How to Soften Stiff Work Pants

by Melissa J. Bell
Soften your hard-hitting and even harder-wearing pants without the fuss.

Soften your hard-hitting and even harder-wearing pants without the fuss.

Whether sophisticated office slacks or heavy-duty dungarees are more your speed, a stiff pair of work pants can send your career productivity careening into the slow lane. Discomfort at work distracts from daily duties, transforming what might have been a happening look on the rack to haute horror in practice. Transform your factory-new pants, flush with stiffening chemicals and yet to succumb to the softening effect of everyday wear, to like-old shape without the work.

Place 1 teaspoon of mild detergent and the work pants into the washing machine. Add 1 teaspoon of liquid fabric softener and 1 teaspoon of water to the dispenser.

Set the machine to a hot wash cycle, if allowed by the washing instructions on the pants tag, to break down any chemical residue in the fabric. Otherwise, run a cold cycle.

Repeat the wash, this time adding 1/4 cup of vinegar during the final rinse cycle.

Place the pants into the clothes dryer, if allowed by tag instructions. Add a fabric softener sheet and set the machine to low heat. Dry the pants halfway and then wear them until they are completely dry to break them in.

Put a pair of clean sneakers into a mesh laundry bag and add it to the clothes dryer, along with the pants, if they have not yet softened as much as you would like. Set the machine to a regular dry cycle to "beat" the material softer.

Lay the pants over an ironing board and cover them with a damp cloth. Set the iron to a low heat and iron over the cloth to relax the fibers of stubborn fabrics that remain stiff even after laundering.

Fill the reservoir of a handheld garment steamer with water and then set the steamer to a low setting if ironing did not soften the work pants to your satisfaction. Drape the pants on a clothes hanger and angle the steamer nozzle toward the fabric to remove wrinkles and relax the fabric.

Repeat the washing, drying and steaming as many times as necessary to soften the pants.

Items you will need

  • Mild laundry detergent
  • Washing machine
  • Liquid fabric softener
  • White vinegar
  • Clothes dryer
  • Fabric softener sheets
  • Mesh laundry bag
  • Clean sneakers
  • Ironing board
  • Iron
  • Clean white cloth
  • Handheld garment steamer


  • Stiff clothing after washing can be indicative of hard water. Consult the local water supply office or have your well water tested by a treatment company. The harder the water, the less detergent necessary when you wash.


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About the Author

A writer with a Bachelor of Science in English and secondary education, but also an interest in all things beautiful, Melissa J. Bell has handed out beauty and fashion advice since she could talk -- and for the last six years, write for online publications like Daily Glow and SheBudgets.

Photo Credits

  • Simon Bremner/Digital Vision/Getty Images