How to Soften Carhartt Pants? Simple And Easy Ways!

Carhartt pants are the joy of miners, construction workers, farmers, hunters, and general outdoor people. They make tough pants that are fire resistant, snag-proof, and wind resistant.

They are everywhere outside workplaces. You will find Carhartt in pop culture too.

Carhartt was founded in 1889 with headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan. They have remained a family-owned company since with ownership in the hands of the descendants of the founder Hamilton Carhartt. They make jackets, overalls, coveralls, shirts, dungarees, shirts, and jeans.

Rappers Tupac and Dre Dre wore jackets and pants over boots. In Alaska, Carhartt has an annual day called the “Carhartt Ball.”

The state even hosts a fashion show about it. If you have watched the movie Interstellar, Matthew McConaughey wore a Carhartt jacket.

Did you buy Carhartt pants recently because your favorite rapper wore it but now you are shocked at how stiff they are?

Everyone who has worn those pants can identify with your dismay. I have Carhartt pants too and I can assure you that you can surmount this hurdle and enjoy your pants in due time. Continue reading to find out more.

Different ways to soften your Carhartt Pants

How to Soften Carhartt Pants

Since Carhartt pants are work pants made from stiff fabric you are going to need to be inventive with softening them. You need to do the following:

Read the instructions on the label

Manufacturers know exactly the kind of fabric they use, and they also know how to treat these fabrics.

They often put the information for washing and other care on the label to guide the user. To prevent lasting damage to your fabric you must follow what the label says.

Leverage detergents

Another important reason is to find out if your Carhartt pants come with special properties like fire-resistant fibers. Fabric softeners may damage this soft film on the fabric.

  • Pour a handful of detergent into the washing machine along with a teaspoonful of white vinegar (any other type of vinegar or chemical may damage the fire-resistant properties of the fabric if there’s any on it). The label usually says you can use a warm wash, then do so.
  • Let the washing machine run for a little bit so that the detergent and vinegar can mix properly.
  • Stop the machine, drop your Carhartt pants in it and let them soak for a few hours. This allows the vinegar to mix with the pants and soften the stiff fibers.
  • Next, let the machine run a rinse of the pants.
  • Check your pants to see if you need to rinse again to get the smell off. But if you like the smell of vinegar you may not bother.
  • Drain your machine and hang the pants to dry out.

When the pants are dried you should experience a little give in the feel of the fabric. But what should you do if your Carhartt pants are still very stiff? There are different ways to get this done.

So you should go another route. Once again I have to remind you, whatever you do to your pants, make sure it is not contrary to what the manufacturer says on the label.

If your Carhartt pants don’t have a coating of fire-resistant properties in the fibers, follow the instructions below:

  • Prepare a solution of detergent and fabric softener by measuring one teaspoonful of each.
  • Pour into the washing machine
  • Drop your Carhartt pants in it and let them soak the mixture for an hour or two
  • Check the fabric by touching it with your fingertips to feel if it’s softened
  • Allow more time if you feel you should
  • Let the machine run low or high according to instructions for machine wash on the label
  • Rinse
  • Feel the texture of the fabric and repeat the process if you have to
  • Rinse and dry out

As you have already noticed, Carhartt pants are really tough and the suggestions above may not soften the pants the first time. If you wish to go harder on the pants then follow the suggestions below:

  • Get neat, spotless sneakers that are heavy.
  • Put them in a laundry bag
  • Throw your Carhartt pants in the machine
  • Now add the laundry bag into the machine
  • Prepare the detergent and fabric softener or vinegar solution and add to the machine wash
  • Let the machine run for 15 minutes
  • Rinse and hang to dry

The beauty of Carhartt pants is that they can take a barrage of assaults that you bring on them. So if you still are not satisfied with how soft your pants are, follow the next suggestions:

  • Place your pants on an ironing board
  • Cover the pants with a clean damp cloth
  • Set your iron to low heat
  • Iron on the damp cloth to soften the fabric
  • Allow drying before you wear it

Carhartt pants are so stiff because they contain the residue of chemicals from when they were manufactured.

After putting the pants through a number of washes with either a fabric softener or white vinegar, you will surely notice some give in the stiffness of the fabric. Always wash your pants warm at temperatures that don’t exceed 160°F or 70° C.

Also make sure not to use chlorine bleach, hydrogen peroxide bleach. Be sparing when you use fabric softener too and starch. If you must use it, use it a little at a time.

For more information about your Carhartt pants care, take a peek at the Carhartt website here.

The pants are made stiff because they are intended for workers in factories, loggers in the forest, and others who need their work clothes to withstand wear and stress.

Ultimately, to get your Carhartt pants to soften out, you need to wear them repeatedly. It is much like when you are breaking in your new leather work boots.

Why you need to soften Carhartt pants

You need to soften your Carhartt pants because of the following reasons:

  • Comfort
  • They lack style
  • Better maintenance


Stiff clothes can be uncomfortable. While working you don’t want the stiffness around the back of your knees. The stiff fabric gets in the crack behind your knees when you crouch and causes irritations.

In severe cases, stiff clothes may cause chafing or blisters on tender areas of your skin. Stiff clothes also do not allow ventilation when they are soft.

The fibers in the new Carhartt are closed up tightly just like they were when the manufacturer made them. Making them softer creates some gap in the fiber so that more air can come in. You’ll enjoy more comfort with aerated pants.

They lack style

There’s something rigid about stiff pants. Stiff pants look like they can stand on their own even after getting out of them. Even at work, you want to look graceful and stylish if you can.

With stiff pants, you appear overly official. Pants need a measure of wrinkling to make them look stylish. If you care about your overall style you’d want to do something about the stiffness of your Carhartt pants.

Better maintenance

Soft pants are easier to wash. This is one reason why almost everyone stores away stiff clothes for special occasions. I once got bruises and blisters on my knuckles after washing stiff dungarees because I like to wash them with my hands.

Have you ever found yourself ignoring clothes with stiff fabrics for days and not washing them? The difficulty of washing the Carhartt pants can make you wear them once or twice and when they are dirty you wonder if they wash well in the washer.

Frequently asked questions on softening Carhartt apparels

How do you soften Carhartt jeans?

Making Carhartt jeans soft is easy and can be done by following the same steps to soften the Carhartt pants.

You can begin by following these steps:

  • Scrunch the jeans together to create some measure of weakness in the stiff fiber of the denim.
  • Mix white vinegar in warm water and wash the jeans in it.
  • Rinse properly and hang to dry

Make sure to read the instructions on the label of the jeans before washing to prevent washing your jeans with substances that may cause them to fade quickly.

Most jeans soften after following these suggestions twice or more times.

How do you soften Carhartt shirts?

Carhartt shirts are stiff because of the cotton fabric they use. And they are this way because work clothes are better when they are stiff. If you want to make them softer follow these suggestions:

Try the vinegar wash

Why vinegar though? This is because vinegar is good for clothes that are completely made of cotton, and Carhartt shirts are.

  • Get clear vinegar and baking soda
  • Add a tablespoon of water into a small bowl
  • Add one cup of vinegar
  • Wait for the fizzing to stop
  • Pour the solution into your washing machine
  • Add your Carhartt shirt in
  • Follow the instructions on the label of the shirt for the right spin
  • Hang to dry

Try the saltwater solution

If vinegar doesn’t soften your shirt, then this should do it.

  • Get yourself a big pot
  • Fill the pot with water, enough to submerge the shirt
  • Pour a cup of salt and stir till the salt dissolves
  • Now out on a camp stove and put your pot on it
  • Allow the water to boil
  • Make your shirt wet in water
  • Drop the shirt into the boiling salt water
  • Set your stove to low and let the shirt stay in the water for 45 to one hour
  • Take the shirt out, rinse normally in your washing machine

How to soften Carhartt overalls

Wear them often. That’s how you soften the overalls. But if that is too slow for you, then I have a faster suggestion.

You need white vinegar for this. Then, of course, your washer and dryer.

  • Begin by closing all hooks, zippers, and snaps on the overall
  • Fill up your washer with cold water and set it to a small loading
  • Pour one cup of plain vinegar
  • Allow the machine to run for a bit to get a mix
  • Stop the machine and drop your overall in it
  • Allow the overall to soak for a few hours
  • Rinse and hang to dry
  • Wear your overalls to get a feel of its new texture

The vinegar will help the overall soften without damaging the protective film of fire-resistant material in the fabric.

Using cold water when washing prevents your overall from shrinking. And hanging them to dry in a well-ventilated place also reduces this shrinkage.

How to soften Carhartt bibs

To soften Carhartt bibs you need basically the same materials; white vinegar and your washing machine.

  • Fill your dryer up with water
  • Pour a cup of white vinegar
  • Let the machine run at low for a few minutes
  • Drop your Carhartt bibs in it and let it soak for an hour
  • Run the machine to rinse
  • Hang your Carhartt bibs to dry
  • Try it on and see that it’s softer than before

Bottom Line

Understanding the basics about Carhartt work clothes is also important. The work clothes are built this way because they are supposed to last long.

Some people just buy the overalls, pants, and jackets and wear them often to break them in. Even after using vinegar or fabric softener – which I don’t recommend – you still have to wear the clothes often to completely soften them.

There are many types of suggestions for softening Carhartt pants and accessories on the internet. Some suggest packing a laundry bag full of stones and dropping it in with your Carhartt pants to soften it.

This recommendation is counterproductive for your pants. As the stones tumble in your washer they may burst out of the laundry bag and do irreparable damage to your pants or other Carhartt clothes.

For the best results, follow the instructions provided in this article, and do let me know how it went with softening your Carhartt pants and other clothes in the comment section.


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