Denim is one of the most well-loved fabrics around, thanks to its sturdiness and good looks, but the skinny jeans and spandex mixes popular today make fitting into shrunken jeans a chore. Having a notion of how to stretch denim to make it wearable again saves you money and lets you continue to enjoy your favorite clothes for years.
The more ways to stretch denim that you know, the happier and more fashionable you are. Our guide on how to unshrink denim gives you the information required to face your tight jeans and come out the winner. We give you tips and pointers for getting those shrunken cotton jeans off the rack and back on your body.
New York and London fashionistas love Meghan Markle in her skinny and high rise jeans, and our techniques help you catch a little of the same magic. With the proper attention, your favorite jeans still have plenty of life ahead of them.
- Ways to Stretch Denim
- How to Unshrink Denim with Heat and Water
- How to Stretch Denim
- Physical Hacks to Stretch Denim
Ways to Stretch Denim
Denim is a well-loved fabric because of how easy it is to manipulate. Water and heat are all a person requires to play around with this miracle cloth, and that goes double for raw denim.
These two elements likely caused much of the shrinkage in the first place, so use the same tools to reverse the damage, if necessary, and as one of the best ways to shrink denim if your jeans are too big.
How to Unshrink Denim with Heat and Water
Our article begins with a look at methods for stretching clothes that use water and heat to get the job done. Your denim shorts and jeans benefit from a little attention and warmth and become putty in your hands, and water makes your favorite denim jacket fit once more. When you want to figure out how to stretch denim, the combo of water and heat is your first logical option.
Spray the Denim and Pull It
Spandex leggings and denim cotton jeans shrink naturally over time, thanks to the way denim fibers react to water. Cotton fibers are flexible, though, and the same factors that cause them to shrink also help them relax. When you have the urge to stretch jeans, start by spraying and pulling them.
Wear gloves to keep the damp cloth clean so you don’t need to worry about washing distressed jeans after you go to the trouble to stretch them out. Lay the towels out flat, and place the jeans on top of them.
Spray all sides of the jeans with lukewarm water, stand on the legs to keep them in place, and pull the fabric to stretch it. Continue pulling from different angles until the cloth loosens.
This method also works as one of the ways to make a shirt bigger, too. Be wary about the type of fabric you are working with, though, as you don’t want to damage the material.
Wear Your Jeans in a Warm Bath
Sitting in the tub while fully dressed might sound unusual, but the winning combination of heat and water makes this a dynamite hack for getting hard-to-fit clothes back into wearable condition. Try this jeans-stretching hack the next time you have a pair of elastane-and-denim women’s or men’s jeans that barely fit you.
For how to stretch out pants in this strange but effective manner, squeeze into the jeans you want to stretch out and fill a tub with warm water. Sit down in the tub, and let nature do the rest. The warmth and moisture relax the denim fibers in a few minutes. Hang the jeans on the clothesline to dry.
Put on Your Denim Right After a Wash
Your washing machine is a double-edged sword when it comes to denim. Cold water wash cycles soften your jeans over time and make them supple, but repeated washes and hot water often shrink your pants and make them unwearable.
Putting on jeans freshly out of the wash reverses this situation, though. Run your jeans through a cold water cycle, and don’t use fabric softener; this causes denim to shrink further.
Once the blue jeans finish their wash, skip the dryer and put them on. This is the easiest way to stretch the waist on jeans and make the fit more to your liking.
You might be uncomfortable while wearing the wet pants for a little bit, but the pants will get looser and more comfortable the longer you wear them. If you prefer not to wear the jeans while they’re soaking, use a clothes hanger that’s larger across than the waistband to stretch out the crotch and waistline.
Hit the Denim with a Hair Dryer
Perhaps you prefer not to sit around in wet jeans, or maybe you’re heading out right now and want to wear your best jeans. In those situations, a hair dryer is your friend and does a top-notch job of unshrinking those snug denims. Dry heat and persistence help you get into even the tightest pair of jeans.
Lay your jeans out flat, and hold a hair dryer about half an inch away from them. Turn the dryer to medium heat. Move the hair dryer across the jeans in a side-to-side motion until the jeans heat evenly.
Turn the shrunken pants over and repeat the process. Once the pants are warm, put them on to keep them stretched out. If you wear them while they cool, the denim retains the shape of your body and is easier to put on in the future.
Use a Steam Iron on Your Denim
A steam iron offers the convenience of a hair dryer but adds steam to supercharge your stretching session. The steam gets the cotton nice and loose, and it doesn’t soak your denim the same way a trip through the washing machine or bathtub does.
Use your steam iron the next time you run across a stubborn pair of jeans you want to wear. Steam also works well for unshrinking sweaters and other garments that may be just a bit too big.
Put on gloves and fill the iron’s reservoir with distilled water. Turn the iron to its cotton setting. After it heats up, hold the iron an inch or so away from the fabric and move it evenly across its surface. Flip the jeans over and continue the steam treatment. Put on the jeans and wear them for a while to set and maintain their shape.
How to Stretch Denim
Heat and moisture work wonders on cotton and rescue many a pair of tight pants from the donation bin, but they only go so far. Sometimes, your pants shrink too much or lose their elasticity. In those cases, a more physical approach may extend your denim pants’ lifetime.
Physical Hacks to Stretch Denim
We now present options for getting your denim back into shape that don’t involve getting them wet or hitting them with heat. We have tools at our disposal that help us rehabilitate tight jeans, and this portion of the guide shows you how to use them to preserve your favorite pair. These physical solutions for unshrinking denim are perfect for use on your tightest jeans.
Do Exercises in Your Tight Jeans
If your jeans are tight but you can still pry yourself into them, give them a workout to get them nice and loose again. Brute force and repeated motion often work as well or better than water treatments. Give this option a shot when you run across jeans that need extra care to bring back from a shrunken state.
Put on the jeans, and start performing exercises. Lunges and squats are perfect for getting those shrunken fibers back into fighting form again. Begin slowly and carefully, and make each repetition a little stronger and deeper. After the denim is looser and more comfortable, your pants are ready for you to wear out on the town.
Cut the Waistband
No matter which stretching method you use, some jeans are too far gone and require drastic measures to restore them. In those instances, a pair of scissors and a few extra scraps of cloth are your best friends.
This approach of cutting the waistband of your jeans and adding additional material brings old pants back from the dead and keeps them in service. Consider cutting the waistband of tight jeans rather than recycling them.
Put on the too-tight jeans, and measure the distance between the top fly button and the buttonhole. That measurement tells you how much space to add to the waistband. Rip the seams on both sides of the waistband two or three inches down so that your waistband has gaps four or five inches across.
Cut a piece of denim to the length you measured before, and cut that piece in half. Pin the denim pieces to the sides of the torn seams so that they fill the gaps and create a new, larger waistband on the jeans. Sew the cloth patches to the jeans with a topstitch, and give the cloth a double stitch to keep it from detaching.
We hope you had an educational experience investigating our denim stretching methods. Blue jeans last forever and get more comfortable the longer you own them, but time and improper care cause denim to shrink and become uncomfortable or impossible to wear. Our tips on unshrinking denim give you tools to rehabilitate those old Levi’s and other brands and keeps you looking like a million bucks all year long.
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