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Can jeans get stretched out?

Jeans are known for fitting like a glove, for hugging your curves and looking great on your legs. Your favorite pair of jeans is probably that pair that hugs you in all the right places and shows off your asses to their very best. But what if that favorite pair of jeans just stop fitting the right way? Is it your body that has changed…or is it the jeans? Can jeans get stretched out?

Stretching the Truth About Jeans

So will your jeans get stretched out? If you want the short answer, yes. Jeans absolutely will loosen up over time and they will get stretched out. This is simply the nature of denim. In fact, this is something that people love about jeans. The more you wear them, the more comfortable and lived-in they will start to feel. Jeans not only loosen up and stretch, but they will also conform to your body and mold to your shape. This is why jeans look and feel so good. All jeans made with cotton denim will get stretched out if you wear them enough. There are some pretty straightforward, scientific reasons for that.

The Details on Cotton

Cotton is a natural material that grows on plants in small puffs. These puffs are hand or machine collected and then processed. Through processing, fibers are combed and cleaned and then dyed or woven as desired to make specific types of fabric. Cotton is used to make denim. It’s woven together in a diagonal pattern to create a strong, durable material that is also flexible and soft.

Cuffed jeans and tennis shoes close up

Cotton fibers are hollow. This is what makes cotton feel cool and lightweight on the skin. It’s breathable and highly absorbent because of its natural hollow shape. This same hollow nature and the inherent strength of cotton is why fabric made from cotton is able to stretch and shrink without losing a lot of strength. Over time, however, cotton fibers will wear out and break down over time.

When Cotton Becomes Denim

Denim is made with a special weave that gives it the strength and durability it’s known for, not to mention the unique coloring. The blue color that’s associated with blue jeans is achieved with indigo dye. One set of cotton fibers is dyed with this dye to give it a dark blue shade. A second set of cotton fibers is left undyed and in its natural white. Then, the two are woven together. This is what gives denim its slightly mottled look that you can see when you look at the denim closely.

The weaving method is what gives denim its strength and its stretch. Denim can stretch and stretch without ripping and tearing, though it will eventually tear if enough force is applied or the fibers break down enough. Over time, wearing and washing denim does cause the fibers to break down and weaken. The fibers begin to pull apart and stretch out and jeans start to lose their shape.

Jeans hanging on wooden hangers

Yes, stretching does happen. But it doesn’t mean that it’s the end of your jeans. If your jeans get stretched out, there are some techniques you can try to shrink them so that they will fit your body again.

Jeans by Another Fabric

Jeans and denim are pretty much a solid pair these days, as classic as peanut butter and jelly and as common as a burger and cheese. But jeans have not always been made with denim and they aren’t always made with denim now. To make matters even worse, denim isn’t always made with cotton.

Some jeans are made with fabric compositions that include cotton but also include other materials, such as polyester and spandex. Some jeans may be made entirely with polyester denim rather than cotton denim. Though cotton is certainly the most common material used to make denim, it is possible to use other types of fibers for denim. That’s because denim material is made with a specific dye and a specific weaving technique but not necessarily a specific fiber. The first denim ever made was not made with cotton. The cotton denim that’s so common today wasn’t developed until later.

Riding a skateboard outside in baggy jeans lower half only

If your jeans are made with very little cotton or no cotton at all, they probably won’t stretch out very much if at all. This means that the jeans also won’t shrink. They’re more apt to retain their shape than cotton jeans, so you don’t have to worry about stretching and shrinking. Jeans that have spandex added in are much more likely to stretch but they will also return to their original shape.

Shrinking Your Jeans

If your jeans have become too stretched out, try washing them the “wrong” way. Normally, you want to wash jeans in warm, cool or cold water and line dry them. This prevents jeans from shrinking and helps them maintain their shape. But since you want your jeans to shrink, wash them in hot water. Instead of drying them on the line, put them in the dryer and dry the jeans on high heat. If this doesn’t do the trick and get jeans to shrink, it’s unlikely that anything will.

You may find that jeans are a little too shrunken after all this heat. The denim may feel somewhat stiff. To get the jeans feeling comfortable again and to get them stretched just enough, put them on a move around. Jump, sit, squat, do lunges. Move your legs and hips and the cotton fibers will loosen up again and the denim will start to fit your body better.

Many pairs of jeans hanging on a rack

The denim will eventually stretch out again and may get to the point where it’s too stretched out. You can always repeat the shrink washing process to try to restore those denim fibers and shrink the jeans again. Don’t use any fabric softener during the wash and dry process and remember that this method will only work if your jeans are made with 100 percent cotton or a mostly cotton fabric composition.

Stretching Jeans Intentionally

What if you want your jeans to be stretched out? You can intentionally stretch the denim on your jeans if the fit is too snug. Once jeans are good and broken in they tend to stretch and conform to your body anyway. But if you want to hurry the process along or you need to stretch a pair of jeans that were already broken in, there are some tricks that can work.

First, get your jeans wet. If you want them to stretch all over, wet the jeans all over. If you want to focus on stretching out just one area, thoroughly wet down just this area. Once the denim is good and wet, take it in both hands and stretch it. Pull and tug on the denim until it gets to the size you want. If the denim is stubborn, apply a little heat to the fabric with a hairdryer and then stretch.

Jeans hanging up viewing between the legs

If you’re feeling really bold and you want to customize the fit, put on your too-tight jeans and sit in a tub full of warm water. Get the jeans completely wet. Now, wear them until they’re dry. As uncomfortable and gross as this might sound, this is a very effective method when you want to stretch jeans. Allowing the jeans to dry on you will also help them to conform to your body so you get a custom, form-hugging fit.

What to Do With Stretched Out Jeans

Jeans are made to last a long time but even the best pair just can’t last for ever. If you wear them long enough and keep them around long enough, eventually all jeans will get to the point that they just can’t really be worn anymore. They don’t fit or they’re damaged or there’s another reason. What do you do with your old jeans when you know they just can’t be worn anymore?

Make Shorts

If there’s still some life in the waistband and upper portion of the jeans, you can possibly turn them into cutoff shorts. This is a fashionable casual item to wear during the summer. If the jeans are damaged anywhere, you can possibly add a patch to the jeans. Play with fabric colors and patterns and use the patch to add a little bit of personality to your cutoff shorts. Patches have always been a great way to extend the life of certain clothing items and with jeans, they actually look pretty fun and fashionable. It’s a great way to cover up worn areas and give your old, stretched out jeans some new life.

luvamia Women's High Waisted Shorts Frayed Raw Hem Ripped Denim Jean Shorts Blue Color, Size M

Make a Cell Phone Pocket

Can you save one of the back pockets of the jeans? Cut it out, leaving the entire pocket and the seam around the pocket intact. Sew the pocket onto a new piece of material and cut away the excess to create a new, stand-alone pocket. If you can salvage one of the belt loops from the jeans, sew this at the top of your pocket to make a little hook. This portable pocket is a great size for storing cell phones and other small items you want to keep safe. It’s a pretty simple DIY that really only takes a needle and thread and a few minutes of time if you want to give it a try.

Wrangler Authentics Men's Classic 5-Pocket Regular Fit Cotton Jean, Stonewash Dark, 32W x 32L

Get Even Craftier

The internet is littered with different DIY tricks you can try using old denim. You can make all kinds of things with your denim, even something as ambitious a rag rug. It all depends on what you want to try and just how crafty you want to get. There are all kinds of tutorials so you can learn how to make everything from a denim purse to a denim patchwork quilt.

S-JACOL Denim Handbags Stripe-tape Casual Shoulder Bag (SJ0054)

Recycle Them

Old denim can be turned into insulation. It’s a simple, affordable insulation solution that is becoming more popular. There are recycling centers all over the U.S. that accept denim which will become future insulation. This is actually a great way to reuse denim and it’s a practical, helpful solution. Insulation can be expensive so an affordable, easy alternative like old blue jeans is a really great option.

Stretched Out Jeans

Jeans do stretch out over time and under certain conditions, such as being wet and getting pulled or stretched intentionally. This is just another property of denim and without it, denim couldn’t be as soft and strong and comfortable to wear as it is. Denim can be intentionally shrunk and stretched as needed, up to a point, and may not always end up fitting you perfectly even after you try one of these techniques to change your denim. Sometimes, however, these methods will work and you will end up with a pair of jeans that fit you well and feel good on your body. If not, you can always find another way to recycle and repurpose old jeans and just get a great new pair that does fit you well.


ABC Everyday – Will new jeans really stretch a size? Three denim theories, explained

Earth911 – 5 Fun Ways To Recycle Your Jeans

Cosmopolitan – Here’s How to Stretch Your Jeans That Are Wayyy Too Tight

Levi Strauss & Co – 15 Ways to Reuse, Repurpose and Reimagine your Jeans

ScienceDirect – Cotton Fibre

WhoWhatWear – Jeans Don’t Fit Anymore? 6 Hacks to Stretch and Shrink Your Denim