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.
- DL1961 INSTASCULPT – Now 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.
- 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.
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.
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
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!
I actually find the expensive ones can stretch just as much as the cheaper ones. I have some cheap fashion nova jeans and hollister etc. that hold their shape all day and some Citizens and J Brands etc. that stretch horribly. I actually had a pair of J Brand stretch out so badly recently after the first wear that I donated them! I was PISSED. (J brand alana in oceanside). AG jeans can be pretty bad with this as well.
Oh wow, that’s crazy the J Brand did that! It’s definitely dependent on denim blend I find, like the Sculpt and Transcend fabrics I find stay in shape, and most cheap jeans I’ve tried stretch out horribly on me and give me a saggy crotch area, especially Topshop jeans. Mine are notorious for giving me a diaper lol.
yes, the transcend do keep their shape pretty well..citizens not so much for me, I feel they are overrated. The new Mother jeans I got keep their shape awesome though, totally worth the investment. First pair of premium I’ve bought in a long time. I’m kind of over premium jeans in general, I don’t find anything too special about them anymore, sadly….they have to be REALLY nice and fit perfect for me to buy them lol.
J Brand did have a denim blend called “hi def stretch” that was amazing, and held their shape beautifully, but I think they discontinued it. I had brought the Alana in Thrill in this blend and they are amazing, and I have had them for a few years now.
My Sculpt from Citizens seem to hold their shape so well! I have the black pair, Spritz in the dark blue, and those two are fantastic for it, even better than the Transcend. Which Sculpt from COH didn’t work for you? I will be sure not to get those washes!
MOTHER do have really nice fitting jeans, I agree there. I’ve had a couple of theirs stretch out too. I think it varies greatly on the weight of the denim, the fabric blend, the wash etc, so it’s tricky to know. They do’t make it easy for us, ha ha.
I’m feeling you at the moment with nothing special though, all the jeans that are trending are just insanely crazy. There’s not really anything that jumps out at me these days as being amazing anymore. Since I ordered a pair of green COH a couple days ago, that’s the first pair of jeans I’ve bought in 3 months now. Shocking!
Haha! I know, I have so many premium jeans and I remember when it was super hard to control myself when I would browse online etc…but now, something has to really jump out at me and fit amazing for me to want/keep it. I don’t think the Citizens sculpt was one I tried actually, it was a different fabrication (the ones with “cupro” in them??) and they stretched so badly and looked awful after wearing for a day. A few years back, the high waisted super stretch jeans were rare and hard to find, but now everyone carries them (Zara, Hollister, Gap, American Eagle etc) and they have stepped up their games with fabrications so it’s not really necessary to spend $200+ on premium anymore…oh well lol. at least my wallet thanks me :))
Ah, I don’t think I have tried the ones with Cupro in them before, so I will make sure to avoid that! And yeah, I feel you on that. I really do have to say I adore my Citizen’s though, especially for fit, I can’t beat them!
I have a pair of cotton M/S coral coloured chinos the legs are to baggy, would I be better taking them to a seamstress to take legs in or would the legs shrink on a boil wash but fade them.
Hey Lorna! I’m going to get my dark colored jeans (that have elastic materials) tailored but wanted to shrink them first. What are your thoughts? My concern is that if I get them tailored before shrinking them first with heat then most likely they will shrink AFTER I get them tailored.
What’s the best way to go about this? Cold water, some vinegar and then put the jeans on highest heat in the dryer? Boiling water and then highest heat? My goal is to shrink but minimize damage to the fibers and to the finish.