How To Stretch Jeans With Easy Steps And Make Them Fit Again

Did you just get a new pair of jeans and are so disappointed because they won’t fit? Or maybe you just found out that you can no longer button your old favourite pair? Don’t worry; there are many ways to stretch them!

Woman in front of her mirror trying to squeeze into old pair of jeans

Wearing jeans that are too tight can be uncomfortable and unflattering – so, what should you do? The good news is that you don’t need to toss them out. There are simple workarounds to get this problem fixed. Whether you’re looking for more room in the leg, the waist, or the foot hole, here are some easy DIY tricks to stretch out jeans!

Why do jeans shrink?

Jeans are made of cotton, and as a result, they change their shape over time. Cotton fibres are woven together to create the material in your pants. Typically, 100% cotton materials feel stiff. However, things like heat and water affect the size and strength of cotton fibres. When that happens, the shape of the cotton can change, too. 

Cotton shrinks when it gets dry and hot, and the fibres become less strong. Unfortunately, when the pants cool down to room temperature, their fibres don’t go back to where they were before but keep their new, skinny shape.

On the other hand, cotton stretches when it gets wet and absorbs water. The damp cotton is flexible enough to mould into a new shape. The catch is to stretch it yourself and don’t let it expand on its own. 

Doing squats for a slight stretch

Do you need to stretch your jeans just a little bit? Then doing some squats will not only get you more fit but also help you expand your pants. Here’s what you need to do.

Step 1: Put on your tight jeans

You need to put the jeans on to stretch the hips, waistline, butt, and thighs for this method. It’s okay if they’re tight; just make sure you button your jeans before you start trying to stretch them.

Step 2: Do squats for at least 1 minute

  • Stand up straight and keep your feet about hip-width apart. 
  • Bend at your knees like you’re going to sit in a chair. Your knees should not go out past your toes. 
  • Push through your heels to stand back to your starting position
  • Repeat this exercise for at least 1 full minute. Keep in mind that the longer you do it, the more you’ll stretch the fabric.

Alternative: You may also do lunges. They won’t stretch your jeans as much, so it’s best to do them in addition to squats.

Step 3: Check to see if your jeans feel more comfortable

Walk, stand, and sit in the jeans to see if they feel more comfortable. They should now feel a little looser on your body.

happy woman jumping on bed, wearing jeans

Heating your tight jeans for a moderate stretch

Using heat is a great way to pull denim because it makes the material pliable and soft. Here is how to stretch jeans using heat.

Step 1: Lay your pair of denim on the floor or your bed

  • Lay the jeans on a spot on the floor or your bed that’s close to an electrical socket. 
  • Place them so that their front side is facing up. 
  • Spread them out so that it will be easier to heat them evenly.

Step 2: Heat the jeans with a hairdryer on a medium setting

  • Hold your hairdryer about 15 cm above the jeans. 
  • Move your dryer continuously as you heat the denim so that you heat each area evenly. 
  • When you are done heating the front of your jeans, turn them over and heat their backside.

Step 3: Use your hands and arms to stretch the denim

  • Grip opposite sides of a section with your hands, and then pull as hard as you can in opposite directions to stretch it. Move your hands up and down the jeans’ surface, pulling the denim in each area you want to extend. 
  • Another option is to put your hands inside the pants and then use your arm to push apart the opposite ends of the hip area, waist, calf or thigh area.
  • If the jeans start to cool down before you’re done stretching them, heat them back up using the hairdryer.

Step 4: Put the jeans on

Button and zip up the jeans before you continue stretching them. They should now fit a little better, but they may still be tight. If you’re having trouble buttoning them, lie down on your bed and try again. Then do squats or lunges for 1-5 minutes to stretch out the denim some more.

woman lying on the bed trying to pull a pair of jeans

Wetting your jeans for the best stretch

Warm water works wonders for stretching denim. Fibres are more pliable when they are wet, making it easier for you to use your hands for pulling. Some people suggest getting into a warm bath with your jeans on, but we know this can be very uncomfortable. Instead, use this water method to make your jeans more stretchy.

Step 1: Lay your jeans out on the floor

Spread out the jeans on the floor. Before you try this method, you may want to lay down some old towels or a plastic garbage bag; the dye in the denim may stain while wet. Also, unbutton your pants if you’re planning to stretch your waistband so that you won’t accidentally pull the button off.

Step 2: Spray the jeans with lukewarm water

  • Coat a small section with water using a spray bottle. You don’t need to soak the fabric; it should just feel damp. Work from the pant’s waist down and wet only a single area at a time. 
  • If the denim feels hard to stretch, you may want to respray it. 
  • You can also add some liquid fabric softener. Just add about 1 teaspoon (5 mL) of it to the spray bottle before you wet the jeans. That will help soften the denim, so it stretches more easily.

Step 3: Stand on 1 side of the jeans to hold them in place

  • Place your feet near the area you want to stretch to pin the jeans to the floor. This will help them extend when you pull on them.
  • For example, when you want to stretch the waistband, stand near the jeans’ top. If you are trying the thighs, stand on the pant leg’s edge.

Step 4: Use your hands to pull the wet denim and stretch your jeans

  • Bend over and grip the denim in your hands.
  • Pull them with all of your strength in the opposite direction of your body. 
  • Work your way over the jeans’ surface, pulling the denim in each section you wish to stretch. 
  • Stand back up and move to the jeans’ other side.
  • If the jeans feel too snug, start at the waistband and pull them width-wise. 
  • Continue stretching through the crotch, hips, and thighs.
  • You should not pull the pockets or the belt loops, as these areas are weak and could tear.

Step 5: Let your jeans air dry before you wear them

  • Lay the jeans on a hanger or table, hang them on a washing line, or drape them over the back of a chair.
  • Let the wet jeans dry for at least 3-4 hours. How long it will take the jeans to dry will vary, depending on how wet they are.

A side view image of freshly washed denim jeans hanging on a clothesline.

Extra tips to stretching your tight jeans

Jeans are a wardrobe classic most of us can’t live without. But sometimes they can give us a hard time when they’re too tight. Here are some extra denim hacks to get them working with you and not against you!

Use a waistband stretcher

Waistband stretchers are similar to the device people use to stretch shoes. All you need to do is wet the waistband of your jeans with lukewarm water, insert the stretcher, and turn its handle to expand. You should leave it there overnight, or if you need to stretch it more, you can give it a few more turns every few hours. This method is beneficial for high rise jeans or when your jeans fit well or are baggy in the legs but are a bit too tight for the stomach.

Use a pants extender

Pant extenders can be an absolute game-changer. One option is a button one,  consisting of an elastic band with a buttonhole on one end and a button on the other. Another option is belt and panel extenders. They usually come in a kit containing 1 or more belts and a few panels.

Ironing the jeans

When you press a hot iron or a steamer to your jeans, the heat will loosen the wrinkles and make their fibres more pliable. For a better fit, put them on while they are still warm and loose.

close up to a man ironing jeans

What materials shrink the most?

We are sure you hate it when your favourite pair of denim shrink and get too tight! When you purchase jeans, it is essential to consider the material. Here are some facts and tips to keep in mind.

  • Among all denim brands and varieties, cotton has the most potential for shrinkage. A 100% cotton fabric can shrink by 20% of its original size. Therefore, you need to make sure that your 100% cotton jeans will have some room in the pant legs to allow movement after any shrinking.
  • On the other hand, cotton blends shrink less. For instance, 80% cotton and 20% polyester will shrink only to 3% of their original size. Polyester doesn’t shrink, so it will prevent the cotton from shrinking or stretching.
  • Skinny jeans with spandex and cotton blends will shrink less compared to 100% cotton. 
  • It’s best to buy jeans made of sanforised cotton, which is pre-washed. Pre-washed cotton can only shrink by up to 5%
  • Buying jeans with elastane is also a great option. This is a particular type of synthetic material, which is added in cotton to make it stretchy. You can find it in leggings, yoga pants, jeans and athletic wear.

How to wash jeans without shrinking

Jeans are generally tight enough as it is! So, do you want to protect your favourite pair from shrinking? Simple tactics like using cold water to wash your jeans and hanging them to dry will keep them the same size every time you clean them. Keep on reading to learn more.

Washing your jeans by hand

  1. Fill up a bathtub or a large sink about halfway full, with water that is slightly below room temperature.
  2. Add 1 tablespoon (15 mL) of mild laundry detergent to the water.
  3. Put the jeans into the soapy water and push them down until they are underwater. Leave them to soak for about 15 minutes to get rid of most grime and dirt. If they have any stains, you can gently rub a few detergent drops into the stained area before letting them soak.
  4. Lift the jeans out of the sink or tub and let the dirty soapy water go down the drain
  5. Refill your tub or sink about halfway with clean, cool water. Then, put the jeans back into the water.
  6. Gently poke and prod the jeans to get rid of the soap. Take them out of the water again, and then drain the tub or sink. 
  7. You might need to rinse them 1 more time if you used a lot of detergent.
  8. Hang the jeans to air dry on a sturdy hanger and leave them hanging until they are fully dry. If you hang them outside, don’t leave them directly in the sun. That way, they could fade faster.

Washing your jeans in a machine

  1. Check the label on the jeans to see what the manufacturer recommends, using the washing machine or washing them by hand. 
  2. Turn the jeans inside out to protect the outside denim and allow the dirtiest part to get washed.
  3. Set your washing machine to a gentle cycle using cold water with mild detergent.
  4. Dry your pants in the dryer for only 10 minutes. Leaving them for longer could cause them to shrink.
  5. Let them dry the rest of the way. Your jeans may need 1 to 2 days to dry thoroughly, depending on how thick the denim is.

Woman loading jeans into washing machine.

Picture this: You are taking your favourite pair of denim jeans out of the laundry, only to find out that you can no longer button them. You try to pull them up, praying that it’s not what you think it is! Relax; you are not alone. A hot water cycle or instant drying is the reason why this happened. To get over this nightmare, all you need to do is follow our instructions and stretch them out. You can then move on to styling your look with your favourite pair of jeans and enjoy their perfect fit!

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