How To Shrink Jeans & Maintain The Shape Of Your Original Denim

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This article was originally published on July 21, 2015. It has been updated and republished on March 24, 2020.

The great thing about denim? It can be worn year-round. But maybe your favorite pair has stretched out and lost its shape. Perhaps you bought a pair of jeans from a brand you’ve never tried before and they’re a little bit looser than you would have hoped. Fear not, figuring out how to shrink jeans or hack your jeans into fitting you will have you ready to rock them again in no time. 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 six 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 of your jeans, turn them inside out when washing and drying.

2. Boil Your Jeans

If the washer and dryer tip didn'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. Like Ahmed said, aside from donating your oversized jeans, getting them tailored is the most sustainable way to bring life back to old jeans.

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.

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