How to shrink jeans

Try these handy jean-shrinking methods whenever your jeans feel loose.


denim jeans against wooden background

Key steps

Can you shrink jeans? There are a few different methods you can use:

  • Give them a hot wash and tumble-dry.
  • Boil them on the stove.
  • Wear them in a hot bath.
  • Spray the too-loose areas with a mixture of hot water and fabric softener, then tumble-dry.

Denim tends to stretch with wear, which means your jeans can start slipping further and further down your backside the longer you have them - but it doesn't have to be that way!

If all your efforts to shrink jeans fail, talk to a tailor. They may be able to take in the troublesome parts of your jeans for you.

Can you shrink jeans?

Yes! If the jeans that used to fit you perfectly now feel like they could fit an entire family, then it's perfectly possible to shrink them back to fit. Learn how to shrink denim using one of our methods below and decide which is the best way to shrink jeans for you.

If your jeans have non-denim elements, check in advance whether they’re likely to be damaged by your chosen method. And if you’re looking to shrink other items of clothing, try our how to shrink clothes article for more general advice.

How to shrink jeans: hot wash

This one is the classic method that’s caught out more than a few people who weren’t planning to shrink jeans.

  • How? Throw them in a hot wash, then put them in the tumble dryer on the highest heat setting. This may take a few attempts.
  • Advantages: Low-effort and gradual enough to reduce the chance of overshrinking.
  • Disadvantages: It may take a few tries to get the size you want and hot washes can cause colours to fade or dye to transfer from your jeans.

When weighing up the pros and cons of this method it's important to consider all parts of the process. For example, this method may cause your jeans to fade but then they might be faded already if you've owned them long enough to cause stretching. Similarly, washing them on their own to reduce the risk of colour run will use a lot of water and energy and affect your carbon footprint.

How to shrink jeans: boil

If you’re feeling reckless, you can heat up some water in your biggest saucepan and boil your jeans to make them fit!

  • How? Pop them in a big, clean, saucepan and boil for 20 minutes. Afterwards, throw them in the tumble dryer on high heat.
  • Advantages:Quick and simple. The ‘does denim shrink?’ question gets answered straightaway if you boil your jeans!
  • Disadvantages: The quicker the method, the larger the risk you’ll shrink your jeans more than you intended. Plus, if anyone walks into the room and sees you cooking your jeans, you may get some strange looks.

How to shrink jeans: bath

If you’re worried about shrinking your jeans too much, you can shrink them while you’re wearing them. They can’t exactly shrink more than you want them to if your legs are in the way!

  • How? Fill your bath with just enough hot water to cover your legs – as hot as you can tolerate but don’t boil yourself. Sit in the bath with your jeans on for 10 minutes. Then go about your business, wet jeans still on, until they dry. 
  • Advantages: You’re more likely to get the perfect fit if your jeans are using you as a template.
  • Disadvantages: Who wants to wear wet jeans?

How to shrink jeans: specific areas

Maybe your jeans are fine in the legs but desperately need tightening around the waist? This targeted solution can help.

  • How? Mix one part fabric softener with three parts hot water in a spray bottle and spray the area you want to shrink thoroughly. Dry the jeans on the highest heat setting in your tumble dryer.
  • Advantages: Allows you to choose which areas get tightened up.
  • Disadvantages: You’ll need tumble dryer access as hanging them up to dry won’t do the job.

If your shrinking has been a little too successful after following these tips, or you just had a laundry malfunction, then don't worry - we also have advice on how to unshrink clothes!

Originally published