to the shrinking process, however do not directly contact the iron with the graphic surface. 

Consider using a pressing cloth and iron on the back side of the graphics, but realize that the effectiveness of the iron will be diminished by the buffer between.

How to Shrink a Graphic Shirt Without a Dryer

If you are worried about using a dryer to shrink graphic tees, which may result in damaging the graphic prints, there are other methods to make it work. The washing machine and boiling water technique do effectively shrink clothing, but again the exposure to intense high heat is unavoidable.

Washing machine shrinking technique:

  • Flip the shirt inside out and throw it in the washing machine.
  • Turn on the hot water setting.
  • Apply an extended cycle setting with hot water during the rinse cycle as well.
  • Remove the tees from the washer and roll between two towels to dry the shirt without wringing or stretching which could lead to the print cracking.
  • Lay the tee flat to air dry in a well ventilated area. If you wash the graphic tee at a high temperature, then you don’t have to dry it in the dryer machine.

Boiling water shrinking technique: 

  • Boil a clean pot of water on the stove.
  • Flip the shirt inside out and soak it in the hot water for 5 minutes, the longer you let it stay, the more it will shrink.
  • After 5 minutes, drain the water and allow the shirt to cool, use tongs to move it around and avoid holding it with your hands while burning hot.
  • Roll the shirt between two towels so that it dries slightly without stretching, then let it air dry in a ventilated area.
  • If necessary, repeat the steps until you acquire the size that fits you well.

Once the water starts boiling, take the pot off the heat and decide the level of shrinkage you want. Allow the water to cool for 10-15 minutes before putting the shirt in water if you only want it to shrink a quarter to half size.

For the shirt to shrink a half to 1 size, allow water to cool for 5 minutes before putting it inside. Placing the graphic t-shirt in the water immediately after boiling may cause it to shrink 1 to 2 sizes.

Tips to Shrink a Graphic Tees

Graphic t-shirts require a bit more caution compared to shrinking cotton t-shirts. Whether you choose dryer, steam iron, washing machine, or boiling water method, use these tips to shrink graphic tees to accomplish desired fit:

  • Always flip the graphic tee inside out when shrinking or washing the shirt.
  • Avoid placing colored tees in direct sunlight when drying.
  • When using the dryer, always use the highest heat setting and make sure you put few pieces of clothing as buffer or use a laundry bag so the print doesn’t come in direct contact with the dryer drum.
  • If the shirt is not preshrunk, then high heat can help a tee shrink a size or two.
  • Consider adding salt to the water when washing to assist in locking the dye and prevent fading.
  • Ensure you use color-protecting or mild homemade laundry detergents if you are cleaning tees while shrinking.
  • When you are done shrinking a graphic tee in hot water, allow it to air dry under shade as direct exposure to sunlight can lead to fading.
  • Do not hang a wet t-shirt as it will be extremely heavy and may stretch out some of the shrinking you tried to achieve. 
  • Wringing out a wet graphic tee may cause the prints to crack. Instead, roll the shirt in a large towel to help absorb the excess water, then lay it flat to air dry.

Best Way to Shrink a Graphic T-Shirt

No more need to destroy a graphic t-shirts after washing and wearing overtime. With this in mind, cleaning a graphic tee with hot water or boiling it is not necessarily the best option when it comes to shrinking the fit. 

Here are the best steps to shrink a graphic tee:

  • Start by turning the shirt inside out.
  • Soak the graphic tee with cold water to help protect the print from pilling off and fading.
  • Place in a delicates laundry bag or pillow case and tie a knot at the end to help protect the shirt and print from rubbing against the hot dryer machine drum.
  • Put the t-shirt in the dryer on a hot temperature setting.
  • Allow it to dry for at least 20 minutes.
  • Repeat the process until you get the right size to fit your body.

Graphic tees such as sports jerseys and band shirts usually require a dryer for them to shrink. Ensure you flip it inside out to keep the prints safe and minimize the effects of heat on the graphics.

The last thing you want is to find out the print patterns have cracked during the shrinking process. Take the extra step to place the shirt in a protective bag so that the vinyl prints don’t come in direct contact with the hot metal drum inside the dryer.

How to shrink graphic tees

Shrinking Graphic T-Shirts: Conclusion

Shrinking clothes to get the perfect fit is much quicker than trying to solve the fit issue by sewing. Depending on the fabric content, the shrinkage may be permanent or temporary, therefore it is important to carefully read the safety care label on each t-shirt.

Before starting the shrinking process, read through the label. Checking the label will help you understand the type of material the t-shirt is made of and specific washing instructions that you are recommended to follow. 

Remember to treat the stains prior to this process. If the instructions specify temperature and drying settings, follow the precautions and recommendation to minimize damage to the fabrication.

Having information on material composition will help you understand how well it is going to shrink. For example, a graphic tee made of 100% cotton will quickly shrink, however polyester and other synthetic materials made to withstand high temperatures do not shrink very much at all.

If you find out that your t-shirt can be good for shrinking, it is time to place it in the washing machine and dryer on high heat settings. The wet and dry heat with constrict the bond between fibers causing a shrinking effect on the garment.

After doing this, you will realize that tee has shrunk a bit. If it has not been reduced to the correct size, you can take it through the cycle again, but beware that shrinking clothing with intense heat is not recommended for frequent usage since it does add excessive wear and tear to the fabric that will shorten its lifespan each time.

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