How to stretch shrunken wool

Updated February 21, 2017

Everyone has had the experience of accidentally washing a wool sweater. When wool gets wet and warm, the fibers in the wool lock themselves together and don't want to let go, resulting in shrinkage (you can get wool warm or wet, but not both). Read on to try to remedy the problem.

Soak the garment in a tub with a mixture of hair conditioner and water. Gently pull the sweater to reshape.

Try another method if that doesn't work: Dissolve one ounce of sodium borate (borax) in a couple of tablespoons of hot water, add the mixture to a gallon of lukewarm water, immerse the garment and pull gently into shape. Rinse in a gallon of warm water with 2 tbsp. vinegar.

Soak the garment in warm water with a mild soap for about 10 minutes to unlock the fibers in the wool. Lay the garment out on some towels in a cool place but don't rinse. You can roll it up in the towel to absorb the excess water.

Then stretch the garment out to its original dimensions. The stretching (also called blocking) pulls the unlocked wool fibers away from one another.

Allow the garment to dry for any of the methods mentioned above.


Watch for the symbol for "superwash," which indicates that the wool product can be successfully machine-washed using a mild detergent and then machine-dried. Relatively new techniques have been developed to improve wool's washability by making the fiber more resistant to felting and shrinkage.


Avoid using any heat ' from a dryer, radiator, hairdryer and so on ' to dry the sweater you are trying to unshrink. The absence of heat from the drying process allows the wool fibers to set in place without locking together and shrinking the garment again.

Things You'll Need

  • Tubs
  • Hair conditioner
  • Water
  • Sodium borate
  • Vinegar
  • Towels
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