How to Break in Stiff Jeans

Each pair of jeans becomes distinctly distressed and acquires it own fade patterns over time.
... Ciaran Griffin/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Normally, jeans give you an ideal balance of comfort and style, but a stiff new pair of jeans compromises both those qualities. Although it takes time, breaking in jeans ensures that each pair is distinct, with its own custom set of nicks and imperfections and a fit that's formed to your body. Especially if you wear raw or “dry” jeans -- unwashed, untreated denim that has a more rigid feel than its prewashed cousins -- the break-in period is essential to the wearability of your jeans.

Wear your jeans. It may sound obvious, but wearing your stiff new jeans is the most effective way to break them in. Sport your jeans around the house for a few hours each day, or as you run your errands. Embrace activity as much as possible -- focus on stretching moves, such as squats or walking up and down stairs, to soften up the material. After about two weeks of normal wear, you'll feel the jeans relax and begin to match your body shape.

Soak your jeans in cold water for about five minutes. While this isn't a full wash, it can cleanse treated pants of any starch used in the manufacturing process that's making your jeans feel rigid and crunchy. This method may cause especially dark jeans to lose just a bit of indigo dye, however.

Turn your jeans inside-out and rub the surface vigorously with a dryer sheet. Rub until you feel the jeans soften to your liking. Use this trick only on treated jeans. For a faded look, rub the dryer sheet on the outside of the jeans rather than turning them inside-out.

  • To help your jeans shape to your body, do not wash raw denim until about six months into the break-in period. Otherwise, you risk losing the custom shape. Likewise, only wash treated jeans when they're stained or start to feel too loose.
  • To avoid washing during the break-in period, simply remove any stains from your jeans with a damp cloth. Remove smells by air-drying your jeans or sealing them in an airtight plastic bag and placing them in the freezer for about two days.

Dan Ketchum has been a professional writer since 2003, with work appearing online and offline in Word Riot, Bazooka Magazine, Anemone Sidecar, Trails and more. Dan's diverse professional background spans from costume design and screenwriting to mixology, manual labor and video game industry publicity.