Like all fabrics and clothing, sometimes socks can become misshapen over time. With years of continued use, they stretch out and don’t keep that cozy, tight shape that they used to.
If this happens, you may want to consider shrinking your socks instead of throwing them away.
So, how do you shrink socks? To shrink socks, you can use your washing machine, your dryer, boiling water, an iron, or a combination of any of the above. The basic principle is to expose the socks to high heat, whether in water or in the dryer. Heat will cause the fibers to shrink.
In this article, you’ll get all the information you need to know for how to shrink your socks. You can try one of the methods below or try combining one with another for maximum shrinkage.
How To Shrink Socks In The Washing Machine
Shrinking socks in the washing machine is easy. All you have to do is run your socks on the highest heat setting for the longest wash cycle setting. The goal here is to expose your socks to prolonged, high heat.
Natural fibers such as cotton or wool shrink when exposed to high heat, which is why many of these items may have washing instructions to be washed in cool or warm water and left to hang dry.
However, when your goal is to shrink socks, then you can ignore these washing instructions and use the heat to your advantage.
Not only is it important to use the highest heat setting, but you’ll need to run it on a long wash cycle.
Using a setting such as quick cycle that only runs for 20-30 minutes doesn’t give the fibers enough time to absorb all that heat. Instead, you’ll want to wash your socks on the longest wash cycle, that way they have time to really soak in that hot water.
To summarize, if you want to wash your socks in the washing machine, follow these easy steps:
- Put socks in washing machine.
- Set washing machine to run the hottest water with the longest wash cycle options on your machine.
- Once the washing machine is done, dry as usual. You can also hang dry if the socks have shrunk enough and you want to avoid further shrinkage.
How To Shrink Socks In The Dryer
Shrinking socks in the dryer is just as easy as shrinking them in the washing machine. You can either shrink them in the dryer in addition to shrinking them in the washing machine or use this as your sole method.
Some socks that have been worn for 10 or more years become so misshapen that you may need to combine methods to reach the proper amount of shrinkage.
Other socks that may just be a little loose can probably benefit from a quick run in the dryer.
To shrink socks in the dryer, follow the steps below:
- Wash the socks as usual. For best results, use hot water.
- Run the socks in the dryer on the hottest heat setting. Check periodically to see if they have shrunk to the desired size.
Often, with socks that aren’t too loose, you can just dry them for around an hour. This will provide plenty of heat, especially on the hottest heat setting, for them to shrink.
For socks that are very well worn and need more than just a quick dry cycle, I recommend either washing them with the instructions in the section above or soaking them in boiling water with the instructions in the section below.
How To Shrink Socks With Boiling Water
If your socks are very old and have lost their shape completely, it may be best to shrink them by using boiling water.
This method works great because you can guarantee that the socks are truly soaking in boiling hot water to shrink the natural fibers in the socks.
Although shrinking with heat is more effective with natural fibers such as cotton or wool, this can also work for socks made with synthetic fibers such as polyester.
To shrink socks with boiling water, follow these steps:
- Set a pot of water on the stove to boil. Wait until it is fully boiling before adding your socks. (Optional: add 2-3 drops of a fragrant essential oil such as lavender, lemon, or eucalyptus).
- Once the water is fully boiling, add your socks to the pot. Stir them occasionally, allowing them to soak in the boiling water for around 10-15 minutes.
- Remove the socks from the boiling water using tongs. Be careful not to touch them as you can burn your hands.
- Allow the socks to cool just enough so that you can wring out the water.
- When the socks are damp but not dripping, throw them in the dryer and dry as usual. You can also choose to dry on the highest heat setting for further shrinkage or allow them to air dry if they are the right size after boiling.
This is one of the best methods to shrink socks because you’re guaranteeing a good soak of high heat.
The only drawback is that if you’re boiling socks that are 10 or more years old, you might notice a not-so-pleasant smell emanating through the house.
This is why I recommend adding 2-3 drops of a nice essential oil like lavender, eucalyptus, or lemon. These are refreshing, clean scents that can help alleviate any bad smells that may come from your old pair of socks.
How To Shrink Socks With An Iron
Another method for shrinking socks is to just give them a few quick presses with an iron.
Since the basic principle for drying socks is to use high heat, it makes sense that you could deliver that heat with an iron instead of water or a dryer.
Follow the steps below to shrink socks with an iron:
- Lay each sock flat on an ironing board. Make sure they’re laying separately and not on top of each other.
- Iron each sock for about 10-20 seconds on each side. You may need to repeatedly flip them over and do this multiple times.
That’s it! The ironing alone should be enough to shrink the socks, since the iron is delivering the heat.
Once they’ve cooled off from the iron, try them on to see if they fit better. If they’re still a little loose, you can try ironing again or using one of the other methods listed above.
How To Shrink Wool Socks
Shrinking wool socks is a very similar process to any of the other methods. The only difference is that wool is more sensitive to heat than most other fibers, so you won’t need to do as much for wool as you would for cotton or polyester.
I recommend avoiding the boiling method for wool socks. That level of heat for that period of time may ruin your socks rather than shrink them back to a normal size.
Instead, try following these steps for shrinking wool socks:
- Wash the wool socks on the highest heat setting. Rather than using the longest setting possible, aim for a gentle cycle setting. Wool is a more fragile fiber, so you want the washing machine to be gentler while it washes the wool socks in high heat.
- Lay the socks flat on a dry surface and allow them to air dry for a couple hours. This will give you the opportunity to gauge the level of shrinkage before potentially shrinking too much in the dryer.
- After two hours, try the socks on. If they fit, let them finish air drying. If they’re too big, dry them in your dryer. If they’re too small, keep them on your feet to stretch the fibers back out.
Wool is a very delicate and fragile fiber, so be careful when shrinking wool socks. Only shrink them in the washing machine or dryer if they need a significant amount of shrinkage.
If your wool socks are only a little too big, try washing as usual and drying in the dryer for 30 minutes. Take them out and allow them to air dry the rest of the way.
A little bit of heat goes a long way with wool, so shrinking wool socks with shorter heat exposure for smaller amounts of shrinkage can help you avoid over-shrinking them.
Tips For Shrinking Socks
Shrinking socks is all about the heat and how it interacts with the fibers in your socks. The best tip is to check the fiber composition of your socks before choosing your method.
Cotton and wool are natural fibers that will respond well to heat, so you won’t need to do as much to shrink them.
Synthetic fibers such as polyester can take a little extra heat to shrink and may work best with the boiling or ironing method, or a combination of any 2-3 methods listed above.
Remember that it can be easy to shrink socks, but not as easy to stretch them back out if you’ve shrunk them too much. Take it one method at a time and gauge the fit before trying out another method.
Best Circular Knitting Needles For Socks