How to Unshrink — or Stretch — A Pair of Jeans

Stack of denim jeans
Stack of denim jeans

A reader asks: help! How do I unshrink jeans? Here’s our answer!

Ah, life without your favorite pair of jeans! It’s almost unimaginable, especially if said pair enjoys frequent play in your everyday wardrobe.

Why Jeans Shrink

The problem occurs when those jeans undergo a dramatic transformation after you remove them from the dryer. Exposing denim to heat can cause the unfortunate shrinkage that renders your go-to pair useless. When heat and denim unite, the material naturally constricts and shrinks.

This is more likely to happen in poly-blend jeans, which offer a softer hand and some additional stretch — both amazing traits for your denim, no doubt.

How to Unshrink Your Jeans

So what happens when they suffer the wrath of the dryer? It turns out there are a few tricks of the trade that just might work.

1. Take a dip in the tub.

First, consider the old dunk-in-the-tub routine. It’s exactly as it sounds. If the jeans are still wearable, slip them on and immerse yourself in a tub full of warm water. Let the fabric soak completely for approximately 15 minutes.

Hop out of the bath and squeeze the jeans thoroughly to get as much moisture as possible out. Proceed to wear them for a good hour or so, going about your regular routine. (Yeah, it’s not going to be comfortable, so plan on sticking around the house.)

After an hour, peel them off and allow them to air dry. The idea here is to loosen the fibers and stretch them out just enough to restore them to their previous state.

Jeans hanging to dry

2. Soak the jeans in water and baby shampoo.

Another option — which may be more palatable if you don’t wish to wear sopping jeans — is to soak them in a basin full of lukewarm water mixed with a small amount of baby shampoo. Immerse the jeans into the water and allow them to soak for at least 30 minutes.

Then, remove the jeans and squeeze the excess moisture out. Hang them on a clothes line, which will help stretch them out.

Preventing Jeans Shrinkage

If you have a closet full of denim, make sure you wash those pieces inside out to minimize the chances of shrinkage. Dry them only once. Or better yet, allow them to air dry completely and skip the heat. Repeated heat drying is convenient for sure, but it inevitably causes shrinkage — particularly if the jeans aren’t pure denim.

With regular care and a little know-how, you can stabilize the fit of your favorite jeans — for good.

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    Tanya is a seasoned journalist based in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. Specializing in fashion, beauty, and travel, she loves to explore new places, read as much as possible, and scour the web for fabulous finds — all in the name of research, of course.

    Blog Comments

    My mom allways said you could wear the jeans while bathing to unshrink them. In the bath tub, that is.

    I’ve found that if you add some hair conditioner to the lukewarm water, it helps soften the jeans…this allows for it to return to some of its original shape.

    I have a denim pencil skirt that I shrunk (and, ok, I MIGHT have gained a few pounds) and I un-shrunk it by: washing it, leaving it wet and stretching it out (not easy, keep at it) and letting it dry flat. Denim’s cotton, so it will stretch, eventually.

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