Does Denim Shrink in The Wash? (How to Shrink Denim Easily)

Getting smaller is a good idea. You feel better about yourself and look better. Plus, you get a lot more compliments from friends and strangers when your body shrinks in size. But not all shrinkage is good. When it comes to fabrics, shrinking is not always a good idea.

Does denim shrink in the wash? Yes, denim can shrink. The way denim shrinks in the wash is when you use hot water and then place it in a hot dryer right afterward. One of the ways to avoid having denim shrink on yo is to make sure it has been pre-washed and pre-shrunk before you buy it.

To learn more about shrinking denim or avoiding that result, just continue to read our article. It has the information you need to help you keep your denim clothing items in tip-top shape and not a size or two smaller.

Why Does Denim Shrink?

The technical explanation is that jeans shrink because the molecular chains in the fibers have lost their hydrogen bond with each other through the heat that is used in washing or drying your clothes.

A simple explanation is that denim, in the beginning, is vulnerable to high temperatures and shrink when exposed to heat. You can protect yourself from wasting money on low-quality jeans that shrink and buy higher quality pairs. The latter may cost more but they are made to last.

Jeans also shrink because they are made with a looser weave. A tighter weave holds together better and lasts a lot longer. The tighter the weave the tougher the jeans. Just take care when cleaning your jeans and do not use hot water and let them hang dry.

Does Denim Shrink in the Wash?


If you use cold water then there should be little chance of seeing your favorite pair of jeans shrink. Also, make sure to check the labels to see if they have been pre-shrunk. If they have then you should be able to wash them in cold water without any worry.

It is when you turn up the wash water heat that you have to be concerned. Hot water is not a temperature you want to use, especially if it is the first time you have washed your jeans. The hot water will break the hydrogen bonds holding the molecular chains together and allow the fabric to shrink.

One trick you can consider doing when washing your jeans. You can turn them inside out. For some reason, this position seems to fight off shrinking and keep your clothes the size you bought.

Does Denim Shrink in the Dryer?

Yes, they can shrink in the dryer. Again it is the high temperatures you may be using that causes all the damage. Turn down the temperature setting on your dryer dial and use a cool or no heat setting to get your jeans nice, soft, and dry.

Of course, it will depend on the quality of the jeans you bought and if they are a loose weave do not expect to retain their shape or size once the dryer load is done. One problem you may face in buying high-quality jeans is that the lower quality ones look almost exactly the same.

The quality of the jeans is up to the type of denim the manufacturer uses. Remembering which manufacturer uses which quality is also difficult to discern. Then make sure you only dry your jeans one time per wash.

Drying them more than once will result in them shrinking

Why do Jeans Shrink in the Dryer?

The main reason is that some people think that denim is tough and can handle higher temperatures. Unfortunately, while denim is tough, it still has its weaknesses. Like superman who has kryptonite as his weakness, jeans have heat.

Also, as we just mentioned, some people have been known to dry their jeans 2 to 3 times after every wash either to get wrinkles out or get the jeans really dry. Whatever your reason for multiple drying times you should stop.

Those extra turns in the dryer at higher heat levels take their toll on the denim fibers. If you need to dry them more than once, then turn the heat down and use cool or a no heat setting. If your jeans do shrink but not a lot to the point where you can’t wear them, jeans can stretch out again and regain its comfortable feel.

Does Denim Shrink Over Time?


This is sort of a yes and no question. There may be some shrinkage over time but the good news is that every time you put them back on, they will stretch to conform to your body again.

This may be more so with high-quality denim than with the low-quality option. Jeans have a very forgiving nature about them and even if you do shrink them, they are stretchable to some degree. That means you can wear them and they will stretch or you can use a stretching method to get them back to the right size.

So do not worry if your jeans shrink a little. This action is temporary and usually, they do not go down a size or two. You should be able to put them back on and get them where they fit your body with minor aches and pains.

Will Jeans Shrink After the First Wash?

Again, this will depend on 2 things. One, were they pre-washed and pre-shrunk before you bought them? If so, then you may avoid that laundry result when you wash them for the first time.

Second, if the denim you bought was low quality, a loose weave, and similar manufacturing practices, then they may shrink on you during the first wash. Also, your result will depend on the temperature of the water and drying heat you use.

If you go high then good chances are that you will shrink your denim in the first wash. Just be careful when you go to wash your brand new denim clothing items and do not assume that they have been pre-washed and pre-shrunk.

Check the labels to make sure and even if they were, be careful about using hot water and hot drying heat.

Does Denim Shrink in Cold Water?

Generally no it doesn’t. Cold water is very kind to denim and helps keep the molecule chains and hydrogen bonds from breaking down. This breakdown is what causes shrinking and that chain reaction comes when the heat is applied.

It is best to wash your denim in cold water then let them hang dry in a safe place where they won’t get dirty. Hang drying is always the safest method to dry any fabric, even if they are tough enough to handle dryer heat.

Just be careful though. The lower the quality of denim used to make your jacket, dress, skirt, or jeans the more likely you can damage them doing normal activities. You may think you are saving money buying low-quality denim, but in the long run, you may be spending a lot more.

Does Denim Shrink When Not Worn?


If it does at all, it won’t be that much. Even low-quality jeans or denim outfits should not shrink that much unless your home is in a high humidity area and you do not use air conditioning or a dehumidifier.

Then there is a possibility that those hot elements could affect your denim hanging in the closet. But do not worry, it is possible to stretch jeans out a little and if you wear them again for long periods of time, they will bounce back and fit you like a glove.

The way to avoid this from ever taking place is to wear your denim regularly. That way you do not have to endure any tight-fitting situations that cause you pain while you stretch the denim out again.

Will Jeans Shrink at 60 Degrees?

That will depend on which temperature scale you use. If you are washing at 60 Centigrade or Celsius, then yes your jeans may shrink on you. Again, the quality of the denim and if they have been pre-washed or not will play a role in this situation.

If you wash your jeans or other denim at 60 degrees F., then you stand a good chance of your denim not shrinking. The above 2 factors will play a minimal role at this temperature level.

60 degrees F., is a little on the cool side so you shouldn’t have any problems unless the jeans were not pre-shrunk prior to being shipped to the department store. Some people say that it is okay to wash denim at 30 or 40 degrees C but those temperatures translate into 92 and 112 degrees F., still a little hot for denim.

What Temperature Does Denim Shrink?

It is said that cotton can handle temperatures up to 95 degrees F. if your denim clothing items are made from cotton fibers then that temperature level or higher may cause your denim to shrink.

Then on a topic we haven’t spoken on yet, the amount of shrinkage may be minimal if the manufacturer had taken steps to cut the shrinkage problem down to size. There are things they can do to help keep their clothing lines in shape and fitting you like you want them to.

But even those precautions do not totally stop shrinking from taking place when you get the denim garments home. The quality of the jeans will again play a role here as tight weave denim shrinks less than a low-quality denim fabric.

How Much do Jeans Shrink in Length?


They say that if the jeans are low quality, they may shrink up to 3 or 4 percent of their length when you wash them. If the jeans shrink almost every time you wash them, then you will know they were not pre-shrunk.

What 3 to 4 percent translates into is about 1 to 1 1/4 inches on a 30-inch inseam. If the jeans shrink 5 percent or more then you should take them back to the store as that is an unacceptable amount of shrinkage.

How Much do Jeans Shrink in the Waist?

This may not be a constant figure that applies to every pair of jeans made but it may give you an idea of what to expect. Levis’ says that you can buy them true to size in the waist if you are not machine washing them.

If you are machine washing them and then putting them in the dryer you should buy a pair of jeans one size up. Here is an example to follow-- “1" for sizes 27"-36", 2" for 38"-48", and 3" for 50" and up.”

That should give you a good idea for waist shrink rate and for lower quality jeans not made by Levis, it helps you to determine if you should go larger or not.

Can I Shrink Jeans Down a Size?

Yes, it is possible but you may not be in total control of how much the jeans will shrink once you start the process. To get them down a size, just wash them in hot water. You may not need to use a dryer in this instance.

The good thing about denim is that, while they will stretch out again when you wear them a lot, if they get too large, you can repeat this process over and over. There is no limit on how many times you can go back one size.

Can You Shrink Jeans Permanently?


This may be an impossibility as denim has the natural ability to stretch out again. Trying to shrink them permanently may ruin the jeans and other denim clothing. If they haven’t been pre-shrunk you may get a lot more reduction in size than if they were pre-shrunk.

Some people say you can permanently shrink jeans. They claim the hot water method is best for this result. But the same method can be used over and over again so it is highly unlikely you will get a permanent reduction in your jeans.

How to Make Denim Shrink

The best way to get your jeans to shrink is to put them in your washer and turn the heat up. Once the jeans have completed their cycle, put them in your dryer, and turn the heat up again.

The problem with this method is that you have no control over how much the jeans will shrink. You are taking your chances using this or any method that will shrink your jeans or other denim outfits. This is especially true if you are trying to shrink low quality jeans or denim that has not been pre-shrunk.

Shrinking Denim Jacket

There are two strikes against you when you try to shrink a denim jacket. The first strike is that the denim may be blended with spandex or synthetic fibers. If that is the case, you may not be able to shrink the jacket as far as you want.

The other strike is that if the jacket has been sanforized you may only get a 1% shrink rate. Try the boiling method first as it is easy to do. When the water is boiling hot, just add the jacket and turn the heat down to simmer for 30 minutes. When that time is up, just place it in the dryer set at its highest heat for an hour.

One word of caution, the jacket is going to be hot at both times so be careful when handling it.

How to Shrink Denim Shirt


It is possible to use the previous two methods already mentioned. The hot water wash in your washing machine and then a hot time in your dryer should do the trick. Or you can boil the shirt on your stove for 30 minutes and then use the dryer.

But if you want a little more control over the shrinking process, this is done when you only want to shrink specific areas, you can use a spray bottle filled with hot water. Remember the wetter the denim, the more it will shrink.

Shrinking Denim Pants

At this point, you have 3 good methods that will also work on your denim pants. It is up to you which one you choose to use as they all should work fine. If you want to shrink the waist but not the length, then go with the spray bottle method and vice versa.

Some Final Words

You can shrink denim if you want to. Getting the right fit is important to many people. But sometimes it is cheaper and easier to just go out and buy a new pair of jeans. The reason for that statement is that you have little control over how much your jeans or denim items will shrink.

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