It’s the worst feeling isn’t it? You open the washing machine or dyer and realise your favourite wool sweater, cosy winter socks or beautiful merino wool throw has shrunk. But don’t despair. We can show you how to unshrink a sweater or wool throw and restore it to its former glory.
Shrinking a wool throw or a garment often happens when it is washed or tumble dried in unsuitably warm temperatures. It is still may be possible to restore the original size of your merino wool throw or garment. Depending on a range of factors, it is possible to increase your throw or sweater by as much as a size and a half using this process (which can also work for other wool knit objects).
So, what is this magic-sounding process? Follow these steps to unshrink a wool throw, and remember to be gentle with your wool throws, blankets and clothing in the future.
How to unshrink a sweater or wool throw
- Fill a bath tub with lukewarm water – there should be enough water to cover the item you wish to unshrink.
- Now a little trick: Take your hair conditioner and add a generous amount of it to the water. If you also want to freshen the wool throw, and some mild detergent. The secret is that the hair conditioner will relax and loosen the wool yarns. This will allow you to re-size the blanket or knit item without deteriorating its shape. Agitate the water well with your hands to dissolve and mix the detergent and hair conditioner.
- Submerge your merino wool throw or garment in the water and gently knead it for some time. Once you’ve worked the conditioner and detergent mixture into the fibers, drain the water from the bath tub.
- Gently press the throw against the bottom and sides of the tub to remove the excess water, then take the item out from the tub.
- Lay the throw flat on a large bath towel or linen throw (or any large piece of fabric) and place another piece of fabric on top. Press down and continue to squeeze water out of the throw until both the upper and lower pieces of fabric have absorbed most of the moisture. If necessary, repeat this with dry pieces of cloth or towels.
- Now the important part. Lay the wool throw on a flat soft surface (e.g. a rug or bed) and gently pull it back into the desired shape and size. Stretch it very gently in all directions, trying to make the edges straight and symmetrical. If you are unshrinking a wool sweater or cardigan, concentrate your efforts on the sleeves, bottom edges and neckline – or any areas you think have shrunk the most. Allow the item to lie flat for a few minutes, then repeat the stretching one or two more times before it dries completely.
- To end the procedure, wash the throw in cold water by hand or using a gentle machine cycle on low temperatures to remove the leftovers of hair conditioner. Reshape it again and lie flat to dry before using.
With these simple steps you might just be able to unshrink your merino wool throw or lambswool blanket. To avoid this happening again, always read the manufacturer’s care instructions and use mild detergent. For tips on washing wool throws in washing machine here.
Will this unshrinking technique work for an Alpaca sweater?
Dear Barb Lane,
Thank you for your question. I wouldn’t guarantee, but I’m confident there is no risk in trying this method to try unshrink your alpaca sweater.