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Whether it’s your trusty pair of skinny jeans or your go-to black work pants, materials can get stretched out with each wearing. If you’re busting a sag now, you can use your washer to clean your clothes and get your pants back in shape, literally. Hot water can help to shrink your pants, but cold water won’t get the job done.
How Hot Water Works
When it comes to shrinking, heat can be the go-to application for fabric. The application of heat makes fibers in your pants tighten up together, making them shrink. You can use heat both on your machine-washable fabrics by washing them on hot or washing your hand wash-only fabrics with hot water. Using heat is an old dry cleaners’ trick for helping to restore stretched-out fabrics. They put boiling hot water onto fabrics, then shape the sweater and let it dry. You can use the same technique with your pants: Wash them in hot water and then lay them on a towel, making sure they lie flat in your desired shape. When they dry, you can be back to having pants that fit! A word to the wise: go with the washing instructions label on your pants. If it says dry-clean only or cold water only, stick to these guidelines. Otherwise, you run the risk of shrinking your pants past the point of wearing them.
How much you can expect your pants to shrink really depends upon the fabric components of your pants. Fabrics that are woven together (like cotton) and knit pants are more likely than other fabrics to shrink up when you wash them with hot water. If you have a pair of pants that hot water doesn’t seem to help in terms of the shrinking progress, your pants may not be the right material to respond to your efforts.
The Down Side
Hot water can make your pants fit more tightly, but there is a drawback from washing with hot water all the time: Hot water can wear down your fabrics, meaning your pants may not make it to next season if you wash them too much. The same is true for heat from your dryer and iron. Keep heat to a minimum and use it only when you are having a major sagging issue.
The Case for Cold
Sure, cold water may not shrink your pants, but it does extend the life of your pants and keeps stains from setting in place. If you have blood or sweat stains on your pants, don’t go straight to washing them in hot water. This is because hot water can set these stain types, meaning you’ll have them for life. Wash them in cold water first to take out the stain, then you can wash them in hot water.