Do Jeans Shrink in Wash? Here’s What To Know

Do jeans shrink: a woman with a tight jeans
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Unlike the usual cotton clothes, jeans are more complicated to maintain. While some people wash their denim often and regularly, others are more careful. 

Do Jeans Shrink or Expand on Washing?

Unless you decide to buy pre-shrink jeans, you can expect shrinkage to happen to your pair of denim. Jeans usually shrink after washing rather than expand. You should expect this to occur after the first wash or dry.

If you want to prevent shrinkage, it’s very important to be careful and follow the washing/drying label.

The first cycle of washing causes most of the shrinkage. Additional shrinkage that happens in the subsequent few washes is called progressive shrinkage. Usually, your denim will stop shrinking after around five washes.

Do Jeans Shrink Naturally?

Jeans shrinkage depends on many things.

From brand to material, and manufacturing styles, jeans shrink more or less. While some jeans can shrink in a few months, others do that after the first wash. You can have a pair of jeans that is better quality and will shrink slower. The other pair can shrink quicker.

Jean shrinkage is only sometimes natural; most of the time, it depends on how you wash and dry it. Materials used play a significant role in how shrinkable the jeans will be.

Why Do Jeans Shrink?

A good pair of jeans is sometimes hard to find. The same pair can look so different on two different persons.

Denim is made from cotton. We all know that cotton tends to shrink in the wash. Why is that?

Because the heat from the water causes the fibers to expand, and then (once the water is drained) they become smaller. The higher the temperature is, the shrinkage will be more visible. 

Where Do the Jeans Shrink More: In a Washer or a Dryer?

Denim jeans can shrink in the dryer just as much as in the washer. Many people make a mistake by setting a high heat on their dryer for their jeans. So, even if you have washed jeans properly (no hot water), you can end up with shrunken pair of denim. 

Remember that if you wash your jeans in hot water and then dry them on a high heat setting, denim will shrink even more.

Avoiding shrinking in the dryer is easier. You should always choose air-dry over machine dry. Selecting a low or medium heat for drying is also recommended. They might not be ready to be worn immediately, and the drying process will take longer, but at least they will be less prone to shrinkage. 

Do Jeans Shrink Permanently?

When jeans don’t fit perfectly, some people shrink them to make them perfect. However, you need to know one thing – no jeans can be permanently shrunken. When you wear jeans, they expand due to their inherent inclination.

Even if you decide to wash and dry them on high settings, you can’t be assured they won’t expand again when you wear them.

Do Jeans Shrink in Width or Length?

Jeans shrink in both width and length. It depends on the material they are made of. Usually, jeans shrink up to 10% after the first wash. Generally, you can expect them to be smaller at 3% to 4%. A small amount of shrinkage will occur every time you wash your jeans.

Shrinkage in the waist depends on the waist size of the jeans. A pair of jeans can shrink up to 3 inches at the waist. When the jeans have a smaller waist, they might shrink less than those with a wider waist.

They can decrease in length from 1 to 14 inches. So, if your jeans are a bit too long for you, wait to see how much they will shrink after the first wash, and then go to the seamstress. 

A Note on Temperatures

Even though there isn’t an exact temperature that will cause jeans to shrink, we can surely say that it plays one of the main roles. Manufacturers use different materials when making jeans. So, you will want to pay attention to the percentage of cotton denim is made of when you buy your next pair of jeans.

It is safe to say that denim will shrink at temperatures higher than 40 Celsius (104 F). Anything washed at 60 degrees Celsius (140 F) will shrink, including jeans.

However, some fear a wardrobe washed in lower temperatures wouldn’t be adequately cleaned. In fact, such temperatures are enough to clean regular dirt. However, certain bacteria indeed die at 60 C (140 F) and above. If you too worry about this, consider buying pre-shrunk jeans.

How To Get the Advantage of “Shrink to Fit”?

RELATED: This Is How to Shrink a Shirt to A Perfect Fit (2 Methods)

You’ve found that perfect pair of jeans but realized they aren’t your size. So, you go ahead and buy a bit bigger pair. Eventually, you want to get the advantage of shrink-to-fit. Yes, this is possible. 

If you still want to shrink your jeans at home, there are a couple of methods you can try out. Keep in mind that these methods are temporary because there is always a chance for jeans to stretch when you wear them. And while they won’t extend entirely to the previous state, you may have to repeat methods a few times for desired results.

Washing and Drying

When you intentionally want to shrink your pair of jeans, you need to wash them in the highest temperature setting. You can use regular detergent and normal cycle mood. Once you are done washing, you can dry them in the machine with the hottest setting available. Don’t worry about the jeans – they can survive these hot temperatures, but they will definitely shrink. 


If the pair of jeans you wish to shrink to fit is just a bit bigger, you can boil them instead of machine-wash. The fibers won’t shrink that much, and while the machine has its cycles, you can control how much you will boil the denim. 

For this method, you will need boiling water and a pot that is big enough so you can submerge the jeans. Once the water starts to boil, put the jeans inside and leave them there for at least 20 minutes. The time depends on how much you want to shrink them. 

Once you are done with boiling, use tongs to remove the jeans from the boiling water. Then you can dry them at high temperatures (if you need more shrinkage) or on low settings. 

Shrinking One Area Only

It is possible to shrink only one area of desired denim. For instance, you would want to shrink only the waist since it is bigger or stretches out more when wearing jeans.

All you have to do is to fill a spray bottle with a one-part softener and three parts of hot water. Soak the desired area in this mixture and let them dry in the machine on the highest setting. Otherwise, you can use an iron or a hairdryer to dry the area if you are in a hurry. 

How Do You Avoid Shrinking?

When buying a pair of jeans, look at the label for the percentage of polyester. Choose the ones that have a polyester blend rather than pure cotton. They will be more resistant to shrinkage. 

You can avoid shrinking by hand washing your jeans in lukewarm or cold water. Otherwise, wash jeans at around 40 degrees. This will wash them, but the temperature will not be hot enough to shrink them.

The best option for drying is to air dry them or tumble dry for a short period. Whether you wash or dry your jeans, remember to turn them inside out. It is believed that the outside of jeans is more prone to shrink. 

Instead of buying a lot of cheap denim, invest in a good pair – a bit more pricey but good quality. They are usually more resistant to shrinkage. 

How to Unshrink Your Jeans

Have you shrunken your denim too much? Don’t worry. These tips should help make them wearable again.

  • Fill the bathtub with lukewarm water and add a few drops of baby shampoo. 
  • Place jeans inside and let them soak for 20-30 minutes. 
  • Take the jeans out and squeeze all the water. Rinse them with clean lukewarm water and squeeze them again to remove excess water. 
  • Lay the jeans on the dry towel and roll them inside. Gently press the towel to remove excess water and unroll the towel. 
  • Then, pull the jeans in opposite directions at the areas you need to stretch.
  • If you want to stretch the legs, hang the jeans upside down. 
  • You can repeat this method if the jeans are not stretched enough. 

How Often to Wash Jeans?

So many different opinions are out there. From people who tell you not to wash the jeans at all to those who think cleaning them after a few times is fine.

The truth is this – the more you wash your jeans, the faster they wear out.

The general assumption is that washing your jeans after three to ten wears is completely fine. What is true is that the fewer times you wash your pants, the better they will look. If there is no visible dirt, you shouldn’t wash them unless you have worn them more than ten times.

Washing jeans less is good for the environment and maintaining their look. If you have a problem with odors, just let them air dry outside and let the wind and air do their job.

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