Denim is effectively pure cotton woven into a heavy and sturdy material, but manufacturers have added polyester threads to allow the fabric to stretch. This elasticity results in a more comfortable and softer material. By adding synthetic materials, such as polyester and spandex, to increase comfort and form-fitting qualities, manufacturers limit your ability to shrink jeans using heat. Not to worry, though – several approaches exist to get the perfect form-fitting jeans regardless of their fabric content. Make sure you know what your jeans are made of before making any attempts in order to avoid damaging them.
Why Can't You Wash or Dry Stretch Jeans on High Heat?
While you can manually shrink pure cotton jeans by submerging them in boiling water for 30 minutes, stretch jeans containing polyester or spandex can be damaged at higher temperatures, resulting in melted patches or permanent loss of elasticity. Spandex gets damaged at temperatures as low as 356 degrees Fahrenheit. Polyester has an upper heat limit of 270 degrees before it becomes damaged.
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The boiling point of water is 212 degrees Fahrenheit; however, stove top ranges can reach as high as 600 degrees Fahrenheit. The water coming out of water heaters can reach levels higher than the safe range for these elastic materials. To avoid breeding the bacteria that causes Legionnaire's disease, hot water heaters must maintain a minimum temperature of at least 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
Other experts explain that clothes dryers reach temperatures ranging from 125 to 135 degrees. However, these are average ranges, so it would be best to investigate your hot water heater's settings and your clothes dryer's specific make and model to know its upper-temperature range.
Safe Ways to Shrink Stretch Jeans Without High Heat
To shrink jeans with synthetic fibers without damaging their elastic qualities, you can undertake a few processes to carefully shrink and shape them to your preference. Jeans change depending on how long you've worn them since the last wash, which can help you estimate how long you can go between shrinking/shaping procedures.
There is a classic but time-consuming and somewhat uncomfortable approach to fixing this issue. Put on your jeans, fill a tub with hot water and sit down in the tub, making sure to submerge the jeans completely. Make sure that it's not too hot to sit in, though. Stay in the water until it cools to room temperature and then exit the bath. Continue to wear the wet jeans until they air dry, maybe laying in the sun to speed the process.
If you want to shrink only specific areas of your jeans, you can spray those areas with a solution of one part fabric softener to three parts water, followed by a cycle in a clothes dryer on medium heat.
Limits to Shrinking Jeans
You should aim for regular washing of your jeans, noting that jeans will shrink some with each wash. However, the degree to which they shrink will gradually diminish, and they always become baggier as they're worn.
Once you've achieved a comfortable level of tightness, you can limit further shrinking by washing your jeans in cold water and line-drying them. If the denim has become too small or none of these approaches work, you can go to a tailor or buy a new pair of jeans that are a size or so looser than you might otherwise prefer.
You should also note that heat, specifically hot water, will naturally weaken denim fabric and leach the color from the fabric. Hotter water and more frequent washing can cause accelerated fading, so black or particularly dark jeans can be significantly affected. Take care and evaluate your own needs, preference and situation before taking action.
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