10 Ways To Shrink Your Jeans & Make Them Smaller For A Cozy Fit

Photo: Halay Alex / Shutterstock
woman wearing high waist jeans

We’ve all been there. We spend the majority of the evening figuring out what to wear and then we think we have it all figured out.

But our jeans — the item of clothing that we depend on most to never fail us, in shrinkage and in health, 'til wear and tear do us part — just aren’t doing it for us tonight.

Your favorite pair of jeans have lost their structure somewhere down the line between all the love and neglect you have bestowed on them throughout the years. They’ve become loose in some places, some places you’d rather not say.

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But don’t donate them just yet. Once you learn how to shrink jeans and get them closely back to what they once were, never again will you have to alter your body to fit in them. Who wears the pants here, amiright?

Here are 10 ways to shrink your jeans.

1. Boil them.

Turn your jeans inside out and then drop them in a pot of boiling water. What? You’ve never made denim al dente before?

Do this for about 20 to 30 minutes, making sure they are completely submerged. Then, drain and wring out as much excess water as possible before throwing them into the dryer.

Finally, set your dryer on the “high heat” or hottest setting and wait until they are completely dry. Garnish, serve and enjoy.

Pro tip: If your jeans are not 100% cotton, and have other materials such as spandex and lycra, you will damage your jeans. They could become even more baggy by damaging the materials!

2. Keep your jeans on during a bath.

This tip requires you to enter some uncharted territory.

Next time you take a hot bath, keep your jeans on. Sit in the tub, completely submerged for about 30 minutes. Wear them for the next 10 minutes after exiting the tub so your jeans mold nicely to your figure.

Then, ever so carefully not to stretch, remove them and throw them in the dryer on high until completely dry. For those pairs of jeans that are loose in some areas and snug in others, this will work wonders in making the jeans fit you like a glove — a wet glove.

It's a funny story to share with your friends for later. You might receive some weird looks though, but who cares? Look how great you look in your jeans!

3. Crank up the heat on the dryer.

We’ve all done this accidently, and it’s always with the shirt we didn’t realize how much we loved until it looked like it was fit for an American Girl doll.

But if done to your denim deliberately, the cotton fibers will tighten and shrink on your jeans. Who knows, you might actually be on time to go out tonight.

4. Spray on some fabric softener.

Combine 3/4 water and 1/4 fabric softener into a spray bottle, and treat the areas on the jeans that need the most tightening. Then, throw them into the dryer set on high until fully dry.

Pro tip: Make a bottle of this concoction beforehand so you don’t have to waste time making it when in a rush.

5. Iron them.

Ironing your jeans is basically applying direct heat in a quick way.

You can iron the entire jeans or just the areas needed. Don’t forget to let them cool down for a little first before putting them on. Otherwise... ouch!

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6. Sew in a new seam.

If you know how to sew, you can do this fairly quickly.

If the inseam of the leg of your pants are a bit too loose, you can flip them inside out, tear the old seam out, and fairly quickly make a new, tighter one.

You can also sew a 6- to 7-inch piece of elastic into the inside back of your waistband if that’s the area that’s too big on you.

7. Wear leggings underneath.

This is recommended in the colder months and climates for obvious reasons, as well as for people who don't have a washer and dryer at their disposal. Leggings under jeans in July would be a sick form of torture!

Adding a layer underneath your jeans will provide ample snugness to your legs. And no one will even notice, so it will be your little secret.

8. Wear a belt.

While this isn’t exactly a solution for shrinking jeans, it's definitely an alternative for making your jeans fit properly. Plus, it will add some style to your entire outfit.

9. Visit a tailor.

Hopefully, you have a good relationship with your neighborhood tailor. If you’re lucky, they’ll be able to adjust your denim jeans in no time flat — and swiftly, too.

10. Wash and dry in hot.

When in doubt, wash your jeans in hot and dry in hot, on high. It’s effective as it is simple. (But if you’re looking for a more dramatic journey to achieving jean snugness, go take a bath with your clothes on.)

How do you shrink one area on jeans?

There's a simple solution to shrink specific areas of your jeans. As mentioned, simply combine fabric softener and hot water, then spray on the area and put your jeans in the dryer on hot.

Be aware that if you air dry your jeans after spraying on the fabric softener and water, it might not shrink like you had hoped. You can also iron or use a blowdryer on the specific areas.

What materials shrink the best?

While jeans can be made from all sorts of material, denim is usually made of cotton.

If you're wearing 100% cotton jeans, it's important to understand that this material will shrink approximately 20% of its original size, which means that if they aren't stretch jeans, they may become a bit too tight. However, jeans made of cotton blends will shrink less than 100% cotton.

Can you shrink jeans permanently?

The short answer: No, you can't.

While the shrinking methods above will make your jeans smaller, it's only a temporary fix, not a permanent solution. Consider getting your jeans professionally tailored if you wish to keep them permanently smaller, or invest in a completely new pair!

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Christina Wright is a New York-based freelance writer covering entertainment, beauty, interior design and all things fashionably interesting.