Pro Cleaner Reveals The Easy Secret That Keeps Jeans From Shrinking in the Dryer
It doesn't get more dependable than jeans: They go with everything, they're comfortable and work well for all seasons, and they can withstand a little wear and tear. One thing that isn't so reliable about jeans? Drying them. You likely already know that in order to keep your jeans in tip-top shape and prevent shrinking, it's best to air-dry them, but that can feel like it takes forever, and no one wants to have wet jeans laying around. So if you want your jeans to look and feel great with minimal fuss, what's the best solution? We spoke to a professional dry cleaner to find out.
David Edricks, who's owned Edricks Fine Drycleaning in Farmington, Connecticut, for nearly 40 years, says that some of his customers like to have their jeans dry-cleaned, though this certainly isn't a necessity. When it comes to washing them, he often does a hand-wash, but, of course, he's a professional cleaner! Since most of us clean our jeans in the washing machine, we tapped Edricks for his best advice on how to wash jeans in the washing machine so the denim stays in good condition for the longest time possible.
Edricks recommends turning the jeans you want to wear inside-out first, and if you want to be extra careful, putting them in a delicates bag, which helps them "get clean without bouncing around as much." Edricks notes that because jeans are often heavily dyed, certain pairs can have color bleed if they aren't protected, so taking these precautions can help.
The detergent you use can also make a difference. "There’s no reason to use harsh detergent," says Edricks. He likes using Dreft (Buy from Walmart, $16.97) — yes, the old-school baby detergent — because "it’s very mild with nothing added," which helps keep the denim looking fresh. And to preserve the color and finish of your jeans, opt for cold water.
As for frequency, while you obviously need to wash your jeans sometimes, you don't need to put them in the washing machine as often as other garments. "With that kind of material, unless you have a big spill, you don’t want to wash it that often because the dye starts fading," he says. Having one less thing to wash regularly sure sounds like a win to us!
If you've taken the time-saving measure of throwing your jeans in the dryer only to find them too tight after, you might be scared to machine-dry your jeans again. Surprisingly, Edricks says you actually can put jeans in the dryer — you just need to be mindful of the timing. "The shrinkage happens in the last 20% of the drying process," he says. "If it gets to the point where you can put your hand in and the jeans are burning hot, that’s when they would shrink." If you take them out when they’re about 80% dry, they'll be a little damp but "you can air-dry them the rest of the way and they’re not going to shrink," he says. The jeans will air-dry much faster than they would if you didn't give them a partial trip to the dryer first.
In short, the best way to dry your jeans so they don't shrink is to opt for a "gentle" drying setting and set the timer on your phone to alert you to pull your jeans 80% of the way through a dry cycle. Since most gentle dry cycles run 30 minutes, that would be 24 minutes.
Edricks goes to an unexpected place to help dry jeans: the pet store. If you're drying your jeans loose in the machine rather than putting them in a delicates bag, he says, "You can use dog toys. There are balls that look like tennis balls that are very heavy and dense. They’re hard and made of rubber. If you stick them in the dryer with the jeans, the jeans go bouncing around with the dog toy and the wrinkles come out." He recommends the ChuckIt! Ultra Ball Dog Toy (Buy from Amazon, $7.71 for a two-pack) "Sometimes people will use tennis balls," he says, "But I don’t think they’re heavy enough, so I prefer the dog toys."
Whether you're giving them some time in the dryer or fully air-drying your jeans, how you handle them is important. Once they're ready to air-dry, button them up, zip up the fly, stretch them a little with your hands and hang them by the waist. This helps the jeans retain their shape and keeps wrinkles from forming. "They typically are going to be a wrinkled mess when you take them out of the washer," cautions Edricks, and draping the waistband over a hanger and manually smoothing them can help. (Click through to discover how to avoid that mildewy smell when you dry clothes indoors.)
Edricks says that turning on a fan while your jeans are air-drying can speed up the process. Some folks even say a hair dryer can work! Simply hang your jeans over your shower curtain rod or drying rack, put your hair dryer on high and blast hot air all over the denim. You can also multitask. Edricks suggests putting your jeans on an ironing board and sticking towels in between the legs, then ironing some of the creases out, which dries them and removes pesky wrinkles at the same time.
Whether you opt for dog toys, a shortened dryer cycle or some other drying hack, like a hair dryer, drying your jeans can be easier than you ever thought possible!
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