How to shrink cotton jeans

Updated March 23, 2017

Sometimes, a pair of jeans fits almost perfectly. Other times, the bottom may be a bit large, the thighs a little baggy, or the whole pant is just a touch oversized. To fix these problems, all you need is a washer, dryer or steam iron, and some patience. Keep in mind, however, that cotton jean shrinking techniques work only on a temporary basis. Try using the services of a good tailor for lasting results.

Run a hot-water wash for your jeans. Detergent isn't necessary, unless you want to clean them at the same time.

Select the "soak" function on the machine to get the maximum amount of shrinkage. By sitting in a bath of hot water, the fibres will contract more than simply using an agitator cycle.

Remove the jeans from the washing machine at cycle completion. Tumble dry on high for additional shrinkage, or hang dry to preserve the shrinkage you already have.

Heat your iron to the hot cotton/denim setting. Ensure that the steam setting is turned on. Alternately, turn on your steamer and allow it to heat up.

Select the section that you'd like to shrink, and iron or steam it. Move the iron with inward strokes to contract the weave.

Allow the jeans to cool completely before putting them on. Wearing the jeans while warm will cause the fibres to stretch out once more.


To shrink jeans in the dryer, select the "very dry" setting, if available, rather than the normal dry setting. If you're shrinking jeans that are already dry, add a damp towel to the dryer. Use this method sparingly, since repeated overdrying can weaken cotton fibres. Spot shrinking is good if you'd like to call emphasis or add shape to certain parts of the body. Try shrinking the bottom and thighs to minimise jiggle and create perkiness.

Things You'll Need

  • Washer
  • Dryer
  • Steam iron or steamer
  • Pair of jeans
  • Hand towel
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About the Author

Gigi Starr is a freelance fashion writer. She previously served as the blog editor for a major online fashion blog and has more than a decade of backstage experience in the beauty and high fashion industries. She has worked for businesses like an internationally renowned theatrical touring company and events such as the Mercedes-Benz N.Y.C. Fashion Week.