You’ve just scored a pair of jeans with a made-for-you fit. Time to celebrate. You confidently rock your new denim all day long, and now you find they are not so perfect when it comes to fit. Don’t fret—we can help you get your jeans back to your perfect fit. Depending on your denim, shrinking your jeans totally works. Trust us. Here’s how to shrink your denim to get your best fit.
How to Shrink Jeans: The 411 on Denim
Let’s start with a little bit of history. Jeans, as we know them, were invented in the 1870s by Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis. Strauss sold his denim fabric to Davis, a tailor. Davis then made a pair of sturdy work pants for one of his customers. Pants often rip at the pockets and fly so Davis reinforced these areas with copper rivets. Local laborers saw this unique style of work pants and demand subsequently rose. Davis and Strauss partnered to patent Davis’ creation and jeans were officially born.
Traditionally, denim is a woven 100% cotton-twill fabric. This weave is the reason why you need to shrink your jeans from time to time. Think about what happens when you wear your hair in a braid. Over the course of the day, your braid loosens up. The same concept applies to your jeans. The weave loosens with wear, which results in slouchy, baggy jeans.
Stylist tip: Jeans with high-cotton content are the easiest to shrink. Seek out jeans in rigid 100% cotton fabric. Need a little bit of stretch? Look for jeans that feature 1–2% of stretch material such as spandex. This denim ratio keeps that vintage vibe, allows for shrinkage and offers a cool textural element.
How to Shrink Jeans: Three Easy Methods
A fashion staple since the 1920s, jeans are in it for the long haul. Dark-wash jeans offer a chic, elevated feel to any look. Wearing wide-leg jeans and light-wash straight styles are quintessential for the dog days of summer. For denim love that lasts, your jeans require a little refresh and revamp from time to time. Here’s how to shrink your jeans down to size. Take a peek at your tag because pre-washed jeans won’t shrink much with these methods. However, these tried-and-true techniques are your best bet for rigid, high-cotton content denim.
1. Turn Up The Heat In The Washing Machine
Let your washing machine do the work and shrink your jeans with high heat. Cotton is naturally susceptible to shrinking when exposed to dampness and warmth. Keep in mind, 100% cotton jeans will shrink up to 20%. Throw your jeans into the washing machine on the hottest setting, then tumble dry on high heat. Remove quickly, and hang them to avoid any wrinkles or folds. Don’t worry about damaging the fabric—cotton can withstand high temperatures.
Stylist tip: Heat will affect the dye of your jeans. If shrinking a dark wash or black pair, treat your denim with vinegar to set the color. Add one cup of distilled vinegar and one tablespoon of salt to a cold water bath. Let your jeans soak inside out for an hour and hang them to dry. This treatment will ensure your color doesn’t bleed when you wash them in hot water. Voilà, since the color is locked in, your skin and furniture is protected from dye transfer. Vinegar also works wonders to get grass stains out of jeans.
2. The Boiling Method
Have a stock pot laying around? Learn how to shrink jeans with the help of boiling water. Fill your pot and let it come to a rolling boil. Using tongs, carefully place your jeans in the pot. Let the water continue to boil for 20–30 minutes. Stay close by, as you’ll want to keep your jeans submerged throughout this process. When the timer goes off, carefully wring them out and toss them into the dryer. Remember: higher heat equals super shrinkage.
3. Wear Them Wet for a Custom Fit
Get an ideal fit and shrink your jeans by wearing them after a soak. Fill your bathtub with hot water and let them steep. After five minutes, squeeze out the excess water and put them on. They conform to your body and mold to your shape for a custom-fit as they dry. Looking for something to do on a lazy summer weekend? Spend the day soaking up the sun while shrinking your jeans.
How to Shrink Jeans: The Aftercare
You’ve shrunk your jeans, now what? Unlike your other clothes, denim shouldn’t be washed frequently. The longevity of your jeans comes from laundering them sparingly. As a rule of thumb, wash them after every five wears. This is one step on how to build a sustainable wardrobe. You’ll look good and feel good too, knowing that washing your denim less contributes to a more sustainable lifestyle.
Spot cleaning your denim will keep them looking fresh between adventures. Saturate the spot with lukewarm water. Add a little bit of detergent to the spot and carefully blot. Take care not to rub or scrub your stain. This will cause dye-transfer, and will rub the stain further into your jeans. Let them air dry. Ta-da! Good as new.
Stylist tip: Heading for a night out after wearing your vintage jeans all day? Here’s how to shrink jeans in a pinch. Spray them with some water and toss them in the dryer on high heat. Don’t worry if you have to shimmy and squeeze a bit when you first go to put them on. This means you made progress and they’ll mold back to your shape with wear. Flaunt your jeans with a Desert Daze trend-inspired embroidered blouse and platform heels.
Will Stretchy Jeans Shrink In Hot Water?
Denim technology is always evolving. Today’s jeans feature a cotton-blend with a high-stretch factor. This type of denim retains its shape, so there is no need to shrink your jeans. High temperatures break down elastic fibers and melt polyester, so wash stretchy jeans in cold water. Lay them flat to dry for denim that is squeaky clean.
There’s an old rule that says to size down in denim to allow for stretch. We’re here to tell you that rule is made to be broken. Find your perfect jeans that fit slightly snug, yet are comfy. They will form to you as you wear them. Are your jeans feeling bigger after wearing them for a while? Give your stretchy denim time to rest. Hang them for 48 hours so they can recover and shrink back down to size.
Stylist tip: We’re experts at finding your best fit. But for the jeans at the back of your closet, you can enlist the help of a professional tailor. High-heat shrink methods are a no-go for stretchy jeans. Alterations are the answer to finding a long-lasting result that’s literally made for your shape. A tailor can do it all—hem long jeans, dart the back of your waistband or take in a baggy leg. Each time you reach for your tailored denim you’ll know that they will fit like a glove. The best part? You don’t need to worry about how to shrink jeans.
Ready to try on a new pair of jeans for size? Ask your stylist to send you new pairs of eco-friendly denim in your next Fix. Better yet, learn more about the sustainable clothing brands that we offer at Stitch Fix.