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The Best Ways to Stretch Pants After Washing Them

Kimbry Parker
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It’s daunting to take a pair of pants out of the dryer, only to find they’re now a size or two smaller. Whether your pants shrunk when you washed them or you bought them just a bit too tight, you don’t have to give them to charity or pitch them in the trash. Try some home remedies to stretch the pants to fit.

Close-up on a pair of pants that won't button.

Start with a Soak

Before attempting to stretch the pants, soak them in a solution to loosen the fibers on the fabric. Mix one quart of lukewarm water and one tablespoon of baby shampoo in a sink or tub. You can substitute hair conditioner for the shampoo. Put the pants in the water so they are covered and leave them there for a few hours, then attempt a stretching method.

Parchment Paper

Find a pair of pants that fit just the way you want the pants that need to be stretched to fit. Lay out parchment paper on the floor, countertop or other flat surface. If you’re using a small roll of parchment paper like you’d use for baking, tape the sheets together to make one large sheet. Place the good-fitting pants on the parchment paper. Use a pencil to trace an outline of the pants, then remove them from the paper. After soaking the pants that need to be stretched, wring them out so they’re not dripping wet. Place the pants on the parchment paper and stretch them by hand to match the outline of the other pants. If the pants are stiff while you’re trying to stretch them, apply some steam from an iron to soften them up and make stretching easier. Place heavy objects like water jugs, bookends or paper weights along the edges of the pants to hold them in place. Leave the pants on the paper until they are completely dry.

Wear the Pants to Shrink

This method of stretching may not be comfortable, but it can stretch your pants to fit you perfectly, particularly if they are too small in the waist. After soaking the pants, gently squeeze out the excess water. Put the pants on your body and wear them until they are completely dry. This method will work best in the warmer months, when you can go outside and speed up the drying process in the sunshine.


The weight of wet water is enough to stretch out many types of fabrics. Remove the pants from the water in which they were soaking. Secure them with a clip hanger and hang them up over the shower or outside to drip dry. Keep in mind that using this method of stretching pants leaves you with no control over just how much they will stretch.


Many fabrics shrink when you wash and dry them. While most cotton items are preshrunk, materials like wool, rayon and linen can shrink during the laundering process. If you want to be safe, wash the pants in cold water in the machine or by hand and lay them flat or hang them up to dry. The heat from washing in hot water, as well as from the dryer, is what shrinks clothing. Always read the care label on your clothing for specific washing instructions.