How To Shrink Jeans – Expert Advice For Safe Shrinking

We’ve all got at least one pair of jeans that we absolutely love, but our hearts are torn because they’ve stretched out and become too baggy. I personally find that this happens all the time with cheaper jeans, like the ones you buy from ASOS, Topshop, River Island etc, they fit to begin with and then stretch out and get saggy after a couple of wears. But what can you do to shrink your jeans or avoid this happening? You’ve probably looked online for advice and upon looking to see what tips everyone else is giving, I was shocked by the fact that everyone says to just boil or hot wash them and they will shrink. Let me explain a few tips and tricks about this and why it completely depends on the jeans, the stretch in the denim, and why this is not safe for all of them.

Is it safe to hot wash and boil jeans to shrink them?

The short answer is yes and no, depending on the fabric of the jeans.

  • Cotton itself can tolerate really high heat, meaning if your jeans are 100% cotton and have become too baggy, putting them on a hot wash and then tumble drying them on high heat as well will definitely shrink them, with next to no damage to the jeans.
  • Man made stretch fabrics like lycra, elastane and other stretch materials are damaged by heat, which is why you should never wash spandex and stretch fabrics on high heat. The fibers get broken and worn down, ruining the elasticity. Never put jeans with this type of content on a hot wash or a hot tumble dry – you can damage the stretch and cause them to become even more baggy.
  • Polyester is another material which can be tricky where heat is concerned. Polyester itself will shrink in a warmer heat, however since it’s a type of plastic, if it gets too hot, it will melt the fibers. So again, be very careful when washing and drying polyester blend jeans on high heat. Make sure it’s not boiling, so be aware of the temperatures.

Can the heat ruin the colour of the jeans?

Yes, it can! A lot of designers recommend that you wash jeans on a cool wash and if you do tumble dry rather than air dry, do it on a low heat setting. The hotter the water, the more the dye in denim fades. So if your jeans are black or dark indigo blue, you can expect to lose a lot of colour if you hot wash them. You can buy colour sealants or wash with vinegar substances to lock in the colour, which is wise to do if they are 100% cotton and you need to wash them on a high heat. If they are light blue in colour anyway, it wont matter because there’s not really anything to fade.

Are there jeans that never stretch out?

Yes! There are! Save up and buy a premium pair with the correct stretch. I know premium jeans can be really expensive, but try and do your research. There are brands out there that make jeans which are designed to never stretch out, and this is true!

  • PAIGE TRANSCEND – This is one fabric blend that has a multi way stretch to it so that it always shrinks back, without losing its shape or stretch.
  • CITIZENS OF HUMANITY SCULPT – Now this is a super stretchy, multi-way stretch denim that hugs and contours your body! It never bags out at all. I’ve worn mine so many times and they’re still as fitted as the first time.
  • JAMES JEANS TWIGGY DANCER – Now these are made for dancers and yoga, so they stretch and move with your body, but they wont get baggy or stretch out of shape.
  • DL1961 INSTASCULPT – DL1961 were one of the first brands to introduce the 4 way stretch denim. It never loses its shape or gets saggy. These are just some of the best blends I’ve found.

Remember – never wash any of these on high heat!

If I cant afford them, how can I avoid jeans stretching out?

It’s a great question! There are a few tips and tricks that I’ve learned along the way, and it really helps me as I hate the dreaded butt and thigh sag!

  • Buy a size smaller to begin with. If you know your jeans are going to get really baggy after use, buy a size down so that they’re extremely tight to start with. Once they have stretched out, they will be the perfect size. You can try buying them 1 size down and if they are much too tight to stretch out from general wear, see our how to stretch jeans post.
  • Try to avoid doing any over enthusiastic stretches or squats etc. in your jeans. The more the jeans are stretched and pulled, the more they will loosen up.
  • Try not to get them wet when you’re wearing them. You might remember from my ‘how to stretch jeans’ blog post that water acts as a loosener and once jeans are wet, they stretch.

What can I do now they’ve stretched and I can’t hot wash them?

If your jeans are full of elasticity which will get damaged on high heat, unfortunately there’s nothing quick and easy you can do to shrink them fast. You can possibly try washing them on warm and drying on warm (not hot) and it might shrink them a little bit, but do be careful. Other options are:

  • Tailoring them – You can take your jeans to a tailor and have them taken in. This does depend on what areas are loose, but you can have darts put in the back (like this) if the waist area is too big, or you can have the legs un-stitched and cut, then sewn back together smaller. Your tailor will know what to do if they’re your favourite jeans and they’re just too big.
  • Wear leggings underneath – If it’s winter, this could work well. Wearing leggings underneath will make your jeans fit tighter as there’s less gap between the denim and your legs. They bulk them out well. Just make sure your leggings are cotton so your skin can breathe.
  • Rock the bagginess – With the mom jeans trend and looser fits becoming so popular these days, you could just stretch your jeans out a bit more and make them look loose intentionally. Just check out the previous post I linked to on how to stretch jeans.
  • Denim DIY – If none of those tips appeal to you, you could DIY them into a pair of shorts or make a skirt out of them instead if you honestly can’t wear them anymore. It depends how crafty you are.

Final tips to remember

Hopefully you have read through all of this and got your answer on how to shrink jeans in a safe way, and what to do if you can’t hot wash them, but just to recap in case some of you only want the cliff notes:

  • Only hot wash/boil/hot dry 100% cotton jeans.
  • Do not hot wash/boil/hot dry elastane, lycra, spandex blends etc. – it damages.
  • Warm heat is the highest for polyester blends, not boiling hot heat – it melts.
  • Don’t get your jeans wet when wearing them – they stretch fast.
  • Try and buy 4 way stretch blends and jeans that are designed never to bag out (see above).
  • Buy 1 size smaller so they’re super tight to start with and stretch out to fit instead.
  • Winter jeans – If you’re really stuck, wear leggings underneath to bulk them out.
  • If all else fails, try taking them to a tailor to take them in in specific areas.

We are always about sharing advice and tips here at The Jeans Blog as you know, so if you have any tried and tested methods yourself for how to shrink jeans safely, then let us know in the comments below! Hopefully all this advice has helped as I was so shocked by the recommendations of boiling them and hot washing them, without telling you the damage it can do on certain fabrics!

Image Credit: Youtube, Craftsy & Man Repeller.

2 Comments

  1. Louie
    October 9, 2017 / 2:18 pm

    Hi Lorna your article on care and maintenance is very helpful! Similarly to this can you also write an article on restoring the glossy sheen to coated waxy and metallic jeans in the future? There are the odd videos on youtube but you might be able to research it better with your contacts at manufacturers. thanks

    • October 9, 2017 / 11:23 pm

      Hi Louie,

      It’s a very good question, but unfortunately there’s no actual way to restore the same look that the jeans came with. The denim companies use specific coatings and materials etc. to get the jeans looking like they want (each pairs are unique to each brand really) and that’s not easy to do on your own.

      I’ve heard of people using wax to rub on the jeans, but that can melt off and leave white residue, it wont ever look the same as when new. I’ve also heard of people using glossy paint, but I don’t recommend this as the jeans will have no stretch and can crack. You can also paint resin on them, but again, that’s not a great idea because of the outcome. It’s not a very easy thing to do, sorry!

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