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Finding a really good pair of jeans is amazing. They’ll last you a lifetime, they’re always in style and they work with everything in your closet. Except when they’re fresh out of the box they’re pretty stiff and uncomfortable. Brand new jeans can often feel like trying to walk with legs made of cardboard.
Fortunately, there are several easy ways to break and soften your jeans to make them your soft and comfy companion for life. You don’t need any special chemicals or know how to soften jeans, just some easily found household items and the willingness to look a little silly doing physical activity in your brand new jeans.
Stiff jeans aren’t just terrible to walk around and sit in but they could potentially irritate those with more sensitive skin. Consider teaching your friends and family how to soften denim. The processes are very simple and can be done by children or adults. Jeans are primarily softened through washing methods therefore anyone can learn how to soften denim items from their jeans to jackets, shorts, and much more.
It’s important to ensure you’re working with jeans that fit you properly as those will be much easier to break in than a pair that’s too small or ill-fitting.
How to soften jeans with vinegar
Vinegar is a fantastic ingredient for denim care. Not only can you use it to fade jeans or even to keep the color of your denim intact but it also works as a fantastic softening agent. White vinegar is the best option, and don’t worry about your jeans smelling like a fish market. The drying process will evaporate all traces of odor.
Step 1: Make a vinegar rinse by combining one cup of white vinegar with eight cups of hot water in a container or bathtub. The heat from the water will help to soften the fibers of your denim.
Step 2: Fully immerse your jeans into the mixture. Use your hands or spatula to swirl around and push the denim down into the water to ensure that every single part of your jeans becomes saturated.
If you would like to speed up the process you can instead take that one cup of vinegar and put it into the laundry detergent dispenser of your washing machine. Set your washing machine to a rinse cycle if you would like to use this method.
Step 3: Leave the jeans to soak overnight or for 8 to 12 hours. You can choose to rinse them afterward but this step isn’t necessary. Hang your jeans to dry in direct sunlight. You can also put your jeans into a tumble dryer to dry instead. Keep your tumble dryer on a low setting to prevent the jeans from shrinking.
Step 4: You can wear the jeans as is but for extra softness, fold the jeans in half and roll them up into a ball. Seal the roll with a rubber band or any sort of tie you have around like a t-shirt or string. Rolling them helps the jean fibers stretch even further.
Read: How to Unshrink Jeans
How to soften jeans without washing
The most old-fashioned and slowest way to soften your jeans is to simply break them in through a lot of wear. Denim will eventually soften over time and if you have the patience this is also the safest way to soften your jeans.
As soon as you get your new jeans, try to wear them every day for a week. The more activity you can get up to while you’re in the denim will help for the stiff fibers to loosen and increase your comfort.
You can turn it into a fun game and wear your jeans while you go cycling, do lunges and jumping jacks, go for walks and see just how many different outfits you can create while wearing them out. After 5-7 days of this, they should begin to soften and you can opt to put them in the wash or give them a few more wears before you do so.
You can also use sandpaper or pumice to soften your jeans but this method will also fade or distress the look of your jeans. Very gently use a pumice stone or a small section of sandpaper to rub your jeans.
If you want to go incredibly old school, you can wear your jeans while soaking in a hot bath which allows the jeans to stretch to your exact shape and size.
Softening jeans with fabric softener
A great way to soften your jeans is with a fabric softener. It’s even in the name. This method is also great because it can leave your jeans smelling like a baby’s blanket or a spring day.
Step 1: It’s best to use very little to no laundry detergent when doing a fabric softener wash of your jeans. The laundry detergent can dilute the softening effects of the fabric softener. Set your washing machine to the lowest load size and fill the fabric softener dispenser up with your preferred fabric softener.
You don’t have to use a washing machine. You can fill a bathtub or a bucket with hot water and add a cup of fabric softener to that instead.
Step 2: Wash the jeans turned inside out with fabric softener for a few cycles, 2-4 should work, without rinsing. If you’re working with a soak then you can leave the jeans in the fabric softener water overnight.
Step 3: On the third or fourth cycle you can allow the washing machine to rinse your jeans. You can opt to put your jeans in a tumble dryer whether you’ve used the washing machine or the soaking method. Alternatively, you will need to roll the jeans up as tightly as possible into a ball starting at the hems and rolling up to the waistline. Keep the role in place with a rubber band or a string and put it in an area where it can dry.
Just like that, your jeans will feel so much better.
How to soften jeans with salt
Table salt has so many great applications outside of adding a little extra flavor to your dinner. All you need is salt, baking soda, water, and a little time. You can spruce up this homemade fabric softener by adding a few drops of your favorite essential oil to create lovely smelling jeans.
Step 1: In a bucket or your bathtub, combine 1 cup of salt, ¼ cup of baking soda to enough warm water to fill your container. You can add 2-3 drops of your chosen essential oil at this point. Make sure to stir this mixture before immersing your jeans. Regular table salt, Epsom, or sea salt all work great. Just use whatever is available to you.
Step 2: Push your denim into the mixture, ensuring that every single part of your jeans is completely soaked in the solution. Leave the jeans to soak for at least four hours. The longer you soak the jeans, the softer they will become.
Step 3: You can choose to further soften your jeans by drying them with a tumble dryer on a low to medium setting. Otherwise, leaving them to hang in direct sunlight works just as well.
Step 4: Once your jeans are fully dry, store them away by rolling them up into a very tight ball. You’ll fold the jeans in half and start at the hem, roll them up to the waist and seal the ball with a rubber band or any string you have around. Within a day, your jeans will be super comfortable and ready to wear.
Read: How to Hem Jeans by Hand
How to soften denim with tennis balls
Tennis balls work similarly to dryer balls for softening jeans but tennis balls are often a little cheaper and they do the job just as effectively. You’ll only need about three to four tennis balls per pair of jeans and they need to be brand new for the most effective softening. The warmth from the tumble dryer will soften the fibers of your denim and the tennis or dryer balls will then massage and beat those fibers into softness.
Step 1: Wash your jeans inside out on a low to cool water setting. Excessive hot water can cause your denim to shrink. If you’re unsure, always check the laundry label on your jeans before moving forward.
Step 2: Set the tumble dryer on a low setting and put the tennis balls into the machine with your jeans. Higher temperatures will definitely make the jeans even softer but you could risk shrinking your jeans way too much. You’ll especially want to avoid heat if your jeans have any stretch to them. If you’re working with raw denim you can afford to use higher temperatures as raw denim will often revert to its original size after one or two wears.
Let the tennis balls in the tumble dryer work at massaging your jeans for one cycle and you can wear them immediately once it’s done.