A good pair of jeans can last you decades. And we’ll bet, somewhere along the way, you’ll need to shrink them. We’ve all been there: Maybe you find the perfect pair of jeans in the perfect wash that are just a bit too long. Maybe your big sister, close friend, or your mom (who was cool once?) is passing a pair down. Maybe you accidentally bought a pair in the wrong size, but didn’t feel like going back to the store. Or maybe you’ve been wearing the same pair of jeans every day for the past five years (asking for a friend).The longer you wear denim, the more it stretches, primarily in high-stress places like around your knees and at your waist.
Life is a winding road — but a little denim maintenance from time to time ensures you’ll look good no matter where you end up. If you’re looking for how to shrink jeans, you’ve come to the right place.
1. THROW THEM IN THE WASH
Do jeans shrink? Yes. Do jeans shrink in the dryer? Heck yea! Most people — or their parents, or their partners, or their roommates — have stumbled upon this happy-accident-turned-consistent-lifehack. For those who haven’t, it’s simple: just toss your jeans in the washing machine using hot water, and then the dryer until they’re completely dry. The heat from the dryer will shrink them well.
A few notes, though: First, machine washing damages your jeans, so they won’t last or retain their color as long. Drying them damages more, and wastes a lot of energy. We think you should only wash your jeans once every 10 wears at most. Levi’s® staffers often go months without washing our jeans, and some of us have jeans that have never been washed. (Don’t worry, we don’t smell.) Second, machine washing uses up a lot of water, so for an alternative, you may want to…
2. BOIL THEM (YES, WE’RE SERIOUS!)
Hear us out: This ain’t the most conventional way to shrink your jeans, or even the quirkiest. But it might be the most fun. Like we said, part of the problem with machine washing your denim is that it uses a lot of water. Well we’ve got a hack for that.
First, find a pot large enough to fit your jeans. Better yet, just grab the biggest pot you have. Next, mostly fill it with water, and bring said water to a boil. (Save the salt for the pasta.) Last, drop in your jeans, and leave them for 30 minutes.
When they’re done (get it), very carefully take the pants out of the pot using tongs or, like, a stick, perhaps, and then throw them in your dryer. Once they’re completely dry, style and serve (looks).
3. BATHE IN THEM
This is the “quirky” method we were talking about. But it’s got a purpose.
As we said before, you don’t want to wash your jeans very often. But when you do, you should make it count. Enter our Levi’s® 501® Shrink-To-Fit™ jeans. They’re crafted from raw denim, which means the denim is untouched after it’s dyed. These jeans are also more durable than others you’ll buy, because they’re not pre-shrunk at any point while they’re being produced. But that doesn’t mean they won’t shrink. If you throw them in the wash, they’ll shrink. But if you wear them in the tub (our favorite method), they’ll shrink and break in just right.
When buying our raw denim, make sure to purchase jeans that are true to size in your waist, but two or three sizes up in length. Put the jeans on, fill up the tub with warm water, and then hop on in. Feel free to take a book, or your phone, or even a nap, because you should soak in there for a half an hour or so. Then get out, but keep your jeans on until they’re completely dry. (We do not recommend this method if you’re rushing out the door.) The denim will soften and contour around your body. When they’re completely dry, you’ll be the proud owner of some of the best-fitting jeans ever, without even needing a tailor.
4. IRON THEM
If you’re looking for a quick and dirty shrink job, we’ve got that, too. And like throwing your jeans in the wash, many of us may have discovered this trick by accident. For those who haven’t, this tactic is best deployed for “spot shrinking” in high-stress areas like your waistband, knees and bum.
All you need to do is find the part of your jeans you’d like to tighten up a bit, dampen it a little with water, and run an iron over it until completely dry. We don’t recommend this for more than dealing with shrinking in small patches; if you need to more, try one of these other tried-and-true methods.
5. LEAVE THEM TO THE PROS
There can be an art to shrinking jeans, which means that, sometimes, it’s a job that’s best left to an artist. If your jeans are a little too big to handle at home, or you just need a more precise and permanent solution, you could do worse than dropping your jeans off at our Levi’s® Tailor Shop. Our tailors will work with you until they’re just right — and you can also use the visit to repair or further customize your denim. We all go to the Tailor Shop, so we know firsthand that one visit is the quickest way to turn a pair of jeans into your favorite pair of jeans.
Now that you know how to shrink and maintain your favorite denim, find your perfect pair of jeans here.