How to Shrink Leggings

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Leggings are one of the holy grail clothing pieces. They are comfortable, come in a variety of colors, and can be dressed up or down. One downside of leggings is that they have a tendency to stretch out over time. It may seem like a point of no return when leggings start loosening up.

Some of your leggings might not be a completely hopeless case. Read on for the various ways of shrinking to save your favorite pairs and make them fit you again as if brand new.

How to Shrink Leggings

The easiest way to shrink leggings is to apply heat using a dryer. Heat is the number one agent that enables the shrinkage of clothes.

Have you ever washed all your clothes together mindlessly and end up with a few unintentionally shrunken pieces? In shrinking leggings on purpose, you can use this method knowingly to get your desired results. This means a better fit for your loosened up leggings.

The high temperature of the water or the heat from the dryer cause the ​fabric threads ​to get tighter and closer together. I have categorized each leggings by their materials, so you can shrink your own pairs accordingly. But before that, there are some things you might want to consider.

a woman doing yoga wearing black leggings

Things to Consider In Shrinking Leggings

Every clothing you buy will have labels stitched somewhere inside. In leggings, they’re usually printed on the lining of the waistband at the back. The information provided includes the things you might have to consider when you want to shrink your leggings.

Type of Material

The first thing to check is the composition of the leggings. What are the materials used that make up the fibers in your leggings? Some may be pure and 100 percent of a certain textile, most often of cotton. Depending if the leggings are cheap or expensive, the others are a combination of fabric blends like polyester and spandex.

Different fibers react to heat, water, and detergent chemicals differently. Therefore, the shrinking methods are not absolutely universal. This is a useful reference that answers the question of how you shrink leggings.

Care Instructions

The care instructions are at the back of the waistband. This is where the size and other labels indicate how your leggings must be handled when washing. In addition, this useful information lets you know in what circumstances your leggings will best hold up.

Some leggings that are washed in cold water would probably shrink extensively and faster in hot water. Others are able to uphold their size in warm water. For those, you’ll need a hotter temperature setting to shrink them. You may have to repeat the process.

At the very least, the care instructions give you a hint to the level of heat that would shrink your leggings to just the right size.

How to Shrink Cotton Leggings

Cotton is the easiest fabric of leggings to shrink. Cellulose, which is what cotton is made of, loves water and absorbs it fasts. On normal washing, the clothing swells up when wet with cold water and goes back to its original size when dried in heat.

When heat is applied to cotton for both processes through hot water during washing and the heated air of the dryer, cotton usually shrinks more than the normal amount. Water molecules also work as a lubricant to the fibers of the cotton, which makes the clothing get tighter.

Follow these steps on how to shrink cotton leggings:

  1. Put the cotton leggings into the washing machine and set the water temperature to the hottest level.
  2. Choose the longest wash cycle.
  3. After the wash, dry the cotton leggings on the hottest setting of the dryer.

​​​Check the clothes in between the cycles to make sure they’re shrinking the right amount. Be wary of tumble dryer as tumbling might do more harm than good to the leggings. Fit the leggings after drying and they should be snug as they were the first time.

How to Shrink Nylon Leggings

Nylon is a synthetic material that is a little harder to shrink. It requires a hot setting like cotton does. Being synthetic, color fading is a possible occurrence you need to consider when shrinking using the washing machine. This means your denim like leggings that have pockets in them could easily look old and worn if you do this step wrong.

Follow these steps to get the desired shrinkage of your nylon leggings without having the colors fade and lose vibrancy.

  1. Wash the nylon leggings in the hottest water temperature setting on your washing machine.
  2. Put a bit of ammonia in the water to prevent the fading of the color of your leggings. A half cup of ammonia will do.
  3. When the wash cycle is done, tumble-dry your nylon leggings on medium heat for 25 minutes to 30 minutes at the most.
  4. After the dryer, lay out the slightly damp leggings onto a flat surface to let air dry.

​Take note of the medium heat of the dryer and the time duration that you should dry them. Hotter settings and longer drying can do more damage to the nylon.

How to Shrink Polyester and Spandex Blend Leggings

Polyester and spandex are a common blend that leggings come in, especially workout leggings. Polyester is a sturdy and durable material that makes leggings last longer.

Meanwhile, spandex increases flexibility of the fabric so the leggings fit better and feel more comfortable.

Polyester and spandex blends are easy to shrink with just a little bit more resistance than cotton. Unlike nylon, this kind of fabric will retain the vibrancy of their color dyes throughout the process.

These steps should give you a perfectly shrunken polyester-spandex leggings.

  1. Wash your leggings with the hottest heat setting and lowest water level.
  2. After washing, put them in a laundry bag or pillow case before putting into the dryer. Make sure to tie a knot on the opening to prevent them from escaping the pillow case.
  3. Set the dryer on high heat and tumble-dry for only 10 minutes.
  4. Leave the leggings in the dryer for 10 more minutes.
  5. Let it air dry on a flat surface.

Tip: Don’t put other leggings in the washing machine to shrink at the same time with polyester or spandex blend leggings. Other materials might shrink differently with the setting these materials require.

The same process can be done to shrink Lularoe leggings since they are usually made with the same polyester and spandex materials. Shrinking polyester and spandex makes them shrink in all aspects. Full-length leggings might look like they’re cropped after the process of shrinkage is finished.

If you’re going to buy polyester and spandex leggings next time, get one that extends up to the middle of the feet. When they loosen up, shrinking them would make the length of the leggings still end up to be around your ankles.

How to Shrink Leggings with Lycra

Lycra is an extremely strong synthetic fiber. Since it is stronger than natural rubber, it makes it hard to shrink. Some stretched-out leggings with lycra fibers might be impossible to salvage. Your Lululemons are examples of such.

If your lycra leggings are a blend along with cotton or any of the fabric blends above, just follow the same shrinking process. However, it’s more advisable to leave them for only 10 minutes in the dryer no matter what process you follow.

The heat might destroy the elastic and rubber elements infused in the lycra. It might just decrease its lifespan and wear out the fabric faster in the long run.

Two women wearing leggings while stretching

How to Shrink Preshrunk Leggings

Workout or compression leggings are sometimes preshrunk during the manufacturing process. This means the fibers have already been relaxed and tightened back up once before. It makes them more resistant to the common shrinking process.

To get the proper shrinkage of this kind of leggings, make sure to follow all these steps without fail:

  1. Boil water in a pot.
  2. Remove the pot from heat when it starts boiling. Put the leggings into the pot, making sure that the entire piece is submerged in water. Let it stay for 3 minutes.
  3. Put the leggings into the washing machine with gloves or a stick to prevent burning your hands.
  4. Wash in hot water. Add detergent if you’re simultaneously washing your leggings.
  5. After the wash cycle, put the leggings in the dryer with a towel to even out the heat with the leggings. Let it dry for a full cycle.
  6. When the leggings are cool enough, fit them to see if they have shrunk.
  7. Repeat the whole process until the leggings fit as desired.

Tip: This is also the same process used for old leggings that have gone through many wash cycles without shrinking.

How to Shrink Leggings Without a Dryer

The dryer is an extremely effective tool to shrink your leggings, but it can be damaging as well. If it’s your first time to try shrinking your leggings, you can follow the steps through the washing cycle and continue by air drying instead.

The hot water is sometimes enough for some fabrics like cotton to shrink. Just make sure you leave them in the wash for a longer time. Otherwise, the materials that are harder to shrink might not shrink​, and your soft and silky maternity leggings may end up becoming too tight for your growing tummy.

Steps to Shrink Leggings

Steps Cotton Nylon Polyester and spandex Lycra Preshrunk
Step 1 Put in the machine Machine wash in hot water Wash Machine wash in hot water Boil water
Step 2 Set the wash cycle Add ammonia Put in the laundry bag Add ammonia Put leggings in the water
Step 3 Monitor the shrinking Tumble-dry Tumble-dry Tumble-dry Put them in the washing machine
Step 4 Dry Air dry Allow 10 minutes more in the dryer Allow 10 minutes more in the dryer Machine wash
Step 5 Air dry on a flat surface Air dry Dry for a full cycle

Other Methods of Shrinking Leggings Without Washing

There are other ways to apply heat to your leggings without using the washing machine or getting them wet for that matter. These other methods are enough to shrink your leggings if they aren’t stretched out too much yet.


Spray some water on to the leggings. Do not make them wet or even damp, just a few drops will do. Put the leggings on an ironing board, cover the entire length of it with a pressing cloth, and start ironing.

Low to medium heat is preferred when ironing leggings to minimize the damage from the heat. Make sure to be careful with synthetic fibers because too much heat might melt and warp them, burning them or making your leggings see-through which you won’t like.

Tip: Don’t use ironing tools with steam. Your goal is to dry the leggings after ironing to lock in the shrinkage more effectively.

Blow Drying

Blow drying is and efficient method for shrinking certain parts of your leggings.

If the high waisted band is loosened up but you don’t want to shrink the rest of the leggings, just hang it on a hanger.

 Blow dry only the waistband area.

You will notice the visible effect of shrinking as the leggings hug the hanger tighter.

The blow dryer will have made the fibers tighten up, which is the most viable method for shrinking leggings quickly.

How to Prevent Leggings From Stretching Further in the Wash

You’ve heard of the saying, “prevention is better than cure.” Before your leggings stretch out from constant wearing and frequent wash cycles, make sure to adopt these practices now in your regular washing routine.

Put Leggings in a Mesh Bag

A mesh bag protects your leggings in the washing machine, just like you would when washing a bra.

It doesn’t let them get tangled along with your other clothes which could possibly stretch them out especially with the rigorous motion of the water.

When clothes absorb water, they get stretched out a bit to accommodate the water molecules in between the fibers.

The mesh bag limits the amount of stretch the leggings are subjected to. It also lessens the time they’re stretched out apart from when you’re wearing them.

Air Dry Flat on a Surface

Air drying leggings or yoga pants, no matter the material, is always a safer option than dryers. The less time they’re subjected to heat, the less chances of them shrinking by accident.

Laying them on a flat surface is also more advisable than hanging. The weight of the water might increase the potential of stretching your black leggings.

How to wear leggings + how to find good quality ones ǀ Justine Leconte

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Stretch My Leggings After Shrinking?

Yes, you can stretch the leggings after shrinking them. Keep in mind that most leggings should be washed in warm water, and you can shrink them by washing them in hot water.

That means you can stretch them by washing them in cold water instead. You can also pull them gently when they are still wet.

Which Leggings Material Shrinks Most?

Generally, cotton leggings shrink more when washed in hot water. This is because cotton leggings are made by applying tension in the fabric.

Hot water weakens this tension, which makes cotton revert to its original state, and makes the leggings shrink.

How Can I Shrink the Leggings’ Waistband?

The most straightforward way to shrink the waistband of the leggings is to apply heat. Usually, heat makes the molecules of the rubber that makes the elastic band to tense and come together, reducing its overall size.

You only need to hang the leggings on a coat hanger and then blow hot air on the waistband using a hairdryer.


It’s an all too common situation to have stretched-out leggings. These methods are proven to reverse the effects of natural wear. If you’ve made the mistake of getting a larger pair, these are also forgiving methods for shrinking leggings that are too big.