11 Ways To Shrink Jeans & Maintain Their Current Shape

It’s easier than you think.

by Lindsey Rose Black and Mekita Rivas
Originally Published: 
Follow these tips to shrink jeans and maintain the shape of your original denim, from boiling jeans ...
Jeremy Moeller/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

The great thing about denim? It can be easily and effortlessly worn no matter the time of year. Layer on the knits and outerwear in the fall and winter, then toss on a breezy T-shirt in the spring, and switch to a cute crop top in the summer. The right jeans offer a ton of fashion mileage. And since they can be kinda tricky to shop for, when you find the mythical pair of jeans that actually fit and feel good, it might feel like you’ve won the denim jackpot.

The problem with finding The Perfect Jeans is that over time, you might have worn them a bit too much. Before you know it, your favorite pair has gotten super stretched out and totally lost its shape. No one wants to deal with shopping for jeans unless they absolutely have to, so your best bet is to do everything imaginable to bring them back to their original state of perfection.

It could be that you bought a pair of jeans from a brand you’ve never tried before, and all of a sudden they’re a little looser than you would have hoped. Or maybe you decided to size up, but now after so many wears, they’re starting to get impractically baggy.

Fear not, figuring out how to shrink jeans is key. It’s a trusty approach to try and make your jeans fit the way they used to.

So, before you give up and donate your beloved denim, consider these genius tips from denim experts themselves. Whether you’re a die-hard DIY fan or a thrift store or second-hand shopping expert, learning how to shrink down a pair of slightly-too-large boyfriend jeans is sometimes the best way to get a customized fit.

Here are 11 simple ways to ensure your jeans will fit exactly the way that you want them to.

1. Turn Up The Heat On Your Washer & Dryer

“To shrink jeans, you should wash and tumble dry in heat,” says Claire Guite, a Design Assistant at Boyish Jeans, a sustainable denim brand from Los Angeles. If your washer and dryer have several heat settings, consider using the highest heat setting to shrink your jeans. You might need to repeat the process a few times to really shrink them, but this should do the trick.

Pro tip: Washing and drying your jeans in hot temperatures can cause your denim color to fade, so if you’d like to maintain the original wash, turn them inside out when washing and drying.

2. Boil Your Jeans

If the washer and dryer tip doesn’t do the trick, here's a similar but more intense way to shrink your jeans: boil them in a pot. Here's how it works: Heat a large pot of water until it reaches a rolling boil, then place your jeans in, making sure they are fully submerged. Leave them boiling for twenty to thirty minutes, and then drain them as much as possible. Once drained, then dry them on high heat. This method is similar to the previous washer dryer trick, but could result in more dramatic shrinkage quicker.

3. Visit A Tailor

“Shrinking jeans is a thing, but it might not be the eco-friendliest way,” Zahra Ahmed, CEO of DL1961, tells Bustle. “I would recommend going to a tailor and having them help with the sizing.” While this might be a tad bit more work and money, it’s actually the best and most reliable way to get your jeans to fit perfectly.

4. Don’t Wash Your Jeans As Often

Another genius way to prevent your jeans from stretching out? Maintaining their original shape in the first place. “To maintain the shape of jeans, you should try to reduce the number of times you wash them and you hang the jeans dry rather than tumble drying, if you do need to wash them,” Guite tells Bustle.

5. Go Underwater

According to Stitch Fix, fully soaked jeans can adjust to fit the mold of your body. In other words, it's time to take a dip in your bathtub — denim and all. Sure, it might not be the most comfortable experience but if you want to make those vintage jeans fit just right, it'll be well worth it in the end.

6. Buy Protective Products

Denim is a unique material, which means you should consider using a specialized detergent to protect it in the long term. This denim wash from The Laundress helps preserve the color of your denim items and keeps your favorite jeans feeling soft and worn-in.

7. Target A Certain Spot

Mix hot water and fabric softener in a spray bottle (using a 3:1 ratio). Spray the spot on your jeans that you want to shrink — it could be in the legs or around the waist, for instance. The targeted area should be well-soaked. Put your jeans in the dryer on a standard setting, and repeat as needed until the spot shrinks to your specifications.

8. Break Out The Iron

When you’re just looking for a small, quick fix, a trusty iron will be your BFF. Wash your jeans using hot water, then dry them until they are a little damp (they shouldn’t feel soaked). Iron the jeans using a moderate setting until the material is completely dry. This method is ideal for “spot-shrinking” when you’re short on time.

9. Get Replacement Buttons

Sometimes the solution to ensuring that your jeans fit the way you want them to is to simplify the issue. If the waistband is what needs shrinking, you might not even need to shrink the denim itself. Instead, opt to place a button somewhere along the band that will help make the waist feel more snug without shifting the jeans’ overall fit otherwise.

10. Sew A New Seam

If you happen to be handy with a sewing kit, when the inseam of your pant legs are too loose-fitting, you can add a new seam for a DIY adjustment. Flip them inside out, remove the old seam, and make a new one in no time at all. Simply sew a 6- to 7-inch piece of elastic into the inside back of your waistband if that’s the oversized area.

11. Layer On Leggings

When all else fails or your denim just isn’t budging, it’s time to reach for the layers. You can wear a thin pair of leggings underneath your jeans so they’ll fit more tightly. This trick is perfect for the freezing winter months, too.

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