How to Stretch Polyester Sports Jerseys [5 techniques]

basketball jersey with arrows pointing outwards

Every sport is different and so are the jerseys you wear. But keeping in mind the constant running while playing soccer, sweating during ice hockey, or the dribbles while playing basketball, you’ll do best with playwear that’s properly fitted. It shouldn’t be too baggy that it would flap around when you move, nor too tight to restrict your mobility and make you feel uncomfortable. A medium slim fit is the best option if you want to look good and play well on the field.

On the flip side, you can also stretch the jerseys that are too tight to fit. Sports shirts are usually made of a mix of polyester and spandex. While polyester on its own can be difficult to stretch, polyester garments made with a blend of cotton or spandex can be a much easier call.

The best way to stretch your polyester shirt or garment is to soak them in a solution of warm water and a hair conditioner. This helps to soften and stretch the fabric strands the same way it does to soften our hair. To stretch a jersey, you can try using your body or hands to physically stretch the material. This can be challenging, as it will depend on your muscle strength and how long you can sustain the stretching motion. In that case, you might want to include an easier and less intensive technique, where you simply dampen your jerseys, give a stretch with your hands, and use heavy objects or clothespins to maintain elasticity while it dries.

How Much Can You Stretch a Jersey Fabric?

The amount that a jersey fabric can be stretched will depend on the specific characteristics of the fabric and how it was made. In general, jersey fabrics have a good amount of stretch and are able to stretch anywhere from 20-50% and even more, depending on the specific fabric and how it is stretched. However, it is important to note that stretching a jersey fabric too much or too frequently can cause it to lose its shape and elasticity over time.

By its nature, polyester fabric has very minimal elasticity, but when it is mixed with other synthetic fibers, the elasticity increases significantly. The stretching capacity of a garment also depends on the direction you would like to extend a fabric. Some items of clothing only stretch widthwise; this is referred to as a 2-way stretch. Other materials have a 4-way stretch, which means they can extend both horizontally and vertically.

Manufacturer's tag of a sports jersey that highlights the fabric materials it's made of.

Things to Keep In Mind Before Stretching

Here are a few things you should keep in mind before you begin to stretch out your playwear. Following these small but essential tips can help you to avoid unnecessary damage:

  • Blended sportswear with wool fibers or cotton shouldn’t be twisted or wrung out. Due to their lower resilience, there can be a risk of them being severely stretched out.
  • Since polyester and spandex mixed clothing tends to dry quicker you may not need to hold the stretch for too long.
  • Make sure you use warm water to soak the jersey (not extremely hot) since too much heat might diminish the colors or warp their shape.
  • While you stretch the clothes, don’t let your shirts completely dry. Ensure, they must be semi-wet to allow for proper stretching that would retain their shape.
  • Always check the care label on your sportswear. This often lists information and additional instructions that can help you prevent damaging the fabric.

5 Easy Methods for Stretching a Jersey

Finding the right size is essential for optimum comfort, whether you are playing on the field or wearing the fan gear of your favorite player while cheering from the stands. To make your too-small shirt a better fit, here are five different ways you can stretch out your tight playwear using items that are easily within your reach.

Stretch with Hair Conditioner

Difficulty level: easy

Potential stretch amount: high

Using a hair conditioner to relax the fibers is an effective technique when stretching your jerseys. The hair-softening chemicals in the mix act as a detangler and you can physically pull the shirt to stretch the fibers.

One thing to keep in mind is the ratio of conditioner and warm water. An ideal solution is one that has a spoonful of hair conditioner in one quart of water. Ensure that you use color-safe conditioners to prevent any discoloration. If you’re short on conditioner, you can also use baby shampoo to achieve the same effect.

You’ll need:

  • hair conditioner or baby shampoo
  • wash basin or a large bucket
  • warm water
  • heavy objects to hold the stretch
  • dry towel


  1. Fill a sink with warm water. Make sure that the water is not extremely hot to the touch.
  2. Add one tablespoon of any store-bought hair conditioner or baby shampoo.
  3. Soak your garment in the water combination for no more than 30 minutes.
  4. Remove the garment and carefully squeeze out as much water as you can. It should be moist but not soggy.
  5. Stretch the required parts of the jersey using your hands. Hold the shirt’s edges to stretch it or put it flat under heavy items that will hold a stretch.
  6. Place a towel on top of your damp clothing to absorb excess moisture before allowing it to air dry.
  7. If further stretch is desired, evaluate the results and repeat the process.

Stretch with Your Hands

Difficulty level: moderate

Potential stretch amount: minimal to moderate

If you don’t want to soak the shirt in hair conditioner, you can stretch it with your hands. It may need a significant amount of time and effort on your part, but it is the least dangerous option.

You’ll need:

  • spray bottle
  • warm water


  1. To dampen the jersey, generously spray it with warm water with a spray bottle.
  2. Begin by tugging the upper half of the fabric outward with your hands to make it wider.
  3. You may make the jersey longer by placing your arms inside.
  4. Slowly approach the bottom of the jersey. Pull the ends apart in opposite directions steadily.
  5. Repeat the method until the shirt fabric is the correct size.
  6. Place the polyester item on a hanger and let the clothing to air dry.

Stretch using Your Body

Difficulty level: moderate

Potential stretch amount: minimal

You can also utilize your body to achieve minor stretching if necessary. Always use warm water to dampen the garment since heat plays a significant role in stretching.


  1. Fill a tub with warm water. You can even use the conditioner steps above to make the process a bit easier.
  2. Squeeze the excess moisture from the garment after it has been soaked in water for a short while.
  3. When it’s still wet and moist, put it on. As a result, it will appear thinner as it dries and molds to the shape of your body.
  4. Bring up some movement! Move around the home, excercise and do everything possible naturally pull the fibers.
  5. Wear your sportswear for an additional 30 minutes to allow it to dry.

Stretch using Washing Machine

Difficulty level: easy to moderate

Potential stretch amount: high

If you’re on a time crunch, a washing machine can be a great backup plan to stretch the shirt easily as a mild amount of fabric softener can also loosen the material. It is also an efficient method for removing stubborn stains from jerseys while simultaneously loosening the fibers.

You’ll need:

  • washing machine
  • fabric softener
  • color-safe laundry detergent (optional)
  • heavy objects to hold the stretch
  • dry towel


  1. Turn your garment inside out before placing it in the washer.
  2. Put the jersey in the washing machine and set the temperature to around 86°F (30°C).
  3. Add ¼ cup of fabric softener and a color-safe detergent if you want to make the jersey cleaner at the same time.
  4. Place your garment in and let it spin on a warm normal cycle for a short cycle (10 – 30 minutes).
  5. Once cycle is complete, take the jersey out, drain the water and stretch the preferred areas outwards
  6. Place a heavy object at each end of the stretched part and leave it for a minute.
  7. Lay a dry towel over the jersey for a couple of minutes and move it to naturally air dry.
Basketball jersey in a washing machine

Stretch with Clothespins

Difficulty level: moderate

Potential stretch amount: moderate

This approach is used less frequently, although it is similarly efficient for enlarging the size by a certain degree.

You’ll need:

  • spray bottle
  • warm water
  • ironing board
  • clothespins


  1. Fill up a spray bottle with warm water.
  2. Place the apparel on the ironing board and wet it down by spritzing water all over it.
  3. Now extend the required section of the jersey outward and secure it to the edge of the ironing board with a clothespin.
  4. Do this again until the playwear reaches the appropriate size.
  5. Take extra pins and continue the operation with other jersey sections as the material is being dragged out.
  6. Until it dries, leave the jersey in this position.

How to Prevent Soccer Jerseys from Shrinking?

While it’s relatively simple to stretch a jersey, it’s essential to care for the fabric properly to avoid unnecessary shrinkage. Once you’ve adjusted your jersey to the preferred size, follow these tips to ensure it maintains its shape and doesn’t shrink:

  • Hand wash your jerseys or machine wash them using a gentle cycle. Avoid dry cleaning them.
  • Always wash jerseys in cold water, as hot water may cause them to shrink back to their original size.
  • Instead of using a dryer, allow your jerseys to air dry naturally to minimize the risk of shrinkage.
  • Wash jerseys separately or in groups based on their fabric composition to prevent damage.
  • Check the care label on your jersey for any specific instructions or additional information to prevent potential harm to the fabric.

Can You Shrink Sports Jerseys That Are Too Big?

You may shrink your jersey utilizing a variety of methods if it ended up being too large to wear. The best technique is to shrink them in the dryer or give them a wash cycle in the hottest water possible. We advise you to follow the steps in our article on how to shrink a basketball jersey because this requires extra caution.

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