How to Soften Stiff Jeans Without Shrinking Them

how to soften stiff jeans

Sometimes when you buy denim, it is still raw which means that it has not been prewashed or softened. Denim is naturally a stiff material but when it is not treated, it can be very uncomfortable.

This is ironic because one of the softest materials for clothes can be denim, after it has been worn and washed a lot.

Historically, denim was created for work clothes as it is very strong and can withstand a lot of wear and tear. Nonetheless, as fashion trends grew, denim became a go-to material for things like pant suits, button-down house dresses and jackets. With this material becoming so popular, seamstresses the world over have had to learn to work with this sturdy material despite its roughness.

How to Soften Stiff Jeans Without Shrinking Them

Special Denim Technique

Special sewing needles and strong thread are used in the construction of denim clothes. Also, there are treatments to make the denim material softer for re-sale. Acid washed jeans or other techniques to produce a worn-out look, are used before a denim outfit is made.

Still, even with these denim washing techniques, you can still get a pair of jeans or a jacket that are too stiff to wear comfortably. What do you do when that happens?

The Solution Method

There are several methods involving solutions like vinegar or fabric softener or even a paste made of salt that you can rub on your jean – not to mention silicon-based fabric protectors – but all of these require that you soak the jeans and then put them into a dryer. Often times the heat of the dryer will shrink your denim material

Is there a method that doesn’t risk shrinkage? According to the website, you can use a pumice stone or sandpaper to soften your jeans. Also, you can spot treat denim with the hot air heat of a hair dryer to soften the denim material. 

It is true that it might be a lot easier just to throw your jeans into a tub of vinegar or a softening solution such as fabric softener or conditioner, but there might be trouble when you throw that denim material into the dryer as your jeans might shrink.

Like a Second Skin

Let me tell you about my situation, I bought a pair of jeans that just barely fit. I am in the process of losing weight and I was a bit hopeful about how much weight that I lost. I bought a size of jeans that just fit me instead of getting a pair of jeans that were just a little bit bigger than me.

When I tried the jeans on, I found that there is very little room for shrinkage. In fact, these jeans fit like a second skin. Uh-oh,  I am proud to fit into these jeans, but they are so very stiff, I can barely walk. So, what am I going to do? I don’t want to take a chance that when I wash these jeans and dry them, I won’t be able to get them past my thighs!

Of course, the best solution is for me to lose more weight. That is happening but at a low healthy rate of a ½ pound or pound a week (on a good week) but what do I do now? On the website there was a method with a pumice stone or a square of sandpaper that softens the jeans enough so that I can wear them comfortably.

I have taken the instructions from the website and worked on them myself. I found that both a pumice stone, if you have one, and sandpaper work well. If you can’t get both, don’t worry either choice does a good job on its own.

The following is the method I used to soften my jeans:

  • You will need:
  • Fine grit sandpaper
  • Pumice stone
  • Iron
  • Table 
  • Trash can
  • Something to pound the jeans with (like a thick book)
  • Broom/vacuum

Step-by-Step Procedure: 

  1. Put your denim garment inside out
  2. Iron denim garment so that it lays flat
  3. Take your fine grit sandpaper and scrape the inside surface of the denim 
  4. Use horizontal strokes to rub against fabric
  5. Slowly work your way around  to all parts of your denim garment
  6. Pick up any loose fibers lodged free by sandpaper and throw them away in trash can
  7. Shake jeans clean of grit
  8. Stretch the denim fabric by pulling on it with your hands after you finished scraping them.
  9. Roll the jeans tight and then pound them with something heavy like a thick book
  10. Unfurl the jeans 
  11. Repeat again if necessary
  12. Sweep or vacuum area of loose fibers

Things You Can Do Afterward

Wear your denim garment and feel the softness. It might be a lot of work to scrub your jeans with a pumice stone or sandpaper, but the resulting softness is well worth it.

Of course, you will need to wash your denim garment eventually so I can’t guarantee that it won’t shrink on you. However, remember that denim material can stretch a little bit the more you wear it.

To make your job easier, you might ask the hardware store to sell you a wooden block that you can wrap your sandpaper around to make it easier to hold when you are rubbing the sandpaper across the fabric. Also, buy a pumice stone that is sturdy and a good size that will cover a good-sized area of denim when you rub it against the material.

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