How To Shrink Stretch Denim Back To Its Original Shape

Your favorite pair of jeans definitely spark joy. We can’t say that we’re surprised considering one article of clothing is versatile enough to take you from the boardroom to a bike ride. And when the very same jeans makes you look great and feel super comfortable on and off duty, it’s no wonder why they are your wardrobe staple.

But what about when your treasured jeans start to lose their spark after all that mileage? We’ve all been there. It’s a sad day when you get dressed only to realize that the perfect fit has turned saggy.

Sure. The dreaded droop represents all the times you’ve looked good while getting things done. But, that doesn’t make it any easier to accept that your jeans just don’t fit like they used to.

Luckily, we’ve got the goods on droopy denim control. There are multiple methods that put the perfect fit back in your capsule wardrobe essential. In fact, you might have already come across some of the strange ways in which the internet suggests that you tackle this—including boiling your jeans and attempting to sew…

Don’t worry. You won’t find any of that here. We’ll make this rescue mission speedy, simple and safe for your beloved jeans.

Can You Shrink Denim Jeans?

a pair of jeans being soaked in water
Yes, you can easily shrink your jeans. But before we dive into the details, you should know that not all jeans shrink equally. This is simply because of variations in fabric composition. Some jeans are 100% cotton while others are made of blended fabrics featuring cotton, polyester and elastane, for example.

When it comes to shrinking fabrics, natural fibers, like cotton, have more of a tendency to shrink than synthetic fibers, like polyester. And blended fabrics will shrink depending upon the amount of natural fibers present in the finished cloth.

At DUER, we use various fabric blends that are natural-fiber rich and contain components of polyester as well as forms of elastane. So when it comes to shrinking our jeans, blends that contain 52% cotton or less will be more shrink-resistant.

What Causes Jeans To Shrink?

While there are various ways of shrinking jeans, there is one main cause: heat. What is important to note here, is that different fabrics respond to heat in different ways.

woman looking at herself in the mirror wearing jeans

While cotton and most natural fibers shrink, polyester, LYCRA and other synthetic fabrics simply get ruined.

Fabric blends with mostly natural fibers will shrink when exposed to heat. But the higher the temperature and the longer the exposure to the heat, the more damage will be caused to blended fabrics.

This is why our typical denim care tips suggest that you minimize exposure to heat by washing jeans in cold water and hanging them to dry; such precautions will extend the life of your jeans. However, seeing that your well-worn jeans are either going to be tossed (and by tossed, we mean donated) or revived, we’ll allow for a little heat treatment. Just don’t overdo it.

How To Shrink Stretchy Jeans (Without Ruining Them)

Since stretch denim is increasingly popular as well as less-forgiving with heat than 100% cotton jeans, the advice we provide here applies to jeans made of mostly natural fibers with a bit of polyester and elastane. These methods are designed to maximize shrinkage and minimize damage. And we promise that you don’t need to be Martha Stewart to pull them off.

Method 1: How To Shrink Denim Using Your Washer And Dryer

jeans being put into a drying machine

What You Need: A washing machine, a dryer

How Long It Takes: 2 hours

Level Of Effort: 1 / 5

Step 1. Place your jeans in the washer. Run the machine through a normal cycle with cold water. Skip the detergent.

Step 2. Once the main wash cycle ends, run the jeans through the spin cycle for an extra 5-10 minutes.

Step 3. Immediately transfer the jeans to the dryer and tumble dry on low until the jeans are dry.

Method 2: How To Shrink Denim Without A Washer And Dryer

blue denim being soaked in water

What You Need: A bathtub (or large container), two old towels, drying rack

How Long It Takes: 5-6 hours

Level Of Effort: 3 / 5

Step 1. Fill your bathtub with warm water.

Step 2. Place your jeans in the water and let soak for a minimum of 1 hour.

Step 3. As soon as you remove them from the bathtub, place the jeans overtop a large towel. Place another towel on top of the jeans and walk back and forth on top of the “jeans sandwich” to soak up excess water. Keep in mind that dark-colored jeans could bleed onto your towels so use ones that you don’t care for. Turn the pants inside out and repeat.

Step 4. Hang to dry in the sun. Jeans should be hung inside out so that the sun doesn’t cause the colour to fade.

Method 3: How To Shrink Specific Areas

water in a spray bottle on top of a table 

What You Need: a spray bottle, fabric softener, dryer

How Long It Takes: 45 min

Level Of Effort: 2 / 5

Jeans tend to get saggy in certain areas, typically around the waist and thighs. If you’d like to maintain the fit in some areas while shrinking other parts, try a spot treatment.

Step 1. Mix 3/4 cup warm water with 1/4 cup fabric softener (non-silicone).

Step 2. Pour the mixture in a spray bottle.

Step 3. Shake the spray bottle to combine the ingredients.

Step 4. Spray the target area.

Step 5. Place the jeans in the dryer and tumble dry on low.

Shrinking Denim: The Cliff’s Notes

  • Know the fabric composition of your jeans before you start.
  • When it comes to very high heat (washer or dryer): cotton shrinks, polyester melts and elastane gets destroyed.
  • High heat leads to more shrinkage and more damage with stretchy denim.
  • The fastest way is to do a spot treatment (Method 3).
  • The easiest way is to use a washer and dryer (Method 1).
  • The least damaging way is to give your jeans a bath (Method 2).
  • Choose a method. Complete the steps. Try the jeans on. If more shrinkage is desired, repeat the steps. This time increase the heat slightly.

Find Jeans That Fit Perfectly For Longer

man wearing a DUER Polo and DUER jeans jumping over a railing
If you need help finding a stylish and comfortable pair of jeans that tirelessly bounces back to the perfect fit, our Adaptive Denim truly sets the bar. Check out our full collection of Men’s Jeans and Women’s Jeans to find your new favorite.