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Stretch denim has been one of the best innovations made to the tried and tested pant. The addition of elastane, spandex, or lycra not allows for a tighter fit to your skinny jeans but they also offer so much more freedom to walking, running, and other physical activity. Unfortunately, all that stretch can often stretch too much, and your once snug jeans become baggy in the worst places. There’s nothing quite like putting on your favorite fair and the waistband no longer hugs you or your knees look like a sad face.
You don’t always have to tailor your jeans when this happens, however. There are tips and tricks on how to shrink stretch jeans that you can do at home by yourself. It’s important to know that there are limits to how much you can shrink your jeans. The higher the cotton content in your jeans, the easier it will be to shrink down one to two sizes but denim with a lot of stretch fiber like elastane, spandex, or lycra can only shrink so much.
How to prevent shrinking jeans
The best way to shrink stretch jeans is to just take the best care of them in the first place. An even better solution is to buy high-quality stretch denim but that isn’t always an option.
If you can’t afford more expensive jeans, you can always opt to buy your stretch jeans one to two sizes small so that when they do stretch out they are exactly your size.
Whether you have high-end or low-end jeans, taking care of them is still important. Denim doesn’t require a wash every wear. Instead, hand wash your jeans in cold water or launder them in a cold water setting after every 5-7 wears.
Always store your stretch jeans by folding them. Hanging them will cause the fibers to stretch and make your pants baggy.
Read: How to Starch Jeans
How to shrink stretch denim in the washer and dryer
Despite how terrible the washing machine can be for jeans when used too often, it is also the washing machine that can restore your stretch denim. This method works best for denim with higher cotton content, so you can expect a significant reduction if your pants only have 10-20% elastane, spandex, polyester, or lycra. If your denim has a higher stretch fiber content than this it’s best to avoid using too much heat as it can damage or melt the synthetic fibers.
Step 1: Turn your jeans inside out and put them in the washing machine. Set your machine to the highest heat available, at least 60 degrees will do. Use regular detergent and fabric softener, set the machine to a normal wash cycle.
Step 2: When the wash cycle is complete, turn to the dryer and put your jeans in with a hot setting. You can repeat this step once more if your jeans haven’t shrunk enough but don’t repeat this step too many times.
If you don’t have a tumble dryer, you can use a very powerful hairdryer to dry them. Make sure they are completely dry as wet spots will not shrink.
Step 3: Place your iron on its highest setting and go over your jeans a few times. Keep in mind that high synthetic fiber content can melt under high temperatures so put a towel or a sheet of paper between your jeans and the iron if this is the case.
How to shrink stretch jeans on the stovetop
It’s time for jeans soup! Heat is an important part of getting any pair of jeans to shrink and you can get quite a bit of reduction from cooking your jeans.
Step 1: Find a pot that’s big enough to contain your jeans and fill it up ¾ full with hot water. Bring this water to boil on the stove.
Step 2: Turn your jeans inside out and put them into the boiling water. Turning your jeans inside out can help prevent darker colors from fading. However, heat will always lead to some discoloration so you can add a little vinegar to the water to help this.
Step 3: Leave your jeans to boil for 30 minutes and remove them very carefully with a pair of tongs. If you have a tumble dryer, you can dry your jeans that way in the hottest setting. It’s best to involve more heat in the drying process so if you don’t have a tumble dryer, you can use a blow dryer or your iron to help dry the jeans after hanging.
How to spot shrink jeans
Sometimes jeans stretch and get baggy in some areas more than others and it’s still possible to shrink your jeans without causing the whole pant to become tighter. As to how to shrink stretch denim in specific areas, you can attack the most common stress points such as the waistband, knees, and ankles with water, a spray bottle, and fabric softener.
Step 1: Boil enough hot water to fill your spray bottle. Make a water and fabric softener solution that is ¾ water and ¼ softener. The fabric softener will prevent your jeans from becoming stiff in the shrinking process.
Read: How to Soften Jeans
Step 2: Use the spray bottle to soak the parts of your jeans you want to shrink. It’s important that these areas are completely saturated with water. You’ll have to work quickly to soak the jeans before the water cools though you can opt to reheat the water as your work.
Step 3: Dry your jeans with heat. A tumble dryer on the hottest setting will work best but you can also just use a hairdryer, on its hottest setting, to dry the areas. The area needs to be completely dry for the shrinking to work. Try your jeans on once they’ve dried and they’re still not tight enough, you can repeat once or twice more.
This method can possibly cause spotted discoloration on darker jeans if the dyes in your pants aren’t very colorfast or strong.
How to shrink stretch denim in the bath
This is an old-school trick for shrinking denim that works great on 100% cotton jeans but can still deliver results with stretch denim. This method is considerably uncomfortable and you will feel ridiculous but it’s one of the best ways to shrink your jeans without damaging or melting the synthetic fibers with too much heat.
Step 1: Fill the bathtub with hot water. Try to get it as hot as possible but not so hot that you can’t get in.
Step 2: Wear your jeans inside out and sit in the hot water tub. Make sure your jeans are fully submerged in the water. Stay in the tub until the water cools considerably. The water in the bathtub helps the jeans cling and shape to your legs while the heat will get the denim to shrink. You need only stay in the tub until the water cools.
Step 3: Keep the jeans until they dry. You can sit outside under the sun to help the process or go over your legs with a hairdryer or stand in front of a heater. Be careful not to burn yourself or the jeans. You can choose to take the jeans off to dry but they will mold better to your body the longer you keep them on.
Once your jeans are completely dry you can take them off.
Step 4: If you have a tumble dryer available, you can instead keep your jeans until they dry to a more damp level. You’ll still want them to have some moisture for the tumble dry shrink to work. You can also go over your jeans with a very hot iron afterward.
How to shrink stretch jeans with elastic
This is a more traditional method for how to shrink stretch denim but unfortunately, there is only so much hot water, tumble dryers, and irons can do to shrink stretch denim. If your jeans are baggy at the waistband, you can very quickly and easily take them in with elastic. You can find elastic bands at fabric shops and sometimes even supermarkets. You won’t need advanced sewing skills for this just the elastic, safety pins, scissors, a needle, and thread.
Step 1: Cut slits on the inside of the waistband of your jeans. You will want to make these slits at the back of your jeans. Attach a safety pin to the end of your elastic and use the pin to push your elastic from one side of the slit to the other end. Secure it in place with the pin.
Step 2: Try your jeans on and pull on the elastic until you get the tightness you require. Secure the band with another safety pin and take the jeans off.
Step 3: Sew the elastic down at both ends before cutting off the remaining elastic. You’ll need to sew these seams a few times in order to take the stress of the pulling elastic.
If your jeans still require more shrinking, you’ll probably have to turn to a tailor to take them in or start wearing them baggy.