Do Jeans Shrink in the Wash? A Guide to Changing Sizes & Fits

Do Jeans Shrink in the Wash? A Guide to Changing Sizes & Fits

So you ordered that cute pair of women’s jeans online, and they are a dream come true — but they’re just a little too big! Instead of going through the hassle of requesting an exchange and waiting for a new pair to come in the mail, you can simply shrink them.

Shrinking jeans is also a common method to correct sizing after a pair of spandex-blend jeans naturally stretch out over time. Jeans shrink easily in the wash if you use the right settings, and, if you do it right, you can use that to your advantage.

What Materials Shrink the Best?

Consider the material when you purchase jeans, especially if you have plans to shrink them. Among all denim varieties, cotton has the most potential for shrinkage; if it’s not already pre-shrunk, 100% cotton can shrink by 20% of its original size. Indeed, you’ll need to make sure that your 100% cotton jeans will have some room in the pant legs after the shrinking to allow movement, since they don’t have a lot of stretch.

In contrast, cotton blends shrink less. For example, 80% cotton and 20% polyester will shrink to only 3% of its original size. While spandex and cotton blends in skinny jeans respond well to shrinking techniques, they will shrink less compared to 100% cotton because spandex will not shrink.

In addition, any “pre-shrunk” clothing will not shrink or only slightly shrink when using these methods.

Wash and Dry

The simplest method involves two common household items: the washer and the dryer. The basis behind all jean shrinking techniques is to apply moisture and heat to the denim that you want to shrink. This is why using hot water and high dryer temperatures are not on the care tag of cotton-based clothing. If you’d like to keep your jeans the same size, always wash them in cold or cool water, then tumble dry low or lay them flat to dry.

But if you’re ready to shrink your straight-leg jeans to a smaller size, wash them in the standard washing cycle with your hottest water setting. Use your favorite detergent and fabric softener to clean them up at the same time.

Then disobey the care tag and dry your jeans on the hottest drying setting allowed. When this heat is applied to the wet jeans, the cotton fibers will contract as they dry completely, which causes the shrinking effect. To get the most shrinkage, leave the jeans in the dryer for 10 extra minutes after they are dry. It’s important to fully dry your jeans, because leaving any wet jeans to air-dry can cause the fibers to loosen again.

Bring it to a Boil

If you don’t have a washer with a hot water setting at home, then boiling your jeans is the next best option. Place a large pot of water on the stovetop and bring it to a roaring boil. Then, using tongs, carefully put your jeans into the water and let them soak uncovered as the water continues to boil for another 20 to 30 minutes. It’s important to keep the jeans under the water the entire time, so stay near the pot to push the fabric down occasionally. When the timer is up, carefully remove the jeans and throw them in the dryer on the “hot” setting. If you let the jeans air dry, the cool air will cause some of the fibers to loosen again. Remove the jeans when they are completely dry. Leave them in for an extra few minutes for even more shrinking power.

If You Need to Just Shrink One Area

What if your jeans fit you perfectly in most places, but you need an extra pinch somewhere? Use a spray bottle to target the problem areas! Fill your bottle with three parts hot water and one part liquid fabric softener. Shake to combine, then spray the area until it is well-soaked. Leave any part you don’t want to shrink completely dry. Then, throw the jeans in the dryer on the hottest setting available. If you leave the jeans to air dry, they may not shrink at all, or just minimally. If you do not have access to a dryer, you can also iron or apply a hairdryer to the affected area until it dries completely. This method is excellent for shrinking areas in your high-rise jeans, such as around the thighs or the waist, that can sometimes stretch out over time.

Shrinking your jeans can create the perfect fit in new or old jeans. However, if they are still too big after repeating the process, it may be time to buy a new pair.


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