How to Soften Carhartt Jackets

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Carhartt jackets are by far one of the most popular work jackets for people who work out in the elements. Heavy, durable and warm, Carhartt jackets provide plenty of comfort and protection in any weather. Carhartts are made out of a heavy cotton canvas material, often making them stiff until they are well broken in. You can make your new Carhartt jacket much more comfortable by softening it before use. It may take a bit of time to soften your jacket, but it is well worth the effort.

How to Soften Carhartt Jackets
(Winston Stanley/Demand Media)

Things You'll Need

  • Washer and dryer
  • Vinegar
  • Clean shoe
Step 1

Place your Carhartt jacket in the washer by itself and set the washer to the smallest capacity setting. The material in your jacket can shrink, so turn your water settings to cold wash and cold rinse and allow your washing machine to fill up.

Winston Stanley/Demand Media
Step 2

Pour 1 cup of plain white vinegar into the water, and allow the machine to run until it gets to the agitation cycle. Let the agitator run, then stop the machine and allow the jacket to soak for a few hours. The vinegar will help soften up the fibers in the jacket without damaging the fire-resistant properties of the material.

Winston Stanley/Demand Media
Step 3

Restart the washer and allow it to complete the cycle. Run an extra rinse cycle if you can smell any remaining traces of vinegar in the fabric. Do not add any detergent or fabric softener as this can alter the properties of the canvas in the jacket.

Winston Stanley/Demand Media
Step 4

Move your jacket to the dryer and turn it on a low heat fluff cycle. If you are concerned about your jacket shrinking even more, hang it in a well-ventilated area to dry. Allow it to dry completely before putting it on to prevent it from drying in an unusual shape.

Winston Stanley/Demand Media
Step 5

Put your jacket on to evaluate its softness. If it is still too stiff, place the jacket in the dryer with a clean tennis shoe and run it through a full cycle. The jacket will not shrink because it is already fully dry, and the tennis shoe will bounce around during the cycle and press the stiff threads of the canvas, making them soft and pliable.

Winston Stanley/Demand Media

Tips & Warnings

  • Be sure to buy your jacket a size bigger than necessary if you plan to soften it. The canvas outer material is made of pure cotton and can shrink while washing. Buying a larger size will keep your jacket from being unusable after you wash it.
  • Don’t use any chemical softeners on your Carhartt. The canvas is treated with a special fire-resistant compound, and chemical softeners will ruin the coating. The vinegar, however, is safe to use on any fabric.

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