How to Stretch and Shrink Your Jeans

by Jamie

Sustaining the perfect fit of jeans can be a real hassle. If yours are a little too loose or tight, looking into shrinking or stretching might help. Want to know how? Here’s your ultimate guide on how to stretch and shrink your denim.

Jeans are both a simple and complicated piece of clothing. Simple, as an effortless wardrobe staple. Complicated, in the struggle to find and sustain the perfect fit. Jeans are essentially a two-piece equation. The first part is about looking at composition, style and fit and trying-on relentlessly, to find your ideal pair. After this tedious task, you’ll have a pair of jeans which more or less fit well.

Now it’s about denim care. Depending on how (frequently) you wash and dry, the size and fit of your jeans will change. A once well-fitting pair of jeans may become loose or tight in certain areas, most commonly around the waist and thigh.

There’s also the issue of a changing body shape; what happens to your jeans if you lose or gain weight? Should you hold onto them just in case you return to your previous size? Should you get rid of them? Should you even get them tailored?  Sometimes it might be worthwhile considering, should I try stretching/shrinking my jeans? If the answer is yes, here’s how.

How to Stretch Jeans

Are your jeans too tight? Rushing off to shops to buy a few new pairs may be common practice, but it’s not necessarily the best solution. It’s expensive and it’s time consuming. Depending on your problem area, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best ways to stretch out your jeans.

How to Make Jeans Bigger at the Waist

Jeans fitting a little snugly at the waist is a very common male problem. Men’s waistlines tend to fluctuate. It’s a fact of life. Whether you’ve bulked up or you’re getting a little older, your waistline will get a little bigger, and the smallest margins can make your favourite jeans feel incredibly uncomfortable.

You might even find yourself browsing the sale rails, and see a bargain you just can’t pass up. You say to yourself “it’s okay, they’ll stretch out over time”. Six months later, and they’re still cutting off your circulation. You need a lesson in stretching the waistline.

Method One: Wet the Waistline

  1. Put your jeans on, and button them up (lie down if you’re struggling to get them on, it should help)
  2. Using a sponge or spray bottle, soak the entire waistband of your jeans with warm water
  3. Move around in your jeans and make sure the waistline experiences movement; try lunges, squats or sit-ups
  4. Wear your jeans until they are dry

Method Two: The Hanger Technique

  1. Using a sponge or spray bottle, wet the entire waistband of your jeans with warm water
  2. Find or buy a wooden hanger larger than half your waistband
  3. Place the hanger inside the waist so that the side seams are at opposite ends of the hanger
  4. The waist should be stretched to its maximum, if not, you’ll need a bigger hanger
  5. Leave your jeans to dry and try on

Put them back on and stretch the waist out by squatting in them if needed

– Paul O’Neill, Levi’s Vintage Clothing

Method Three: The Waistline Stretcher

  1. Purchase a waistline stretcher, they’re widely available online at a low cost
  2. Follow the hanger method to stretch out your waistline

How to Loosen Jeans’ Thighs

Guys with big thighs can really struggle finding a new pair of jeans, even if yours are nowhere near Robert Forstemann’s size (Google him). Avoiding skinnier fits and looking for a little stretch will aid you in your efforts to find a good fit.

If you find a pair you’re really keen on, and they’re a little tight on the thigh, think about stretching, please. Jeans which are tight solely on the thigh are not in the slightest flattering. If they’re 100% cotton, they’ll also be rather uncomfortable. Check out these hacks on how to stretch your jeans’ thighs.

Method One: Wear Wet

  1. Stick your jeans in the washing machine on a cold-wash, or soak through with cold water
  2. Put your jeans on and button them up
  3. Dry off the excess water with a towel
  4. Wear your jeans around the house until dry, go heavy on the squats

Method Two: Manual Stretch

  1. Stick your jeans in the washing machine on a cold-wash, or soak through with cold water
  2. Put your arms through the legs of your jeans, and pull outwards with force (like a chest fly)
  3. Repeat approximately five times to stretch the thighs
  4. Let your jeans dry until there is only a little moisture left in them
  5. Turn your slightly damp jeans inside out and iron to retain new shape

Best Ways to Stretch Your Jeans

Over time, your jeans may become just a little too tight in one area, or a little short as a result of washing. These solutions can be targeted to any area of your jeans.

Method One: Wet and Stretch

  1. Pinpoint the area of your jeans which needs stretched
  2. Plan to stretch in an area which isn’t damaged or worn, you don’t want to rip your jeans
  3. Spray warm water on the area of your jeans which you want to stretch until wet-through
  4. Lie your jeans flat out on the floor, and stand on a dry area of your jeans to give you some leverage while you stretch the wet part (e.g. stand above knee, if stretching below knee)
  5. Pull the fabric five to ten times to stretch out
  6. Air dry your wet jeans and try on, repeat process if necessary

Method Two: Tub and Stretch

  1. Put your jeans on and button them up
  2. Fill your bathtub up with warm water, and sit in it until your jeans are soaked (approximately 15 minutes)
  3. Pull at areas you want to loosen while in the tub (for approximately 10 minutes)
  4. Stand up and let yourself drip-dry, then get out the tub and dry off
  5. Continue to wear for around an hour, try lunges, squats or sit-ups to stretch out denim
  6. Take off your jeans and hang them out to dry
  7. Once dry, repeat exercises (for approximately 10 minutes) to ensure the fibres don’t contract

How to Stretch Raw Denim

Raw denim (also known as dry or unwashed) is denim which is not exposed to the wash process. During the process of washing, the material tends to loosen up, making the jeans more comfortable. As raw denim is not washed, it tends to be a lot more rigid.

Raw denim has to go through a period of ‘breaking-in’, which involves wearing constantly to create a natural wash and to stretch out the denim. At the end of the breaking-in process, the denim will soften and mould to your body, creating a comfortable garment.

Dry, 100% cotton denim expands anywhere between one inch to 1.5 inches over a three month period of daily wear

Matt Baldwin, founder of Baldwin Denim

To speed up the breaking-in process and stretch out your jeans a little, think about cycling soaking and lunges.

Regardless of wash, when stretching out your jeans, a number of considerations should also be taken into account. If you’ve stretched your jeans and they now fit well, try hand-washing and then hanging up to dry outside. Avoid tumble drying, it will inevitably cause your denim to shrink, maybe beyond repair. Also, bear in mind that if you cannot button up your denim, it’s time for them to find a new home, or go on a trip to the tailors.

Men’s Jeans with Spandex

If your weight does tend to fluctuate, jeans with a little elastane (spandex), also known as stretch jeans, should be a go to. Not only are they more comfortable than 100% cotton jeans, they provide more ‘give’. This means that they will be a little more forgiving if your waistline increases. Furthermore, as the name suggests, they will stretch more with the use of stretch techniques. When looking for a brand, you may want to check out Diesel, Calvin Klein, or Levi’s stretch jeans.

How to Shrink Denim

Whether you’ve bought a pair a size up (shrink to fit jeans), you’ve lost a little weight, or your jeans have loosened up with wear, you may want to look into shrinking jeans. Do jeans shrink easily, you ask? Yes they do. Shrinking denim is as easy as shrinking your bank balance or a ‘hand-wash only’ t-shirt. Let’s look into it.

How to Make Jeans Tighter All Over

Shrinking your jeans all over can be achieved through the application of hot water. The heat of the water causes the fibres in the denim to contract, hence shrinking the jeans. There are a few methods to achieve shrinkage.

Method One: Wash and Dryer

  1. Put your jeans in washing machine at the hottest possible temperature and at a high cycle rate
  2. Use detergent and fabric softener as usual, they will not reduce shrinkage
  3. Once washed, pop your jeans in the tumble dryer at the hottest temperature until dry
  4. Try on, and if necessary, repeat the process until your jeans reach your desired fit

Method Two: Boiling Denim

  1. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a rolling boil on the hob
  2. Turn your jeans inside out and submerge until they are covered with water
  3. Leave boiling for 30 minutes while your jeans shrink
  4. Throw your hot jeans in the tumble dryer at the hottest temperature until they dry

Method Three: Hot Bath

  1. Fill your bathtub with the hottest water you can tolerate sitting in
  2. Put your jeans on and button them up
  3. Jump in the tub, and stay in until the water cools
  4. Stand up and let yourself drip-dry, then get out the tub and dry off
  5. Keep your jeans on until they dry

How to Shrink Jeans – Spot Shrinking

Before you start, it must be stressed that when you’re shrinking targeted area, be precise. Any wet part of the jean to go through this process will shrink, so be careful.

Method One: Spray and Shrink

  1. Mix hot water (three parts) with fabric softener (one part) in a spray bottle and shake
  2. Spray on the area of your jeans that you wish to shrink until soaked
  3. Throw your jeans in the tumble dryer at the hottest temperature
  4. Try on, and if necessary, repeat the process until your jeans reach your desired fit

The benefit of knowing how to shrink jeans, is also knowing how not to shrink jeans. Once your jeans fit perfectly, take precaution, and try to reduce washing. The constant process of shrinking and then stretching will be detrimental to the quality, and hence longevity of your denim.

Denim Disposal

If your jeans are too big or too small, and you’ve tried all the solutions, it’s time to get rid of them. If they lack length, think about making them into a pair of shorts for the summer. If they’re a lost cause, see if a friend wants them, donate them to a charity shop, pop along to a clothing bank, or recycle. It’s now time to buy yourself a new pair.

Your Quick Guide to Stretching and Shrinking Jeans

  • To stretch the waistline, soak it with warm water and then wear or use a large hanger to stretch
  • To stretch thighs, cold-wash, then wear to stretch, or stretch out thighs with arms
  • When stretching, repeat process if the desired result is achieved
  • If you’re seeking stretch and comfort, buy jeans with a little elastane
  • Shrinkage can be achieved through a hot-wash, boiling your jeans or wearing them in a warm bath
  • Use a tumble dryer on hot to finish the shrinking process
  • Dispose of denim in an environmentally-friendly way

And On That Note

If treated well, a good pair of jeans can ‘last a lifetime’, or at least, a few years. If your jeans become slightly big or small, there is always the option of stretching or shrinking. Take great care when applying force or tumble drying, particularly if you’re dealing with a well-loved pair of jeans. While we all want to hold onto our favourite jeans forever, sometimes they’re past the point of redemption. If you’ve tried all the solutions, think about buying a new pair.

Feature image from Pinterest

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