Having your jeans shrink from drying is a real pain. Here’s how to avoid it along with lots of helpful info about drying jeans – even without a dryer, too!
Why Do Jeans Shrink?
It’s commonly known that cotton clothes shrink in the dryer. Cotton shirts, for example, come with a warning on the label to expect shrinkage.
Some clothing manufacturers prewash the cotton fabric before making the clothing to keep the size as true to form as possible after you buy & wear them.
Denim and why it shrinks
Not as commonly known, however, is that denim is 100% cotton. Since cotton is a plant-based material, it will wilt or shrink when exposed to extreme heat. That is why jeans shrink in a hot dryer.
Most jeans sold in stores today are pre-washed and processed for comfort before reaching store shelves.
How Much Do Jeans Shrink in a Tumble Dryer?
Jeans can shrink 3-4% in length when fully dried in a dryer. That means if you have a pair of jeans with a 36” inseam, the length can shrink as much as 1-1.5 inches.
The length is where you’ll notice most of the shrinkage vs. width. It may seem like your jeans have shrunk in width when you put them on after taking them out of the dryer. They feel tighter.
But jeans don’t truly shrink much in width. What you’re noticing is the cotton fibers in the denim retract to their original size when washed.
When you wear them, they stretch out to form the shape of your body. This will happen again after having them on for a couple of hours. They will relax and form to your body again.
How Long Does It Take to Dry a Pair of Jeans in the Dryer?
The length of time it takes to dry jeans in the dryer depends on the type of dryer you have, how hot you set the heat, and how many pairs are in the dryer together.
Generally, a single pair of jeans in a dryer on medium to high heat can take about 30-40 minutes to dry.
How to Dry Jeans in a Dryer Without Shrinking Them
Jeans shrink the most in the first five or so washes after buying them. Here are some tips to keep shrinkage to a minimum.
1. Use the Lowest Dryer Heat Setting
Most dryers have multiple heat settings ranging from no heat to very high heat. When drying jeans, choose the lowest heat setting or no heat setting.
2. Run the Clothes Dryer Until the Jeans Are Slightly Damp, Not Dry
Don’t dry your jeans entirely in the dryer. Dry them until they’re about half dry or just damp. If you have a single pair of jeans in the dryer, start with about 20 minutes on low heat and check them.
For a full load of jeans or a load of jeans plus other items, check them after about 40 minutes on low heat.
3. Finish by Drying Your Jeans Naturally
When your jeans are about halfway dry, take them out of the dryer and either lay them flat or hang them to let them finish drying. Be sure to give each pair plenty of space for air to circulate.
Jeans may finish drying quicker outside in the sunshine with the breeze. But other than that, it doesn’t matter if they air dry indoors or outside.
If you air dry jeans outside you’ll want to turn them inside out to avoid fading in the sun.
How to Dry Jeans Without a Clothes Dryer
One way to keep your jeans from shrinking is to not put them in the dryer at all. Some people, especially tall people who can’t afford to have the length of their jeans shrink, avoid the dryer for their jeans at all costs.
1. Using an air dryer for clothing
One option for drying jeans without a clothes dryer is to purchase a heated air dryer. These units resemble a portable wardrobe.
They come with an electric heater that warms the space inside to 122-150 degrees Fahrenheit. This is similar to the temperature of a regular clothes dryer.
The difference is that your jeans hang in one of these units. So the weight of the garment itself will decrease the amount of shrinkage.
2. Drying racks
Another option is to invest in a clothes drying rack. This one folds up to put away when not in use and has plenty of room to lay or hang several items for drying.
When hanging jeans to dry, it’s best to hang them from the bottom of the legs and let the waist hang down. It allows the thicker waistband to dry better, and the weight of the jeans can help stretch the leg length back out.
(Drying racks are very common in parts of the world like countries in Europe where people typically may not use a gas or electric tumble dryer.)
How Long Does It Take Jeans to Air Dry?
The most common way to dry jeans without a dryer is to hang them to dry. After washing them, turn them inside out (washing them inside out is even better) and hang them up to dry.
Jeans dry quicker when hung outside if the weather is nice. The sunshine and fresh air cause them to dry in 2-3 hours.
If you have to dry them indoors, clip them to a hanger with clothespins and hang them from the shower curtain rod or a door frame. You can also drape them over the shower curtain rod.
Be sure to allow enough space around them for the air to circulate well. Jeans hung to dry indoors usually take anywhere from 7-10 hours to dry.
If you don’t have a place to hang them, you can lay them flat to dry. Just be sure to flip them occasionally so that they can get fully dry on both sides.
Do Jeans Shrink in Cold Water?
Cold water does not make jeans shrink. Heating the fabric with warm or hot water plus the spin cycle in your washer would cause shrinking when washing.
It’s always best to wash jeans in cold water. One reason is to keep jeans from shrinking. But cold water will also decrease the amount of fading caused by heat.
Cold water can also help keep the dye of the denim from staining other items you happen to be washing with your jeans.
How Do You Dry Jeans Quickly?
Simply put, the quickest way to dry jeans is in a clothes dryer. It’s an excellent option for older jeans. A single pair of jeans in the dryer on high heat will take around 30-40 minutes to dry thoroughly.
A full load of jeans or jeans with other clothes could take closer to an hour to dry.
The key to fast dry time is to make sure the jeans are wrung out very well. You can do this using the longest spin cycle on your washing machine.
If you wash your jeans by hand, you can get the most water out of them before drying by wrapping them in a towel to wring them out.
The next quickest way to dry jeans is to dry them in the dryer until they’re just damp and then hang them outside to finish drying.
This could take around 20 minutes in the dryer on low heat and another hour hanging outside. This way is a nice combination of air drying to keep the fabric from shrinking and using a clothes dryer for a fast drying time too.