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Do Sweatpants Shrink in the Dryer? (solved!)

Yes, sweatpants can shrink in the dryer as they are primarily made of cotton. Cotton is sensitive to heat and every exposure to it can change the length of the fiber, thus the length of your sweatpants.

Sweatpants are a versatile piece of clothes for working out, sleeping, and lounging around the house. They are usually soft and comfortable to wear but tend to lose shape over time. Luckily there are some ways to make them longer again, and it’s good to remember that heat plays an important role.

Besides cotton, the manufacturer will add polyester in some percentage to aid elasticity and make them even more pleasant to wear. Polyester is a kind of plastic and as such even more susceptible to change when exposed to heat.


How to Wash Sweatpants

Let’s take a closer look at the best way to wash and dry your sweatpants—whether you want to keep them as they are or shrink them.


  1. Read all the care instructions (on the label) and make sure to follow them precisely.
  2. Empty the pockets and turn the sweatpants inside out to reduce pilling.
  3. Untie all the strings if there are any to allow the washing machine to clean them properly.

Washing machine

Set your machine to the recommended temperature and gentle cycle. This way you will avoid shrinking and too much friction, which can damage the material.

If you look at the care label you should be able to see what the ideal temperature is. It’s usually cold or lukewarm water, but some sweatpants need hotter water to be cleaned and deodorized.

Detergent and fabric softener

Use a gentle but efficient detergent, that will remove stains and odors while protecting your clothes. For optimal results, you can add a cup of vinegar to the fabric conditioner compartment.

This way you will wash off any residue detergent and leftover odors. Vinegar is a gentle cleanser and softener so you can use it often without worrying that it will damage the clothes.


Remove the clothes from the washing machine as soon as it’s done washing. Try not to leave wet clothes in the machine for long because it will deform and damage the fibers (and make it smell again).

It is best to let your sweatpants air dry, but if you are in a hurry you can tumble dry them on the lowest heat setting.

Some opt for vertical dryers that don’t use any motion, rather hot air circulation. This can be a good option as it reduces friction and pilling.

How Often should you Wash Sweatpants

3-7 days is the longest period after which you should wash your sweatpants.

This period will be shorter if you use your sweatpants for jogging and working out. Depending on your lifestyle and activity level, you should wash your sweatpants accordingly.

If you are wearing them every day and work out in them, after a certain time, the sweat and bacteria will accumulate on the sweatpants, and various odors appear. This can irritate your skin and make it inflamed or itchy, so basic hygiene is important.

If you are wearing your sweatpants while lounging around the house, and they don’t get as dirty, you can wash them once a week. Remember that washing them also shortens their longevity.

Why do my Sweatpants Shrink

Sweatpants are made of a cotton and polyester blend and these are two materials prone to changing the length of the fiber when heat is applied. 

Washing your clothes in the washing machine on hot cycles and drying them in the dryer can cause the material to change length and take away precious inches from your clothes.

That can be a big problem if you are struggling to find sweatpants that are long enough in the first place.

It is a good idea to always check the labels and tags on the clothes before washing them, and carefully follow instructions for optimal results.

Some clothes are more susceptible to shrinking, and it’s usually the most comfortable and softest clothes that go first.

Recommendation: High-quality sweatpants with extra length can be purchased from American Tall.

Washing them on cold cycles and letting them air dry is the best solution. But sometimes we don’t have the time and a tumble dryer is the fastest way to get clean clothes.

How much do sweatpants shrink?

Sweatpants made of 100% cotton shrink up to 3% in the dryer.

3% may not seem like a lot, but when you are a tall guy trying to find clothes, every inch counts. So, if you are not willing to risk it, follow the instructions to the point (or accept dirty sweatpants).

Besides heat, sweatpants can be ruined by motion; tumble drying can cause shrinking but also form those little knots on the surface.

This is why you should respect the manufacturer’s recommendations and air dry as much as possible. This can take longer but should save you from buying another pair of sweatpants.

Damage Control: How to UNshrink my clothes?

If the damage is done, you’ll be best off buying a new pair of joggers. However, there is a technique you can try to unshrink your clothes.

It’s not a guaranteed solution, but it’s worth a try, if you’ve just put on your favourite pair of sweatpants, and they just don’t fit anymore:

  1. Use lukewarm water and gentle detergent to soak shrunk clothes for 30 minutes. Since cotton is sensitive to heat, you should use a bit of heat to make changes to the length of the fibers, so lukewarm/warm water it is.
  2. Use gentle soap or fabric conditioner to further loosen the material and allow it to get back to its original length. Try to give your sweatpants a good stretch by pulling each leg a little.
  3. After the soaking and stretching part is over, you should lay your sweatpants flat on a towel to absorb excess moisture and allow it to air dry. This step is the most important one because you should not use any heat while trying to unshrink the clothes. Air drying will ensure that the cotton fibers stay at the same length.

How to Shrink (too long) Sweatpants?

The easiest way to shrink sweatpants is by washing them on the hottest cycle in the washing machine and drying them on the hottest and longest setting in the dryer.

Sometimes, sweatpants tend to lose their shape. This is especially common in places where the fabric endures a lot of pressure, like knees. But there is a simple solution for returning the former glory to your sweatpants.

To shrink them to their previous state or even more, use the help of the washing machine and the dryer.

Set it to the hottest setting and let the heat do its magic. The heat from the water and air in this process will shrink the fibers and reshape the sweatpants.

Alternative: How to shrink sweatpants WITHOUT a dryer?

There’s one fundamental: Use heat to shrink sweatpants. Maybe you want your sweatpants to be shorter and for this project, you will need any form of heat. You can do this in multiple ways:

  1. Boiling water: Placing your sweatpants in a pot of boiling water will shrink the cotton fibers in it, and make them shorter in the process.
  2. Steam iron: Use the heat from your steam iron, to make sweatpants shorter. By lying them on a flat surface and going over multiple times, the cotton in sweatpants will shrink. Be careful not to damage the material with too much heat.
  3. Blow dryer: You can shrink your sweatpants with the heat from a blow dryer. After soaking in hot and washing your sweatpants, you should set your blow dryer to the maximum heat setting and dry your sweatpants. Again, be careful not to burn them.

Sweatpants are one of the most comfortable clothes ever made. They are soft, versatile, and easy to wear. They can be a part of your daily exercise routine because they don’t restrict movements and they are usually very absorbent.

But they can lose their form, and that’s when you give them a good washing and drying. Or, if they’ve already shrunk, you can use the tips above to reshape and resize them.

If you have any ingenious tips on how to shrink and unshrink your sweatpants, leave them in the comment section for others’ benefit.



How to Wash Cotton Fabric:

Wikipedia on Sweatpants:


How to Shrink Joggers:

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