How To Unshrink Jeans With This Clever Hack!

I wear jeans pretty much most of the time. I love all shades including black. The worst thing is to find that the jeans you previously loved have shrunk to the point they are uncomfortable to wear or just don’t fit anymore. So, how do you unshrink your jeans to get them back to the shape they were when you bought them?

To unshrink jeans spray them with a solution of baby shampoo, fabric conditioner or hair conditioner and then begin manually stretching them until the jeans reach the desired waist, hip and leg length. Avoid putting pressure on seams and weaker areas such as knees. Then let them dry naturally and your jeans should fit you perfectly again.

We all come in lots of different shapes of course and jeans tend to come in only a few by comparison. I always have trouble with the waist and the leg length. It is usually possible to buy extra-long jeans, but often, I find that the waist needs one or two centimetres extra without giving me more hip room. This is especially needed since the lock-down period!

Maybe you bought your jeans knowing they don’t fit perfectly but you liked them so much you went ahead and purchased them anyway?

If they aren’t quite perfect then use the unshrink method described below to mould them into the perfect contours for your body. You could give them a little more space in the waist or hips, or even extend the leg length a little.

What causes jeans to shrink?

The number one thing that causes jeans to shrink is drying them in a hot dryer. The problem becomes even worse if you overdry them. Always air-dry your jeans, or if that’s not possible, put them in the dryer for half the time that you usually would.

When you put your jeans in the dryer the fibres in the denim contract. Sometimes the fibres will relax again after you wear them for a couple of hours. Other times the shrinkage will be permanent.

Good quality jeans have often been preshrunk before you buy them. You shouldn’t find that they shrink as long as you care for them as per the manufacturer’s instructions, which will most likely include avoiding the dryer and washing in cold water.

The Levi jeans company claim that their jeans have been preshrunk. If you care for them correctly (i.e. wash in cold water and line dry) they should retain the same fit as when you bought them.

Can you unshrink jeans?

I had no idea it was possible to unshrink my jeans until one day I bought a fairly expensive pair that subsequently shrunk. It was too late to return them so I began researching and was pleasantly surprised at how easy it is.

All you need to do is spray the jeans with one of the solutions listed below and start stretching by hand.

Before you start stretching decide which areas of the jeans need to be stretched. It could be that your jeans no longer fit you at the waist or in the hip area. Perhaps the jeans have become too short.

A good plan is to measure your jeans first at the area that you want to be made bigger, and then continue to measure as you go until you get the desired fit.

Always avoid stretching your jeans at a seam otherwise you risk tearing them apart and then you have a different job on your hands, mending split jeans!

What you will need to unshrink jeans

Fortunately, you don’t need any fancy chemicals to unshrink your jeans. Any of the three items below, either baby shampoo, fabric condition or hair conditioner will work.

Why do they work?

Each of these solutions is effective for unshrinking clothing because they make the fibres relax.

It isn’t only jeans you can unshrink. These items will also help unshrink teeshirts and cotton trousers. If you have a woollen sweater to unshrink you can stretch it back using hair conditioner with this method.

Let’s have a look at each of them in more detail.

Baby shampoo

I love the smell of baby shampoo. If you love it too choose this option because you won’t be rinsing your jeans out at the end, so you get to smell of babies!

  • Make up a spray bottle of 1/4 baby shampoo to 3/4ths water.
  • Spray liberally on the area to be stretched
  • Air-dry

Those of us who don’t have young children might be wondering how you can unshrink your jeans without baby shampoo.

Well, the good news is you have two more options.

Fabric conditioner

Many of us have fabric conditioners to hand. Why buy something else when you don’t have to? I am all for choosing products that have multiple uses.

  • Make up a spray bottle of 1/4 fabric conditioner to 3/4ths water.
  • Spray liberally on the area to be stretched
  • Air-dry

Hair conditioner

Hair conditioner will also work well. However, it can be a little more expensive than baby shampoo. You might want to buy a cheaper brand just for this job.

  • Make up a spray bottle of 1/4 hair conditioner to 3/4ths water.
  • Spray liberally on the area to be stretched
  • Air-dry

How to unshrink the waist of jeans

If your jeans have shrunk at the waist or the hips here’s how to add some extra room!

Step 1 – Measure

measure jeans for shrinking

Lay your jeans out flat on a large towel and measure the areas that you want to be made bigger. You will need to have an idea of how much bigger you want your jeans to become.

I recommend you start with a centimetre or half an inch first and then do a second round of stretching if you find it isn’t enough.

Step 2 – Spray

baby shampoo and spray bottle

Make up a spray bottle with one of the three ingredients (baby shampoo, fabric conditioner or hair condition ) mixed with water. The ratio for mixing is one part baby shampoo, hair conditioner or fabric conditioner to three parts water.

Shake the spray to mix it and then spray the areas of the jean that you wish to be larger.

Step 3 – Start stretching

stretching jeans at the waist

Here’s where you need some muscle! Start stretching the areas you sprayed.

Always avoid putting pressure on seams. If I’m stretching the hip area I find it best to do it in two stages on each side of the centre seam.

Step 4 – Air-dry

Hang your jeans up to dry. I find pegging jeans to a hanger on a doorway works really well because you get the most air circulation and heat. Always hang them from the leg rather than the waist because it prevents creases. Plus, the waist area, where the fabric is most dense, will dry quicker.

Don’t be tempted to bung your jeans in the dryer because your jeans will shrink again and you will be straight back to square one!


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How to unshrink the leg length of jeans

If your jeans shrunk and are now too short you can unshrink them easily by spraying them with baby shampoo, fabric conditioner or hair conditioner and then stretching them until you reach the desired length. Air-dry them naturally.

Step 1 – Measure

measure leg of jeans for shrinking

Lay your jeans out flat on a large towel and then measure the inside leg length. You will need to have an idea of how much longer you want your jeans to become.

I recommend you start with a centimetre or half an inch first and then do a second round of stretching if you find it isn’t enough.

Step 2 – Spray

Make up a spray bottle with one of the three ingredients (baby shampoo, fabric conditioner or hair condition ) mixed with water. The ratio for mixing is one part baby shampoo, hair conditioner or fabric conditioner to three parts water.

Shake the spray to mix it and then spray the areas of the jean that you wish to be larger.

Step 3 – Start stretching

Start stretching the areas you sprayed.

You might find it easier to stretch at a section at a time, hip to knee and then from knee to hem.

Be careful not to stretch too hard and cause ripping. The knee area may already be thinner than the rest of the leg.

Try to stretch both sections of both legs evenly. You don’t want to have one leg shorter than the other.

Step 4 – Air-dry

Hang them up to dry as per the previous directions. If you line-dry, always turn your jeans inside out to prevent fading.

How to prevent your jeans from shrinking

There are two simple rules to prevent your jeans from shrinking.

  1. Always wash them on a cold temperature.
  2. Never put them in the dryer.

If your washer does not have a cold wash, try hand washing them and then roll them up in a fluffy towel to help remove the excess water. Then line dry.

Washing them on cold and avoiding the dryer also helps them to last longer because it stops them from shedding lint which makes them thinner and also prevents them from fading.

It is also a good idea to avoid washing your jeans too frequently. Here are some tips for keeping them fresh between washes.

  • Spray them with water mixed with a few drops of your favourite essential oil.
  • Use the ‘refresh’ cycle on your washing machine or dryer if you have it.
  • Send them to the dry cleaners.
  • Wrap them in a bag and put them in the freezer for a couple of hours.
  • Air on the line (inside out to prevent fading).

Here’s more on how to clean your jeans without washing them.

If you need your jeans quickly and don’t have time to air-dry them naturally, here’s a useful hack to get your jeans dry in the dryer without shrinking them.

Related post:

10 Frugal Laundry Day Hacks To Make Your Washing Days Easier and Cheaper


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Penny | SparklingPenny

Hi, I'm Penny. A busy mum of two boys, with the aim to enjoy life to the full.