How To Permanently Shrink Denim Jeans For a Perfect Fit (8 Methods)

how to shrink denim jeans

Denim jeans are worn in many countries around the world for both work and play. But no one takes their jeans to the height of fashion or cultural statement as in the United States. I know at least a few people who never wear anything but jeans if they can help it. They even wear them to weddings and funerals unless explicitly told otherwise. 

Blue jeans are comfortable and easy to care for. They are made in a wide choice of styles to fit almost any fashion taste. The biggest issue we have with jeans is that they don’t always fit exactly like we want them to.

Denim is available as sanforized (pre-shrunk) or unsanforized material. No guarantee even sanforized jeans won’t still shrink a small amount, but for most, that’s an asset rather than a liability. 

For those who like form-fitting jeans, shrinkage is key to the perfect fashion statement. So how can you shrink those jeans for a better look? Here are some suggestions from professionals and fellow jean wearers

How To Permanently Shrink Jeans

Wash/Dry on High Heat

Washing and drying jeans at high heat settings is the most commonly known method of shrinking denim jeans. The process is simple. Place jeans in a hot water wash, then transfer to the hottest possible dryer settings.

Remember that new blue jeans may also fade in hot water. So they should be washed alone or with similarly colored clothing. This may even be an opportunity to add a bit of color to older, extremely faded jeans.

Boiling Method

Yes, it’s true. Some people actually boil their jeans to shrink them as much as possible. This method requires 30-40 minutes and your biggest pot.

Fill the pot half to two-thirds full of water. Bring the water to a boil and add the jeans, ensuring they are completely submerged. Let the jeans boil for around 30 minutes.

Remove the jeans from the boiling water with large tongs or a stick. They will be too hot to handle with your bare hands. Place them in a pail and carry them to your dryer. Place the jeans in the dryer and dry on high heat. 

If it’s a nice hot day, you can also hang or lay the jeans outside to dry in the sun until they are no longer dripping wet. Then transfer them to the dryer to finish drying more quickly if desired.

Soak In Hot Water

Another option for shrinking your jeans is to soak them in a tub of the hottest possible tap water. Allow the jeans to soak until the water begins to cool, then hang to dry.

Wearing Jeans in a Hot Bath 

Try wearing the jeans in a hot bath for a more form-fitting result. So long as you don’t mind wearing wet jeans, this method is a good way to induce shrinking to your body’s proportions. 

While the jeans are still wet, relax in the sun. The result should be a well-tailored pair of jeans, ready for any occasion.

The No-Wash Technique

Some jean enthusiasts insist the best way to create and maintain a molded fit is to not wash jeans at all–or at least very seldom.

The idea behind this method is that the skin’s natural oils working their way into the fabric will do the work of other shrinking methods. Over time and repeated wearing, the jeans will conform to the body’s shape while developing softness and comfort. 

Ironing Method

Another method of creating more form-fitting jeans is spot-shrinking using an iron. Dampen the areas where shrinkage is desired, then iron until completely dry. 

Move the Button

One common complaint about jeans is that they fit everywhere but the waistline, where they tend to be too loose. 

Of course, wearing a belt can resolve this issue. But if a belt is not a fashion option, try moving or adding a button to tighten the waistline.

Many jeans use rivet buttons that can not be moved. However, there are buttons that mimic the design of this decorative feature and can be added next to the original for tailoring purposes.  

Professional Tailoring

I feel it only right to mention that the methods covered above all take for granted that the jeans fit to some degree, requiring only a bit of tweaking for the perfect fit. However, not all fit issues can be fixed by simple shrinking.

For fit issues requiring more than an inch or so of adjustment, it may be time to find a professional tailor. A tailor can take in the waist or baggy legs for the desired look and fit. 

Whether we like it or not, people come in many more unique body shapes and sizes than jeans. If shrinking doesn’t work, seek out a professional tailor. It may be worth investing in a couple of perfect-fitting jeans.

A Must Have!
Gingher 8-Inch Knife Edge Dressmaker's Shears

A must have for everyone. I can personally vouch that my own Ginghers have given me nearly 20 years of extensive service and are just now beginning to show signs of needing to be sharpened.

  • High-quality construction
  • Long-lasting edge
  • Can easily take heavy-duty use
  • Screw-together construction makes sharpening easy


Check Current Price
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
sewing matching patterns at seam

How To Match Printed and Woven Fabric Patterns Along Seams (3 Methods)

mens pajama bottoms

Making Pajama Pants for Your Guys (And Why You Should Do It)